Accurate capacity planning starts with intelligent PDUs

Accurate capacity planning starts with intelligent PDUs

Planning for growth is a critical function of data center management.

Precision has always been important in the data center, but the stakes of failure are increasing. Miscalculating resource usage in the modern data center, for instance, can have negative impacts, including:

  • Inaccurate power metering, and consequently, client billing.
  • Electricity shorts caused by over-taxed power supply feeds.
  • Environmental disruptions (i.e.,  in the form of heat spikes).

Any of these hiccups can hinder operational excellence, or worse, cause downtime. Equally important, calculating resource usage is critical to long-term success. It's one thing to understand current requirements, but data center capacity planning to calculate future needs is the only thing that will ensure a facility's survival. In response, management has turned its sights on data center infrastructure management (DCIM). While this is a good move, it's only the right move if metrics-gathering infrastructure is in place.

This is where intelligent power distribution units (PDUs) come into play.

Device-level power monitoring

First and foremost, facility managers need to have a pulse on total power utilization throughout the data center, and not just for the sake of PuE. By monitoring power consumption at the outlet level with intelligent PDUs, it's possible to have a granular understanding of power utilization, down to each individual server if need be. This makes it easier to identify over- and under-utilized equipment, which is a critical part of accurate capacity planning.

In fact, a 2016 report from IHS identified the need for more accurate capacity planning as one of the key reasons the PDU market value for the year was projected at nearly $1 billion. Almost every piece of critical equipment in the data center uses electricity. Nothing can be added or removed without having some sort of impact on power usage. Data center capacity planning's purpose is to precisely measure that impact and plan accordingly.

In this case, knowledge really is power.

Accurate capacity planning is critical to keeping the lights on in data centers and the operations they serve.Accurate capacity planning is critical to keeping the lights on in data centers and the operations they serve.

Environmental capacity at the rack PDU level

Power usage is just one of several key metrics that need accurate mapping before upgrading servers and other equipment. Temperature, according to TechTarget assistant editor Tim Culverhouse, is another.

"Intelligent PDUs are much more than power distribution vessels."

Data center capacity planning must factor in how new power-consuming resources will impact environmental conditions. The addition of exhaust from new servers to a specific rack, for instance, can increase rack-level temperature. This may have the impact of further taxing the available power supply for computer room air conditioners (CRACs) to maintain allowable temperature. This is yet another example of why real-time, granular data aggregation is so important. The only difference is that now the question becomes "how will necessary equipment changes affect rack temperature?"

One of the best ways to answer that question is with side-by-side, real-time measurements of power usage and temperature. This is possible with intelligent PDUs since most come with additional ports that enable the installation of temperature sensors and other environmental monitoring units. Since metrics are aggregated at the same time, and from the same location, a relationship between power usage, equipment placement and rack temperature can be determined – the analytics muscle of modern DCIM-based capacity planning is incredibly capable in this way.

In other words, intelligent PDUs are much more than power distribution vessels: They're the eyes and the ears of your data center capacity planning software.