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What is a PDU?

Posted by RJ Tee on Aug 21, 2017 1:54:50 PM

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What is a PDU?

This may seem like a rather existential question, particularly from the blog space of one of the leaders in the marketplace.  So why ask such an obvious question?

Well, because the answer is not entirely clear.  The mission-critical data center world is chock full of acronyms, those pesky, foreshortened forms of communication that allow us to sum up so much in an efficient amount of space.  But when they take on a life of their own, they become like the little monsters in the movie ‘Gremlins.’

I’m dating myself here, but seriously – don’t add water. 



http://static.tvtropes.org

Unlike a UPS, STS, or ATS, all of which are specific electrical components that perform particular functions, the term ‘PDU’ is decidedly unspecific.  Power distribution unit.  Power distribution unit.  Power distribution unit.  Couldn’t those three words apply to any number of devices in an electrical system whose job it is to, uh, distribute power?

And indeed it could – and does.  So the market has abandoned some old phrases and added some new ones to better describe the thing you plug into your rack. 

Remember the term power strip?  Sounds like something you bought at Radio Shack to plug your Tandy computer into, right? Or how about the server rack power strip or the rack mount PDU?  Those were the days. 

Tandy Model 4 Personal Computer

TRS-80 Model 4 - OldComputers.com

Some of the more interesting and newer versions bring the idea of directionality, like the horizontal PDU or the vertical PDU.  Or the approach of adding an acronym to the acronym (0U PDU), or just changing the acronym altogether, like the CDU (cabinet distribution unit).

It would be great if we, as an industry, could settle on a single moniker for that receptacle-laden rectangular bar of power found inside the rack that meters, manages, and brings your IT equipment to life.

But for now we call it a Rack PDU.  We hope you will, too.

click to view the Servertech rack PDU buying guide

Topics: Rack power distribution, Power Distribution Unit, PDU

On the Subject of Electrical Inequality

Posted by RJ Tee on Aug 18, 2017 3:35:34 PM

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I must admit I have been thinking a lot about quality lately.

Our data center industry, at its core, is about power correction, conditioning, and quality.  The ability of a mission-critical electrical system to deliver the proper sine wave to the server is a multi-billion-dollar industry. 

(My apologies in advance to the mechanical minded for such unilateral statements.)

But as I ponder that fact, I can’t help but wonder why there's a tendency to buy only the best switchgear and generators, and pinch pennies when it comes to rack PDU’s?

Here are a few thoughts on the paradox of such logic:

You don’t plug a server into a generator.  Indeed, this practice has never existed.  And the truth is that the first encounter your IT equipment has with the electrical system is not with any of the big ticket electrical items such as UPS or generator, but with the lowly power distribution unit in the back of the rack.

 

This powertrain doesn’t have a caboose.  Don’t worry, the average rack PDU doesn’t get offended.  But it would like to remind you of its critical position in the powertrain.  In a mission-critical one-line, there is no portion of the infrastructure that is less important than another.  In data centers, the powertrain is all engines – if any portion fails, the entire enterprise comes to a standstill on the tracks.     

Read the Uptime is Revenue Industry Brief Today

Your budget afterthought.  In most data center projects, the electrical build is the largest single line item in the budget.  And within that budget, the choice of rack PDU usually accounts for 2-3% of the overall spend.  That’s all.  So doesn’t it make sense to buy the absolute best rack PDU’s for your IT equipment, and spend your time and effort scrutinizing the largest components?  Keep in mind that fractional savings on switchgear, for example, would more than pay for the highest quality rack PDU available.   

For more ideas about how to improve the quality of your rack PDU’s, you can check out the entire Server Technology product line here.

click to view the Servertech rack PDU buying guide

Topics: data center power, rack PDU

Pushing the Easy Button: Tips for Remote Power Management

Posted by RJ Tee on Aug 15, 2017 11:50:47 AM

Switched-POPS.jpgFor those of you who are working through the issues of remotely managing your data center power, or are thinking about heading in that direction, we have a few pearls of wisdom.

There is definitely some confusion in the industry about smart versus switched power distribution units.  I’d like to take a minute to talk about the latter.  Although both types of rack PDU’s have the same features such as circuit protection, monitoring, security, and communications, it is the switched variety that opens the doors to remotely managing your data center.

Not exactly like a T.V. remote, but I think you know what I mean.

Switched PDU’s give you the ability to control power to a server or other device using a single command to the unit.  Particularly handy for multi-site or colocation applications, the ability to reboot a machine without leaving your desk is a big step for productivity improvement, and one giant leap for mankind.

