How Much Does it Cost to Power One Rack in a Data Center?

IT organizations are facing an endless series of requests for IT resource. The need for energy and space capacity to store and process data and applications needed to support evolution of the data center with new technologies like:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Big data
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine learning
  • Augmented reality (AR)
  • Automation and Robotics

These all have a massive impact on modern data center environments and the power demand to support it.

Today, the average power consumption for a rack is around 7 kW, depending on the data centers location and configuration. However, almost two-thirds of data centers in the US experience higher peak demands, with a power density of around 15 or 16 kW per rack. Some data centers may hit 20 or more kW per rack.

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Technological advancements in virtual and intelligent rack PDUs, branch circuit monitoring, and compute devices can provide some efficiency, but more is needed. The energy cost to power a single server rack in a data center in the US can be as high as almost $30,000 a year, depending on its configuration. In a data center with 100 cabinets, the cost to power those racks each year can be over $3 million. Data center professionals need to ensure that they are correctly monitoring energy consumption and efficiently managing capacity.

The table below provides the average annual cost to power a single rack in a data center in the US for a variety of rack capacity and power input options.

Rack PDU Capacity (Amps) Rack Input Voltage (V) Rack Power (Kilowatts) Time Powered On (365 Days x 24 Hours) Energy (kW x Hours = kWh) Average Annual Cost to Power Rack (Cost per kWh in US @ 11¢/kWh) Cost/100 Racks @ Full Load for One Year
Single Phase 30A PDUs 208V 5.0kW 8,760 Hours 43,800kWh $4,818 $481,800
Three Phase 50A PDUs 208V 14.4kW 8,760 Hours 126,144kWh $13,876 $1,387,600
Three Phase 30A PDUs 400V 16.6kW 8,760 Hours 145,416kWh $15,996 $1,599,600
Three Phase 60A PDUs 400V 33.2kW 8,760 Hours 290,832kWh $31,992 $3,199,200


Distinguishing between power consumption, energy consumption, and power density.

Today, we measure power density in kilowatt kW/rack, but it wasn’t always that way. Once, and for quite an extended period, the industry measured power in watts per square foot (or square meter for those outside the US).  The reason for the shift away from watts per square foot and toward kW per rack is simple – data centers experienced a growing need for higher density and higher levels of redundancy.  That demand is still ongoing along with other causes, too.  For instance, watts per square foot do not tell anything about the number of racks or cabinets available within the facility. The calculation does not define what is included in the power calculation or provide information about power variation from peak to average or over time.

Finally, it does not speak to data centers that grow over time or have a changing growth plan.

Improve Energy Efficiency with DCIM Software

By following data center management best practices and leveraging Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software, you can reduce costs, improve uptime, and comply with data center sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives.

DCIM software enables you to:

  • Create an integrated data center management process or IDCM.  With IDCM practice in place, the facilities team has a granular understanding of how power and cooling in the data center are affected by application usage in real-time and historically.  IDCM enables the better management of energy consumption saving money, and improving performance and uptime.
  • Monitor data center energy consumption. Used in combination with virtual and intelligent PDUs and other "smart" devices, DCIM software allows you to collect real-time power data down to the outlet level as well as environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity. This data can be stored, trended, and reported on over long periods. You can set thresholds on collected data to be alerted if consumption reaches warning or critical capacity levels.
  • Find and eliminate stranded capacity using DCIM software with advanced analytics and machine learning to automatically calculate power budget profiles for every compute device instance in your data center. PowerView significantly improves the utilization of resources by enabling you to use more of your existing capacity and defer capital expenditures.
  • Report on data center KPIs. DCIM enables data-driven decision-making for more intelligent, more effective data center management. Use DCIM software to automatically calculate KPIs such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and display real-time data in user configurable dashboard and reports.
  • Consolidate and virtualize compute resources. Reduce energy consumption by reducing the amount of physical hardware you have via server virtualization and consolidation. DCIM software will track where applications are located, how much physical space and assets are utilized, and how capacity is allocated to virtual machines versus physical hosts.
  • Efficiently design your data center. An efficiently designed data center is the foundation to decreasing energy consumption.  DCIM software lets you create floor maps accounting for hot/cold aisle containment, PDUs, CRACs, perforated tiles, and ventilation.  The floor planner ensures adequate space, power, and network capacity before a build-out or change.
  • Drive energy-efficient behaviors. Encourage your internal or external customers to practice energy-efficient behaviors by charging them back for their energy consumption. DCIM software takes the data collected in your environment and displays it in bill-back reports by customers, data centers, or even Racks.

It's expensive to power data center racks. Leverage a Next-generation DCIM solution to get the most out of your existing capacity while maximizing uptime. Want to see for yourself how Nlyte's DCIM software can help you manage your data center? See a demo of Nlyte’s DCIM software, the most widely deployed data center management software today.

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