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IoT’s Impact on the Data Center and the Role of Intelligent Power

By Marc Cram, Director of New Market Development, Server Technology

Once dubbed the next Industrial Revolution, the Internet of Things (IoT) has proven to be the movement that will drive the evolution of network, IT, and data center design into the future. To sum up the net impact of all of the new devices situated at the edge of all of the networks, consider this: there will be some 24 billion Internet of Things devices online by the end of 2020, which is actually more than double the 10 billion devices that will be used directly by people. Intelligent PDUs will play a critical role in the management of networks that support that traffic.

In fact, IoT has had a number of impacts on data center infrastructure, as well as data center services. Not only has IoT driven the creation of more robust networks and IT systems, it has also pushed the boundaries of what was previously understood as cloud and edge computing, and the networks that support those systems.

Lean and mean

When we look at the impact of IoT on data center infrastructure, the greatest tangible effect has been on data center networks. Most facilities have had to adapt in order to keep up with IoT—especially 5G IoT. This has meant an increase in the number of connections and in the overall speed of networks in most deployments, even ones that lean heavily on edge computing. Those edge devices still need to push data back to a central hub for more detailed computing and analysis.

Because of this, the majority of data centers are upping their networking and connectivity game. Another key impact IoT brings to data centers is a different type of capacity demand. IoT devices are continually running and delivering data, meaning that many data centers now have a much smaller window than before to take a network offline or make adjustments. Traditional maintenance windows are now closed, and network architectures have to be adapted to support uptime. The impact on data center infrastructure? It needs to be equally flexible.

More secure

An unexpected impact of IoT on data centers has been the need for an increased security presence at the edge. This new security challenge is the unwanted passenger on the train of network safety. It is the result of having more passengers on the new IoT touchpoints and endpoints.

This increase in the number of devices has presented a unique challenge for those in charge of their company’s networks. The proliferation of traffic has meant that companies are investing in new tools to monitor and manage traffic on their networks. While these tools are mostly in the form of software and IT appliances, there has also been an increase in the adoption of network PDUs.

Everything needs power

While they may seem like an unlikely player in new IoT data center infrastructures, intelligent PDUs are serving a key role in securing networks, supporting uptime, monitoring traffic, and managing systems.

Switched PDUs are the gatekeepers of all the power that is fed to the rack. After all, everything needs power, right? Not only is the rack PDU the bridge between the data center’s entire electrical infrastructure and the devices that run the network, it also provides the nearest touchpoint to monitor and manage that power. Talk about up close and personal!

Monitoring the edge

IoT computing demands more sophisticated monitoring solutions at the rack and PDU level. By definition, edge compute sites are not adjacent to the core data center facility. Lack of proximity means that there is an increased reliance on the ability to monitor power and cooling conditions remotely, as well as the ability to remotely control and reboot single outlets. As IoT has pushed monitoring to the distant reaches of the network, intelligent PDUs have likewise been deployed to provide feedback and control.

Monitoring the core

Intelligent PDUs arguably play a more critical role at the core, thanks to IoT. They provide information about equipment operation by metering the input and output power at the PDU. They also provide remote control operations that allow you to turn power on and off to individual receptacles. Having a network connection allows the data center manager to enable or disable outlets from a remote location or within the facility itself. As IoT has required more flexibility and fewer maintenance windows, intelligent PDUs have stepped in to assist with controlling the computing environment.

Monitoring to manage

Increased data traffic and shifting workloads increase the complexity of the data center manager’s power and cooling resources within the facility. By using intelligent PDUs, you can access real-time usage data and environmental alerts. All power usage data is easily tracked, stored, and exported into reports using intelligent PDUs and DCIM software. By analyzing accurate power usage information at the cabinet level, data center managers are now able to more accurately shift power resources within the white space.

In short, an intelligent PDU can be the control your data center infrastructure needs to support IoT applications. This is increasingly important as this infrastructure is being pushed closer to the edge with even less time for maintenance. Higher device demand comes with higher power demands, which means more challenges to the network. PDUs help you meet them and anticipate the next IoT evolution.

Marc Cram is Director of New Market Development for Server Technology, a brand of Legrand (@Legrand). A technology evangelist, he is driven by a passion to deliver a positive power experience for the data center owner/operator. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice University and has more than 30 years of experience in the field of electronics. Follow him on LinkedIn or @ServerTechInc on Twitter.

Innovation Comes from Listening to Customer Needs

By Sandi Renden, Director of Marketing, Server Technology

Product improvements are not solely the result of product management influences.

In many cases, the most innovative products are the result of customer feedback and they are often the most successful. To remain relevant, products must be in lockstep with customers’ changing needs to enhance their experiences. And data centers are a perfect example of an industry that must constantly adapt to change.

Why is the data center industry a good example? Because workloads need elastic processing abilities, servers have gone virtual and networks are sprawling at the edges. As this continues to happen, the power required to run these environments must be as flexible as their hardware and software counterparts. Intelligent rack power distribution unit (PDU) manufacturer, Server Technology, knows all too well how fast data center power requirements can quickly decrease a product’s usefulness when it comes to supporting changing rack devices. However, they also have a history of circumventing this unfortunate situation and exceling where other PDU and rack mount power strip manufacturers often struggle and sometimes fail.