You can also more closely control power utilization at the rack level.  Based on trending data or analysis of the historical use of equipment within a rack, a data center manager can lock out unused outlets so that the circuit feeding the rack is not overloaded.  Again, managing power at the rack is now an armchair activity.

Data centers are also known to waste power by running equipment during off-hours when it is not in use.  But what if you could push a button and manage the working hours of your equipment?   A switched PDU allows operators to strategically schedule power to specific equipment to improve the efficiency of their facilities and reduce their electrical bills.

For more information about these kinds of strategies, take a look at a recent white paper about a government agency that reduced its power usage, by an average of 50 percent, using a switched PDU.

Learn more about how Server Technology can improve your remote data center management, click here.

 

click to view the Servertech rack PDU buying guide

 

Topics: switched PDUs, Remote Power Monitoring, remote power management

Back to School and The Dog Days of Summer

Posted by RJ Tee on Aug 4, 2017 11:24:46 AM

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Wow, where did the summer go?

At the beginning of the sunny season we talked about some things for school system and university data center managers to review during the summertime break.  Seems like yesterday.

As students begin heading back to campuses around the globe, our “dog days” question for you is this: are you ready?

 Here’s the short list of trends we continue to see across all our university projects:

Supporting HPC.  In the world of academic computing, our customers quickly turn to a single phrase to sum up their needs: high-performance computing.  With the rise in university research, grant winners are working with tight deadlines and increasingly complex requirements.  Check out our industry brief to learn more about how our customers tackle this issue.

Tightening up efficiencies.  More and more users are looking for better efficiencies and going to higher voltages to support their IT loads, particularly in campus settings where thinking beyond the convention is the norm.  Look no further than our educational efficiency blog for a summary of what it means to manage unconventional voltages.  

Thinking beyond the data center.  University and college power applications aren’t just about the data center.  Most campuses have sophisticated networks that are powered from equipment housed across the campus, creating a ‘distributed’ data center environment.  Read more in our industry brief in regards to about tackling that sprawl.

For more information about our work in higher education, visit our higher education solutions page.

Want to learn more?  Visit our higher education solutions page

Topics: education, higher education

Where Density, Square Meters, and Practicality Meet

Posted by RJ Tee on Aug 3, 2017 11:46:06 AM

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In this recent article on Data Center Knowledge, the author discusses the growing issue of data center real estate in Singapore and other APAC markets – or more accurately, the lack thereof.

While many countries, including portions of the United States and Northern Europe, benefit from large land masses, high-density city centers in most of the world place an absolute premium on every square meter of space.  In these areas, data center facilities are built more on the vertical axis, with support equipment stacked on roof tops and in basements.

This situation is analogous to the topography of the data center itself.

If you imagine the data center floor as a business and each hot and cold aisle its bustling streets, then each cabinet is its own version of the OCBC Centre in Singapore or the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur.  Space is at a premium, and the rent is steep for each server and storage device housed inside. 

So, wouldn’t you need to optimize the rack PDU in the same way?  Luckily, Server Technology has done just that.

To support high-equipment densities and the number of power cords that come with it, Server Technology has found a way to increase the number of C13 and C19 receptacles you pack into a tiny space by 20%.  Dubbed HDOT, or High Density Outlet Technology, our engineers have discovered a way to optimize the footprint of the PDU without giving up any ground.  

 

Here’s a great video that shows how it all comes together to maximize your real estate.  And it is available in bespoke configurations as well.  That’s ‘customized’ for those of you in the western hemisphere. 

Configure Your HDOT PDU

To learn more about how Server Technology can improve the density of your rack-based power distribution strategy,  click here.

Topics: HDOT, density

Use Smart PDUs to Gain Visibility Into Your Data Center

Posted by RJ Tee on Jul 31, 2017 11:25:57 AM

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We were recently approached by a C-level executive who was facing a challenge.

His company had recently acquired another organization, and was now in the process of trying to determine the best way to integrate its data center. The data center, however, was in need of a major overhaul.

A big part of the problem was the fact that the former company’s IT team had been using traditional spreadsheets to track its devices and daily power metrics. These spreadsheets were rife with errors (and possible manipulation). For example, the team discovered several network devices in the data center that did not appear in any records.


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(Need to add some bling to your power reporting?  Check this.)

As such, the team had no way of understanding the data center’s average power load — and was afraid to add or remove anything from the network out of fear of disrupting its delicate balance. At the same time, they couldn’t proceed out of fear of running into unexpected downtime or reaching network capacity.  

To improve power management in its new data center, the team implemented Server Technology’s intelligent power distribution units (PDUs), which provide a wealth of real-time data center power metrics directly from the rack level.

After implementing Server Technology’s industry-leading PDUs, the team was able to instantly understand how their facility was using energy. Now, it’s as easy as logging into the Sentry Power Manager (SPM) platform and browsing the list of connected devices.

