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What Is a Power Distribution Unit (PDU)? 

Data Center Power Plugs

As your organization and business evolves, so do your technology requirements. You will probably need more electrical outlets than you have in the building. While power strips are acceptable for homes, you might want to think about a PDU to keep everything powered up and connected. Here are some of the basics of power distribution units for your business to make an informed decision. 

Do you need more sustainable data center power options for your business? Reach out to the experienced team at Alterum Technologies!

What Is a PDU?

PDU is short for a power distribution unit, and it distributes power to your network of devices. You should keep in mind that this device does not generate power by itself. Instead, it delivers AC power from either a generator, utility power source, or uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Telecom equipment, networking hardware, servers, and other devices can all be powered by a PDU. 

Related: Data Center Power: Best Guide to Efficient Power Management

The Function of a PDU

In the most basic concept, a PDU does the same job as a standard power strip. It takes the current from a single source to power up multiple devices around your home or office. However, PDUs are designed to be installed in the equipment racks. 

With that, the power supply is within reach of switches, routers, cooling fans, and servers. You will often find a PDU in a network closet, VoIP phone system, data center, or any other spot that houses equipment. 

Along with providing power distribution, PDUs are ideal for power monitoring and management. There are eight types of PDUs on the market:

  • Basic
  • Maintenance Bypass
  • Metered
  • Metered Auto Transfer Switch (ATS)
  • Monitored
  • Switched
  • Switched Metered-by-Outlet
  • Switched Auto Transfer Switch (ATS)

Can a PDU Help Against Surge Protection?

If you want to distribute power from a single source to multiple types of equipment, you will need a rack surge protector. A single PDU cannot offer any protection against those power surges. The rack surge protector can protect your devices against voltage spikes and surges. You can use them in combination with a PDU.

Related: Data Center Power Design: AVOID THESE MISTAKES

Which Type of PDU Is Right for Me?

Several types of PDUs can help to power up your devices. Before you purchase a PDU, you need to know where you plan to install it. Many PDUs are available as 1U or 2U for horizontal mounts. Some models can be mounted vertically, and they are labeled as 0U. Many PDUs can be mounted on a wall, under the shelf, or in a rack enclosure. 

You also need to decide about the type of input power you will need. You can choose between a single-phase or three-phase power. A single-phase power alternates between negative and positive voltage with a rate of 60 cycles per second. The wave moves back from positive to negative. Many offices and household power supplies are considered single-phase.

The other type of PDU is a three-phase power. With this type of input power, the zero voltage is eliminated by three simultaneous waves. Once the wave reaches zero voltage, the other inputs are at negative and positive points in the cycle. You will find three-phase power in industrial or commercial environments

How Much Power Do I Need?

The amount of power that your devices need is listed in watts (W) or volts and amperes (VA). You can figure out your consumption by adding up all of the VA or Ws for your home or business. If you want to power all devices and equipment adequately, the power source must have a higher output than your components require. 

Many devices that use automatic switching power supplies have voltages in the range of 120 to 240. A single PDU connected to a UPS will be able to power a small network for devices. If you have a complex or larger installation, you could need several PDUs and a large-capacity UPS system. 

Do Plugs Matter?

Most PDUs can support several types of devices. The shape of the plug corresponds to the amperage and voltage of the device. PDUs can usually fit most types of plugs found on your devices. 

Ethernet Cables Close Up

Should I Consider Other Features? 

At its core, a basic PDU is a single power source that can connect multiple devices. It helps to simplify your rack equipment management and makes a great addition to any IT installation. Some advanced models can protect against power downtime or measure your power demands. The most common types of PDUs include:

Basic

A basic PDU delivers unfiltered AC power from a generator, UPS system, or utility source.

Maintenance Bypass

With this PDU, you can prevent any downtime. It provides a seamless transfer of electricity from utility power to UPS power for the continuous operation of your devices and equipment. 

Metered

A metered PDU can distribute network-grade power by metering load levels and preventing over-usage

Metered Auto Transfer Switch

This PDU receives an unfiltered pass-through of power and distributes it to single-corded connected equipment. The device can track the input and output voltage, amperage, and hardware or firmware updates. 

Monitored

A monitored PDU helps users prevent any downtime due to power interruptions or overloads. This PDU can be managed with a digital meter display and remote monitoring. 

Switched

A switched PDU uses network-grade power and allows the users to control outlets on an individual basis. Its digital meter can provide the user information on voltage and load levels. With an SNMP connection, the PDU can be controlled and monitored from a remote location

Switched Auto Transfer Switch

This PDU has all of the features of a switched unit, but it can separate the power sources in a single-corded unit. Plus, this model can also monitor the system and firmware from a remote location. 

Switched Metered-by-Outlet

A switched metered-by-outlet PDU can combine network-grade power with remote monitoring or local control. The PDU can be programmed for automated load shedding, controlled power cycling, and unscheduled reboots. 

Related: Understanding Data Center Energy Consumption [2021]

Find Your PDU

With these basics, you can find the right PDU for your home or business. These components will help keep your devices up and running throughout the day and night. 

Are you searching for cutting-edge power solutions for your data center? Make sure to consult with Alterum Technologies to preserve your IT investments. 

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