Data Center Design Overview: Cabinet Layout, Rack Design, & More

Posted by Jerod Green on January 25, 2022

When designing a data center, there are three primary considerations:

  • Operational efficiency. The data center layout should make it easy for personnel to handle routine administrative tasks.
  • Cooling efficiency. The racks and cabinets should be arranged in a way that facilitates airflow and minimizes overall cooling costs.
  • Availability. Power, cooling, cable management, and other components should be optimized to minimize downtime and enable rapid troubleshooting when problems do occur.

Determining how best to meet those objectives can seem daunting. Understanding basic data center design considerations and best practices can help demystify the process.

Data Center Rack Design Considerations

The minimum requirements for data center rack dimensions can be determined based upon the size of the IT equipment and the number of rack unit spaces that will be occupied. However, the need for power management, cable management, and airflow may dictate a larger server rack.

Growth should also be considered. Server racks generally have a lifecycle of eight years or more and should have expansion space to support additional IT equipment.

Data Center Cabinet Layout

Data center layouts are evolving to accommodate new technologies, allow for greater cooling capability, and improve energy efficiency. Modern practices dictate that data center racks and cabinets be arranged in alternating cold aisles and hot aisles. The fronts of two rows of cabinets face one another, creating the cold aisle. The backs of the next two rows face one another, creating the hot aisle. This minimizes the mixing of chilled supply air with hot exhaust air to improve cooling efficiency.

Floor tiles, which are 2 feet by 2 feet, are used as a standard measurement in data center layouts. A cold aisle is generally two tiles or 4 feet wide for comfortable walking space and access to equipment, while a hot aisle is generally 3 feet wide. These dimensions, plus the “standard” 24-inch by 42-inch rack, have led to the common “seven-tile pitch” design, with two rows of cabinets in a space that’s 14 feet wide.

However, there are many variables that may require deviation from that design. High-density data centers might require a 6-foot cold aisle, and differences in cabinet depth have to be considered. One size doesn’t fit all. It’s essential to consider your unique environment when deciding on your data center cabinet layout.

How Many Racks Fit in a Data Center?

Obviously, the data center's size is a constraint on the number of racks. In addition to the server room, the data center must accommodate power and cooling equipment, office space, meeting rooms, and other facilities. The server room might account for 65 percent of the overall building space. Within the server room itself, only about half of the floor tiles are occupied by racks and cabinets.

Another consideration is the size of the racks in the facility. There are a variety of heights, widths, and depths on the market. We explore server rack sizes in detail in another blog. For this exercise, we’ll assume standard rack dimensions of 24 inches (600mm) wide, 42 inches (1066.80mm) deep, and 73.6 inches (1866.90mm) tall.

Using these estimates, a hypothetical 300,000-square-foot data center could fit more than 12,000 racks and cabinets. Of course, the power and cooling capacity of the data center also places practical limits on the number of racks.

Get Help from the Experts at Enconnex

Most rack vendors offer the most popular rack sizes, with higher costs and long lead times for nonstandard racks. Enconnex has a variety of racks and cabinets in stock, plus our DC Series cabinets come standard with frequently requested upgrades, such as cable management slots, enhanced airflow management, and PDU mounting rails.

Our experts understand the factors that go into play when choosing the best server rack for each use case and can help you select among our high-quality options. Give us a call or reach out for assistance with your data center design.

Posted by Jerod Green on January 25, 2022

Jerod has been in the data center industry for 10 years and has a passion for manufacturing fiber-optic and copper cabling solutions. As Director of Sales for Enconnex, he helps customers select the right solutions and is involved in the design and installation of enterprise-class network infrastructure.

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