Tips for the End-User Looking to Bring up a Computer Room and Network: Part 1

amelia-mannarinoBy way of introduction, I am Amelia. I am the Technical Sales Specialist at Impact. I have a Mechanical Engineering degree from McGill and got my start in Aerospace Engineering working on control systems and propulsion modeling.

In 2016 I joined the Impact Technical Products Team, and focused on helping customers design solutions to their network problems. Impact represents several best in breed lines focused in high-performance applications (i.e. data centres) as well as mission-critical and/or harsh environments.

Our wonderful manufacturers do a great job keeping the market up to date with new technology as well as changes in industry standards, but we rarely see how the full network can work together. The Impact blog posts will focus on integrating the knowledge of our lines to form cohesive solutions that encompass more than one product.

Email if you would be interested in a Webinar on this topic.

Four savvy tips to help you focus:

1) The Space

2) Airflow

3) Cable Management and Routing

4) Structural Integrity

For all you end-users out there, I know that the design of a computer room or data centre is not done every day, and you don’t need to be an expert. Here are some tips and tricks to help you focus on what is important. Just remember, you don’t get what you don’t ask for, so take some time to prioritize what is important to you so that your consultants, engineers, and contractors will know where to start looking!

This is just a start, more on how to bring cables into your new computer room, how to choose power, and how to deal with physical security in the next post.

The moral of the story if you don’t have time to make it through this whole post:

Your equipment is expensive and your network is critical, make sure that you design a room that will keep it safe and reduce your down time.

Let’s ignore construction for now, and really focus on what you need to set up a room before you can bring up a network:

1) The space


From: CPI TeraFrame Installation

  • Obviously, the ideal situation is that you have a new building with adequate room for your equipment, of course this is not always reality.
  • Make sure that the space you are going to install your equipment (assuming that the equipment has been already chosen) is the best possible environment you have. You want as little dust and contamination as possible because your equipment is sensitive and any dirt will shorten its life span.
  • Check your floor to ceiling height (slab to slab), this is important to know how best to configure your room. For example, if you have a large floor to ceiling height you can fit taller cabinets and more equipment in the same footprint, you may also want to consider a return air plenum (more on this later).
  • I have to say it to cover my bases – Check your actual room size, you want to make sure you can fit the amount of equipment that you need, plus leave some room for the future and movement. One thing you may want to think about is that equipment is continually getting deeper, so getting a deeper rack or cabinet than you need may save headaches in the future.
  • Plan your airflow pattern, this is probably the most important  part of bringing up a computer room – we will talk about this in depth below.

2) Air flow

airflow from 18.3 to 33.2 celcius

From: CPI Passive Cooling® Solutions

  • Why? Proper air flow management has two important benefits, both of which will make for a more economical data centre/computer room.
    • Increasing equipment life-span: Maintaining proper cooling of the equipment in racks or cabinets makes sure that your equipment doesn’t over heat and cause premature failure of the equipment.
    • Reducing electricity usage:  By making sure the cool air pumped into the room is used and directed in the most efficient way you avoid over cooling and over spending.
  • How? This is where scale comes in to play. In an ideal world everyone would use cabinets instead of racks for all active gear and isolate all of the hot air from the cold air to increase efficiency, however I live in the real world and I know that for some end users the increase in electricity costs for small installs is not enough to justify a full cabinet and containment solution. Maybe you won’t be in the same facility to realize the ROI, and your equipment is spaced out enough that it will not over heat. THAT IS OKAY! If you have a few small pieces of active gear and you are not too worried about energy efficiency, go ahead and use an open rack (if your room is secure) or a cabinet without air management.
  • For those of you with larger installs and more active gear, or if you are concerned about energy efficiency, then here are some things you should consider.
    • (Shameless promotion, CHATSWORTH Inc. CPI can happily handle all applications for both racks and cabinets and containment, plus the Impact team will personally help you configure exactly what you want).
    • The easiest small change that you can make is adding blanking panels and air dams to your cabinet. Blanking panels block off open rack spaces and air dams block the space between the rails and the rails, top, and bottom of the cabinet. Still not convinced? As Stew Munns at CPI would say, “Would you build a house with just open holes instead of windows or doors?”.
      • Essentially, having the open space for air to recirculate means that hot exhaust air is coming back around (insert boring physics about high to low pressure that causes the re-circulation), mixing with your cool air and room, and going back into the equipment to get hotter.
air dam thermo view

From: CPI Thermal Image of air re-circulating through gaps between rails and cabinet sides

air dam thermo view

From: CPI Build to Spec Containment

  • From: CPI Depicting Chimney Cabinets with a Return Air Plenum

    Think about air containment: This is a method that isolates the hot air from the cooler air in your room. If you want to be EXTRA efficient, redirect that hot air to the intake of your air conditioning unit through a return air plenum.

    • There are several flavours of containment including cold aisle containment, hot aisle containment, and chimney cabinets(Fun Fact: CPI developed and holds the patent to the Vertical Exhaust Duct cabinet).The containment method that should be used is application dependent, so just ask!

Remember: a well designed computer room should be room temperature and comfortable to work in.

3) Cable Management and Routing

From: CPI Motive Vertical Cable Manager

  • To help things look neat, cable managers with doors in your cabinets or standalone vertical cable managers with racks can be used. Depending on the quantity of cabling there are different managers that would work better than others: For example for use with a rack for patching (NO active gear), the Motive Vertical Cable manager allows for use of the whole inside channel of the manager with extrusions for spooling and cable Velcro tie points for organization.
  • To maintain order from your cable managers into your equipment or patch panels it is useful to eliminate any slack in the patch cords.
    • This can be achieved with custom length patch cords or specialty fan-outs.
    • Ask Fiber Connections Inc. to help with your fiber needs, as a top tier Canadian fiber assembly manufacturer (and the Canada’s only Corning Gold house) with over 20 years of experience they can handle any fiber request!

From: Fiber Connections Inc. MTP Fan-out

  • The trend in data centres has been towards routing cabling overhead on runway. Did you know that you can mount runway directly off a CPI cabinet so you don’t need to have threaded rod!
    • It is VERY important to consider the structural integrity.

4) Structural Integrity

  • safety through grounding and bondingWhen you have chosen your computer room/data centre layout and you know what your airflow management strategy it is common to forget to consider where everything will be mounted and if the cabinet system can structurally support what you would like to achieve.
    • If you have chosen a containment system, this system will have to be either supported by the floor, ceiling, or in some cases by the cabinet.

basket tray

  • If I had any advice, regardless of what you may or may not be mounting from your cabinets, it would be to choose a UL2416 rated cabinet.
  • UL® Listed 2416 requires manufactures load test their cabinets to 4x the listed load rating (ie. a cabinet with a load rating of 3,000lb, would be tested to 12,000lb) and integrate grounding and bonding features.
    • This helps to maintain structural integrity as well as ensure safety through grounding and bonding.

Remember: UL2416 means that load ratings and grounding and bonding requirements are INDEPENDENTLY verified by a 3rd party!

I know that was a lot of information, if you have questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to reach out, there is only so much you can fit in a single blog!