Server rooms are enclosed spaces that provide a central point for organizations to manage their network server resources. The design of these environments must take into consideration network connectivity and power, room temperature control and ventilation, room and rack security, and fire and seismic protection.
Server rooms differ from two similar server environments: data centers and micro data centers.
Data centers can be envisioned as a building made up of many server rooms. However, in practice, true data centers differ from server rooms in the network bandwidth they must accommodate. Where a server room typically supplies just the resources needed for a single organization, a data center may support several organizations and thousands or millions of users simultaneously; therefore, they require highly specialized designs and equipment. Effectively, this places data centers in a class of their own.
Micro data centers are closer in concept to server rooms, but they are entirely enclosed portable units that can be used to expand an organization's data capacities on demand. Due to quick deployment benefits, micro data centers have served to expand data computing capacity in remote areas, to create capacity during natural disasters, and to provide temporary capacity when moving data centers.
Server Room Design Considerations
When approaching the design of a server room environment, the following characteristics should be considered: room specifications, equipment, fire prevention, and cooling. Design choices should be made in light of the server capacity that the organization needs and the total server capacity that the committed server room space will allow. Underutilizing space can cause inefficiencies, while overutilizing space can increase risks that can lead to added costs or even hazardous events.
- Room specifications include sound isolating walls, large doors for equipment access, antistatic floors to prevent electrostatic discharge, and a window count that aids room security and temperature control.
- Equipment considerations include the power density required (measured in watts per square foot or kilowatts per rack), seismic bracing and power grounding for server racks, room clearance necessary for equipment mobility (with the typical height being 9 feet), ceiling height that can accommodate duct ventilation above room clearance, and the inclusion of at least one phone in the room.
- Fire prevention considerations include the use of non-liquid fire suppression systems and the desired fire rating for server rooms, especially if the cabling runs through the ceiling or floors.
- Cooling considerations include floor air distribution or ceiling ducting that supplies cool air to hotspots or hot-aisle/cold-aisle configuration that promotes ventilation and cooling optimization.
Server Room Services
Server rooms will have other considerations regarding their day-to-day management and standard operating procedures, including the installation of new equipment and disposal of faulty or legacy equipment. The following areas outline the general best practice considerations that should be reviewed periodically.
- Server installation — Installations should include redundant power supplies, power and data cable separation, rated and certified cabling, rack weight distribution favoring bottom-heavy configurations, reduced data and fiber cable lengths, and fiber that doesn’t exceed the allowable bend radius.
- Network layout — Switches and other network gear should be logically placed to minimize cable lengths, and critical systems requiring redundancy should have extra switches and routers attached to redundant power supplies
- Server removal — All cables and server equipment should be removed and properly labeled before disposal while the asset database should be updated to reflect server removal.
- Emergency response management — Emergency policies should be defined and set in place, and emergency response procedure practiced. Communications policies must be in place in case of emergencies with emergency kits and fire extinguishers available on site.
- Procedure and policy development — Sitebooks that describe all policies and procedures should be available, and policies should be reviewed and updated annually.
- Management of site support tools and equipment — A record of site inventory should be maintained. Procedures should be established to account for equipment and tools and their maintenance.
Server Room Design & Infrastructure Options
Server room design options are abundant. As user demand for computing capacity increases and technology advances alongside this growth, the market will continue to see new vendors and technology offerings that cover general and specialized server room solutions. The following information will help you choose appropriate components to support your unique needs.
Racks, Cabinets and Enclosures
Server racks, cabinets, and enclosures provide a structure to secure your servers within the server room. They typically will be capable of housing uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units and other hardware. Choosing the Best Server Racks comes down to determining the size, type, cooling strategy, power distribution, and security needed for your organization's space.
Server rack sizes are primarily standardized and measured in rack units (RU or U), signifying how many servers it can accommodate. And there are several types availlable ranging from simple to robust including small racks, portable racks, standard-sized data center racks, and fully enclosed water- and dust-resistant cabinets.
Power: Redundancy and Distribution
Power system options aim to protect critical systems from harmful utility power fluctuations while maintaining continuous server operations. They encompass systems for emergency backup power, power distribution, and power monitoring. Common solutions include:
- Rack power distribution units — These rPDUs provide multiple power outlets to distribute electricity to several devices and have form factors to fit into nearly any server rack. Typically rPDUs include surge protection and more advanced models will offer power metering and remote power controls.
- Uninterruptible power supply — Known as a backup power system, UPS provides a buffer between main-line power and server devices. In the event of a power outage, these units supply power until the main utility power or an alternate source takes over.
- Power monitoring software — In organizations where downtime is a critical concern, using intelligent rPDUs, sensors, and data center monitoring software is essential for optimizing operations and ensuring business continuity.
It may be adequate for small server rooms to be cooled by a building’s comfort cooling system, but others that are larger or dense may require more precise thermal management using cooling solutions designed specifically for critical IT equipment. In the case of high-performance computing applications, liquid cooling systems may be the most appropriate solution.
Accessibility (Access Control)
Securing server rooms and controlling access is a critical concern for most organizations. But aside from locking the server room or cabinet door, there are many devices that help organizations protect their IT assets while also increasing productivity. KVM over IP switches enhance security by minimizing the need for on-site access, allowing administrators to control equipment remotely.