Software Defined Power and Its Importance

Darnell's Power Forum

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"Darnell Group has developed the following definition for Software Defined Power Architectures (SDPAs): SDPAs are systems where elements whose performance has previously been optimized on a local and relatively isolated basis are instead globally and interactively optimized in real-time through software control to achieve improvements in operational efficiency, availability, reliability, and cost. SDPAs include the optimization of power distribution, power conversion, and power consumption on both a global and granular basis," commented Jeff Shepard, President of Darnell Group.

"No software works without hardware. We anticipate that the successful development and deployment of SDPAs will result in increased sales of power conversion and power management hardware," Shepard continued. "Finer granularity of power conversion and control will be a hallmark of SDPAs. In the case of the smart grid, that will mean the coordinated operation of thousands of previously-independent loads; for advanced micro grids, hundreds of power generators, energy storage systems and loads will be coordinated; and in the case of electronic systems such as 5G telephony and data centers, thousands of increasingly-smaller power nodes will be monitored, controlled and coordinated," concluded Shepard.

  • "Jeff has it right; software defined power architectures will play a critical role in the future of power conversion as we strive for smaller, faster, more efficient, and lower cost power conversion. The emergence of GaN as the next leap forward in power transistors gives new life to Moore's Law in power. SDPA can bring in faster control loops that can keep up with the 10 X speed gain of GaN compared with the aging silicon MOSFET. SDPA can also manage the higher power densities with improved sensing and environmental feedback. This allows the user to extract maximum benefit from the faster, smaller, more efficient, and lower cost GaN devices on the market today," added Alex Lidow, CEO of Efficient Power Conversion Corp.
  • "While software is playing an increasingly prominent role in networking at a system architecture level, it also has growing importance for the delivery of power in the future. The use of power-optimization software algorithms and the concept of the Software Defined Power Architecture (SDPA) are all being seen as part of a brave new future for advanced board-power management. Energy management at the board level has evolved over the past few years, starting from virtually nowhere a decade ago to the latest advanced power systems that make use of digital monitoring and control software to improve conversion efficiency - SDPA is a natural evolution of digital power. Although there are many challenges to make the SDPA a reality, it is an important concept with board power management being increasingly software managed and controlled. In the future it may be possible that the SPDA will evolve to help at both the board and system level and handle the energy delivered to many different functions in more efficient ways," predicted Patrick Le Fèvre, Marketing & Communication Director, Ericsson - Power Modules.
  • "Today's systems are more energy efficient than ever before. The improvements have come from a combination of lower-power components, such as application processors that offer more performance per watt of power used, and from more advanced power-conversion stages that effectively deliver power to the loads. Using digital-control technology, the overall efficiency of ac-dc power supplies has been improved by implementing adaptive techniques—such as phase shedding, dead-time adjustment, variable switching frequency, variable bulk voltages and other practices—that maximize the efficiency over widely varying load conditions. Extending this concept of adaptive techniques even further, additional energy-efficiency improvements at the system level can be brought about through a software defined power architecture (SDPA), as Jeff has described. While many details of this architecture and the communication protocols that will make it possible are yet to be defined, it is expected that overall system energy efficiency will be increased by optimizing the power collection, transmission, conversion and consumption as an interoperating system, rather than optimizing the efficiency of each stage in this chain individually, as is done today. A critical building block of this SDPA will be the use of power supplies that implement fully digital control, as this enables power-supply designs to be more flexible and able to interoperate with the supplying infrastructure to better optimize the system’s overall efficiency," said Tom Spohrer, Power Product Marketing Manager, MCU16 Division, Microchip Technology Inc.
  • "Managing power locally and dynamically, as SDPA systems could enable, will create the possibility of making electricity truly plug-and-play for generation and storage, the way it is for end-use devices. SDPA systems could not only distribute power better than today, but do so in ways simply not possible with conventional technology. Also, inexpensive commodity hardware can drive down costs in the way that it is doing for Software Defined Networking, making local power distribution even more attractive to customers." Bruce Nordman, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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