The team can now confidently make changes in its data center, and plan for future growth, knowing exactly what the output will be from an energy standpoint. The result is that they save a tremendous amount of time, energy and frustration.

Need better insights into your data center?  Try Sentry Power Manager for a 120-Day Free Trial!

To learn more about Server Technology, click here.

Topics: power reporting, SPM, Sentry Power Manager, data center reporting

ZTP = PDQ

Posted by RJ Tee on Jul 27, 2017 9:06:00 AM

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If there was ever a situation where practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, this is it: setting up a PDU manually – without ZTP.

As you can see in our new white paper, Server Technology is in the business of making provisioning our power distribution units simpler for you.

Here’s what you can expect from our new Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP, or 0 Touch) feature found on all Server Technology PRO1 or PRO2 PDUs:

Get up and running – quickly.  Given the choice between going slow and manual or fast and fully automatic, most would prefer the latter - except those in the molasses industry, of course.  What once would take hours can now be accomplished with a minimum amount of effort.

Get it right the first time.  When you duplicate settings already on the power strip, you can count on consistency across all configurations and simplify your job.  And in our mission-critical world, consistency is the truly the hallmark of uptime.

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Tweak settings effortlessly.  One of the benefits of having easily achievable consistency is the low cost of change – which means that you can alter, fine tune, and adjust to your heart’s content.  The result is a well-oiled machine that is controlling power at it’s most critical point in the network, and at a place where efficiencies can be gained.

Server Technology offers essential power distribution provisioning technologies that can help with the setup process. By using Server Technology’s Zero Touch Provisioning and the Sentry Power Manager (SPM) platforms, it’s possible to get started quickly and start putting your energy to better use.

To learn more about how Server Technology can save time and energy through Zero Touch Provisioning, click here.

Download The White Paper Today

Topics: Zero Touch Provisioning, ZTP

Expect FITARA Extensions in 2018 NDAA

Posted by RJ Tee on Jul 26, 2017 8:11:00 AM

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Earlier this year there were many questions in the data center industry about what would happen to the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), a 2015 law that is set to expire in 2018 and 2019.

It’s taken a few months, but now we’re starting to see some answers. Just recently, news broke that there is a new version of FITARA being proposed in the House version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. So FITARA does not appear to be going away anytime soon.

According to CyberScoop, the new version of FITARA contains bipartisan support and would extend three of the original law’s provisions: Regular IT program, portfolio, and resource reviews, greater transparency and risk management and further data center consolidation.

Learn more about the steps that can be taken to bring a US Federal or Military data center into compliance with the latest directives from the Executive branch regarding data center optimization and consolidation in our white paper: "The Data Center Optimization Initiative and You."

“Very simply, the federal data center problem is bigger than we initially thought,” stated Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who co-sponsored the amendment. “In 2009, the government estimated it had roughly 1,100 data centers. In reality, by 2015 we found we had more than 11,700. We are potentially leaving money on the table when it comes to data center consolidation if we allow FITARA’s data center reporting and planning requirements to expire in 2018.”

For federal data center administrators, one of the most important parts of FITARA will be the section about the need for greater transparency and risk management services. The only way for the federal government to actually achieve its cost and operational goals with FITARA will be to invest in real-time data center power monitoring and managing solutions.

To learn more about Server Technology’s TAA-compliant government solutions, click here

Topics: government data center, government consolidation, fitara

Top 5 Questions From the Edge Computing Webinar Answered

Posted by RJ Tee on Jul 24, 2017 2:19:29 PM

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You asked, we answered.  During our highly anticipated webinar last week, "Delivering Resilience and Uptime at the Edge," our speakers were asked a few questions in regards to the challenges presented by edge computing, their views on its future development, as well as how Server Technology's portfolio of products will address its demands.  

Here are the top 5 questions answered by our speakers:

1.  Bearing in mind that edge computing can take place in many different types of environments, what are some of the specific challenges that are unique to different sites? 

(Answered by Marc Cram, Director OEM and Global Accounts, Server Technology)  Let’s think about the environment in a telco hut, which may be adjacent to homes, a field or a roadside and you may have AC power or solar power or a UPS, all within the one facility and any part of that infrastructure may go down at any time due to a number of different circumstances. As a result, you need to have something that interacts with all of the various systems and has the ability to report status and to facilitate as rapid a recovery as possible. In addition, you want a system that can monitor the IT infrastructure in the building that will tell you whether you need to provide reset capability to that remote infrastructure.

 

2.  What are the features that Server Technology’s solutions have in terms of tackling the challenges thrown up at the various edge locations? 

