New Ways to Support Flexibility in Data Center Design

A data center’s design should incorporate scalability, resiliency, reliability, and flexibility. However, without flexibility, it is challenging to have the others

The data center’s equipment cabinet should integrate flexibility in its design and deployment, but it hasn’t always happened. However, there has been a rethinking of the way IT infrastructure, power, and cooling converge—and the data-center cabinet is starting to adapt. 

Designing a sturdy structure to house a constantly evolving set of components can be daunting. Many data center architects faced this predicament when building for current needs and predicting future alterations. 

Planning data center projects is challenging. Plans are often loosely communicated among stakeholders, and minor changes may have substantial ramifications. The unprecedented power and cooling to loads compared to almost any other type of facility contributes to the complexity. In addition to capacity issues, there is the load demand challenge: outages are never acceptable, not even for maintenance. 

No matter what type of data center you are designing – from hyper-scale to an enterprise edge data center – selecting the racks and cabinets needed to organize all the network hardware and connectivity can be difficult. Their primary job is to house servers, cable, connectivity, switchgear, and power equipment. However, selecting the proper racks and cabinets can increase the performance of the equipment by providing adequate airflow and cable management properties to protect and organize the cable and connectivity. 

Selecting and installing durable, flexible, and appropriate data center equipment is critical to ensure data centers can expand with evolving technology for future applications and systems. The physical infrastructure, the software, and the demands placed upon any given data center vary, moment by moment and day-to-day. 

Therefore, companies are rethinking the cabinet’s design. The equipment cabinet contains the server, storage, and network appliances that generate, process, and deliver the data we depend on. The cabinet’s purpose is primarily structural. It takes on the duty of housing all the equipment and its weight, often thousands of pounds stacked in a relatively small footprint, sometimes as minimal as 24″ by 42″. 

Operators are familiar with various widths and heights and the almost endless list of accessories that support equipment when it comes to infrastructure. Cabinet manufacturers provide rails, doors, shelves for switches, cable-management solutions, and more. Only after the accessory selections have been made and the equipment has been installed is the equipment cabinet configured for the present installation. It is not uncommon for companies to replace racks during equipment-refresh cycles when they realize that the current racks cannot accommodate the form factor of the new technology. 

Besides housing gear, the equipment cabinet is the structure for data center cooling systems. In the past, the standard data-center cabinet had limited flexibility. However, any data-center design would be improved and supported by data center cabinets that complement power and cooling delivery and allow for future-minded flexibility. 

With server cabinets, in particular, the requirements in the area of energy efficiency are high. After all, the IT equipment in server cabinets produces a great deal of heat that must be removed efficiently. Indeed, to function as effectively as possible, the IT equipment must be adequately cooled. The more efficient the cooling process is, the more reliably the IT equipment works, and the less energy is required to enable the data center to run. 

The design of server and network cabinets should be geared towards optimizing the energy efficiency of data centers. By reducing energy consumption, data centers can save on costs and reduce the impact on the environment. Cabinets that offer efficient cabling routing also provide the most significant opportunity to reduce overall cable length and overcome potential airflow issues, increasing heat loads and higher energy consumption and operating costs. 

With the flexibility that today’s premium configure-to-order server cabinet platforms provide, you can reasonably expect to reuse and recycle cabinet and power distribution equipment in the future. Valuable features such as slide-in side panels, modular top panel components, and simplified component installation provide you with the ability to future-proof your data-center cabinets against whatever may come your way. 

About the Author

Saman Berookhim is the Product Manager of Cabinets and Containment at Legrand. He’s worked in the cabinet and containment industry for five years and joined Legrand through acquisition of AFCO Systems back in 2017. He previously held roles in both Sales Engineering and Project Management, and as a product manager, is focused on training and product development with a passion for data analytics. Saman has directly participated in multiple projects involving rapid deployment in both the cabinet and containment arena in his prior roles. He has spoken about “rack-and-stack” deployments to internal stakeholders at Legrand to raise awareness of the efficiencies that clients can realize from this method. Saman received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stony Brook University.

Featured image: ©Mikhail