Data Center Racks: How To Make The Best Decision For Your Facility

With data centers running at capacity and technology evolving rapidly, quality racks need to be more than just cabinets for storing equipment. Modern facilities with high demand require storage solutions that will not only keep up but also reduce operational costs in new or existing spaces by preserving valuable floor space; optimizing airflow and cooling; helping IT staff work more efficiently.

With so many options on the market, finding the best rack solution for your operation comes down to evaluating five key points:

  • Server rack strength
  • Off-site integration capabilities
  • Usable space within the rack
  • Cooling and thermal management
  • Standard or custom

Read on for a closer look at each component and what to consider.

Server rack strength

The shift in user demand for faster, interruption-free, 24/7 online and digital experiences requires servers with ever-increasing storage capacity and next-generation processors. That's heavily impacted physical IT infrastructure as data centers are under pressure to support these growing densities. It's not uncommon for data center racks to need to hold weight loads of 3,000 pounds more. Just five to ten years ago, that number was closer to 2,000 pounds.

You can see how strength becomes an extremely important factor in choosing the right rack. When comparing server rack options consider your weight load requirements for today, as well as what weight load requirements you'll need to plan for in the future.

Off-site integration

To minimize disruptions associated with installing, configuring and integrating equipment into a data center environment, many organizations are turning to an off-site integration process known as "rack and stack." Rack and stack is when system integrators deliver fully configured server racks to your data center site.

A successful delivery relies on the structural integrity of the data center rack. Racks absolutely must be able to safely hold the weight of the equipment when stationary and throughout the shipment process. Transportation introduces stressors on the frame from all sides, which means racks must be built to withstand pressure and movement.

If you are considering off-site integration, or currently utilize it, it is mission critical to ensure your server rack offers vertical and horizontal strength. When vetting suppliers, ask about their welding techniques. Some manufacturers save on labor and material by using "stich" welding instead of a continuous seam. That limits weight loads to about 2,000 pounds, which as discussed above, is much less than modern demands. Racks made with this type of weld are more likely to lose structural integrity and buckle in the shipping process when fully populated causing untold damage to equipment, timelines and budgets.

Usable space within the server rack

Data center racks have become taller, wider and deeper to accommodate increasing equipment densities. The most popular racks sizes are:

  • 42U
  • 45U
  • 48U

And 52U racks are growing in popularity. But there's a catch. These industry-standard specs don't say anything about how much usable space inside the rack is actually available. It's an important consideration as IT managers are "building up" cabinets to maximize the space within data centers.

While any industry-standard rack will support mounting 19-inch equipment, it may not have the capacity to support growing cabling and power distribution needs. Space is premium in frames constructed from sheet metal, which leads organizations to purchase larger cabinets to ensure that cables and power distribution units (PDUs) do not block equipment access. But consider this: A rack that can support cable management with a smaller footprint delivers a greater ROI on data center investment.

Cooling and thermal management

Cooling is a large expense for any data center, which makes cooling efficiency one of the most important considerations when selecting a data center rack. That's especially true of high-density data centers.

When choosing racks for your high-density data centers, ask about how the rack's design works with hot-aisle/cold-aisle arrangements. Standard racks generally draw chilled air through the front and exhaust hot air out the back, requiring airflow accessories to make them compatible with this type of system. Even with those accessories, the airflow may not be optimal for supporting high-performance equipment in a high-density environment. In fact, due to the increased heat load of next-generation servers, equipment manufacturers increasingly call for clearances of 6 to 11 inches to ensure proper airflow.

Airflow efficiency within the rack can dramatically lower operational costs by reducing the amount of chilled air circulating. Selecting a rack built to enhance your facility's cooling system will reduce chilled air volumes even further.

The last thing to consider is whether to use a standard rack or seek a custom solution for your data center. List out your equipment and data center requirements as they are today, and think about how they might change in the near future. Data centers are highly complex and dynamic; Standard solutions may not meet your needs, or require several add-on fixes to get there.

Standard or custom

Generally, custom products do cost more than generic products due to economies of scale. However, when it comes to data center infrastructure products, that isn't always the case - particularly when you're looking at rack and ship solutions. Custom racks also enable greater efficiencies in equipment access, cabling management, airflow and other factors, cutting operational expenses and cooling costs. Consider the big picture when you make your decision.

Key Takeaways

The right rack will provide the structural integrity, flexibility and cooling support needed in a high-performance, high-density data center environment. It will also enable offsite integration processes, arriving in perfect condition when shipped fully loaded with pre-configured, pre-integrated equipment.

DAMAC's standard and custom racks have the strength and flexibility to support growing equipment weight loads within the data center and in transit, along with superior ease of use and airflow optimization. They provide the features needed in today's dynamic multi-vendor data center environments, delivering reduced operational costs, increased efficiency and investment protection.

Finally, the cost of a data center rack is relatively insignificant compared to the total value of the equipment it houses, and the cost of the labor to configure and integrate that equipment. Nevertheless, it is a strategic component that must be carefully selected with today's - and tomorrow's - data center challenges in mind.

Are you responsible for data center infrastructure? If so, we can help. DAMAC is manufactured in 5 locations throughout North America. Talk with our team today to get a quote!

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