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Guest View: Why power without intelligence is no longer enough

Mike Jansma | June 25, 2013
Power supply and distribution across the data centre can no longer afford to be a passive process.

Behind the racks of servers lining the aisles of ever-expanding data centres, you will find one or more boxes connecting the power cables. Easily overlooked and widely misunderstood, if you removed these small but critical components, the whole system would fail. They are the Power Distribution Units, or PDUs.

PDUs transfer the energy that drives the data centre. Choosing the right PDU for your data centre is paramount, but in order to do that, you need to understand the role and potential of this increasingly critical component. 

This article aims to provide you with the insight you need to make the right decision for your data centre. It will explain what PDUs are all about and show how the best of them can provide you with a unique intelligence and monitoring capability; essential for meeting the challenges of evolving customer needs, growing compliance requirements and environmental accountability.

What is a PDU?

As the name suggests, a Power Distribution Unit distributes energy across the racks, servers and networking equipment located within the data centre. There are two types of PDU: dumb, often referred to as basic, and intelligent, with the latter able to monitor the data centre environment and provide insight and data on power supply and use.

Dumb PDUs provide straightforward power connectivity and routing for all the IT components. As a cog in the overall physical infrastructure, they have no instrumentation and are not 'manageable', but provide a 'basic' option for a data centre with uncomplicated and consistent power needs. 

Intelligent PDUs, on the other hand, sit within the racks actively monitoring the environment, continually looking for threats from electrical circuit overloads or any physical and environmental conditions which might place critical IT computing loads at risk.

The benefits of an intelligent PDU

External trends such as the rapid rise in the volume, variety and velocity of information processed by organisations - known as big data - the consumerisation of IT, virtualisation and cloud computing, as well as the internal need to deliver a totally reliable, secure and flexible service, are putting increasing pressure on the way data centres operate.

In most cases, the power supply and distribution across the data centre can no longer afford to be a passive process. The ever-changing use of technology, equipment and operating policies are creating increasingly variable power and environmental demands at the rack level. The PDU needs to become 'smart', able to monitor, analyse and respond to real-time threats and opportunities.

Intelligent PDUs provide data centre and facilities managers with the comprehensive, accurate energy measurement data they need to make the most efficient use of power resources, inform capacity planning decisions, improve uptime, measure PUE (power usage effectiveness) and drive green data centre initiatives that could save energy and money.


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