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Your Data Center MVP: Racks

June 27, 2019 – When selecting a case for our smart phones, we take into consideration color, size and level of protection. Sadly, many of us spend more time selecting a case for our phones than selecting a data center rack for our IT systems. Data center racks house and protect expensive equipment and the valuable data that is integral to their business. Gartner estimates that the average cost of IT downtime for an organization is an astounding $5,600 per minute! Add to the fact that enterprise companies spend millions of dollars for their servers, storage and switches, protecting these expensive assets should not be an afterthought.

Calm, Cool and Collected

Data center racks offer an unseen protection as they help manage the airflow for the systems that they contain. Ideal data center spaces have separate cold and hot aisles for the intake of cool air into the systems and the exhaust of hot air out of the systems. Racks sit in between the cold and hot aisles providing a channel for the airflow, usually front (cold) to back (hot), and a barrier to prevent the hot air from mixing with the cold air. Rack accessories such as side panels, blanking panels and air baffles help to optimize the airflow and provide an additional barrier between the hot and cold aisles. Choosing the right rack solution can result in maximizing equipment uptime and performance, increasing the life cycle of the hardware and lowering the energy costs for the rack and the room.

One Size Does Not Fit All

For many years data center racks were a one size fits all – 42U height (a U or RU is short for Rack Unit and is 1.75 inches) by 24 inches wide and 42 inches deep. System vendors would manufacture their devices to fit within these confines. However, with the growth of Big Data, AI and hyper scale computing, a one size fit all approach is no longer sufficient. In order to meet the demand, racks now come in heights of 45U, 48U and even 50U! A 24-inch-wide rack may be too narrow for the new compute solutions. When installing a rack with over 40 nodes, a width of 28-30 inches will allow more room for cable management of the 160-200 cables that are necessary for power and networking. With the proliferation of highly dense storage, CPU and GPU servers, manufacturers are designing these servers to be deeper than ever before. In a 42-inch-deep rack, these servers protrude into the vertically mounted PDUs in the rear. A deeper rack of 48 inches alleviates many of the challenges for accessing and servicing power supplies, PDUs and cables in a shallower rack. Great care must be used when considering the size of a rack, not just for today’s modern workloads, but also to accommodate tomorrow’s requirements as well.

A Brighter Way

There is a growing shift with enterprises choosing to deploy white colored racks instead of the traditional black. Studies have shown that rows or pods of white racks can reduce the amount of light required in a data center by 45 to 50 percent compared to black racks. This can result in energy cost savings for enterprises that own their own data centers. Beyond just reflecting and illuminating a room, white colored racks can also reflect and illuminate the inside rear of the rack 80 percent more than black colored racks! This makes it easier for technicians to correctly identify systems, cables and components and hence speed the time to repair and reduce the amount of errors.

Most Valuable Partner – Groupware Technology

At Groupware Technology we have worked on over thousands of racks over the past few years either at our state-of-the-art Integration Lab or onsite in our customers’ data centers. You can leverage our expertise with racks, power and cabling by scheduling a tour of our facilities or an onsite rack assessment at your location with one of our data center experts. To schedule an appointment, contact us. For more information on our Rack and Roll solutions, visit our page.

Greg Ng is Groupware Technology’s Rack and Roll Practice Manager.