An Interview with Server Technology’s Marc Cram: Smart PDUs Translate to More Efficiency

RJ Tee
March 22, 2017

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With people, there’s such a thing as book smart and practical smart. In the case of Server Technology’s Intelligent PDU line, you get the best of both worlds – a product that not only boasts powerful specs on paper, but also makes a real difference in your data center’s efficiency efforts.

We recently sat down with Server Technology’s Director of OEM and Global Accounts, Marc Cram, to discuss the benefits of choosing Switched or Smart Rack PDUs in your data center and how they can lead to greater efficiency and cost savings in the long run.

Question: We’ve talked in the past about the power usage and environmental monitoring capabilities of intelligent rack PDUs, but what are some other advantages to choosing an intelligent rack PDU from Server Technology?

Marc: The beauty of working with the power information gathered from our intelligent PDUs is that you only have to learn one standard interface. A server from Dell and a server from HP have two sets of power and separate interfaces. Cisco network hardware would have a third interface, and so on. If you have a diverse ecosystem in your data center, all those devices need power, so if you’ve got a common element to plug into like an intelligent PDU, then you only need one interface to gather all that data. That’s a common frustration for many people because every vendor tries to lock you into a proprietary interface. With our systems, by going through a Server Technology rack PDU, we provide the “magic decoder ring” that shows you how to get data out of our PDU to put into whatever tool you want to use. You can use Power IQ, from Sunbird,  or an open source solution. So, you gain flexibility as well as access to the data because we don’t lock it up. Sentry Power Manager is great because it’s closely coupled with our hardware. This gives you speed both in deployment of the PDUs and configuration management.

Question: So, we know that Server Technology’s intelligent rack PDUs feature alerts via SNMP traps to show power and environmental conditions. But is it still up to the data center operator to act on this information?

Marc: Not necessarily. We have some customers with the expertise to write interfaces to our system that lets them automatically go back and reset a frozen piece of hardware. For instance, if a server gets bluescreened, they can ping the server and, if it quits responding, they can go back and cycle power to the outlet and reset it. So, it can definitely be automated.


Question: Are there any particular units from Server Technology you’d consider powerhouses when it comes to providing efficiency and actionable data?

Marc: The High Density Outlet Technology (HDOT) units we manufacture offer a high degree of semi-customization. The data center operator can specify if they want a certain number or type of outlets in certain regions of the PDU through our online configurator tool. This gives them the flexibility to say, “I’ve got a common form factor in shape and size of PDU, but I can change what’s in the rack and change the outlet set on the PDU to power what’s in that IT rack.”

The HDOT units also have integrated support for sensors. This allows you to identify temperature and humidity, for instance. Knowing this, you can correlate the power load in the rack to see how quickly temperature follows power load or vice versa to see trending information.


Question: So, what’s the alternative for data center operators not on intelligent rack PDU systems?

Marc: In that case, you’re reliant on having homogenous systems where everything is the same, such as every slot in every rack. With that, you also need a common interface and have to rely on whatever power metric and capability that server has on the power supply, which might be built into the motherboard. If there’s an external sensor within the data center, you need have it somewhere in proximity to the servers, but that’s not always reliable.


Question: So, it really makes more sense to go with an intelligent rack PDU for long-term efficiency, then?

Marc: Right. When you’re buying an intelligent PDU, the capital expense up front may be slightly higher, but the total cost of ownership is lower. And it’s much more reliable. It also conserves the number of Ethernet ports you need in the rack.

 So, who are Server Technology’s intelligent PDUs ideal for?

Marc: We envision these are well suited for several types of customers. There’s the small company with individual racks in multiple locations across the globe that needs to be able to roll those closet servers into a single screen with Sentry Power Manager. But intelligent rack PDUs also work well for a medium enterprise data center with 5,000 square footage of floor and 15 to 20 racks of gear.   As Marc mentions, Server Technology’s intelligent rack PDUs can provide a wealth of actionable data on power usage and environmental conditions, allowing data center operators to make critical changes as needed. This, in turn, reduces overall costs of operating the data center. To learn more about Server Technology’s intelligent PDUs, visit our Smart Rack PDU and Switched Rack PDU pages today.

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