While network closets take on all shapes and sizes, they are essentially an arm of the data center. As an important component of all mission-critical environments, the network closet must be organized, protected and managed efficiently and effectively. IT professionals are charged with keeping the technology infrastructure functioning, even in the face of constrained resources and increasing complexity.
By selecting the correct rack and power infrastructure, paired with management hardware and software, organizations can keep their businesses up and running. In this article, we go beyond simple how-to advice for keeping IT equipment operational to discuss how efficiently managing, organizing and utilizing space in network closets can save time, money and limit risk.
The network closet: Same components, different purpose
Whether at a small company, a mid-market organization or a large enterprise, the components that make up a typical network closet are usually the same. Essentially, a network closet may include up to four primary elements; network switches, servers, storage and the associated virtualization and management software. The fifth element includes the integrated rack and power distribution element.
What differentiates one network closet from another is its fundamental purpose. For smaller organizations, a network closet serves as a computing hub, containing all the networking, storage and computing power needed to run the business. For larger organizations, a network closet – often operates in conjunction with others – provides a connection to a centralized computing hub in the form of a server room or data center. In effect, larger organizations rely on network closets to provide a gateway to a centralized server room and then route information to a data center for storage. When building out a new network closet or assessing an existing closet, it is best to think in terms of three essential purposes: organization, protection and management.
Given the tight confines of a network closet, proper organization of equipment is essential for efficient operation and ongoing maintenance. Organizational equipment that can add order to a network closet includes open-air racks (two- or four-post models), accessory racks, wall cabinets for cable equipment, strain relief bars and cable management options for organization and airflow management purposes. Equipment racks with a two-post open-frame design are most common in network closets, but for deeper and heavier equipment, consideration should be given to using a four-post adjustable depth equipment rack. Standard racks are typically 84 inches tall, but if space is at a premium, larger (96-inch) racks might be a consideration for maximum space utilization. It is important to use racks that are compliant with the Electronic Institutes Alliance (EIA) 310E standard for 19-inch or 23-inch rack mounting to ensure uniformity and ease of installation. In addition, racks that include rack mount unit (RMU) markings permanently embossed on the rack rails make the equipment installation faster and more efficient. Last but not least in importance is the weight capacity of the equipment rack. It is recommended that the equipment rack carry at least a 1,000 pound static weight capacity to ensure a stable support environment for expensive datacom servers, network switches, etc.
While rack design is important, when outfitting a network closet it is critical to keep servers, switches and storage equipment safe and secure. To aid maintenance efforts as well as streamline troubleshooting, the rack area should be kept clear of cluttered data, power and network cables. For this reason, cable management is critical. A vertical cable manager should be placed on the end of each rack. One horizontal (1 RMU) cable manager is recommended for every 24 patch cables and one (2 RMU) horizontal cable manager for every 48 patch cables in a rack. Proper cable support is vital to ensure maximum performance and facilitate efficient modifications, additions or changes to network cabling systems.
Reliability, continuous uptime and efficiency are critical with network closets, and properly protecting equipment will save time, save money and avoid common risks. Solutions that provide protection include an uninterruptible power system (UPS) to provide emergency power in the event of a utility failure, a rack power distribution unit (PDU) and hot-swap maintenance bypass units that enable power to be switched directly to equipment to perform maintenance or replace a UPS.
If redundancy is a requirement, consider automatic transfer switches (ATSs) that automatically transfer power from a primary power source to a secondary source in the event of a power anomaly. Protection can be further enhanced through the use of intelligent rack PDUs to monitor and manage power at the outlet level. Integration of UPSs and intelligent rack PDUs with management software allows IT professionals to view and control the environment from any computer connected to the network server. If extended runtime is a requirement, additional battery modules can be added to the UPS.
Organizing a network closet and protecting the equipment delivers efficiency and reliability up to a point, but to truly optimize a network closet, organizations require effective management capability. Through the use of the proper hardware and software management products, IT staff can effectively manage the network environment. Management software can provide remote management capabilities at both the UPS and PDU level, and for intelligent PDUs, up to the outlet level. Management hardware includes outlet-level current and power meters as well as temperature and humidity probes. These meters and probes enable environmental monitoring and notify IT staff when power or temperature fluctuations fall outside of the generally accepted tolerance.
No matter how big or small an organization, the network closet is an important element that keeps the business running. By keeping reliability and redundancy top of mind, organizations can equip their network closets with the right hardware and software to maximize uptime, improve efficiency and reduce operating costs. With a complete power management solution, IT managers can achieve the highest return on investment, highest reliability and best performance demanded by today’s computing environments.
Eaton will be showcasing its latest power management integrations with converged and hyperconverged infrastructure solutions at VMworld August 30 to September 3, including a new collaboration with SimpliVity to deliver the industry’s first power management solution validated to operate with a hyperconverged infrastructure. Show attendees are invited to stop by booth #1445 to learn about how Eaton is transforming software integrations with network, server, storage and virtualization components from industry leaders like EMC®, Cisco and NetApp, into commercial alliances to help users better control and command environments while also mitigating risk.
Jeff Kennedy is the Business Value Marketing Manager for Eaton’s Distributed Power Quality, Transactional Power Products group and is responsible for driving consistent strategy and messaging for the Eaton portfolio of solutions. He began his career with Eaton in 2009. Prior to moving into his current role he held positions in customer service, service sales, and IT channel product sales with Eaton. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management with a concentration in marketing from North Carolina State University and an MBA from North Carolina State University.