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Black Box Explains...Dry Contacts

A dry contact, also called a volt-free contact, is a relay contact that does not supply voltage. The relay energizes or de-energizes when a change to its input has occurred.... more/see it nowIn other words, a dry contact simply detects whether or not an input switch is open or closed.

The dry contacts in the ServSensor Contact provide a simple two-wire interface that can be easily adapted to third-party sensors and devices. Because you define what the open or closed condition means, dry contacts are infinitely adaptable.

Use dry contacts to monitor alarms such as fire alarms, burglar alarms, and alarms on power systems such as UPSs. A very common use for dry contacts is to detect whether a cabinet door is open or closed. collapse


Black Box Explains...What to consider when choosing a rack.

Why racks?
There are several things you should consider when choosing a rack.

What kind of equipment will you be putting in it? If you need frequent access to all sides of... more/see it nowthe equipment, an open rack is more convenient than a cabinet. If your equipment needs ventilation, a rack poses no air circulation limitations. And don’t neglect aesthetics. Will customers or clients see your installation? A rack with cable management looks much neater.

Finally, consider security. Because a rack is open, you need to take steps to secure your equipment. Set up your rack in a locked room so prying fingers can’t access your network equipment.

Racks come in various sizes and installation styles. Some are freestanding; some are designed to be wallmounted. Some can be a combination of both styles, sitting on the floor but attaching to the wall for more stability.

Understanding rack measurements.
The main component of a rack is a set of vertical rails with mounting holes to which you attach your equipment or shelves.

The first measurement you need to know is the width between the two rails. It’s commonly given in inches, measured from one mounting hole to the corresponding hole on the opposing rail. The most common rail width is 19"; 23" rails and racks are also available. Most rackmount equipment is designed to fit 19" rails but can be adapted for wider racks.

The next important specification is the number of rack units, which is abbreviated as “U.” This is a measurement of the vertical space available on the rails. Cabinets and racks and rackmount equipment are all measured in rack units. One rack unit (1U) is equal to 1.75" of usable vertical space. So, for example, a device that’s 2U high takes up 3.5" of rack space. A rack that’s 20U high has 35" of usable space.

Because the widths are standard, the amount of vertical space is what determines how much equipment you can actually install. Remember this measurement of usable vertical space is smaller than the external height of the rack.

Getting power to your equipment.
Unless you want to have a tangle of extension cords, you’ll need to get one or more power strips for your rack. Consider which kind would be best for your installation. Rackmount power strips come in versions that mount either vertically or horizontally. Some have outlets that are spaced widely to accommodate transformer blocks—a useful feature if most of your equipment uses bulky power transformers.

Surge protection is another important issue. Some power strips have built-in surge protection; some don’t. With the money you have invested in rackmount equipment, you’ll certainly want to make sure it’s protected.

Any mission-critical equipment should also be connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS prevents your equipment from crashing during a brief blackout or brownout and allows enough time to shut everything down properly in the event of an extended power outage. Choose a rackmount UPS for the most critical equipment or plug the whole rack into a standalone UPS.

Managing cables.
Your equipment may look very tidy when it’s all mounted. But unless you’re very careful with your cables, you can create a tangle you’ll never be able to unravel.

Plotting your connections in advance helps you to decide the most efficient way to organize the cables. Knowing where the connections are tells you whether it’s better to run cables horizontally or vertically. Most network problems are in the cabling, so if you let your cables get away from you now, you’re sure to pay for it down the road.

There are many cable management accessories that can simplify your racks. collapse


Black Box Explains...Thermocouples

A thermocouple is a device that measures temperature by using the fact that a junction between two different metals produces a varying voltage related to their temperature. Two common types... more/see it nowof thermocouple are Type J and Type K.

Type J thermocouples use iron paired with a nickel-copper alloy. Type J thermocouples may cover a temperature range of up to -40 to +1382° F (-40 to +750°C), and offer high sensitivity.

Type K, the most common type of thermocouple, uses nickel-chromium and nickel-aluminum alloys. Because Type K is an early specification, its characteristics vary widely; individual thermocouples may cover a range of up to -328 to +2462 °F (-200 to +1350 °C). collapse


Black Box Explains...Rack units.

A Rack Unit is abbreviated as U. One Rack Unit (1U) is equal to 1.75" (4.44 cm).


Black Box Explains…Liquid cooling.

The trend toward high-density installations with higher-powered CPUs has made heat a critical issue in data centers. Blade servers present a special challenge—a rack of blade servers can dissipate more... more/see it nowthan 25 kW, generating more heat than an electric oven.

Heat-generated problems
The heat generated in today’s high-density data centers can shorten equipment lifespan, negatively affect equipment performance, and cause downtime. Traditional air-cooling methods such as hot/cold aisle arrangements simply can’t keep up with these heat-generating installations. Data center managers often try to compensate for the inefficiency of air cooling by under-populating racks, but this wastes space—an often scarce commodity in modern data centers.

