As the demand for data and bandwidth continues to escalate at an astronomical pace, power distribution at the server rack is paramount. Enterprise, cloud, hyperscale, colocation, and edge facilities are all experiencing unprecedented data processing and storage levels. Increasing adoption of 5G, AI, the IoT, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and a host of evolving technologies will bring an even higher utilization rate of data center infrastructure. According to the International Data Corp.’s Global DataSphere, 64.2 zettabytes (ZB) of data was created or replicated in 2020 (1 ZB is equal to 1 trillion GB). IDC forecasts worldwide data will grow 61% to 175 ZB. This tremendous growth puts increased pressure on data center infrastructure, especially when it comes to power availability.

Power protection systems, energy storage, power distribution units (PDUs), static transfer switches, cooling systems, power sensors, and remote power panels (RPPs) all play a vital role in ensuring power is available 24/7. Rack PDUs (rPDUs) are an integral component for distributing power to the large number of servers in the rack. Despite their ubiquity, rPDUs should not be taken for granted. At a glance, one might dismiss them as surge strips on steroids, but rPDUs are essential building blocks of every data center's physical infrastructure. Depending on the rack and cabinet design, single- or three-phase rPDUs can be installed horizontally or vertically to provide power to an entire rack of servers. However, not all rPDUs are created equally.


PowerLok rPDUs
Figure 1: Pictured here are PowerLok rPDUs
Photo courtesy of Gateview Technologies


It's All About Reliability

When it comes to power components, data center operators and facility managers prioritize reliability. Greater reliability is achieved when the rPDU manufacturing process is designed to reduce the number of internal connections by robotically soldering connections from the line cord to each receptacle, thereby removing the potential for human error. This is vastly more reliable than high-fault-risk, traditional wiring methods that rely on the labor-intensive process of using insulation displacement and fast-on connectors. These hand-worked connections, which are often poorly assembled, often result in high failure rates.

Low-Profile Designs and Flexibility

As data centers and colocation facilities continue to pack in more servers, space conservation inside and outside of the rack is essential. Data center operators no longer have the luxury of extra space for bulky industrial-style rPDUs in today's dense server environments. Slim, streamlined rPDUs are quicker to install and offer easier access to racked equipment with more flexibility for rack-mounted device power connectivity.

Another important but often overlooked advantage is smart cord management. Some implementations facilitate easy cord locking using standard power cords that come with the IT equipment without losing receptacle density on the rPDU. This also adds to reliability and organization by keeping server cords neatly arranged. As an added convenience, these devices allow single-hand insertion and removal of cords. To further optimize orderly installation into the server rack, users should look for units that incorporate a standard angled whip (cable) entry that allows the input cord to immediately exit the rack without interfering with equipment in the rack.

Additional Considerations

Legacy rPDUs have fallen behind in not only reliability but also efficiency and thoughtful design for the user. When selecting rPDUs, the following questions should be considered.

  • Is the rPDU made in the U.S. in an aerospace standard facility or mass-produced overseas using manual labor methods?
  • Does the supplier offer many sized lengths to accommodate custom racks?
  • Can the rPDU provide accurate monitoring of PDU temperature and humidity via SNMP or PDU web server?
  • Do the devices include an interface dashboard to provide visual historical graphing of power monitoring?
  • Is there a touchscreen display to monitor outlets at the group level and a user-friendly display that eliminates the need for external, mechanical push buttons?
  • Does the product offer vertical and customizable configurations?
  • Can the supplier deliver quickly?


With the vastly increased demand for always-on connectivity, continuous content delivery is at the highest level in history. This relentless data storm has put more pressure on data center and edge computing infrastructure to be ever more configurable, reliable, resilient, and secure while enabling rapid scaling to meet these growing demands. Intelligent power distribution is a key element in allocating and monitoring power at the rack level. Making smart, informed choices on power infrastructure systems will help to ensure power is available where and how it is needed.