Marc Cram, Director of New Market Development for Server Technology, shares some insights into how his company is able to quickly pivot product manufacturing and redesign data center PDUs to fit today’s elastic workload environments. Spoiler alert: their success comes from listening to their customers and allowing them to design their own PDUs.

Turning Pain into Gain

Where do good inventions truly come from? Willy Wonka states the secret to inventing is, “93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation and 2% butter-scotch ripple.” Although this may be practical for creating Everlasting Gobstoppers, in the data center environment, game-changing inventions are predicated on more simplistic methods. And perhaps the simplest, but successful stimulus for inventors comes from listening to customers’ pain points.

Cram says that Server Technology was founded by listening to customers and figuring out how to satisfy as many of their power needs—with a single PDU design. “It’s a tradition that continues to this very day; we still do leading-edge work for our customers by listening to their specific needs and turning that information into targeted products for their exact applications,” he says.

Cram understood that data centers were traditionally built in a raised floor environment and the IT managers were in the same facility. This situation made it easier for managers to frequently replace rack mount power strips as servers were swapped out. As time went by and the data center industry evolved, servers and racks were not necessarily located on the same premises where the IT managers were residing. Listening to customers, it became clear that having the ability to remotely read the rack power status made a tremendous amount of sense and alleviated the pain of traveling between data centers to read or reset PDU devices.

However, all customer needs are not created equal and some organizations did not want remote management capabilities. Rather, they voiced the need for PDUs to be equipped with alarm capabilities instead. “Banks are a good example of this,” Cram said. “The last thing a bank wants is for somebody to come in and turn off their rack power supply that just happens to be processing someone’s ATM transaction. You don’t ever want it to be interrupted.”

The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Hearing is the act of perceiving auditory sounds versus listening, which is the act of paying attention to sounds and giving them consideration. Listening to customers allowed Server Technology to jump directly to a Switched PDU from a basic, unmanaged PDU. Cram says that by listening to customers, the company discovered a need for a power strip that had remote monitoring capabilities, but also provided individual outlet controls. Cram noted, “this is where the ‘smarts’ in our products came from.”

A similar listening/consideration process was also undertaken when Server Technology developed outlet power sensing. It was learned that customers like the per-outlet sensing capabilities, but they did not like the control. With this information, the company created smart PDU options. Now, Server Technology is offering five different PDU levels: Basic (power in/power out) Metered, Switched, Smart Per Outlet Power Sensing (Smart POPS) and Switched POPs.

The flexibility of five distinct data center PDU offerings, as well as the High-Density Outlet Technology (HDOT) line of PDUs, decreases the need to go back and reconfigure rack power when new devices are added. Cram says that “whether the need is for a full rack-of-gear or a rack that starts its life with three servers and a switch then eventually is used for some other configuration, Server Technology’s family of PDUs can handle the entire transition.”

The innovation behind the HDOT and the HDOT Cx resides in the ability that enables customers to select what outlet types they want as well as have them placed in the desired location on the PDU.  “You can reconfigure the rack to plug in a different device into the same CX outlet,” Cram says. For example, a customer populated a rack with 1u height servers with C13 outlets. Using the HDOT Cx would give them the ability to remove servers and add a high-end Cisco router or another big-power device that requires C19 outlets. The HDOT Cx outlet provides the flexibility they need without throwing away the original PDU.

Perhaps the ultimate result of listening to customers’ concerns comes in the ability Server Technology has given its customers to actually “build your own PDUs” or BYOPDU. This power strip innovation provides a website where customers may configure the exact type of outlets needed, based upon the PDU’s intent and initial use. By specifying the CX modules, the customer has extreme flexibility and the opportunity to extend the life and usability of each power strip.

Listening, Not Hearing, Pays Dividends

Customer feedback is one of the greatest sources of product inspiration and listening is a skill that needs to be developed to ensure useful evolution. Incorporating feedback to advance products will benefit entire industries—and creating a perpetual feedback/innovation loop ensures a steady stream of improvements. Aside from the flexible HDOT PDU family, Server Technology also developed other PDUs that distribute 415VAC, 480VAC or 380VDC—all in response to customer feedback and customer needs. “In an industry where rigidity breeds stagnation and stagnation impedes a data center’s ability to efficiently process workloads, customers’ voices are the inventor’s greatest ally,” Cram concluded.

Bio
Sandi Terry Renden is Director of Marketing at
Server Technology, a brand of Legrand in the Datacenter Power and Control Division. Sandi is a passionate leader and creative visionary, with over 25 years of management, digital marketing and sales execution experience, with a proven track record of success recruiting and retaining talent, hitting sales targets and developing multi-channel digital marketing and branding campaigns for non-profit and profit organizations in both B2B and B2C. She has international working and cultural (residency) experience on three continents (Americas, Asia and Europe.) Sandi has earned a BA in Marketing from the University of Utah and an MBA in Marketing.