On the Subject of Electrical Inequality

RJ Tee
August 18, 2017

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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 PDUs?

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.  

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.   

What is a PDU?