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Data Center Server Rack Wiki: Definition, Types and Buying Guide

August 31, 2016

High-density data centers are very important for modern businesses because they can offer the efficiency and cost savings that businesses need to thrive in a highly competitive environment. The proper use of data center server racks can facilitate the consolidation of different network equipment in an organized, safe, and efficient manner. However, there are various types of data center server racks in the market, how to choose a suitable for your data centers?

What Is A Server Rack in Data Center?

A server rack is an open frame structure designed for accommodating technical or electronic equipment including routers, network switches, hubs, servers, etc. The server rack makes it possible to securely hold multiple pieces of equipment in one area and are typically going to be used by businesses and kept either in data centers or communications closets.

Data center server rack can hold all standard 19-inch rack-mountable equipment, as long as it isn’t too deep for the rack cabinet or too high to fit in the available rack spaces. The equipment often includes removable mounting brackets that fasten to the vertical rack rails with screws. Heavier equipment may also include horizontal rails or rack shelves that mount in the rack to provide extra support. Other rack accessories that support the operation of the production equipment includes UPS systems, PDUs, cable managers, switches, patch panels and fiber enclosures. The following descriptions illustrate the common types of data center server racks.

Open Server Rack

Data center open server rack consists of mounting rails without sides or doors - an open-air structure for mounting network equipment. They can come in a wide range of different sizes so that they can house almost any type of equipment. These racks are installed in one location and are generally bolted to the floor in order to provide greater stability.

Additionally, open frame server racks are typically used for server rooms that don’t require physical security and don’t need added airflow control. They can provide easy access and offer plenty of open space for cable management, making this solution ideal for network wiring closets and distribution frame applications with high-density cabling. There are two basic types of open server racks: 2-post and 4-post rack. The difference is that 2-post racks generally require less depth but support less weight than 4-post racks.

The pros and cons of open server racks are listed in the below chart:

Pros Cons
Price Open frame rack is cheaper than a similar-sized enclosed rack. Lack of Security Anyone can walk up to the racks and unplug the cables, or anything else they desire.
Air Flow Allows airflow in all directions, which can help to improve the cooling of the equipment. Dust The equipment mounted on a data center open server rack is much more susceptible to dust and other debris, which can cause problems over time.
Easy Access In the event that one of the equipment breaks, access to the control panel is easily accessible. Bolted to the Floor In order to keep these racks stable, they should be fastened to the floor. Depending on the location where they will be installed, this may be a challenge.

Data Center Server Rack Cabinet

The data center server rack cabinet has front/rear doors, side panels, and four adjustable vertical mounting rails (posts). It generally refers to an “enclosed rack”. Since the doors and side panels can be locked, enclosed racks provide physical equipment security at the rack level. Despite the benefits of network cabinets, they also pose some challenges - particularly in the area of cooling. A data center server rack cabinet, obviously, has much less access to the outside air. So it will require some kind of venting for air cooling.

Wall Mount Server Rack

The wall mount server rack is designed to be attached to the wall, in order to save floor space and fit in areas where other racks can’t. It is generally in open frame or cabinet style and mainly used for housing network equipment like fiber patch panels and switches. But it also has some cons: it is smaller than other rack cabinets, so can’t support much weight and does not offer the same amount of security that a full enclosed data center server rack could offer. If you run small/home-based offices or larger offices that are looking to add an additional rack to an existing system, wall mount racks are an affordable option.

Data Center Server Rack Buying Guide

There exist a dazzling array of data center server rack options, in terms of different heights, sizes, capacity, cooling methods etc. When selecting a data center server rack for your installation, here are some factors to consider:

Size

A properly chosen data center server rack should fit the dimensions of the equipment. Although 19-inch racks are always the same nominal width, the height and depth vary. A commonly used measure of the height of a rack is the so-called rack unit (U), which is defined as 1.75 inches. The width and depth of the rack is typically measured in standard units. The most popular standard data center racks have a width of 19 inches and a height of 42U (73.5 inches high).

Weight Capacity

With more and more devices being added to the data center, the network racks should have enough weight capacity. The number of switches, cables, PDU and overhead cable mounts should all be considered during the selection of a rack. Selecting a strong rack is necessary.

Flexibility & Manageability

For a flexible and ease-to-manage cabling environment, enough usable space should be left in the data center server rack cabinet after the devices are installed. In addition, some data center server racks even have wheels in case the racks should be moved.

Cooling Efficiency

The cooling cost of data centers is increasing nowadays. The cooling and airflow are critical to the performance and longevity of the equipment installed in the data center server rack. Proper data center server racks contribute to cooling efficiency. Racks with airflow management accessories could be a good choice. Some other accessories like the door of the racks can also affect the cooling efficiency. Most of the rack doors provide at least 64 percent perforation for proper airflow.

Security

While there might be a great amount of expensive equipment installed on the rack, you have always to bear security in mind. A rack that meets the security goal is thus essential. Locking cabinets and tinted door glass can help protect your network from prying eyes and hands.

Summary

The right data center server rack type that meets your demand helps you improve power protection, cooling, cable management, and physical security. Hope the knowledge and suggestions offered in this article will help you choose the perfect server rack/server rack cabinet. Taking the above factors into consideration and thinking thoroughly before making the choice.

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