Understanding Data Center Rack Solutions
Setting up a data center network requires careful planning and meticulous execution. Everything has to be right or you hit bottlenecks and errors. The planning has to go so far as to pick the right resources for mounting your electronic equipment.
It’s easy to brush this off as unimportant, but the wrong mounting hardware can increase costs, create heating problems or lead to critical vulnerabilities in your infrastructure.
Since mounting hardware is so important, we can take a minute to go over the most popular options and what they have to offer a data center in terms of pros and cons.
Wall racks are one of the most common ways to mount and secure equipment in a data center. They use open frames that allow you to adjust the rails and how everything mounts. Because they are open, all of the cabling and equipment are more accessible, and they allow for easy airflow to keep it all cool.
The cost of the open design is security. Traditional wall racks cannot be locked because there are no doors or walls on the racks that can enclose the hardware.
Wall racks come in different sizes and designs, and two of the most common designs are 2-post and 4-post racks.
Two-post racks are great for equipment that isn’t too heavy. The design uses two support beams that are vertically arranged (the posts). If the equipment weighs too much, the 2-post design won’t be enough.
When equipment is within weight constraints, 2-post racks are great for cooling. They are completely open on three sides, and hardware cannot crowd other hardware to mitigate airflow or cooling.
Also, 2-post racks take up as little space as any rack can. They are easy to get to and manage, and they are not expensive, relative to other mounting hardware.
Important Factors of a 2-post Rack
- Minimal Sizing – 2-post racks take up a smaller space, which is important for many network closets and data centers where floor space is minimal.
- Cooling – Since 2 post racks are not enclosed, airflow is circulated easily. Rack-mounted equipment with fans will easily disperse the heat out into the open area.
- Easy Access – The openness of the frame allows for easy and quick access to equipment mounted in the product.
- Lower Cost – 2-post racks are more affordable. They can be up to half the cost of a 4-post rack.
It is made with redundant fans and power supplies, supports PoE+, and can support optics transmission distances up to 80km. It manages high-capacity networking and supports larger stacks, greater network capacity, and higher overall performance than the 3650. It is a backbone device in many data centers and comparable applications.
When your equipment is heavier or more numerous, you might need 4-post racks. They double the size and strength of their 2-post counterparts. Because of the wider design, they can hold a lot more weight which equals more equipment. This creates the feeling of an enclosure, and many 4-post racks use mesh doors and enclosures to add a bit of security to the equation.
The racks still allow for great airflow, and it’s still easy to run cables and provide support and maintenance to equipment on 4-post racks.
Important Factors of a 4-post Rack
- Support – 4-post racks allow equipment to be bolted to the wall or floors using rails or other supports, which helps to spread out the weight for added support and stability.
- Protection – Having server room and data center equipment surrounded by a secure rack can help ensure it doesn’t get damaged by someone bumping into it, or having something fall on it.
- More to Choose From – Most types and sizes of network equipment will fit into standard 4-post racks, which makes it easier to scale for future growth of your data center.
- Cabling – Ethernet, Fiber, and Power cabling used in a 4-post rack can easily be run and protected, which can reduce the risk of them getting damaged and causing outages.
If you aren’t using racks, you are probably opting for cabinets. Cabinets in the networking world are much like cabinets anywhere else. They are fully enclosed and designed to hold things. A network cabinet can be just about any size, although many are standardized to mount common data center equipment.
Because cabinets have walls and a locking door, they don’t get as much airflow as racks. They also take more time to maintain because the equipment is harder to access. For those trade-offs, cabinets offer a level of hardware security that is unmatched by racks. Cabinets can be strong and robust and ensure that equipment is inaccessible to unauthorized persons. For added ventilation and airflow, you can easily add fans to your cabinet to help keep the equipment cool.
Wall cabinets are just a variation on cabinets. They work much the same way, but they are made to mount on the wall rather than stand freely. Wall cabinets are more customizable and can accommodate tighter spaces in a server closet or other essential networking location.
Final Considerations for Racking Systems in Data Centers
Setting up your new data center or planning out the growth of your network closet can be a daunting task with limited space and budget. Some final thoughts to consider that will help in planning, expanding, or building your network set up:
- Spacing & Stability - As stated before most racks and cabinets can be secured to the ground or wall to minimize damage or outages from equipment or cabling being disrupted. Be sure to plan out enough room to work on and switch out (no pun intended) equipment and cabling when needed.
- Weight & Height Requirements - While racks and cabinets can be beasts with the amount of weight they can hold, be sure to pick a solution that will give you enough strength to hold your current equipment along with new additional items as you grow. Also, be sure to acquire a rack that will fit with the ceiling height of the room you are placing it in. You do not want to spend time planning everything out and putting the rack together only to find out you have to cut a hole in the roof. Wall mount racks and cabinets are typically smaller than their free-standing counterparts.
- Additional Components - There are a wide variety of accessories that can help you get your racks and cabinets organized and set up the way you want and need them. Shelves and rails will help structure everything the way you need it to be able to manage your equipment. Cable management systems and ties will help keep your cabling secure and out of the way.
As long as you look around, you can find the right equipment to mount your data center hardware. Once mounted, it will be easier to organize and manage. It will be safer and primed to work optimally. Whether you use racks, cabinets, or anything else, good mounting hardware is what physically stabilizes the equipment that runs your data center.
Additional Learning Center Resources
- Top Products for Data Centers
- Best Practices for Organizing Network Racks
- The Right Ethernet Cables for High Density Networks
- Ethernet for Challenging Installs
- Should I upgrade from 3750X switch to the 3850 switch?
- Cisco Catalyst Switches Product Guide
- Basics of Network Switches
- How to Choose The Right Rackmount Server
- Visit the CK Learning Center