A lot has changed in data center during the past 15 years, so let’s take a step back and look at a typical data center at the beginning of the century. Cabinets normally were 42U high, closed with a glass panel on the front and back. Average power usage: around 1KW per cabinet. Cool air entered from the bottom, vented out through the top. Compare that to today’s data centers: 42U has become obsolete and is hard to find. New server and switching options for cabinets became available, demanding higher racks to be able to optimize the equipment installed. The standard rack heights used to be 42U, 45U, 46U and 48U. Nowadays there’s really no limit anymore, rack up and above 58U can easily be found.
Because of the changing demand, over the years data centers started creating something that’s called a ‘data center skyline’, formed by a wild mixture of different cabinet brands and heights.
The variety of customer demands make these skylines pretty common in data centers. It may look familiar and might give you the ‘real’ data center feeling, but it has some down sides. The containment is built for a specific cabinet size. Let’s take 45U as an example. This means a 3U gap has been created above the cabinet, which needs to be filled to optimize airflow management in the corridor. To find out more about airflow management, please read my previous blog. When adding a higher cabinet, like a 48U version, the roof of the corridor is extruded by 3U, creating an air pocket that will probably disrupt your cooling.
Adapting to current & future trends
Contemporary data centers are facing a difficult task: while customer trends and demands ask for cabinets higher than 48U, the facilities are limited by their ceiling heights. This forces customers to rent additional cabinets and buy more devices than initially planned in their networking design. This is why 54U cabinets are more and more requested, and even required for network optimization. A typical network switch has 48 ports, and a standard cabinet 48U: resulting in a lot of ports. Combine these two and we end up with a lot of switch ports that cannot be used.
All new data centers should standardize to a higher cabinet size, to follow the latest customer demands. White space is getting more and more difficult to rent in most metropolitan areas, adding to the need for more efficient network designs.
At Datacenter.com we preinstall standard 54U Schneider (by APC) 600mm x 1200mm cabinets for our customers, with up to 22kW of power. A typical customer with five 48U cabinets only needs four cabinets at 48U, reducing OPEX and CAPEX for the customer.