It might not be the first thing you think of, but not all equipment is designed to go into a data centre. We generally recommend where possible to install equipment that is designed for installation into racks. Racks are setup in data centres to house customer equipment. In the case of servers and switches, this would mean equipment that is ‘rack mountable’. There are a few good reason for this;
- Most data centres are designed to deliver cool air to the front of the rack, and then exhaust the air out the top or back of the rack. Rack mountable server equipment is designed exactly for this.
- Rack mounted equipment gives the best space utilisation in a rack. Most data centres would charge for the space you use in a rack so it makes sense to have equipment which fits in without wasted space
- Rack mount equipment is designed so you can readily remove and work on the equipment when required ( eg. upgrade RAM ). In most cases the equipment will slide out and back in again with little effort.
This is not to say you cannot put ‘non rack mountable’ equipment into racks. It is just not ideal. Some of the problems that can occur;
- Heat – some equipment is designed to operate in open air environments, and not have fans. In this case when installed inside a rack, they may overheat and fail because racks work on the principle that the equipment itself is capable of dissipating heat ( eg via internal fans )
- Installation – if the equipment is not rack mountable, it may need to ‘sit’ on something, such as another server. This is not ideal if you are required to work on the server equipment that becomes the shelf. In some cases, data centres can install custom shelves however to have equipment rest on to avoid this problem.
In some cases you simply will not have a choice. A common device we see in the data centre are ‘removable hard drives’ connected to servers. In cases where this is temporary to copy data, this is not a problem. But as a more permanent device ( eg for server backups ) careful consideration needs to be given to where these devices are placed.
Article by Paul Arch, based on experiences operating data centre and cloud infrastructure in Perth Western Australia