How to Help Customers Choose the Best Data Center Rack for Their Needs

IT racks typically account for less than 5% of the capital cost of data center infrastructure but nonetheless play an important role, one that will affect the availability, serviceability, flexibility, and manageability of the data center for years. As such, racks represent an area where APC by Schneider Electric partners can provide valuable guidance to customers.

At one time, choosing a rack was a straightforward endeavor. They came in a highly standardized size: 24-inches wide by 42U high, to fit 19-inch-wide IT gear. In recent years, however, the situation has changed. As IT gear gets more powerful, it is getting larger – taller, deeper, and requiring more space surrounding the chassis for maintenance. It also requires more power than in the past, which increases power density as well as cable density in the rack. Today, the most prevalent rack size is 24 in. wide by 42 in. deep and 42U tall – but various other sizes are available and well-suited to certain situations.

What’s more, additional options are now available for attributes such as color – and not just for aesthetic purposes. Being aware of these options will help partners point their customers in the right direction in terms of racks that best suit their needs – and that may save them money.

Let’s look at some of the potential benefits associated with various options.

In terms of height, a standard 42U rack will be less costly than taller racks. They also make it easy for IT personnel to reach each level in the rack, they fit through standard door openings, and they won’t interfere with overhead sprinkler systems – all good.

That said, racks of 45U, 48U, 52U and up to 58U are also now being used in the market. The main benefit they provide is a simple one: more vertical space to mount equipment, thereby providing a higher density of IT gear in the same footprint – a potential boon for data centers where space is at a premium.

In terms of width, the advantages of the standard 600mm (24-inch) rack likewise include lower cost but also a decreased footprint compared to wider racks. On the other hand, racks of 750mm (29.5 in) or 800mm (31.5 in) provide more space for high-capacity cable management and power distribution units (PDUs). They also provide space for wider IT equipment such as blade servers with hot swappable components and network equipment that uses side-to-side cooling instead of front-to-back cooling.

Similarly, racks with a standard 1070mm (42-inch) depth are less costly and have a smaller footprint than larger models. But companies that have deeper servers will benefit from rack models with depths of 1100mm (43 in) or 1200mm (47.2 in). The deeper racks also allow more space for data and power cables and more positions for accessories such as PDUs.

And then there’s color. Once data centers were dominated by a sea of black – black racks filled with black IT gear and black cables. But, as we discussed in a recent post, APC by Schneider Electric recently introduced a line of 11 different NetShelter SX cabinets in white.

White racks reflect light more than black racks and provide contrast to all that black IT gear and cabling, making it easier for staffers to see when working in the racks. They can even enable the data center to operate with less lighting. One large data center reduced its lighting requirements by 15% simply by using white cabinets – a significant savings over time.

That little tidbit (along with much of the rest of the information in this post) comes from the free APC by Schneider Electric white paper number 201, “How to Choose an IT Rack.” Check it out to learn more about what goes into choosing an IT rack, so you can be sure to steer your customers in the right direction.

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