Ask the Expert

Are energy-efficient KVMs next?

I thought your "Data Center Efficiency & the EPA Report" webcast was excellent!

Do you see any opportunities or have recommendations for KVM switch improvements re: the EPA report? Do you foresee any Energy Star specs for KVMs?

Also, do you see any efficiency value in "intelligent" Power Distribution Unit (PDU) power strips that can monitor and potentially control power at the outlet level?

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Thank you for the kind words. I will be surprised if Energy Star reaches to KVM switches since they are not large power users. But other experts originally believed the EPA study wouldn't result in Energy Star ratings on servers, which is now supposed to happen within a year. So who knows? I can't see a lot of value for KVMs, however. Manufacturers are now going to do everything they can to make their products as energy efficient as possible – or at least they are going to tell us they are. They don't really want the government telling customers what to buy either.

I consider intelligent PDUs extremely valuable, and well worth the investment, if you make use of the load data they provide. This is particularly true when three-phase power is distributed all the way to cabinets because it enables you to achieve phase balance on each circuit while you are connecting the equipment in addition to monitoring the total loads. Be sure to take advantage of the network-connected monitoring capability most of these units now offer. And to maximize energy savings, run your equipment at the highest voltage at which it is capable of operating.

I am not a great fan of remotely controlled receptacle power switching within PDUs, although I admit they can have their place. I just don't believe there is any level of security that can absolutely prevent either an unauthorized or inadvertent shutdown. (Remember, it is said that 75 percent of data center outages result from human error.) Nor do I have the level of confidence I would like in the small switching devices packed inside these PDUs, and would not want to operate them any more than necessary.

This was first published in October 2007

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