Marc Cram, Director of Sales for Server Technology gives the case for flexible and versatile data centers and the tools that support them.
The best tools are those that excel at what they are designed for, and those that are flexible enough to accommodate the occasional misapplication for something other than their intended purpose. Take the hammer, for instance.
Hammers are perfect for driving nails, not so great for tightening a bolt. Tightening can be done by hammer if you carefully strike the edge faces of the bolt, but the hammer has a better chance of success if it is striking the handle of a socket wrench already on the bolt. Likewise, a socket wrench is terrific for loosening and tightening bolts and can occasionally fill in as a hammer to knock something loose when a socket wrench is the only tool around.
In the data center, a generic x86 server is the most versatile tool around. Given the right software stack, it can act as a website server, a database engine, a rendering tool, an AI appliance, a CAD tool, a virtual desktop, a test instrument, or anything else the programmer can dream up. Where the server struggles is in applications that heavily tax one or more of its elements. Not all servers are equipped to handle hundreds of concurrent users or reconfigure quickly between AI and compute intensive applications. It is in this context that purpose-built hardware such as load balancers, network routers, AI accelerators, and storage arrays were all developed for the data center. The tasks performed by these devices can also be done by an x86-based server, but perhaps not as well or as efficiently.
Today, most data centers rely on IT racks offering standard u-space alignments for the installed IT hardware. Manufacturers of this IT hardware design their boxes to mount in accordance with the u-spaces of the IT racks. So long as the IT hardware aligns to the u-spaces, it will fit snugly and securely into the rack. This makes the IT rack a very versatile investment for the data center.
Today most data centers rely on IT racks offering standard u-space alignments for the installed IT hardware.
In like fashion, IT hardware systems are powered from a limited number of power outlet configurations such as a NEMA 5-15, IEC C13, or IEC C19 outlets. Each of these outlets is designed to power a specific maximum load. By limiting their power requirements to comply with one of the outlet types, hardware manufacturers ensure that their devices can be reliably powered and operated. Vertical power distribution units (PDUs) mounted into IT racks provide a number of these standard outlet types for the IT hardware to become powered. One of the limitations of most vertical PDUs is their limited ability to accommodate significant changes in hardware deployed in the rack over time due to the inability to change out the outlets to accommodate the changing loads.
Recent developments in the PDU market have changed this situation by combining C13 and C19 outlets into a single outlet type that accommodates both C14 and C20 plugs coming from the IT hardware in the rack. The versatility and flexibility of this combined outlet ensures that PDUs having these outlets will be able to easily accommodate changing IT rack configurations over time. Like all good tools, this means one more piece of data center infrastructure is available to the data center designer that can be repurposed and used time and again for applications other than its original configuration.
Marc Cram is Director of Sales for Server Technology.