Understanding the Differences between Basic vs. Intelligent PDUs - Wowrack Blog



May 17, 2016 - admin

Understanding the Differences between Basic vs. Intelligent PDUs

Power management is something I have seen taken for granted many times, and yet is one of the most vital pieces to running any type of hardware infrastructure. At the core of power management is the PDU, and its ability to provide you with the data you need to make proper management choices. In a general sense we categorize PDUs as either dumb or intelligent. The distinction between these two is very important,

and it is my hope that I persuade you to always use an intelligent PDU.

Dumb PDUs

Simply put a dumb PDU is no different than your basic household power strip. While it may be built better than the basic household power strip its functionality is the same. Plug devices in and they will power up.

Intelligent PDUs

Intelligent PDUs can offer greater insights into your environment. Aside from the basic functionality of powering devices, an intelligent PDU can offer you a variety of control and monitoring over your hardware infrastructure. Here are some of the key benefits of an intelligent PDU.

  • Amperage usage. Total usage and by port usage.
  • PDU temperature monitoring.
  • Alerting to high temperatures or amperage overload warnings and events.
  • Remote device power cycling.

The above list is just of the basic features of an intelligent PDU. More advanced models will offer you even greater environment monitoring capabilities, per device power management capabilities, and more. All intelligent PDUs will be able to be accessed via some type of remote protocol, typically over HTTP/HTTPS (web interface). Through this web interface you are able to manage the devices connected to each port of the PDU and collect data about them.

Having these types of capabilities in a PDU can have a serious impact on your uptime and availability. An example of this is having the ability to remotely power cycle a device. In the unfortunate event where a server becomes unresponsive and a hard power cycle is necessary, the time to recovery is crucial. In this scenario if you had a dumb PDU you would need to first contact a person who is physically local to that server to perform a hard reboot. Depending on your circumstances this may take five to twenty minutes to complete! Even the extra five minutes to e-mail the support at the data center you are hosting with is too long. This is where an intelligent PDU becomes invaluable. In the same scenario a system administrator could login to the PDU and with a few clicks have the server power cycle. If you combine this with a KVM over IP device you can have full control over the server as if you were standing right in front of it.

Intelligent PDUs can also help you save money. Power allotment is taken very serious within a data center environment. So surpassing that power allotment can mean power overage fees. With an intelligent PDU there is the capability of monitoring how much power is being pulled by the servers within a rack at any given time. This data can allow a technician to plan certain power demanding server jobs accordingly and avoid any power overage fees. An example of this would be running multiple backup processes on multiple servers. Let’s say you have 15 servers, all of which need to be backed up on a nightly basis. You have the network capability to back them all up at once, but do you have the power capability to do this? Let’s just say that each server in this example pulls one Amp of power and the available power is 16 Amps. Under the normal day-to-day operations all servers combine as a whole require 15 Amp of power. When you start your backup process each server requires 1.2 Amps of power. So if you were to start the backup process for all 15 servers simultaneously your environment would require a total of 18 Amps. This is well over the 16 Amp limit for your environment. This not only could be expensive but can put you in danger of tripping a circuit breaker. This is the kind of information that an intelligent PDU can provide you, so scenarios like this don’t cause your entire rack to lose power from a tripped breaker. With an intelligent PDU you are able to set alerting thresholds so that you are aware soon as you begin to approach a high amperage usage.

I believe any IT professional can see that the data intelligent PDUs collects becomes invaluable when managing your infrastructure properly. This is true whether you have a small 1/6 rack or 10 full size racks. If you plan on scaling up your environment this is the type of information that needs to be taken into consideration when deciding what the best option is for your needs. Simply put the smart choice is an intelligent PDU every time.

By Bret.s – Data Center Manager.

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