What’s the Difference Between Basic and Intelligent PDUs?
September 14, 2018

Power Distribution Units (PDUs) are a critical aspect of your data center power management. Alongside your UPSs, CRACs, patch panels, and other items in your data center, they help ensure a reliable supply of power to your devices.

Back when data centers were still called data rooms, basic or “dumb” PDUs were sufficient for most power distribution needs. However, as data centers have become increasingly complex and dense, data center managers have found that they need newer, more functional power solutions designed for modern data center environments. 

That’s where intelligent or “smart” PDUs (iPDUs) come in. With the global intelligent PDU market expected to reach $2.01 billion by 2023, it’s clear that more organizations are adopting iPDUs in their data centers.

Here are some of the notable differences between basic and intelligent PDUs and reasons why modern data centers are turning to iPDUs to power their devices:

What Are Key Differences Between Basic and Intelligent PDUs?

The biggest differences between basic and intelligent PDUs are focused on features. Basic PDUs are reliable power distribution devices with multiple outlets, similar to a large version of a power strip that you might buy at your local hardware store. In contrast, intelligent PDUs provide reliable power distribution as well as different levels of inlet- or outlet-level metering, power control and outlet switching, data collection, and environmental sensor instrumentation so that readings can be captured by a data center operator in person via a LED screen or sent over the network using the iPDU’s communications module and NIC card.

Different types of intelligent PDUs are highly sought for their ability to provide the information and capabilities needed for robust data center power monitoring. As a result, intelligent PDUs tend to be significantly more expensive to purchase and implement than their basic counterparts. However, organizations can also decrease operational costs by using the real-time data collected from intelligent PDUs to make smarter data center management decisions, especially when iPDUs are used in combination with a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software solution or other data center monitoring tools.

Why Intelligent PDUs for Your Data Center?

Although some organizations still use basic PDUs, more data center managers are embracing intelligent PDUs to reap their benefits, including:

  • More informed decisions, including data center capacity planning. Intelligent PDUs enable data center managers to collect, and in some cases store, data on power loads, temperature, humidity, and other factors. This data can be analyzed and trended to help data center managers forecast and plan capacity, find stranded capacity, and identify hotspots to avoid overcooling.
  • Maximized uptime and availability. iPDUs can be pinged over a network to check their status and health so data center managers can know and take immediate action when they’ve lost connectivity or power to a specific PDU or if the PDU is in a warning or critical state.  Environmental sensor data can help identify areas of the data center with insufficient airflow or cooling to ensure a safe operating environment for IT equipment.
  • Increased people productivity. Most intelligent PDUs allow for remote power cycling, so data center staff can quickly and easily reboot hung servers, without having to physically travel on site. Power cycling can also be helpful when preparing for or recovering from a data center disaster to help ensure that mission-critical services are prioritized and available.
  • Reduced data center energy consumption. Power monitoring trends at the outlet level can help data center managers gauge power consumption and eliminate ghost servers and power hogs. Outlets can also be remotely turned off to keep devices from running when they’re not needed.

Both basic and intelligent PDUs provide reliable power to the devices in your data center. However, when combined with a comprehensive DCIM solution, iPDUs provide a much wider range of benefits for data center power management than their basic counterparts. The next time you’re looking to deploy new PDUs or update your existing basic models, consider some of these differences. It might just be time to upgrade to intelligent PDUs.

Want to experience for yourself how Sunbird’s industry-leading second-generation DCIM software can help you get more out of your iPDUs? Take a test drive or download a free trial today.

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