Knowledge Hub Deep Dive

Controlling Power and Gathering Data at the Cabinet is Essential

Wed 29 Apr 2020 | Martin Kandziora

Performance, availability and efficiency in IT infrastructure often seem to be a contradiction in terms.  Data centre availability crucially requires a secure power supply, which begins with the feed-in and distribution. Whether core, cloud or edge data centre – the current market drivers require three attributes from data centre infrastructures: To be smarter, more efficient and more secure.

The intelligent Smartzone G5 PDUs is equipped for future-oriented applications

In the expanding world of networked IT, it is estimated that by 2025 there will be up to 75 billion end devices (source: Statista), generating vast amounts of data.  According to an IDC study, within five years the global data volume will be 175 Zettabytes (175 x 1021). Operators, managers and designers of data centres face enormous challenges when designing or modernising their IT infrastructure.

A reliable power supply is a crucial element of every data centre. Power supply and distribution starts with the main power supply, includes the UPS as well as the sub-distribution systems which connect via the socket systems into the IT racks and directly to the IT hardware.

Depending on the design and application a data centre or single cabinet solution, large core or cloud data centre there are different security and availability requirements. Power Distribution Units (PDU) play an important role in a smart, efficient and secure data centre infrastructure: the latest Intelligent PDUs use additional sensors to collect and control a variety of other information about the IT environment, which can integrate with DCIM (data centre infrastructure management) systems to provide insights into the past and current operating status of the power supply and the connected equipment.

In smaller size installations, such as floor distribution units, PDUs with integrated analysis functionality offer several advantages, as they can be monitored autonomously. Such intelligent and modular power distribution systems make it possible, on the one hand, to plan the power supply according to the application, while at the same time recording and, if necessary, reducing energy consumption.



Figure 1: Checklist of the IT availability of TÜV Rheinland

More Efficiency with Intelligence

Growing data traffic is driving the increasing power density of IT equipment installed in a cabinet.  The increase in capacity per rack poses specific challenges for rack power designers. Many planners therefore design three-phase networks right into the rack in order to accommodate significantly more power in the same space compared to a single-phase solution. The energy consumption of a PDU with port-integrated measuring capabilities can be clearly assigned and controlled. Intelligent energy measurement and monitoring of the PDU provides information on:

  • Energy measurement of kilowatt hours (kWh)
    • Power measurement (W)
    • Power measurement (V, A, VA, kWh, pF) for input phases
    • Power measurement for circuit breakers
    • Exact measurement attributes for billing purposes
    • Integrated storage protocol for the recording and display of historical data including individual alarms and documentation

The OLED display of Panduit’s 5th generation iPDUs can be conveniently read within the cabinet or floor distribution unit. In addition, the display on 3-phase PDUs provides information about the utilisation of the individual phases. Technicians can quickly and easily balance the load of the individual phases directly within the cabinet.

Some colocation applications require PDUs with energy consumption measurement (kWh) and power measurement (W) per slot. – on this basis, the influence of individual components on the DCiE (Data Centre Infrastructure Efficiency) or PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) factor of the data centre can be determined and measures taken to increase efficiency. In parallel, power used can be billed to the customer with an accuracy of +/- 1%.

Figure 2: Calculation of PUE and DCiE

Future security

Intelligent PDUs offer comprehensive capabilities for remote monitoring and in-situ control and can be integrated into operators DCIM systems. This allows individual slots to be switched on and off remotely or the reboot delay after a power failure to be configured sequentially and user-defined for the IT devices. This prevents overloads due to high in rush currents. Individually assignable user profiles and access authorisations additionally increase system security. The control gained and the extra data help with hardware management and on-site troubleshooting. Today’s PDU has taken on a completely new role as an important feature of the security of the IT infrastructure. For example, IT components can be identified more quickly and errors in switching on or off can be largely eliminated. The network capability of the PDU plays an important role here, especially in distributed edge applications, which are geographically and spatially distributed, the PDUs can be monitored remotely and support intervention if necessary.

Image 2. Intelligent PDU Aggregation Point & Control Point for Management & Data Collection

IPDU’s access security is often achieved through SNMPv3, RESTful API and TLS as well as certificate-based, asymmetric encryption, which is monitored and strengthened with several security check tools. This is supported with various complex passwords and modern authorisation options – locally, via LDAP and via Active Directory.

Image 3. The iPDU’s hot-swappable network module has a large OLED display and a bar graph display for easy phase load balancing. In addition, up to four PDUs and 32 sensors can be daisy-chained via one IP address.

The intelligent PDU implements comprehensive network management and alarm functions with support for HTTP, HTTPS, SSH, Telnet, SNMP, FTP and e-mail. A redundant 1G network access in 2N configuration provides network redundancy and is suitable for colocation applications. Both the colo operator and the customer can access the same PDU data with their respective networks running completely independently and depending on the level of authorisation monitor or control the power supply to the consumer’s equipment.

The importance of cyber security is increasing due to the rise in hacker attacks and security breaches. Therefore, this authorised access secures sensitive data and systems of the data centre or micro-data centre from incorrect or criminal access. The iPDUs support environment and security management with optional plug-and-play environmental sensors, e.g. for temperature, humidity, potential-free contact and leakage. The sensors can be integrated into the infrastructure either by cable or wirelessly.

For physical security management within the data centre, the intelligent PDUs monitor rack access with door contact switches and potential-free contacts that can, for example, control signal lights or air conditioning.


Image 4. The latest Intelligent PDU offer low profile designs to maximise cabinet space for compute capacity.

Smart mechanics and intelligence

Today’s iPDU offer high density solutions with smart slot configurations. Output cables fit into almost any rack size at the top, bottom or front to minimise cable congestion and the flat construction of the modular iPDU design saves space in the rack. This design provides easy access to the individual modules, connectors and control unit at any time.

The network module can be exchanged quickly and easily using the hot-swap method.

All socket modules of the intelligent PDU from Panduit form a self-contained system and are protected against accidental contact. This allows the PDU to be used even without electrical expertise. The PDU can be quickly installed by simply hooking them in, which reduces assembly time as well as cost and logistics effort. A further benefit, under full load, the PDU can withstand temperatures of up to 60 °C and can therefore also be used in high-performance environments.


Power distribution systems can be found in any data centre, server room or edge data centre. In view of the increasing energy costs and required power densities, intelligent PDUs are gaining in importance. The trend shows that conventional socket strips are used much less and the reasons are obvious: In networked and distributed IT infrastructures, the demand for remote monitoring and remote control is growing in importance.  In addition, modular and network-compatible power distribution systems significantly increase flexibility and scalability. Integrated measuring functions of the PDU optimise energy consumption and reduce overall energy consumption. At the same time, the integral sensor technology leads to better infrastructure monitoring and, together with the cyber security functions, to more secure systems overall. The bottom line: the intelligent PDU in future data centre infrastructures will be smarter, more efficient and safer.

Written by:

Send us a correction Send us a news tip