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What is a PDU vs. a Power Strip?

Posted by Erik Stabile on Mar 6, 2018 11:15:00 AM

rack-pdu-vs-rack-mount-power-strip

Editor's Note: Originally posted Aug 5, 2016 - Updated March 6, 2018

Recently, a customer wondered about the real difference between high-quality power distribution units (PDUs) for the data center, and standard 120V power outlets (like the kind you would find in Home Depot). Why spend the extra money? They both supply power directly to the cabinet, right?

In short, yes—they do. Both the PDU and the power strip, however, are in different classes in terms of what they are capable of providing. Think of it this way: A power outlet is to a power distribution unit like a flip phone is to a smart phone; the former is very basic, while the latter is much more powerful and complex. 

meme_not-sure-if-pdu-or-power-strip
It's okay, we'll break it down for you.

So what is a PDU?

A standard power outlet, in other words, offers 120V of alternating current (AC), seven outlets and, in some cases, surge protection. Conversely, Server Technology’s most basic rack PDU offers up to 230V AC and up to 26 outlets in a slimmer, more compact device that is specifically engineered for use in a high-performance data center. On the other end of the spectrum, Server Technology’s intelligent PDUs can provide up to 42 outlets in a single unit, with up to 415V AC, advanced network cards, power measurement technology, temp and humidity probes, and the list goes on...

Let's see your power strip do that. ;-)

It’s important to note that Server Technology has several different—and highly customizable—products in its PDU family. In addition to the aforementioned basic PDU, there are also metered, smart, switched, smart POPS (Per Outlet Power Sensing) and switched POPS PDUs.

Want to narrow our 12,000+ possible PDU configurations down to a product family?  Learn about our Rack PDU Selection Wizard in this blog.

Here is a look at some of the advanced capabilities of Server Technology’s PDUs:

Remote switching (for switched PDUs and switched POPS): To toggle power on and off with a standard rack mount power strip you need to be standing right next to it. Server Technology’s PDUs enable individual outlet control for remotely switching power on and off. This feature is ideal for large data centers that have hundreds of different cabinets, or those with multiple facilities spread out across the world. Authorized users can use remote switching to control power flows without having to be physically present.  You can read more about Servertech's remote power management solutions here.

Input current monitoring (for metered, smart, switched, smart POPS and switched POPS): The vast majority of power usage in a data center comes from cabinets, where servers run all day and all night, week in and week out. Many servers, for that matter, run even when they are not being used, which wastes electricity and money. (Learn more about zombie servers and what you can do to get rid of them) When using basic power outlets, there is no way to tell how much electricity is being used in each cabinet on a daily basis.  Server Technology’s input current monitoring feature allows managers to see power usage for individual circuits, which is helpful for identifying which devices can be scaled back or eliminated to reduce waste.   

Secure access (for smart, switched, smart POPS and switched POPS): With the ability to monitor input current comes the great responsibility to protect this information from hackers or unauthorized users. Server Technology’s PDUs come with strong access, security and communications controls so that only authorized users can access power usage data and make critical changes to the network.

Greater cable retention (for all PDUs): In a standard power outlet, cables can easily become dislodged, which can lead to unexpected power outages. Server Technology offers server rack power strips that come with lockable, high-retention outlets to ensure that cables stay firmly in place.

Environmental monitoring (for smart, switched, smart POPS and switched POPS): A standard power outlet won’t do much to prevent environmental disasters. Can your data center survive a hurricane with just power strips? That’s because power outlets don’t contain advanced sensors for measuring temperature and humidity levels. Server Technology’s PDUs do contain such sensors, which can transmit critical environmental alerts when cabinets exceed customizable environmental thresholds. This allows managers to prevent equipment from overheating and breaking. What’s more, all of Server Technology PDUs are designed for use in higher temperatures, which means they come with less inherent risk.   

Alternating phase distribution (for 3-phase PDUs): Load balancing is a necessary—also difficult and time-consuming—task that must be performed manually on standard power outlets. Server Technology’s PDUs streamline load balancing with a new, unique method called alternating phase power distribution. The result is a simpler and more efficient process.

Take a new look 3-phase power distribution.  Read the alternating phase executive summary.


Flexible mounting (for all PDUs)
: Standard power outlets rest on the floor, where they get kicked around and abused. Server Technology’s rack mount PDUs are slim and flexible enough to mount directly inside or on top of a cabinet, where they take up less room.

These are just some examples of how Server Technology’s high-quality rack PDUs differ from standard power strips. For more information, click here

click to view the Servertech rack PDU buying guide

Topics: rack mount power strip, power strip, rack PDU, power distribution and monitoring

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