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Single- vs. Three-Phase: Which is For You?

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3Understanding the subtle differences between the various power sources available to you in the data center environment is essential if you hope to be able to maximize the money spent on powering your server racks while still being able to deliver the same level of server performance that’s come to be expected. The complexities of power input requirements as well as the impact that high energy expenditures have on the data center environment demand power strips or PDUs that are efficient in terms of both performance capacity and heat production.

The biggest question you’ll face when choosing which power supply is right for you is whether or not to go with single-phase or three-phase. The answer to that depends largely on your system requirements. This is when it pays to know the difference between each power supply method and the optimal conditions under which each performs.

How Does Each Work?

A single phase circuit features a single active wire and a neutral wire that connects at the switchboard. Power coming in along the active wire rises to its peak voltage flow, subsides to zero, reverses, and rises again to its peak traveling along the neutral wire in the opposite direction. A three-phase circuit follows the same philosophy, yet it never reaches zero thanks to the three active wires bringing power in from the line. Each is out of phase with the other, meaning that the input and output are constantly near or at peak levels at any given moment.

Typically, single-phase strips are fine at powering a single server cabinet with clearly defined power requirements. They are also much less expensive to install than three-phase systems. Yet servers incorporating new technologies now have the need for greater, more efficient flow. Some of these technologies include:

  • Network switching
  • Power supply redundancies
  • Blade server technology
  • Real-time load sharing and balancing

To accommodate the requirements of these new technologies, a three-phase power strip is often needed. This has given rise a general assumption that three-phase circuits are a requirement for commercial and industrial applications.

Three-Phase Cost-Effectiveness

Yet three-phase systems can also offer cost-savings of their own. A single three-phase PDU can power multiple server racks, whereas multiple single-phases units would be required for the same job. This decreases the amount of power distribution equipment needed, which reduces installation costs as well as the cooling requirement.

It’s always nice to have options when it comes to PDUs and power strips, yet an increase in options also increases the likelihood of choosing the wrong one for your data center. An inadequate power supply can take a drastic toll on your operating budget, while an uber-efficient one may require a higher up-front expense than is necessary to meet your needs. Don’t worry; we here at Titan Power have expertise to offer when it comes to making this important decision. Trust in our team’s ability to steer you in the right direction when it comes to powering your data center.



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