The Raritan Blog

Basic vs. Intelligent Rack Power Distribution Units

Posted on June 12, 2015 by Michael Bord

It doesn’t look like much at first glance. You notice a row or two of electrical outlets that run the length of a metal box. A small LCD screen (compared to say, your iPhone 6), various ports, and a few buttons. Some funny markings: L3/L1, L2/L3, L1/L2.  It’s the sort of machine a real gearhead loves. But, not the kind those of us dependent on ‘technology consumerization’ can appreciate. You want to like it, but you’re not sure what to make of this thing from the outside.

Here’s the funny thing about it though. This box full of blinking lights and whirring noises is the most sophisticated device in the data center power distribution chain. That’s not an exaggeration. Let’s start with a quick recap of the intelligent PDU's capabilities.

Power distribution and multi-point metering? Check. 

Sequenced outlet power cycling?  Check.

Remote management? Yes.

Environmental monitoring? Yup.

Asset tracking and infrastructure security? You bet.

And that’s just skimming the surface. What other device even comes close?  Your UPS looks like a moron by comparison.  But it goes beyond the features. What it comes down to is what it has managed to do for data centers of all shapes and sizes. I talk to customers all the time and am always amazed by the breadth and impact of the problems they're able to solve with it.  

One customer found stranded power capacity in his colo provider’s racks.  Another used it to prevent his aisles from heating up and having his servers crap out.  Another saved thousands of megawatt hours just by powering down his labs on weekends. Different customers. Different scenarios. One solution that was able to fit them all. 

But here’s one thing that the intelligent rack PDU can’t solve: the perception that there is no difference between it, and one of the least sophisticated devices around, the basic rack PDU.  And from the outside, you’d be right to think that. Yes, they’re the same shape and size. And both power your servers and network switches via outlets. 

Unfortunately, that perception, along with a lower price point, leads many data centers to buy basic over intelligent. And it’s a choice that, at best, will get you by.  But, it’s also a series of missed opportunities. You miss the chance to solve the diverse set of challenges your data center faces.  You miss a shot at making your data center more reliable, efficient, and environmentally sound.  And, you miss the chance to meet tomorrow’s challenges. When you choose basic, it’s really that simple. 

 

See How the Rack PDU You Choose Can Make All the Difference!  Download the Basic vs. Intelligent PDUs eBook Now.