Data Center Power Distribution

Assessing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for Different PDU Types


As data centers continue to grow and evolve, power distribution is becoming increasingly critical. Power Distribution Units (PDUs) are essential components in modern data centers, with the ability to distribute electrical power to multiple devices simultaneously.

When it comes to choosing a PDU, there are several factors that come into play, including cost. Understanding the total cost of ownership (TCO) is crucial when selecting a PDU type for your data center. In this blog post, we'll explore the different types of PDUs and assess their TCO.

What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?

Total cost of ownership refers to all direct and indirect costs associated with an asset throughout its life cycle. This includes acquisition costs, operational expenses, maintenance and repair costs, and disposal or end-of-life costs.

Calculating TCO helps businesses understand the full cost implications of investing in a particular asset over time. It enables organizations to make informed decisions about purchases based on long-term value rather than short-term savings.

Different Types of PDUs

There are several types of PDUs available in the market today, each designed for specific applications and environments.
The following are some common PDU types:

Basic PDUs

Basic or non-intelligent PDUs are essentially power strips that provide no monitoring or management capabilities. They simply distribute power from a single source to multiple devices without any additional features.

Basic PDUs are generally low-cost options as they have limited functionality compared to other types. However, they lack advanced features such as remote monitoring and control capabilities that can lead to higher operating costs in the long run.

Metered PDUs

Metered PDUs offer basic monitoring capabilities such as voltage, current, and power consumption measurement at the outlet level. They provide visibility into energy consumption by individual devices while allowing users to monitor overall power usage.

Metered PDUs are more expensive than basic PDUs due to their added monitoring capabilities. However, they can help reduce energy costs and improve efficiency by identifying power-hungry devices and optimizing power distribution.

Monitored PDUs

Monitored PDUs provide the same monitoring capabilities as metered PDUs but with additional features such as remote access and control via network or web interface. They allow users to monitor and manage power usage remotely, making them ideal for distributed data centers.

Monitored PDUs are more expensive than metered PDUs due to their advanced features. However, they can help reduce operating costs by enabling remote management, reducing the need for on-site maintenance personnel.

Switched PDUs

Switched PDUs offer all the monitoring and management features of monitored PDUs but with the additional ability to switch individual outlets on or off remotely. This provides greater control over power distribution and enables users to reboot devices remotely.

Switched PDUs are the most expensive type of PDU due to their advanced features. However, they can provide significant cost savings in terms of reduced downtime and improved efficiency by enabling remote device management.

Assessing TCO for Different PDU Types

When assessing TCO for different PDU types, it's important to consider several factors that contribute to overall cost:

Acquisition Costs

Acquisition costs include the initial purchase price of the PDU as well as any installation costs. Basic PDUs have lower acquisition costs compared to other types, whereas switched PDUs tend to be the most expensive.

Operational Expenses

Operational expenses include ongoing maintenance and repair costs as well as energy consumption expenses. Metered and monitored PDUs can help reduce operational expenses by providing visibility into power usage and enabling better energy management.

Downtime Costs

Downtime costs refer to losses incurred due to equipment failures or unplanned outages. Switched PDUs can help reduce downtime costs by enabling remote device management and quick troubleshooting.

End-of-Life Costs

End-of-life costs refer to the costs associated with disposing of or replacing the PDU at the end of its life cycle. Basic PDUs have shorter life spans compared to other types, which means they may need to be replaced more frequently, leading to higher end-of-life costs.


When it comes to selecting a PDU type for your data center, understanding TCO is crucial. While basic PDUs may seem like an attractive low-cost option in the short term, they lack advanced features that can lead to higher operating costs over time. On the other hand, switched PDUs offer advanced monitoring and management capabilities that can help reduce downtime and improve efficiency but come at a higher cost.

By assessing TCO for different PDU types based on acquisition costs, operational expenses, downtime costs, and end-of-life costs, organizations can make informed decisions about which PDU type provides the best long-term value for their needs. 

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