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Black Box Explains...Choosing cabinets and racks.



Why cabinets? Why racks?


A cabinet is an enclosure with a door (or doors); a rack is an open frame. There are several things you... more/see it nowshould consider when you’re deciding whether you need an enclosed cabinet or a rack.


First, what equipment will you be putting in it? The extra stability of a cabinet might be important if you’re installing large, heavy equipment like servers. But if you need frequent access to all sides of the equipment, an open rack might be more convenient. And if your equipment needs a lot of ventilation, you’ll have to be more careful about the air supply if you enclose it in a cabinet.


Second, in what environment will you be installing it? If the environment is open or dusty, for example, you might need the extra protection of an enclosed cabinet. On the other hand, a rack might be perfectly adequate in a well-maintained data center.


Don’t neglect aesthetics. Will customers or clients see your installation? A cabinet with a door looks much neater than an open rack. When you’re trying to create a professional image, everything counts.


Finally, there’s security. An enclosed cabinet can be locked with a simple lock and key.


On the other hand, there are advantages to open racks, too. It’s easier to get at all sides of the equipment. But you’ll have to take other steps to keep the equipment secure-keeping it in a locked room, for example.


Both cabinets and racks come in all sizes and in many different installation styles. Some are freestanding; some are designed to be mounted on a wall. Others sit on the floor but attach to the wall for more stability.


If you need to set up your installation in a hurry, you can order a preassembled cabinet. You’re ready to load your equipment as soon as the cabinet arrives.


Choosing the right server cabinet.

Consider this quick checklist of features when choosing a server cabinet:

  • High-volume airflow. The requirements for additional airflow increase as more servers are mounted in a cabinet. Additionally, manufacturers are making servers narrower to increase available space. But with more servers in the same amount of space, heat buildup is frequently a problem.
  • Extra depth to accommodate newer, deeper servers.
  • Adjustable rails.
  • Rails with M6 square holes. Although 10-32 tapped and drilled holes are sometimes still required, newer hardware has M6 square holes. Know which type of mounting equipment you’ll need.
  • Front and/or rear accessibility.
NEMA 12 certification.

The National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (NEMA) specifies guidelines for cabinet certifications. NEMA 12 cabinets are constructed for indoor use to provide protection against certain contaminants that might come in contact with the enclosed equipment. The NEMA 12 designation means a particular cabinet has met the guidelines, which include protection against falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, and dripping or splashing liquids. Protection against oil and coolant seepage is also a prerequisite for NEMA 12 certification.


Organizations with mission-critical equipment benefit from a NEMA 12 cabinet. Certain environments put equipment at a higher risk than others. For example, equipment in industrial plants is subject to varying degrees of extreme temperature. Even office buildings generate lots of dust and moisture, which is detrimental to equipment. NEMA 12 enclosures help to ensure that your operation suffers from as little downtime as possible.


Choosing the right rack.

Before you choose a rack, you have to determine what equipment you need to house. This list can include CPUs, monitors, keyboards, modems, servers, switches, hubs, routers, and UPSs. Consider the size and weight of all your equipment as well. The rack must be large and strong enough to hold everything you have now, and you’ll also want to leave extra room for growth.

Most racks are designed to hold equipment that’s 19" (48.3 cm) wide. But height and depth may vary from rack to rack. Common rack heights range from 39" (99.1 cm) to 87" (221 cm).


Another measurement you should know about is the rack unit. One rack unit, abbreviated as U, equals 1.75" (4.4 cm). A rack that is 20U, for example, has 20 rack spaces for equipment, or is 35" high (88.9 cm).


Understanding cabinet and rack measurements.

The main component of a cabinet or rack is a set of vertical rails with mounting holes to which you attach your equipment or shelves. When you consider the width or height of the rack, clarify whether they are inside or outside dimensions.

The first measurement you need to know is the width between the rails. The most common size is 19 inches with hole-to-hole centers measuring 18.3 inches. But there are also 23-inch and 24-inch cabinets and racks. Most rackmount equipment is made to fit 19-inch rails but can be adapted to fit wider rails.


After the width, the most important specification is the number of rack units, abbreviated “U.” It’s a measurement of vertical space available on the rails. Because the width is standard, the amount of vertical space is what determines how much equipment you can actually install. Remember that this measurement of usable vertical space is smaller than the external height of the cabinet or rack.


