Welcome to the DC data center

For Swiss power company ABB, DC — or direct current — is the future of the data center. This week the company, working with Swiss IT firm Green, officially opened up Green’s new DC-powered expansion at its Zurich data center, which the companies say is the most powerful use of DC in a data center to date.

We live in a world dominated by AC, or alternating current, for electric transmission. But a lot of equipment, like servers and electric motors run on DC. Batteries use DC and solar panels produce DC power, too. These types of devices usually have converters attached to them that convert the AC grid power to DC for the device, and vice versa.

For years data center operators and power companies have talked about how DC data centers would be able to run more efficiently, with less energy lost in conversions, and with less space used. All of those factors mean money can be saved. But now DC seems like it’s really starting to crack the data center market.

ABB says that it expects its DC power data center business to grow by 20 to 25 percent annually. ABB acquired controlling interest — through its venture arm (ABB Technology Ventures) — in DC data center company Validus DC Systems last year.

ABB says that costs for building and operating data centers can be lowered by 15 percent using DC technology. Green’s data center is 10 percent more efficient than a traditional AC data center, and has 15 percent lower energy costs, says ABB. The Green data center uses DC-capable HP servers.