Why liquid
Because of the inherent inefficiencies of air cooling, many data centers have turned to liquid cooling through water or other refrigerants. Liquids have far greater heat transfer properties than air—water is 3400 times more efficient than air—and can cool far greater equipment densities.

Liquid cooling is usually done at the rack level using the airflow from the servers to move the heat to a cooling unit where it’s removed by liquid, neutralizing heat at the source before it enters the room. Liquid cooling may also be done at the component level, where cooling liquid is delivered directly to individual components. Liquid cooling may also arrive in the form of portable units for cooling hot spots.

Liquid cooling options
Types of liquid cooling commonly used in data centers include:

  • Cabinet-door liquid cooling: With this method, cooling units are special cabinet doors that contain sealed tubes filled with chilled liquid. The liquid is circulated through the door to remove heat vented by equipment fans. Because liquid-cooled doors can replace standard cabinet doors, they’re the favored method for retrofitting liquid cooling into existing data centers.
  • Integrated liquid cooling: This consists of a specialized sealed cabinet that has channels for liquid cooling built into it to act as heat exchangers. Fans move hot air past the heat exchangers before sending the cooled air back to the servers. These cabinets are closed systems that release very little heat into the room.
  • Component-based liquid cooling: Some servers are preconfigured with integrated liquid-based cooling modules. After the servers are installed, liquid is circulated through the cooling modules.
  • Immersion cooling: This rather counterintuitive cooling method immerses servers in a non-conductive liquid, which is circulated to cool the servers.
  • Portable liquid cooling: These are small units that operate by blowing air across water-cooled coils. They can usually accept water from any source—including a nearby faucet. They’re generally plumbed with ordinary garden hoses and require no special skills to use. Portable cooling units are intended for emergency cooling rather than as a permanent solution.


Liquid cooling requires a shift in the way you think about cooling. Installation may require that you acquire a new skill set or hire a professional installer. However, the space savings and cost savings gained through liquid cooling more than make up for the inconvenience of installing a new cooling technology.

Not only does liquid cooling enable data centers to operate at far greater densities than conventional air cooling does, it gets rid of the infrastructure associated with air cooling, enabling you to eliminate hot/cold aisles and raised floors. Liquid cooling can support from 25 to 80% more equipment in the same footprint, resulting in significantly lower infrastructure costs.

Add to this the fact that cooling is often the majority of a data center’s operating cost, and it’s plain to see why an investment in the efficiency of liquid cooling goes right to the bottom line. collapse


Mounting flat-screen displays.

Traditionally, computer monitors, TVs, or other video displays have simply been placed on a shelf or desktop. However, today’s flat screens are less stable than older vacuum-tube displays and should... more/see it nowbe secured to prevent tipping. Fortunately, most new displays meet the VESA standard, meaning they have a hole pattern on the back that fits any VESA standard mounting device such as a wall mount, desktop mount, or ceiling mount. This enables you to secure the display to prevent damage from accidental jolts and bumps. Additionally, a mounted display is less likely to be the object of theft. collapse


Black Box Explains...NEMA ratings for enclosures.

The National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (NEMA) issues guidelines and ratings for an enclosure’s level of protection against contaminants that might come in contact with its enclosed equipment.

There are many numerical... more/see it nowNEMA designations; we’ll discuss NEMA enclosures relevant to our on-line catalog: NEMA 3, NEMA 3R, NEMA 4, NEMA 4X, and NEMA 12.

NEMA 3 enclosures, designed for both indoor and outdoor use, provide protection against falling dirt, windblown dust, rain, sleet, and snow, as well as ice formation.

The NEMA 3R rating is identical to NEMA 3 except that it doesn’t specify protection against windblown dust.

NEMA 4 and 4X enclosures, also designed for indoor and outdoor use, protect against windblown dust and rain, splashing and hose-directed water, and ice formation. NEMA 4X goes further than NEMA 4, specifying that the enclosure will also protect against corrosion caused by the elements.

NEMA 12 enclosures are constructed for indoor use only and are designed to provide protection against falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, and dripping or splashing noncorrosive liquids. Protection against oil and coolant seepage is also a prerequisite for NEMA 12 designation. collapse


Black Box Explains...The fully accessorized rack.

After you choose your rack, consider how you’ll set it up and what accessories you might need.

Your rack may need to be secured. A typical rack has about a... more/see it now15"-deep base, providing some stability, but not enough to prevent the rack from tipping if heavy objects are mounted on it. To solve this problem, most rack bases can be bolted to the floor.

You also need to decide how to accommodate standalone equipment, which is not actually rackmounted or bolted to the rack. You can place small devices on a cantilevered shelf such as the RM001, however, you should place heavier items such as monitors on a center-weight shelf such as the RM377.