One rack unit (1U) is 1.75 inches of usable vertical space. So, for example, a rackmount device that’s 2U high will take up 3.5 inches of rack space. A rack that’s 20U high will have 35 inches of usable space.

Because both racks and the equipment that fit in them are usually measured in rack units, it’s easy to figure out how much equipment you can fit in a given cabinet or rack.



Do you need a fan?

Even if your cabinet or rack is in a climate-controlled room, the equipment in it can generate a lot of heat. You may want to consider adding a fan to help keep your equipment from overheating. It’s especially important to have adequate ventilation in an enclosed cabinet.


Getting power to your equipment.

Unless you want to live in a forest of extension cords, you’ll need one or more power strips. Some cabinets come with power strips built in.


If you need to order a power strip, consider which kind will 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 your equipment uses bulky power transformers.


Surge protection is another important issue. Some power strips have built-in surge protection; some don’t. With all 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 keeps your equipment from crashing during a brief blackout or brownout and gives you enough time to shut down everything properly in an extended power outage. You can choose a rackmount UPS for the most critical equipment, or you can plug the whole rack into a standalone UPS.


Managing the cables.

Your equipment may look very tidy when it’s neatly stacked in a cabinet. But you still have an opportunity to make a mess once you start connecting it all. Unless you’re very careful with your cables, you can create a rat’s nest you’ll never be able to sort out.


There are many cabinet and rack accessories that can simplify cable organization. We have Cable Management Guides, Rackmount Cable Raceways, Horizontal Covered Organizers, Vertical Cable Organizers, Horizontal Wire Ring Panels, and Cable Manager Hangers-all designed to help you manage your cables more easily.


Plotting your connections in advance helps you to decide how to organize the cables. Knowing where the connectors are on your equipment tells you where it’s most efficient to run cables horizontally and where it’s better to run them vertically.

The important thing is to have a plan. 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.


Asking for help.

When you’re setting up a cabinet or rack, you have a lot of different factors to consider. Black Box Tech Support is always happy to help you figure out what you need and how to put it together. For cabinets and racks solutions, call our Connectivity Group at 724-746-5500, press 1, 2, 2.

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Black Box Explains...NEMA 12 certification.

The National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (NEMA) specifies guidelines for cabinet certifications. NEMA 12 cabinets are constructed for indoor use to provide protection against certain contaminants that might come in contact... more/see it nowwith the enclosed equipment. The NEMA 12 designation means a particular cabinet has met the guidelines, which include protection against falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, and dripping or splashing non-corrosive liquids. Protection against oil and coolant seepage is also a prerequisite for NEMA 12 certification.

Organizations with mission-critical equipment benefit from a NEMA 12 cabinet. Certain environments put equipment at a higher risk than others. For example, equipment in industrial plants is subject to varying degrees of extreme temperature. Even office buildings generate lots of dust and moisture, which is detrimental to equipment. NEMA 12 enclosures help to ensure that your operation suffers from as little downtime as possible. collapse


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…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...10-32, 12-24, and M6 rails.

The rails on cabinets and racks typically come with one of three mounting options: 10-32, 12-24, or M6.

The 10-32 and 12-24 options are round holes found on drilled and tapped... more/see it nowrails. You’ll find 10-32 openings on cabinets, while 12-24 holes are more commonly found on relay racks and frames. However, exceptions do exist. It’s very important to find out which type of mounting option your equipment requires before you order a cabinet or rack.

M6 holes are square, rather than round. M6 rails were developed to hold rackmount equipment, and you will find them on most server cabinets.

What makes M6 rails so popular on server cabinets? They’re adaptable. With just one cage nut, you can change a square hole into a round one. That gives you much more versatility in your equipment and mounting choices.

If you have a wide array of equipment, such as rackmount servers, hubs, routers, and patch panels, your best bet is a cabinet with M6 rails. It will accommodate the rackmount servers, and the other equipment can be mounted on those same rails using cage nuts.

If you’re unsure what type of cabinet, rack, or frame is best for your application, contact the experts at Black Box Tech Support. They’ll be glad to help you find the right enclosure for your equipment. collapse

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