An Argument for a New Mission-Critical Standard

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Locking power cords should be recognized as a component in the mission-critical powertrain, but they are not. A quick glance at the TIA-942, or ANSI/BICSI 001, shows that the lowly power cord receives no recognition for best practices; in fact, its importance in the operational reliability of a facility is not adequately recognized. While rack, communications cabling, and network infrastructure standards can be referenced at length, there is little to be said about power once it reaches the rack.

In reference to this dilemma, a rack PDU manufacturer, who was quoted in a recent Data Center Frontier article, had this to say, “There is no standards body that takes the time to oversee the proper design treatment of this part of the infrastructure, no set of best practices that dictate which features separate a Tier II or Tier IV PDU application.”  

Indeed, it seems odd that the data-center-tiering standards for mission-critical-power distribution really do not drive down to the rack level at all. Once you get to that level of distribution, it is pretty much “dealer’s choice,” as they say—especially since all of the components involved in power distribution prior to the rack PDU mean nothing if the connection between the PDU and IT device isn't secure.

Not securing the power connection between your IT gear and PDU is like building a road to your neighborhood that ends at a half-built bridge a mile away. Where would this get you? Such a blatant waste of materials, effort, and money wouldn’t do you or your neighbors much good. Now imagine that your neighbors are important pieces of IT gear that absolutely, positively must make it all the way home. What happens when they get stuck at the bridge?

Here’s why securing the connection between a rack PDU and the IT equipment it powers is so important: power cords can become disconnected. Any number of scenarios can and do lead to this more than unfortunate occurrence:

  • vibration from IT equipment fans, work in the rack, or seismic activity
  • human error, miscommunication, or catching a cord while coming or going from a rack
  • acts of God, loosening/pulling over time, even gravity

All other mission-critical distribution including panels, breakers, busways, and branch circuits have to be secured–why overlook power cords? It is time for us, as an industry, to agree to standards that take into account the security of power all the way to the load.  An avoidable risk is a non-risk when properly prevented and, as part of standard protocol, included from the start.

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