Important year for power management, says Ericsson

Patrick Le Fèvre

Patrick Le Fèvre

The past 12 months have been very exciting for power management, particularly when reflecting upon the new product development and project implementations in digital power, writes Patrick Le Fèvre, marketing and communication drector, Ericsson Power Modules.

Before reviewing what happened during 2013, it is worth highlighting that the year had particular significance to Ericsson because this has been the thirty-year anniversary since the company first introduced its PKA series power module known at the time as ‘The Blue Module’.

In 1983, this PKA module was the world’s first high-frequency switching board mounted DC/DC converter integrating very advanced pulse width modulation (PWM) developed by Ericsson to power a new generation of telecom equipment. Ericsson had already identified that power density, energy efficiency and saving space on the board were important features that needed to be offered to system designers.

Since the launch of PKA, telecom and datacom have merged as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) while the different power architectures have converged into a link system known as the Intermediate Bus Architecture (IBA), involving a main DC/DC converter delivering regulated bus voltage to a variety of point-of-load (POL) applications.

Despite IBA technology being widely adopted in the ICT industry, the quest to improve energy efficiency continues to gather pace with the focus moving to reducing the amount of cooling and operators’ OPEX and increasing system reliability.

In view of this, systems architects are exploring new digital power monitoring and control solutions. For example, Dynamic Bus Voltage (DBV) technology introduced this year is far more effective at adjusting the intermediate bus to better optimise voltage to power data processors and other strategic components when traffic is either low or high.

However, tough challenges remain as the ante is raised higher with the huge increase in processors per board. The result of these design demands is that power per board is expected to reach up to 3kW by the end of 2015.

Beside the obvious challenges of thermal management, handling this level of power per board in a 48V system requires a new way to distribute power to demanding loads.

If conventional bricks, such as the ultra-high density 864W PKM-NH platform introduced by Ericsson this year, can deliver ‘all-power-from-one-point’ capability with high performance to new applications – as has been the case since Ericsson launched its first PKA module and essentially invented the Distributed Power Architecture – then it could result in the use of very expensive boards that require additional copper bars to distribute the power, while also limiting losses. This is in an indication that it is time to consider new ways to power these new high-power applications.

In 2013, Ericsson presented a new solution in digital power monitoring and control called ‘Fragmented Power Distribution’ (FPD). This approach aids those systems architects seeking more efficient ways to power multi-kilowatt boards, while also maintaining energy optimisation.

The results are very promising. FPD relies on multiple DC/DC converters, distributed at strategic locations on the board to create ‘Power Islands’, all communicating through an internal bus – which could be the PMBus or a bus dedicated to current-sharing type applications – and operating like an orchestra to share and optimize the delivery of power to the loads.

Depending on where the highest power is required, each converter can become a Master or a Slave. This allows the system to perform at its optimal level where converters can play ‘solo’ when needed or in concert with one another to deliver full power.

We have had some great launches this year, some of which are industry firsts. The pace of innovation to power ICT is set to continue and at Ericsson this is no exception. Here’s to the next 30 years in digital power modules.


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