Data centres. They are the backbone of the Internet. And without them, the vast majority of businesses simply wouldn't exist. But how much does a modern data centre cost to build and run? The truth is that the total cost of building one is almost impossible to pin down. Even tougher is working out how much they cost to run. That's because they do a job that is hard to do perfectly: provide a secure and reliable home to hundreds - even thousands - of servers that run mission critical software for companies all over the world.
So what can data centre managers do to protect their investment? In this article, Mike Jansma, Co-Founder and CMO at Enlogic, looks at how a simple short circuit could bring a data centre to its knees, and what can be done to spot and fix issues before they happen.
The power challenge
When we flip switches at home things happen. Lights turn on, computers power up, or the TV flickers into life. But think about all the times that you've lost power or how often the lights flicker dimly. In a data centre environment, this simply cannot happen. Power must, at all times, be constant to each server. Any change in power supply could have a devastating effect on the equipment.
When it comes to providing power to servers, data centre designers have two primary tasks to accomplish: provide clean reliable power and avoid unsafe operating conditions.
But doing this is more difficult than one might imagine.
Data centre designers go to great lengths to ensure that servers are always powered. They build two completely separate electrical power distribution systems, along with multiple types of power backup solutions. These expensive and highly complex technologies ensure that if power to the data centre is ever compromised, backup systems can quickly provide the much-needed energy.
What makes all of this expensive design so fascinating is that the data centre still requires a single component, a power distribution unit (PDU), to make sure that all servers keep receiving the energy they need. PDUs work by receiving electricity from the data centre's power delivery supply chain, and delivering that energy to the individual servers and other IT equipment. If the rack PDU fails, then so will the attached equipment.
The rack PDU is a data centre operator's last line of defence against accidental circuit overloads and harmful faults. And in many countries, the rack PDU includes design features that are required by mandatory industry standard.
A growing power threat
While most servers and IT equipment have over time become more energy efficient, the total energy demand required per unit has risen dramatically over the past 15 years from an average power density of 1-2 kW to an average of 4-6 kW per rack. In fact some high density IT racks have power loads of 20 kW or more. These increasing rack power densities have led to much larger power feeds, adding extra pressure on already stretched PDU devices.
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