If you’re looking to invest in new server equipment, chances are, you’re also looking for the right server racks to go with it, but with all of the options available and all of the factors to consider, it quickly becomes clear that choosing the right server cabinet or open rack is not the easiest thing to do. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the essential factors to consider when choosing a server rack.
First things first
The first thing you’ll want to consider is the type of equipment you plan on putting in your server rack cabinet. This will help to narrow your initial selection down a bit since whatever equipment you buy will have its own set of dimensions, weight, and cooling requirements. Now with this information in mind, let’s move on to dimensions.
The size of your equipment should help you to gauge the size of cabinet you’re looking for. Rack chassis, open racks, and server rack cabinets are all measured in height by the standard rack unit of measurement ‘U’. ‘U’ is fairly basic in that 2 x 1U chassis is the equivalent to 1 x 2U chassis. So if you’re looking to install 3 x 2U sized units, you’ll need at least a 6U cabinet. Keep in mind that this is only a measurement of height of the space available for installation. The actual physical sizes of two different 6U cabinets can vary dramatically so you’ll also want to consider the amount of floor space you have available for your cabinet and then the amount of working space you’ll need for routine maintenance.
Cabinet depths are usually measured in millimeters with the average sizes being around 600 – 1000mm. more often than not, more depth simply translates to more room for handling cables.
Configuration & Security
How you configure your equipment is one of the most important things to have planned out before you purchase a cabinet. Some chassis include preinstalled fans, ports for cabling, built-in power strips, etc. So again, you’ll want to really pay attention to what will work best with the equipment you plan to install.
The construction of a cabinet’s panels and doors will determine its general level of security. Some cabinets are built with tempered glass and key locks which achieves a decent level of security without sacrificing too much accessibility. The key is finding a balance that works for your situation. You can opt for thumb locks, coded locks, or even no doors at all.
Consider Power Source technologies
While standard power strips are capable of getting the job done, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will do it well. There are basic rack power strips or power distribution units (PDUs) that definitely do the job better as they are specifically designed for rack deployment and often include handy features like current output level displays and fuse replacement indicators. However, these basic rack strips require users to be on-site and in-person to utilize. In light of this, there are even more sophisticated (albeit pricier as well) intelligent PDUs that include features like remote management which allows users to do things like cold reboot of an array from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, or 3-phase power distribution, which greatly reduces the number of PDUs needed overall, increases available amperage, and provides a more balanced power load overall.
Weight & Set Up
While most cabinets seem robust enough to support a full load of any type of equipment, this is not always the case. You want to be familiar with the combined weight of all of the equipment you plan to install into your cabinet to ensure a sturdy set up that won’t cause you problems later if things start to warp over time.
Ventilation is crucial to the effectiveness of racked equipment. Servers generate a great deal of heat as they operate and without proper ventilation, this heat will build up and eventually kill your equipment. A decent fully enclosed cabinet will, at the very least, include vents. Some more high-end cabinets include more technical provisions like exhaust fans to push hot air out or even liquid cooling. If you’re not worried about security, consider removing the door panels or even purchasing an open rack for your equipment in lieu of a cabinet. For a more in-depth open rack versus server cabinet comparison, refer to the previous blog post.
Lastly, consider any future expansion you aim to do with or around your cabinet set up. If you plan on installing more equipment, it may be a good idea to look at cabinets with more space. If you plan to install more cabinets or plan to eventually change facilities, it may be a good idea to research cabinets with wheels. Different cabinets are compatible with different add-ons like panels, doors, shelves, etc.
Deciding which cabinet best suits you is definitely not the easiest thing to do, but a little research will go a long way. Whatever you want it out there, so the only real problem is finding it. Hopefully these tips help with that process.