IT Asset Management Tips: Installing a Server Rack
A core part of any server room or data centre, and therefore of asset management too, is the server rack itself. Position racks and equipment badly and you’ll soon be staring at an overheated, jumbled mess.
But with proper thought and planning, you can keep your equipment ordered yet flexible and running as efficiently as possible – here’s a handful of tips on how best to achieve this.
The first step should be to create a plan for equipment placement – to define the positioning of both the racks themselves in relation to the room and the assets within the rack. This will help to ensure you have enough space for equipment, that it’s kept at the right temperature (more on that later), and that it can be accessed easily.
Try to envisage and map out every detail you can.
From the high-level:
-How many servers will you be installing?
To the low-level:
-Will you store spare parts within the rack?
-Will you easily be able to access ports, power outlets and switches when you need to work on your servers?
And in addition to the here and now, you should also consider future expansion when rack planning.
As pointed out by Tripp Lite, it’s a good idea to put the heaviest assets, such as external battery packs and UPS systems toward the bottom of the rack. This stops the rack from becoming top-heavy and vulnerable to tipping over.
Similarly, avoid putting equipment that pops out on sliding rails too high in the rack. And ensure that kit placed at the top of the rack is not so high that the LED lights can’t be seen or that it can’t be easily reached.
It’s vital racks and the equipment they house are arranged so that assets are kept at the right temperature. Otherwise, power consumption skyrockets and equipment is much more likely to fail.
It’s not really an issue for small setups but for anything that consumes around 1.7kW of power or more, cooling must be considered.
Here are some top tips for installing a server rack:
- Don’t place the rack near a heat vent. Equally, ensure that the rack is not against a wall that could restrict airflow.
- There must be a way for the heat produced by your equipment to escape, for example, active or passive ventilation through raised floorings, ducts or dropped ceilings.
- Keep any windows in the room shaded so the sun doesn’t potentially increase temperatures.
- CRACs (computer room air conditioning units) are needed for installations with higher wattage densities – close-coupled units offer several advantages over traditional perimeter CRACs, including increased energy efficiency and flexibility.
- To boost airflow, leave space between each server (e.g. for 1 RU servers, leave every second RU free).
- Connect rack cabinets side-to-side (known as “baying”) to generate a physical barrier between cold and hot air that suppresses recirculation.
Labelling cables properly is key to keeping a handle on all of them and for potential troubleshooting later on – mark everything and label at both ends so that they can be more easily traced.
Plan enough space for cables – for example, if high-density cabling is needed you might need 1U of horizontal cable management for every 1U of switches or patch panels. And it’s usually considered best practice to trunk cables vertically on one side of the rack – loops of double-sided Velcro can be used for this.
For deploying multiple racks, Anchor offers two approaches for cabling distribution – patch panelling or switch distribution.
This option involves installing a patch panel in each rack, with enough ports for every device, and then trunking the connections back to a central communications rack. In the communications rack, each port is then patched into a switch.
This reduces the need to run cables between racks in a makeshift way and makes it easy to connect any service in any rack to any other asset in your network.
However, patch panels can be expensive to fit and the additional connections they involve mean more points of failure.
This is installing switches in each rack and then using the actual switch layer as the patching system. Two ethernet cables are all that’s needed to connect each switch to another.
The pros are that this method can usually be carried out in-house by technical staff (as opposed to having to hire cablers) using readily-available, shop-bought cables, and there are fewer points of failure. What’s more, less space is needed and there’s reduced cabling required between racks.
As for the cons, this approach makes it harder to patch non-network based services. Custom cabling is needed for telephone and voice services, cross-connects etc.
Setting up Server Racks in Happi
Rack planning should always be the first stage in installing a server rack and this is where Happi comes in. Using our cloud management platform, you can plan rack installations fully and stipulate the precise connections you need. And using our extensive templates, you can be sure there’ll be the necessary space for equipment, cables and patch panels to be fitted.
Connections, U positions, and port availability are all saved and updated in the tool itself, letting you plan or edit a wide array of setups.
We help teams plan, procure, and provision hosted infrastructure anywhere in the world but can take as active or passive a role as you like.
If you’re already a dab hand, we’ll take a step back so you can use the tool as you like. But for those that need a little help, our team and the staff forming our IT consultant portal are ready and waiting to share their expertise.