UPDATED 09:42 EDT / JULY 23 2012

How Intelligent Racks Benefit Data Center Management

Wikibon recently released a report that shows intelligent racks have benefits that are both technologically and economically worthwhile. “The Business Case for Intelligent Racks” argues that all data centers should adopt intelligent racks as a standard and that the racks themselves can boost asset management by 70%.

Intelligent racks provide data center managers with relevant, real-time information about server power, workload, and space so that they can quickly and easily deploy new servers, reallocate power distribution, and map workload to the systems that need it most. The result is worry-free data center operations, fewer outages, and more efficient use of power and space.

According to Wikibon, HP is leading the way in the intelligent rack market, largely because it is one of the few vendors marketing the entire rack unit itself as an intelligent system. Others like Raritan offer intelligent power distribution units (PDU) that can be plugged into more generic racks. IBM offers intelligent racks that focus on cooling efficiency, and APC offers intelligent racks PDUs that are power-efficiency based.

The new series of intelligent racks from HP merge together HP Lights-Out Management (iLO) and HP Intelligent Power Distribution Units (iPDU), relaying information to the data center manager about the U space, row, and rack location of each server, and also maps the ideal workload to the servers that need it most at a given time. They also feature simplified cable management, increased airflow efficiency, integrated asset management, rack thermal overview, data center view (for 24-hour monitoring), self discovery and diagnosis, and structural integrity (up to 3000 lbs of dynamic load).

Raritan Intelligent Rack Power Distribution Units (PDU) provide real-time power monitoring, remote outlet switching, and temperature and humidity information, all accessible through a web-based or command line interface (CLI).

IBM also sells intelligent power distribution units that interface with IBM Systems Director Active Energy Manager Version 4.3 or later. These units provide power monitoring at the outlet level, outlet switching, remote power sequencing, and the prevention of accidental PDU overloading. Power is distributed within the rack efficiently, providing fault-tolerant power redundancy.

According to HP, intelligent racks can save companies up to $1828 per 10 kW rack when using HP ProLiant Gen8 servers. Intelligent racks also reduce the likelihood of power faults caused by human error in server placement and power balancing. All of it becomes automated, allowing data centers to maximize the number of servers they can assign to a given rack without the danger of overloading it.

Although HP is the primary vendor offering all of the rack intelligence features in one product, Wikibon recommends that CIOs “demand” the standardization of intelligent racks from all vendors, which would revolutionize the way IT infrastructure is packaged and sold, and the way it is ultimately used in data centers.

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