(Answered by Wolfgang Goretzki, Senior Solutions Manager, Server TechnologyIt requires a combination of intelligent and importantly switched rack PDUs, so you can remotely reset connected IT devices, combined with a power management solution we call Sentry Power Manager (SPM). Another important requirement is high power density. Our High-Density Outlet Technology (HDOT) offers the maximum number of outlets in the smallest PDU form factor available on the market. Other features are the autonomous switching capability we call smart load shedding, which allows us to switch devices on and off again based on temperature or power load triggers. There are also many other important features, such as alternating phase technology, which allows a balanced load on all phases and helps with better cable management and airflow at the rear of the cabinet. Also, the high operating temperature range of up to 60°C means the PDU can cope with the rising temperature from cooling air flow.

 

3.  We’ve had several questions around temperature and humidity monitoring PDU functionality, with end users curious as to how Server Technology’s sensor, expansion modules, and automation components combine to provide a full solution stack?

(Answered by Wolfgang Goretzki) We can connect two temperature humidity sensors to each rack PDU, so that would be four if you have an A feed and B feed. If you wish to meet the ASHRAE standard of 6 humidity sensors, you can add an environmental monitoring unit which allows for additional sensors, fully covering these needs. The environmental control unit would provide additional capabilities of connecting water sensors or dry contact, this can all be connected to the rack PDU, saving switched ports, saving IP addresses and reducing the cable clutter in the rack.

 

4.  How do you see the edge computing landscape developing into the future? Could you share a few thoughts with us?

(Answered by Prof Ian Bitterlin, Principal Consultant, Critical Facilities Consulting LtdAs every year goes by, we do more and more IT capacity, using less and less power. Using cell towers for edge a few years ago would not have been possible, as there would not have been enough space or power capability left over for putting in edge computing. But as we have gone on and the computing power has got greater and greater per watt, there is power left over and one cabinet in a cell tower can now do a huge amount of computing very quickly, enabling edge computing, by virtue of the fact that the computing capacity per watt increases, encouraging more and more cabinets to be squeezed into remote locations (remote from the larger data centers). And that by its very nature will mean that they will be predominantly unmanned locations and that intelligent PDUs and remote monitoring solutions will be crucial in maintaining uptime and resilience in an emergency state. Edge computing is a perfect storm that will grow almost as a function of the fact that we have our mobile devices with more compute capacity and usage for video and data, and this will naturally grow, and we need to be ready to face the growth with these types of remote management solutions that can be reset remotely.

 

5.  How does Server Technology plan to develop its product portfolio to address the demands of edge computing? 

(Answered by Marc Cram) Server Technology is known for being an innovator in the power space and we will continue to integrate support for anything that will drive robustness, that will drive resilience, that will drive quick recovery and by that you can expect to see higher density, increased temperature ranges, more outlets in the smallest form factor, more control, and support for more software access and intelligence built in.

 

Missed the webinar?  You can view the recording and download the slides here:

Watch the Webinar Recording and  Download the Presentation Slides

Topics: Edge Computing

Making Light Work of Configuring with Zero Touch Provisioning

Posted by RJ Tee on Jul 17, 2017 11:07:11 AM

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It has recently come to my attention that not all intelligent, cabinet-level power distribution units are smart.

Now, don’t get me wrong – we’ve come a long way since the days of bulky, black, power bars that were available in black or, well, black.

More modern power distribution units are chock full of features, colors, and options for voltage, monitoring, and controls that would rival the most sophisticated switchgear available.  But when it comes time to plug these sophisticated cabinet-level units into your data center’s network, eyes glaze over and thoughts wander at the prospect of manually configuring those new units.  Each. And. Every. One.

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What if this process truly could be plug and play?

Well, it can.  The engineers at Server Technology have developed the ability for new PDU’s to be provisioned uniformly and automatically.  If you use a server featuring dynamic host configuration protocol (DCHP) on your network, and store your user settings on a separate trivial file transport (TFTP) server on the same network, new Server Technology equipment will be provisioned automatically.

Now, there’s nothing trivial about that.

Using the moniker ‘Zero Touch Provisioning,’ or ZTP, any PRO1 or PRO2 Server Tech PDU can be set up in a flash.  And the same ZTP feature can be used to provide updates or configuration changes to all your power distribution units simultaneously.   Now, users of all sizes can appreciate that kind of flexibility.

There’s a great white paper with details about how it all works.

To learn more about how Server Technology can simplify the deployment of your networked PDU solution, click here.

NEW WHITE PAPER  Learn how you can save time and effort configuring  your PRO series PDU with Zero Touch Provisioning

Topics: PRO2, PRO@, Zero Touch Provisioning, ZTP