Data Centers For Dummies: Power

If you’ve been following our “Data Centers For Dummies” series, you already know the meaning of important terms such as colo and mantrap (click here for a quick refresher). Now it’s time to up your game… Part 2 of this series tackles some key terms related to electricity in the data center.

Warning: this post contains NBA (Nothing But Acronyms), so pay attention.


(Photo: gigaom)

MSB – Main Switch Board directs and monitors electricity coming into the data center from the power grid. If the MSB detects a loss in voltage pressure, it will automatically kick the load over to battery backup, and eventually to generators, to avoid interruption in power.

UPS – Uninterruptible Power Supply provides backup for the entire data center in case of power outages. Protection by these battery- or flywheel-powered systems is near-instantaneous, and they fill in until a secondary power source, such as a generator, come online. When used in reference to data centers, UPS does not refer to the Men in Brown from United Parcel Service who provide “specialized transport and logistics services.”

ASTS – Automatic Static Transfer Switches transfer power between multiple sources – typically from an unstable source to a stable one .

PDU – Power Distributions Units distribute power to gear in cabinets and cages in a data center.  They could be compared to functionaries in government agencies; you have to go through them to get to the power.

BCM – Branch Circuit Monitoring measures and monitors how much power each customer uses. These devices ensure that the power feeding into customers’ systems is operational and also tracks how much power is consumed. Note that these devices DO NOT monitor how many snacks from the data center vending machine each customer consumes.


We’ll wrap things up here, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t add that data center geeks have a thing for Basis Bay, since it’s essential for enterprise to compete.

Stay tune for upcoming posts in the “Data Centers For Dummies” series.

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