Kaylie Gyarmathy

By: Kaylie Gyarmathy on February 6th, 2019

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How to Evaluate Your Power Distribution Needs

Data Center Infrastructure

Managing the equipment on a data center floor is a bit more complicated than plugging a home computer into a wall outlet. When a company decides to colocate their IT assets in a data center, their equipment will make up only a small percentage of the facility’s infrastructure. Every piece of hardware within that environment has its own power demands, leaving data centers with the challenging task of distributing and managing power efficiently to keep everything running safely and efficiently.

A data center’s power usage effectiveness (PUE) measures how much energy is used by its computing equipment. The value is expressed as a ratio, indicating how much of the total power delivered to the facility is actually used by the computing equipment. Inefficient power distribution is usually one of the main culprits when a data center has a poor PUE score.

Power distribution units (PDUs) are integral to solving this problem. Fitted with multiple outlets to accommodate many different types of equipment, these devices distribute electrical power throughout the data center. Available in many shapes and forms, PDUs are an essential part of a data center’s physical infrastructure. They can be mounted horizontally or vertically to provide power to an entire rack of servers and other equipment. Depending upon the cabinet design, they might even be located inside or be integrated into the cabinet itself.

Evaluate For the Present and the Future

Determining the appropriate power distribution needs for an IT deployment is important because PDUs have a longer life cycle than servers and other equipment. The typical refresh cycle for servers is about 3-5 years, but PDUs last for much longer. When looking at a data center’s power infrastructure, then, it’s vital to know whether or not those PDUs will be able to accommodate both today’s colocation equipment, and tomorrow’s as well.

Versatility is a good quality to look for in data center power distribution setups. Different types of computing equipment utilize different sizes and styles of plugs (c13, c14, c19, c20, etc). A good data center should be equipped with versatile PDUs that feature multiple outlets to accommodate different hardware deployments as their customers’ IT needs change in the future.

Review Power Ratings

Regardless of their design and features, the most important aspect of a PDU is its power ratings. The device’s primary purpose is to supply power to computing equipment, so it’s important to know whether or not a data center’s architecture has the capacity to handle any colocated assets a company might throw at them.

There are three key indicators of a PDU’s power capabilities:

  • Amperage: This measures the amount of sustained power the unit can accommodate safely. If the power demands of the equipment plugged into the PDU are too high, the unit’s fuse will blow, causing an outage. In North America, safety regulations stipulate that a PDU’s power load should not exceed 80 percent of its maximum capacity. A 30A circuit, therefore, has a rated value 24A.
  • Voltage: While amperage measures the strength of the current running through a circuit, voltage measures the total power available. Different types of computing gear have different power demands, but those demands have been trending upwards for many years. While 208/240V was once standard, some equipment power needs closer to 400V.
  • Phase: The distinction between single- or three-phase power is an important one for a PDU, much of it depending upon the data center’s power distribution architecture. Simply put, single-phase power delivers electricity along a single line. Most residential homes are serviced with single-phase power. Three-phase power, on the other hand, distributes current over three smaller lines. The technical details are a bit more complicated, but in general, three-phase power lines can deliver more power, more efficiently than single-phase counterparts. Data centers that deliver three-phase power to the rack level are generally much more cost effective than those that use single-phase lines to carry electricity from the building’s main power supply.

Types of Data Center Power Distribution Units

PDUs come in a variety of styles, so potential colocation customers should be aware of what kind of units a data center utilizes. Here are the most common types of PDUs in use today:

  • Basic PDU: Little more than a power strip with a surge suppressor, these units aren’t suitable for anything more than a small server room in an on-premises facility. They lack the functionality and power needed for larger data centers or mission-critical servers.
  • Metered PDU: These units are capable of measuring power consumption, providing data center technicians with valuable data on how well power is distributed throughout the rack. This information is important for optimizing deployments and improving power/cooling efficiency.
  • Monitored PDU: These units are wired into the data center’s business intelligence platform, allowing them to transmit data collected at the outlet level to provide real-time usage metrics. They are especially useful for high-density facilities and cloud service providers with high-performance demands.
  • Switched PDU: Similar to monitored PDUs, switched PDUs add the extra element of remote control. They allow remote hands personnel to carefully monitor and manage power usage throughout a facility without having to leave the control room.

When selecting a colocation provider, companies should carefully review the needs of their IT infrastructure. Evaluating a data center’s power distribution is an important step in this process because poor power usage effectiveness can easily result in higher costs and damaging downtime.

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About Kaylie Gyarmathy

As the Marketing Manager for vXchnge, Kaylie handles the coordination and logistics of tradeshows and events. She is responsible for social media marketing and brand promotion through various outlets. She enjoys developing new ways and events to capture the attention of the vXchnge audience.

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