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Issue of April 2004 

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Uninterrupted Performance

An innovative UPS system can guarantee much more than non-stop business; it can supply 'powerful' competitive advantages

As the PC market crossed the three million mark in 2003, UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) vendors benefited greatly. Vendors observe that the connect ratio of UPSs with PCs has gone up to 60 percent in the last three or four months. In other words, for every 1,000 PCs sold in India, nearly 600 UPSs were sold. The ITeS sector and data centers in large enterprises are expected to fuel the growth of this market in 2004. Many enterprises in India are looking at downtime cost implications now, more than ever before.

Home buyers have realized that, just as a stabilizer is necessary for their refrigerators and TV sets, so is the UPS, which provides back-up as well as protection. B and C class cities are proving to be an untapped market for UPS systems and vendors are exploring these new markets.


According to IDC estimates, the Indian UPS market was worth between 700 and 800 crore in 2003. Of this, the SOHO and the SME segment accounted for nearly 70 percent (between 450 and 550 crore) with large enterprises being responsible for the rest. IDC predicts that unit growth in terms of low-end UPS systems targeted at the SOHO and SME market will be around 40 percent.

India has a good potential for growth in high-end UPS models. This is due to the fact that Indian enterprises tend to have large single locations for business. Large enterprise customers like ITeS players want high levels of uptime. The IT infrastructure in these cases are well integrated with UPS and precision air-conditioning systems.

ITeS players are also ramping up and continuously increasing their head count. ITeS and corporate data centers are buying high-end UPS models. Sectors like manufacturing, telecom, and energy are also expected to make large high-end UPS purchases.

BFSI companies are expected to use a mix of high- and low-end UPS systems. Indian banks have a large number of branches and ATMs spread across the country. Banks tend to have a large central data center that requires a high-end UPS model of around 40 KVA capacity. An ATM, on the other hand, can get by with a 2 to 3 KVA UPS system. Since low and medium range UPS systems are used in bulk by the banking, financial services and insurance segment, this will drive both the high- and low-end UPS market in India.

Bullish vendors

Vendors are bullish about the SOHO and the SME markets in B and C class cities. In recent times, the telecom infrastructure in Indian B and C class cities has been at par with those in the metros. Gone are the days when small Indian cities had legacy telecom networks that were not compatible with the latest technology. The changes have really helped IT penetrate deeply into these cities and into adjoining rural areas. With Internet cybercafes mushrooming like the STD and the ISD telephone booths across the country, UPS usage is definitely on the rise.

When it comes to corporate users, what is gaining momentum is the concept of enterprise power conditioning, which is a subset of Business Continuity Management (BCM). BCM's goal is to provide 100 percent business uptime, of which power conditioning is an important aspect. This is because electricity is the basic necessity to run hardware and the applications, which enable the business.

An UPS is the core component of a power conditioning strategy. It has blocks like the inverter, voltage stabilizer, converter, battery, and EMI/RFI filters. It also has a number of built-in intelligent features, which take care of most of the typical power-related problems. UPSs can also be managed remotely through browsers. And this provides a lot of flexibility.

Beyond UPS

But one has to look beyond an UPS in order to deploy a total power conditioning strategy. An enterprise needs to plan redundancy and back-up at various levels of operation. Redundancy should also be built into each zone and into all pieces of equipment.

Ground faults and wrong wiring issues have to be considered. And the success of the solution has to be reviewed through power audits and checks. Besides, older UPSs do not usually take care of all the power-related problems. For example, an UPS must have an isolation transformer (to perform jobs like protect input related fault, like open neutral leakage), in its output circuit to qualify as a power conditioner.

An ideal strategy is one that encompasses all power-related problems. In large enterprises, power conditioning is usually the shared responsibility of the Operations Manager and the IT Head. In smaller enterprises, the IT Head should be the one to swing into action.

Broad framework

It is difficult to suggest an ideal strategy since different companies from different verticals have different business and operational needs. But one may use a broad framework.

1. At the point/gateway where the power enters your enterprise from the electric supply, there needs to be an automatic transfer switch. This is because most companies will have a backup diesel generator set. The transfer switch swaps between the two feeds. You can install a manual transfer switch, but it needs a person to be deployed at the site around the clock. An automatic transfer switch is useful especially in the case of remote locations.

2. Power from the transfer switch flows into a surge suppresser. This controls any high power fluctuations, which are likely to damage equipment. It has somewhat the same functions as that of a domestic PC spike buster, but on a larger scale

3. AC power now passes through an UPS which has a battery backup and automatically switches over to the alternative supply in case of outages. The power is now distributed to various departments and sections of an enterprise through a power distribution cabinet. Some telecom switches and equipment require DC supply. In this case the company needs to set up DC power systems and interfaces.

4. Cables must be robust and the conduits and pipes must be laid according to safety principles. The embedded AC/DC power supply is also critical. This is the power supply grid present inside servers, switches, and other devices. Critical hardware should have dual power grids, so that one acts as a failover.

5. The customer also has to evaluate and identify the critical areas for which uptime needs to be enhanced. There may be a possibility of distribution faults, or some fault in the facility. An enterprise can deploy dual power supplies, dual distribution equipment, and static switches at the local end.

6. The capability to monitor operations from remote locations has emerged as an important feature for any solution. So, all these solutions should allow browser-based monitoring. Information of impending failures like a weak battery bank and alarm conditions, which need manual intervention, can be retrieved from anywhere in the world.

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