Locking PDUs, and other simple measures to prevent downtime

Locking PDUs, and other simple measures to prevent downtime

Better business continuity starts with these simple steps.

If you've ever tripped over a Mac charging cable and thanked the late Steve Jobs for inventing the MagSafe adapter, rest assured, you're not alone. Sure, it's a simple concept, but in this context, simplicity is the essence of reliability. 

When it comes to data center power management, there are certainly a lot more moving parts than just a single laptop. Nevertheless, the virtue of simplicity still has its place, and in some cases, it can make the difference between costly downtime and just another day at the office. Let's take a look: 

A multi-million dollar mishap

In the absence of a MagSafe adapter, your device might go flying, potentially costing you $1,000-plus worth of damage. In the data center, the stakes for a simple mistake are much higher. Perhaps the best example of this occurred in late May, after a large U.K.-based airliner stranded 75,000 passengers due to a slight mishap in one of its critical data centers.

That mishap (we kid you not) was the result of an accidentally unplugged power cable. All told, the airline had to pay out $128 million as a result of the disruption. 

While the specific circumstances surrounding how said cord was unplugged are not entirely clear, there is a very simple piece of actionable wisdom to be taken from this story: Make sure that the power distribution units in use in your data center feature locking receptacles. This simple but effective mechanism holds plugs in place in the event of a disturbance, whether it comes from vibrations or from an accidental tug on the line.

Keep your cords locked in to lock out downtime.Keep your cords locked in to lock out downtime.

Keep your cables in order

Speaking of accidental tugs on the line,TechRepublic contributor Jack Wallen aptly called poor cable management one of the more "stupid things" people do in their data centers. Tangles and overly long cords are much more than just eyesores. In fact, they can lead to:

  • Poor airflow: Too many cables clumped in a disorderly fashion at the back of a rack can prevent proper expulsion of server exhaust, which can cause equipment to overheat.
  • Accidents: Staff can become caught or tangled in cables, resulting in damaged equipment, and possibly even damaged people. 

Both are potentially serious problems with remarkably simple solutions. To help organize cables in the rear of cabinets, arrange them using cable brackets, and consolidate where possible with plastic tubing. As for helping to avoid tripping incidents, use cord protectors for any cables that cut across data center walkways. 

Color-code your receptacles

"There's a simple solution to help you avoid getting your wires crossed."

And we're not talking about your garbage and recycling. Adding a PDU to the wrong power supply feed can result in power shorts. At a more granular level, accidentally adding new equipment to PDU that is at or near capacity can have a similar effect. In either scenario, the outcome could be costly downtime.

Once again, there's a simple solution to help you avoid getting your wires crossed: color-coded PDUs. To distinguish between supply feeds, the power strips themselves can be color-labeled. On an even more detailed level, each individual receptacle can have a color that corresponds to the amount of power it consumes, or perhaps the type of equipment that is plugged into that outlet.

Either way, this simple color-based system can help to establish greater order in your power infrastructure. Paired with locking receptacles and better cable management, you'll be in a better position to avoid elementary blunders in the data center. 

Now if only there was something we could do about spilled drinks ...