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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.

No more power wastage

Studies by McKinsey & Co and Gartner Research revealed recently that a mere six to 12 percent of the electricity consumed by most data centres is used to power active servers. It would seem that many data centres are responding to demands for service reliability and security by diverting as much as 90 percent of their electricity to ensure availability of idle servers in fear of unforeseen downtime. Such environmental wastage is increasingly unacceptable, particularly when an alternative approach is so readily available.

Many intelligent power-metering PDUs provide the detailed power usage and environmental data needed to measure and improve data centre efficiency. Some intelligent PDUs offer companies the option of switching individual or group outlets on or off in response to real time needs, removing the need for permanently switched-on stand-by and creating a far more cost-effective alternative to a complete data centre retrofit. 

Intelligent management and performance

An intelligent PDU is designed to simplify the management of the rack environment, both externally and internally.

While legacy PDUs measured simple electrical current with low accuracy, the most effective new generation of intelligent PDUs comprehensively monitor power and energy consumption to within a one percent billing grade accuracy. Some even incorporate Circuit Breaker Status Monitoring, which provides active monitoring and alarming of circuit breaker on/off status.  Some designs even measure these electrical attributes at the individual equipment level to allow users the most advanced planning data and energy optimisation opportunities. 

One important feature to consider when looking at an intelligent PDU is the ability to easily raise the temperature of the data centre by as little as one degree, to help create huge savings made on energy costs without putting operations at risk. In fact, the recent ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers) third edition of the 'Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments' has suggested that data centre managers should extend the recommended ranges for IT equipment  to allow for aggressive economisation. But this is only possible with technology engineered to enable this flexibility - most 'basic' PDUs are rated to only 40 or 45 degrees. 

Most PDU designs have no-user serviceable parts. In cases of electronics failure or desire to upgrade the core intelligent management function, the entire PDU must be replaced. The newest, leading edge PDUs offer full hot-swapping capability of the network intelligence module, so that the PDU can be replaced or upgraded by in-house teams without interrupting vital power supply. This allows data centres to be flexible about downtime.

It is worth noting that with many leading PDUs designed for the US market, UK-based and other European data centres need to be careful about choosing a product that is or can be fully localised and will integrate seamlessly with a wide range of software and hardware components and platforms from different global brands.


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