Data Center Racks & Cabinets

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Joel Young, engineer at Crenlo, discusses inconsistencies between seismic racks in an article for Processor. Most manufacturers of data center racks and enclosures offer products that are marketed as offering ‘seismic protection’; however, there can be significant differences in the standards used to achieve those labels, and thus, major disparities in the level of protection that those products provide.

Racks and cabinets are integral components of nearly every data center, but their importance often goes overlooked. Make the wrong choice in the type you stick your equipment on or in, and you could be asking for trouble in terms of damage caused by heat, dust, and moisture; exorbitant cooling costs; unwieldy cables; excessive noise; and security breaches. When purchasing racks and cabinets, keep the following considerations in mind.

Know thy equipment.

You may know what equipment you’ll use your racks and cabinets for, but you also need to know the impact that equipment will have. For example, knowing how tall and wide the racks/cabinets must be to accommodate said equipment is imperative. Height-wise, Gina Dickson, Black Box Network Services product manager, says, “42U is standard, but 45U is becoming more popular, and a smaller height like 38U might be necessary for legacy rooms where cable is going to be overhead.” Width-wise, the current cabinet standard is 24 inches wide, though 30-inch wide cabinets are gaining popularity. Depth-wise, “if you are mounting equipment with different depths, you may even need to consider multiple sets of rails or split rails to accommodate the different depths,” Dickson says. Overall, Rackmount Solutions account manager Susan Wynne suggests buying cabinets that can accommodate equipment “with the largest dimensions” possible.

Work the room.

Related to space considerations is an analysis of the room the racks/cabinets will go in, Wynne says. “Can the cabinet be easily transported to the destination?,” she says. “Will it roll through standard-height doors? Are doors and side panels removable for easy installation? Is the product solid and durable? Is there room to grow for additional product purchases?,” Dickson adds that it’s important to take into account raised floors and ceiling height, which will impact how tall racks/cabinets can be. “Bigger is always better when choosing a cabinet, allowing for more equipment, cables, etc.,” she says.“But if you have a limited footprint, the 48-inch deep, 30-inch wide cabinet may not be an option.”

Stay cool.

One of the most important considerations is heat. Gauging how much heat equipment will generate will help determine what cooling methods will be adequate for the racks/cabinets you purchase. For example, Dickson says, using a traditional hot aisle/cold aisle approach will impact the cabinet doors required because you’ll need mesh doors. “You need to ensure that the cool air is directed to the front of the cabinet and that the hot air can disperse from the rear,” Dickson says.

Elsewhere, the temptation to use open racks vs. cabinets to combat heat can result in merely filling the entire room with heat. “This may work fine for low levels of heat, but once enough equipment is present, it will become impossible to keep the equipment at an acceptable temperature,” Dickson says. One cooling approach gaining popularity is a modified hot aisle-cold aisle with containment, she says. “All the cold air is forced into the cold aisle, which is contained with doors to keep the cool air in. The warm air is then pushed back into the room or up into the plenum using chimneys on the top of the cabinets.” This approach does require a cabinet offering containment doors and chimneys as accessories.

Other factors.

When purchasing racks and cabinets, consider whether equipment needs to adhere to certain standards. For example, “Most manufacturers of data center racks and enclosures offer products that are marketed as offering ‘seismic protection’; however, there can be significant differences in the standards used to achieve those labels, and thus, major disparities in the level of protection that those products provide,” says Joel Young, engineer at Crenlo.

 
 
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