New Power Shelf Connector Will Advance Cloud Computing
The Open Rack V3 Power Shelf Input Connector will advance power management strategies as cloud computing continues to grow.
As global demand for computing power escalates, connector companies are finding new ways to bring flexibility and efficiency to information technology infrastructure. Managing the flow of signal and power distribution in data centers, to edge devices, and to end users is a hardware challenge that can be addressed in part through more powerful and more flexible connectivity products.
Microsoft’s Project Olympus is one recent initiative to develop new cloud solutions for heavy data volumes. Project Olympus applied the open-source software concept to hardware models. In conjunction with the Open Compute Project, the companies and engineers that participated in Project Olympus helped develop cost-effective, efficient, modular, and interoperable hardware to meet the needs of a global data center community. As a hyperscale data center operator, Microsoft joined Open Compute to address these needs in 2017, and the project is now complete. The hardware developed during this project is installed in data centers around the world.
A key product that came out of Project Olympus is the Open Rack V2 Power Shelf Input Connector, a proprietary connector that is available from HARTING and Positronic under the names Han-Eco and Scorpion, respectively. The V2 connector features a five-pin input connection that can adapt to regional regulations and input power types. It is reversible and features an angled receptacle that allows cables to run horizontally against the back of a rack, eliminating tight or bulky cable bends. Microsoft’s next initiative is Project Cerebus, which focuses on hardware solutions for cloud security.
Meanwhile, the Open Compute Project continues to engineer new data center solutions to meet the intensive demands of cloud computing. The V3 Power Shelf is the next evolution of the hardware developed during Project Olympus. “It is the first solution that will use an open-source design and multi-vendor connector,” said William Stewart, data center segment manager, HARTING North America.
With this power shelf solution, power enters a rack environment in a compact and efficient manner. A new universal seven-pin connector, the ORV3 Power Shelf Input Connector, is positioned between the power cable and power shelf. “If you bump the number of contacts in the input power connector up to seven, you can actually design the rack power distribution unit (rPDU) in such a way that it can act as every single power scheme you have deployed,” said Stewart. “If you have seven contacts, you have one universal rPDU.”
The Open Rack uses this more powerful connector in the Power Shelf instead of an rPDU. The working group resolved the technical challenges involved with fitting a seven-pin connector into a limited space. The result is a global solution that meets multiple regional requirements and is less expensive to upgrade or refresh than traditional models. This allows for a global inventory, reduced lead times for in-demand hardware, and a simplified supply chain. Additionally, cables can be reused, saving money and installation time. The ultimate result is greater efficiency. The V3 solutions will increase the significant impact the V2 solutions have already made.
“According to OCP reports, there is an estimated $34,700 in per-rack energy savings between 2009 and 2019. Racks are also 250 times faster to install and around 40% more energy efficient. If you exclude OCP’s board members, OCP Marketplace revenue is growing at a CAGR of 56%. The Open Rack and Project Olympus have shown that the Open Compute Project is leading the data center industry to find solutions that are faster to install, easier to build, and less expensive to run,” said Stewart.
ORV3 builds upon the V2 goals, with new intentions to further reduce heat and increase power handling. In V2, the cable moves from the busway to the power distribution unit (gPDU) to the power shelf. The new ORV3 connector enables designers to bypass the PDU and run the cable directly to a universal power shelf.
“There were some technical challenges with actually implementing the connector. There is not a lot of space in between the back of the power shelf and the back of the rack, so when we talk about a universal power shelf, we need to design it for the amperage it’s rated for, which means you need to design it around the thickest cable, and the cable needs to bend through the Open Rack in order to plug into the Power Shelf,” said Stewart. The working group decided on an interface in October 2019 and the first prototypes (ORV3) were developed in early 2020.
“The biggest benefit the Universal Power Shelf V3 gives is that one Power Shelf design can be used anywhere in the world. For the current Power Shelf V2 design, you need a different Power Shelf for use in the US, China, Europe, Japan, and India. Sometimes you would even need multiple different Power Shelves in the same region. Going from a five-pin connector on the Power Shelf V2 to a seven-pin connector on the Power Shelf V3 allows you to create one power shelf that can be used anywhere, and only the power cable needs to be sourced at the specific site. This greatly relieves stress on the supply chain and allows end users to build inventory and hold stock to decrease lead times.”
The ORV3 seven-pin connector will have three inputs, three returns, and one ground. The universal female cable connector will have a snap-on lock and the male connector will offer straight and right-angle board mount configurations. It will support up to 380VDC and up to 480VAC pin-to-pin, be rotatable for easy installation, and offer highly modular flexibility in terms of both design and a variety of PCB-mount accessories. “ORV3 meets the challenges of limited space, higher amperage and voltage, continued flexibility for design, and power efficiency. We also tried to minimize the SKUs,” said Natesh Kannan, global product manager, Positronic. HARTING and Positronic will again be the first companies to bring this connector to market.
Soft tooling protypes and the ORV3 specifications are available now. Production tooling prototypes will be available by the end of August. Verification and validation will be complete by the end of November.
See Will Stewart and Natesh Kannen’s OCP Virtual Summit presentation on the Open Rack V3 Universal Power Shelf Input Connector.