Choosing a Rack Cabinet

Published by Jason Koffler on 27 February 2012

Choosing the right rack cabinet for your installation requires forethought and planning in order to avoid the headache of having to make do – and all the Velcro tying and increased electricity consumption that goes with it.

The right rack cabinet, coupled with intelligent use of smart PDUs (power distribution units) or power strips, will enable you to get more equipment into less space, reduce cooling requirements overall, plan for future expansion, streamline and secure cable runs, get the best from the latest power technologies, increase cabinet security, ease maintenance and tailor your rack design to work for you.

What is a Server Rack?

A server rack (also known as server cabinet, 19” Rack enclosure, rack mount enclosure, network enclosure, data rack and so on) is a metal deployed most commonly in data centres and computer rooms to securely house equipment such as servers, routers, switches and PDUs. Their size has been standardised internationally by the EIA (Electronic Industries Alliance) so that the customary size is 19 inches (482.6mm) wide with rails that are 17.75 inches (450.85mm) apart and the height of which is measured in 1.75 inch (44.45mm) increments.

The elements to consider before choosing a cabinet are:

• Rack cooling and airflow.
• Size and type of equipment housed within the 19” racks and future expansion plans.
• Rack weight capacity.
• Physical security.

Rack Cooling and airflow

The type of cooling system deployed within your installation will have a significant bearing on your choice of rack cabinet – and vice versa. The type of rack cabinet deployed will greatly affect air-flow and cooling requirements.

The baseline kW of heat output per rack varies widely, depending upon type and density of equipment. The norm is 4-12kW per rack but in high-density data centres it can be as high as 30-50kW.

Fully perforated 19” rack designs, which have slatted steel or louvered doors (front and rear) and side panels, will enable maximum airflow if your primary method of cooling is ambient air cooling (fans, air handlers, blowers and room level air-conditioning) with a raised floor.

Fully-sealed server racks (those that have solid, high-grade steel doors all round) should be used in environments that employ liquid cooling units or rack level air-conditioning.

Size and Type of equipment housed within the 19” racks and future expansion plans.

You need to be sure to select a server rack with sufficient internal space to house the equipment you currently have, plus accommodate any future expansion plans. Retrofitting more racks within an existing rack structure is difficult.

Rackmount equipment is measured in EIA standard Rack Units (also known as Rack U). One Rack U is equal to 1.75 inches (45mm) in height. Rackmount accessories, such as environmental monitoring devices, remote power management products, rackmount LCD monitors and battery back-up may also need to be accommodated within the rack space. If you need to accommodate 20 2U servers, you would choose a rack height of 44U as this would give enough space to house the servers, plus a 1U patch panel and 2U UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and battery back-up.

Rack Weight Capacity

Racks are designed to hold specific maximum weights, depending upon what material they are made from (Steel or Aluminium), and whether its frame is welded or not. They also have different load bearing capacity in terms of static weight and movable weight. It is advisable to use appropriate rack loading techniques, such as ensuring heavy items are based at the bottom of the rack to avoid toppling.

Physical Security

Equipment housed within your rack system is valuable, not only in monetary terms but for what it enables your business or operation to do and it must be protected against deliberate or accidental security hazards. There are several things you can do and many quality server rack systems have locking front and rear doors. Environmental monitoring devices will monitor racks and several offer door sensors that support “normally open” or “normally closed” conditions and can alert operators when a door has been opened. In addition, docked camera pods and sensor pods are available for some racks, which allow continuous visual monitoring of server rooms and racks and may even offer audio recording.

Critical Power Supplies stocks a diverse range of 19” Rack Cabinets, Racks and accessories from leading manufacturers, including environmental monitoring equipment and enclosure-based PDUs (ePDUs), suitable for all high and low-density applications: network closets, computer rooms and data centres.

Key Features include:

• Universal sizing (EIA 310-D).
• Perforated doors allowing 67% airflow.
• Split rear doors for easy access.
• Perforated top panel with cable entry for supplementary cable management pathways.
• Unique comfort handles with key lock insert.
• Levelling feet for maximum stability.

For more information or to talk to us about your rack enclosure requirements, call 0800 978 8988 or click here.

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