Considerations for Intelligent PDUs and utilising features to reduce power outages.

The Power Investment

Power management at the equipment level within the rack/cabinet is a vital point in the power chain for the continual uptime of critical services. With all sectors now heavily reliant on data and it playing a vital role in everyday life any downtime has a massive impact on a brands reputation as well as the company’s bottom line.  Whilst there have been several publicised data centre power issues in the recent months (many experiencing outages attributed to UPS failures/issues) we should not overlook the rack mount Power Distribution Unit (PDU) element of the power chain.

Why Choose Intelligent Power Management?

In addition to having high levels of configurability at the various PDU technology levels there are major benefits from choosing intelligent PDUs for installations including the knowledge surrounding the data which is captured.

Not only is data displayed locally on the PDU or a connected device mounted to the outside of the rack but it is also available remotely including current (AMP), voltage (Volt), power (KW), energy consumption (KWh), and power factor of the entire PDU. Power usage data can then be assessed, having been collated and reported using a web based GUI (Graphic User Interface) or integrated into an existing BMS. This data can also be used for inter-departmental billing or in co-location data centres a revenue stream providing accurate billing data to clients, if meter reading accuracy of the PDU is within +/- 1%.

Variations in requirements with power management are also determined by sectors before reaching internal departments. Education establishments are seeing greater storage requirement demands driven by increased research and development, big data and IOT technologies. Intelligent PDUs allow for capacity planning, departmental / faculty cross charging for power usage, environmental objective measurement on power usage effectiveness.

Many sectors including Finance require third party software integration via SNMP as well as hardware modifications within the power distribution unit itself. These can subsequently require global variations (voltage, input, socket types, etc.) for each geographic location/office.

Reducing Power Outages

Regardless of sector or stakeholder ensuring hardware remains powered on without interruption is paramount as the costs and implications associated with downtime would cause a sleepless night for most IT / Data Centre Managers! Reducing power outages requires an examination and evaluation of all levels of the power chain however there are some simple yet effective ways to reduce the likelihood of power outages at the rack end of the power chain where it is imperative to keep IT equipment running.

There are several factors to consider with regards to the PDU’s that will reduce the chance of unplanned power outages at the rack equipment level providing further resiliency:

  • Coloured PDU Chassis allowing the identification of the PDU’s for technicians and engineers to reduce human error whilst working in racks/cabinets. The use of coloured PDUs also enables clear visual identification of the power feeds when redundancy is required. (Two PDUs per rack for primary and redundant, A&B, power feeds)
  • IEC Accidental Release Sleeves, power cord retention system for C13 and C19 sockets. Such solutions offer added protection against the unintentional removal of cables from the PDU C13 or C19 outlets.
  • Threshold alerts to highlight unauthorised or accidental removal of equipment. Setting low alert levels can notify nominated administrator(s) of removal of equipment from PDU sockets using SNMP.
  • Environmental Sensors will also allow setting of alarms and thresholds to provide early detection of issues within the rack. For example, temperature, humidity, smoke, water.
  • Selecting PDUs which have hot swappable technology such as a RMS current meter with LCD or field replaceable DC modules so there is no interruption to equipment in the event of a component replacement being required

It is also worth considering whether rack accessibility should be upgraded. Whilst there is an increasing awareness for improving security beyond standard locks and keys, many rack installations would benefit from upgrades such as smart card access control. Reducing access to inside racks and preventing the unauthorised removal of equipment, alerts could be configured notifying administrators of unauthorised access attempts.

Given the mission critical nature of the environment the intelligent rack PDU must be designed, built and manufactured to provide extremely high levels of resiliency – areas that can be used to benchmark this are hot swappable digital local touchscreen display’s and hot swappable DC power modules that are typically used within the Metered & Outlet Switched (WS) PDU and the Outlet Switched with Outlet Metering (WSI) PDU models, probably most importantly the use of latch able relays at the socket or receptacle level that will always supply AC power or are always on in the event of component failure.

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