As the company I am working for is moving to a larger location, the entire IT infrastructure needs to be relocated and upgraded. One of my current tasks is to plan and design our new server room. As the server room is the ‘brains’ of the entire business, my job is both challenging and exciting. So for this post, I wanted to share some of my research and plans.
First, let me provide some basic knowledge about server rooms. When it comes to the environment for server room equipment, the location itself is just as important as the actual hardware. The electrical equipment and IT devices work best in and with certain conditions and factors, such as ambient room humidity, room temperature, the HVAC system’s performance, and rack level intake and outtake airflow. These parameters have a significant role in the performance and reliability of equipment stored in the server room.
Ensuring that these factors are maintained can be accomplished through sensors placed in the room. These sensors should keep a running indication of the temperature and humidity of the room, servers, and racks. They should also provide alerts when the humidity levels or temperature get too high or low. Airflow is another area that needs attention, especially when dealing with server racks. Proper intake and outtake airflow need to be maintained using adequate cooling, fans, and sensor placement.
Besides environmental factors, the security of server rooms is another crucial part of designing a server room; they should be locked and monitored using video cameras, and events such as fires should be planned for accordingly. By automatically securing, creating an air-tight seal in the room, and then spraying a flame-retardant spray, the room can be safeguarded from fire damage. It is important to note that the proper type of fire suppression system should be used to avoid damaging the electrical equipment. Gas based systems such as the FM200 are quite useful. By following these steps, creating and maintaining an effective and secure server room should be quite simple, saving time and money.
Now, I will share my ideas and plans for my company’s server room. The dimensions of the server room that I have to work with are limited, so every bit of space must be optimized. Additionally, the room and equipment must have a high level of scalability for future growth. For this reason, an enclosed and self-cooled server rack would be ideal, if funding allows. However, a wall-mounted rack with a separate cooling system might be just as beneficial, enabling easy installation and plenty of room for growth. Traditionally, the standard server rack is 42U; 19 inches wide, rack mounts 17 ¾ inches apart and whose rack height is measured in 1.75-inch increments. One of my favorite server cabinet enclosures is the Rack Solutions Rack-151 with 18U-42U of rackable space. This product features adjustable mounting, universal square holes, 1680-pound capacity, and Dell, HP, and IBM compatibility. Included with this rack would be a 42U Vertical Cable Management Bar, and a few filler panels.
Next, there are several items needed to achieve adequate airflow and temperatures. The RACK-151-FANTRAY-6 is designed for installation at the top of the Rack Solutions Rack-151 server rack. By using this product’s six 120mm exhaust fans, hot air will be blown away from the server rack, creating an exhaust for the rack and also minimize dust with its integrated dust filter. Additionally, this product’s fans operate at a quiet 32dBA rating. Paired with a separate fan or cooling system at the bottom of the server rack, proper airflow going into and away from the server rack will be achieved.
The design of the server room will hopefully include its own HVAC system with individual controls; however, if it doesn’t or even does, an additional, separate cooling system will be needed. Relying on just the cooling from the building’s HVAC system is not recommended; if the system fails or power gets cut from a storm, the server room’s temperature will increase rapidly, potentially damaging expensive equipment. For a separate cooler, I am still going back and forth with ideas as the plans for the building are still in the works. Due to the room’s small size, either a rack-mounted cooler, portable server rack cooling unit, or a wall mounted air conditioning system would work. In a previous post I reviewed the GEIST OpenGate Room Smart Fan System, and while this product is now not available, something similar to it might be perfect for our needs. A wall-mounted, smart cooling system would be my recommendation, offering customizable alerts, modes, and power settings. This would also free up space on the server rack, providing more room to grow.
Finally, security and power will be the next items discussed. For security, the door to the server room will be locked and monitored by using video cameras. Power will be supplied through a separate power panel and a UPS (uninterruptable power supply), offering greater fault tolerance. The electrical system should have a shunt trip for emergency shutdown, and the rack will have proper grounding and seismic bracing. Additionally, the server room should have fire, smoke, water, and humidity sensors.
As this project continues to progress, I will update the designs and plans for the server room. Hopefully, this project will shed some light on how to accomplish planning and building a server room from the ground up.