When designing data centers or mapping racks, power cords are often overlooked. You can achieve significant improvements in energy consumption, data center uptime and service response times by choosing the right cord. Improper cabling of a data center and poor cabling practices can wreak havoc on your infrastructure. But there are a few best practices you can use that will help you create successful power pathways from point A to point B.
Whether you’re planning a wiring closet or a 100,000 square foot data center, here are six practices for data center power cords to help you implement a solid infrastructure.
Perhaps the most important rule for efficient data center power cord planning is to choose the proper length cord. Here, shorter is better. The aggregate power lost due to cords that are too long for the power path can add up to hundreds of dollars annually. Length also affects airflow in data cabinets because longer cords block air passages. Blocked air evacuation translates into higher cooling costs, and the resultant hot spots can even damage equipment.
In addition to the right length, it is important to choose the right gauge power cord. Larger diameter conductors carry electrical current more efficiently, and it can be a fire hazard to use a cord with a gauge that is too thin for the amperage requirements of your equipment. Even if the data center power cords you have are adequate for your current load, choosing a thicker gauge can futureproof your rack in the event of new equipment with a heavier amperage load. Undersized power cords also run hotter than their thicker counterparts and can increase the demand on air cooling systems.
It doesn’t take much for even the most well-intentioned cabling design to devolve into a mess of spaghetti. But tracing cords from source to equipment is foolproof if you use different colored cords. They can also help identify redundant power paths and can prevent inadvertent disconnections when moving equipment. For critical equipment, a “never unplug color xx” rationale can be put in place.
Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) is a serious concern in the data center. Ethernet connections are usually made with Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) grade cable. The operative word is unshielded. If unshielded data cables are used within proximity of an unshielded AC power cord, EMI can occur, which may result in performance degradation. Shielded power cords can sufficiently reduce the intermittent data problems that have been plaguing your organization.
There are many different requirements for certifications, and they differ by country and local municipality. Building codes can also dictate which cords are required for which purposes. Tray cables, Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH) and Halogen Free Fire Retardant (HFFR) may be required depending upon where the cord is to be used. The Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS, an EU directive) is yet another concern.
When space is limited, a tight entry for your connections decreases the probability of disconnects and improves air flow. Up, down, left, right and even 45-degree angle options create tidy connections with limited slack. Angled connectors and plugs can also help with routing cable. If power cords are tidy, it is easier to access the back of the equipment and reduces the likelihood of knocking a power cord loose when working in a tight space.