Small extras, such as Patch Panel Hinge Kits, can make your job easier. These hinges enable you to access the back of a patch panel simply by swinging it out from the rack. They’re particularly useful for racks in hard-to-reach areas.

If you need to mount both 19" and 23" equipment in the same rack, use a 23" rack with 23"-to-19" Rackmount Adapters to fit the 19" devices.

For a neater appearance, you can cover unused spaces in a rack with Filler Panels.

Cable management is also an important consideration. Our Horizontal and Vertical Cable Managers help you to route cables along the sides of racks, between racks, and to the rackmounted equipment. collapse


Cold aisle containment.

Cold aisle containment (CAC) is a cooling method that increases cooling efficiency and reduces energy costs in data centers.

This cooling method relies on the fact that most network equipment... more/see it nowand servers are designed to cool themselves by drawing air in through the front and exhausting it out the rear. To implement cold aisle containment, rows of cabinets or racks are arranged facing each other to form aisles, and cool air is routed between the rows. Equipment takes the cool air in at the front of the cabinet and exhausts it out the back into the room.

To keep cool air from mixing with warm air, row ends are closed off with an air-flow barrier. This barrier can range from makeshift arrangements of plastic strips to doors made expressly for this purpose.

Because cold aisle containment concentrates cool air at the front of equipment where it’s most needed, it’s an exceptionally effective cooling method. Cold aisle containment significantly reduces energy costs, lowering power bills as well as reducing data centers’ carbon footprints. collapse


Black Box Explains...Cabinet accessories.

Once you’ve chosen your cabinet, whether it be a customized Elite or an energy-saving ClimateCab, it’s time to add accessories for even more function.

Cabinets have two sets of rails,... more/see it nowfront and back, where you can mount shelves, trays, cable managers, and power strips.

Shelves
Shelves are an easy solution for storing things that aren’t rackmountable. The shelves attach to the rails; servers or other equipment sits on the shelves. Make sure the shelf has the weight capacity you need—some can hold hundreds of pounds. For easy access to components in your cabinet, choose a sliding shelf. There are also vented shelves that improve air circulation within the cabinet.

Although most shelves fit 19" rails, there are shelves that go on the less-common 23" rails. There are also brackets that can adapt many devices intended for 19" mounting to 23" rails.

Keyboard trays
Keyboard trays are space-saving solutions that also keep your data center organized. They slide neatly into your cabinet or rack—and out of your way—when not in use. And they usually fit into only 1U of rack space.

KVM trays
Further reduce clutter in your server room by using KVM trays that are 1- or 2U high mounted in your cabinet. Special features of Black Box® KVM trays include rock-solid construction, LEDs on the front panel for easy location in a darkened data center, and integrated KVM switching.

Front-panel controls enable you to use the buttons on a monitor bezel without pulling out the keyboard. Some trays have USB ports for access.

Cable managers
Cabinets usually have built-in troughs for cable routing, knockouts for cable pass-throughs, and tie-off points for cable management. You can also add horizontal or vertical cable managers to the cabinet’s rails to manage and route cables more efficiently. Cable managers control bend radius to protect cables from hidden crushes, kinks, and snags, and reduce maintenance time by keeping your cabinet neat and organized. Plus, properly managed cables help to improve airflow.

SpaceGAIN
If you’ve got no room to spare in your cabinet, think SpaceGAIN. You might not think of a patch panel as an “accessory,” but SpaceGAIN angled-port and angled patch panels are not your average panels. They free up valuable space and eliminate the need for horizontal cable managers. You save time and money by routing cables directly into ports. And SpaceGAIN high-density feed-through patch panels enable you to fit 48 ports into only 1U of rack space, with no punchdowns needed.

To save even more space, use SpaceGAIN 90° Right-Angle CAT5e/CAT6 cables. Their up, down, left, or right angles save up to 4" of space in crowded cabinets.

PDUs and UPSs
Control the distribution of power in your cabinet with a power distribution unit (PDU). A PDU can be basic or “intelligent,” with surge protection, remote management, or power and environmental monitoring. Integrate a PDU directly into an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for extra reliability.

Fans and blowers
Ventilation in your cabinets is critical for keeping vital equipment cool.

An enclosure blower draws cool air from a raised floor at the bottom of the cabinet and delivers it right across the front of servers or other network components. It fits on standard 19" rails and uses only 2U of mounting space. This high level of ventilation lowers the temperature of cabinet hot spots by up to 15° F. Lowering temperatures protects your electronics against failure caused by overheating, which may enable you to install more equipment.

Fan panels or fan trays direct maximum airflow with very little noise to heat-sensitive rackmounted equipment. Position them in your cabinet wherever you need them the most.

Most network devices take in air through their front panels and expel it out the back. Filler panels in unused rack spaces help keep cool air in the front of the cabinet where it can be used by the equipment.

Security
Most cabinets come with a lock and key, but more advanced options are available to provide a higher level of security. Keyless options include combination locks and biometric locks that read fingerprints. collapse

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