General Electric’s data center infrastructure business unit GE Critical Power has designed a power distribution unit that utilizes unused space in traditional data center IT racks.
Enterprise data centers short on rack space may benefit from the solution, but its primary target customers appear to be colocation or hosting providers, for whom an empty rack unit is an additional revenue opportunity. That extra space – up to 10 percent, according to the vendor – can really add up at scale.
“It’s like getting an 11th floor added to a 10-story building for free,” Jim Montgomery, senior product manager at GE Critical Power, said in a statement.
The PDU, installed vertically along one side of a rack, utilizes the five inches of space left when a traditional 24-inch-wide cabinet is filled with 19-inch-wide servers. It frees up horizontal rack space that’s usually occupied by DC power rectifiers by integrating GE’s own compact rectifiers into the vertical PDU itself:
GE is addressing an issue Facebook pointed out about three years ago, when it started prototyping a new design that left rack width at 24 inches but increased server width from 19 inches to 21 inches. The main issue is that the standard dimensions used in data center rack design weren't created for modern IT equipment. Rather, the design is based on requirements of railroad signal relays from the 1950s, according to Facebook.
GE has a reference rack design that can accommodate its Edge Cabinet PDU (click image for higher resolution):
Each PDU can accommodate five of the company’s GP100 rectifiers with either 12-volt DC or 48-volt DC output. Additional benefit of the design is less electrical cabling between the PDU and server power supplies.
Here's a higher-res photo of the rack with servers and the PDU installed: