Every time a photo is uploaded to Facebook a server somewhere has to work just a little bit harder. All that shuffling of electrons to store bits and bytes of data generates lots of heat, which is very bad for server reliability. That’s why cooling is the number one concern in server rack cabinet design, and it’s why even Mark Zuckerberg is pushing for greater efficiency (as reported in InfoWorld.com, April 2011.)
If you’re researching a 42U server rack cabinet, the size usually employed in data centers, cooling is the most important design factor to explore. It’s not the only one though. Here’s a run through what you should look for.
The server environment
If a new cabinet is going into an existing room look at how that’s cooled now. If there’s air conditioning the cabinet can use that, but airflow becomes paramount. Look for ventilated doors and shelves plus fans to move air through.
Consider also the load on the ac system. If it’s already working at maximum capacity another 42U server rack might push it over the edge. In that case you might be better looking for a cabinet with it’s own cooling, perhaps an air conditioned or liquid cooled system. Those cabinets are sealed but it’s important to consider here that heat will go.
In a new facility it might be worth exploring temperature monitoring: remote control of cooling systems is very useful, as HP found out.
Take a look at the server room cables. Do they drop from above or are they fed up through a raised floor? Either way, it’s important to check the new cabinet has provision for cable routing.
Server room access can sometimes be surprisingly tight, and a 42U rack server cabinet is pretty bulky. Check it passes through the doorway.
Also look at the total weight of equipment in the cabinet: make sure it has the necessary strength, and decide if floor loading needs looking at too. Servers can be heavy, and a modern 42U cabinet can handle as much as 2,000 pounds.
Cabinet access and cable management
It’s no good buying a big server rack cabinet if you can’t hook up the equipment in it. Look for plenty of depth, (42U refers to vertical spacing, not how deep the cabinet is.) Cable securing clips are useful and remember that built-in cable channels can help improve airflow. Front and rear doors are essential, but side access is very helpful too.
Stability, Power, Security
You don’t want a server cabinet toppling over, so look for leveling feet and the ability to bolt it down. Use dedicated power strips designed for server racks, and consider intelligent strips that provide for remote control.
Under the heading of security, check for door locks to prevent unauthorized access or equipment theft. Some cabinets even have smart card access control allowing logging of who entered the cabinet.
More Than Cooling
When buying a server rack cabinet cooling should be your top concern, but there are other points to research too. Assess where it’s going and buy wisely.