The importance of color in data center power management

The importance of color in data center power management

Color plays an important role in data center power management.

Data center managers have been trying to find ways to streamline power management for years. While some progress has been made thanks to the evolution of hardware, better cooling methodologies and other enhancements, researchers suggest that data centers continue to consume massive quantities of electricity. The latest measure of overall data center power consumption is from 2014, and according to Data Center Knowledge editor-in-chief, Yevgeniy Sverdlik, it amounts to 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, or 2 percent of the United State's total energy usage.

Furthermore, the Natural Resource Defense Council estimated that by 2020 the annual usage amount will reach approximately 140 billion kilowatt-hours. Part of the reason for this imminent increase is the pace at which digitization is occurring. Prodigious quantities of data are created every day, forcing more data centers to increase power densities. 

In addition to longer-term expenses associated with such increases, the most immediate impact of growing power densities is the risk of over-taxing power distribution units. According to TechTarget contributor Robert McFarlane, the switch to three-phase power will deliver more electricity over fewer wires, which is ultimately more efficient. However, this also means that a power-feed identification mishap can result in unbalanced loads, which could lead to unplanned downtime.

The solution: An intuitive identification system 

Even with the reduction in the number of cables, it's easy for data center technicians to quite literally get their wires crossed. This is particularly true when servers are swapped out or new equipment is added to a PDU. Likewise, if new power strips are loaded onto already strained supply feeds, it can result in shorts.

It's therefore vital that data center PDUs come with intuitive identifiers to avoid small errors that can cause huge problems. This requires the ability to identify which PDUs are being fed by which supply feeds, as well as a granular understanding of how power is passing through each PDU. 

Smart identification of power feeds is integral to power management. Smart identification of power feeds is integral to power management.

Why not use colors?

"PDUs tagged with a certain color can correspond to specific supply feeds."

Of the many labeling systems and mnemonic devices operators could use for power-feed identification, none are quite as intuitive as color-coding. Starting with the bigger picture, PDUs tagged with a certain color can correspond to specific supply feeds.

Zooming in for a closer look, interchangeable, locking receptacles can also be color-coded, with each color corresponding to an approximation of the electrical load. Simply by glancing at a PDU, managers and technicians can procure a rough estimate of the power pulsing through each individual receptacle. This reduces the risk that loads will accidentally become unbalanced, which could potentially trip a breaker, causing an unscheduled outage.

As power density increases, so too does the potential margin for error in the event of a power distribution snafu. But with color-coded PDUs, operators can be sure that loads are always balanced, even as new equipment is added or removed. To learn more about the functionality of color-coded PDUs, contact Geist today