Getting a Data Center Online Faster

Interview with
Will Stewart, Industry Segment Manager | Energy

Data Center Power Distribution Evolution

New PDU Connector makes rack installation quicker and easier

Data centers are the vital workhorse of the Internet. All industries rely on data centers for day-to-day operations, so data centers must have high availability and low Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) when a failure occurs. Data centers contain computer servers, networking, and communication equipment to store, process, transfer, and access digital information. All these components require power and reliable electric connectors. The industry is comprised of both the traditional enterprise data centers, the more recent and rapidly growing hyperscale data centers (i. e. Amazon Web Services; Azure), and co-location suppliers (i. e. Equinix, CenturyLink; Digital Realty).


THE BACKBONE OF DATA CENTERS Rack Power Distribution Units (rPDUs), which are essentially big electrical plug strips, are the main piece for distributing power to the IT equipment within the data center rack. Over the years, there has been a lot of effort to standardize the rPDU. The first of these was Microsoft’s Project Olympus.


Seeking to support rapid data center growth Microsoft launched Project Olympus to define the next generation open-source hardware hyperscale cloud hardware design. Microsoft’s goal was to have a common set of hardware, including Power Distribution Units (rPDUs). At the time the company’s data centers contained many rPDUs from a range of manufacturers based on availability and lead times. Supporting the accelerating growth of data centers required holding a large amount of expensive inventory from many vendors. As a result, Microsoft started to look at developing a universal PDU. The Universal PDU accepts many different plugs and levels of power. Using HARTING’s Han-Eco® connector for the rPDU cable connection reduced lead times to under 2 weeks.


This design was then promoted by Microsoft in the Open Compute Project (OCP). The Open Compute Project (OCP) is a community with the mission of open source and open collaboration that is focused on redesigning hardware technology to efficiently support growing data centers demands.

The Rack & Power Project Group within this initiative is focused on standardizing racks and integrating the rack into the data center infrastructure. This group contributes to the part of the Open Compute Project’s philosophy called “grid to gates”. This philosophy is a holistic design process that considers the interdependence of everything from the power grid to the gates in the chips on each motherboard.


One critical part of the OCP initiative is the power shelf input power connector specification. HARTING is the lead author of this specification, investing time and talent to the effort to develop the Orv3 OCP Input Power Connector Specifications. The primary goal of this initiative is to decrease total cost of ownership. In order to do this, the group has identified a few important areas of focus:

  • Minimizing total SKUs
  • Enabling faster deployment
  • Increasing energy efficiency


The design proposal for the power shelf input connector features finger protected contacts rated 50 amp@480 V, positive latch, potential coding, and the ability to accommodate four connectors on one power shelf. This connector will offer additional benefits of decreasing time to market, simplifying installation, and reducing connector costs.

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Will Stewart
Industry Segment Manager | Energy