Monday, October 29, 2007

Server Cabinet Organization Tips

Just in time for Halloween, check out this classic server room cabling nightmare at Tech Republic. Scary stuff.

Good data center design is a combination of high-level conceptual thinking and strategic planning, plus close attention to detail. Obviously, things like the cooling system and support infrastructure are critical to maintaining an always-available data center, but smaller things like well organized server cabinets can also contribute to the overall efficiency of a data center or computer room. That being said, I thought I’d share a few of our guidelines and best practices for organizing your cabinets.

In no particular order:

1. Place heavier equipment on the bottom, lighter equipment towards the top

2. Use blanking plates to fill equipment gaps to prevent hot air from re-circulating back to the front

3. Use a cabinet deep enough to accommodate cable organization and airflow in the rear of the cabinet

4. Use perforated front and rear doors when using the room for air distribution

5. Make sure doors can be locked for security

6. PTS prefers using a patch panel in each cabinet for data distribution. We typically install it in the top rear U’s, but are experimenting with vertical rear channel patch cable distribution

7. PTS prefers using vertical power strips in a rear channel of the cabinet with short power cords for server-to-power-strip distribution

8. While they are convenient, do not use cable management arms that fold the cables on the back of the server as they impede outlet airflow of the server

9. Don’t use roof fans without front-to-rear baffling. They suck as much cold air from the front as they do hot air from the rear.

10. Monitor air inlet temperature ¾ of the way up the front of the cabinet

11. Use U-numbered vertical rails to make mounting equipment easier

12. Have a cabinet numbering convention and floor layout map

13. Use color-coded cabling for different services

14. Separate power and network cabling distribution on opposite sides of the cabinet

15. PTS often uses the tops of the cabinet to facilitate cabinet-to-cabinet power and data cable distribution

As you can see, the little things do make a difference. And by instituting some or all of these, you’ll be one step closer to 24-7 availability.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Role of Sprinklers in Computer Room Fire Protection

A number of clients have asked us about the viability of replacing their ‘wet’ sprinkler systems with a dry-type fire suppression system, such as FM-200. Not many IT personnel understand the role of water-based fire suppression systems, but all realize the potential for water in the data processing environment to be a “bad thing.”
The short answer is that sprinkler systems protect the building and dry-type systems protect the equipment. In most cases a dry-type system cannot take the place of a sprinkler system, it can only be installed in addition to it. At the end of the day, the local fire inspection is the authority and has jurisdiction over what is permissible. This is the reason that pre-action sprinkler systems are primarily used for computer room fire protection.
That being said, fire prevention provides more protection against damage than any type of detection or suppression equipment available. For Tier I and Tier II computer rooms, PTS often recommends installing only a pre-action sprinkler system activated by a photo-electric smoke detection system and forgo a dry-type system and VESDA system. We find the most effective strategy is to emphasize prevention and early detection. This allows the client to maximize availability by investing in solutions for areas of higher risk, such as fully redundant power and cooling systems.
For more information on fire protection, read our vendor white paper “Mitigating Fire Risks in Mission Critical Facilities,” which provides a clear understanding of the creation, detection, suppression and prevention of fire within mission critical facilities. Fire codes for Information Technology environments are discussed. Best practices for increasing availability are provided.