Rack and Stack: Transforming Your IT Environment
"Rack and stack" sounds like a catchphrase from an 80’s action film, but it’s actually nomenclature with an important meaning specific to today’s IT environments. If yours is an IT-involved enterprise and you’re not “racking and stacking,” it’s likely that your technology capabilities, and your ability to compete, are lagging behind market standards.
What Is Rack and Stack?
It’s important to begin with a definition: “rack and stack” refers to the assembly and deployment processes of enterprise IT and computer equipment, including servers, networking equipment, routers, switches, cooling units, cables, cable management trays, and more. “Racking” (also called rack integration) is the process of assembling computer hardware systems of individual server nodes and components into computer server cabinets, making them easy to connect to each other, simple to transport, and easy to maintain the equipment at the destination. “Stacking” is transporting and deploying the racks to the destination enterprise or data center.
Rack integration processes and operations are typically provided by a professional IT vendor and are equipped to deliver maximal resource efficiency, rapid deployment, and optimal reliability.
Rack Elevations: Successfully Engineering Your Environment
A rack elevation is an engineering diagram using an elevation view (i.e. side or front views, not plans) of an intended rack installation. This is a precise, customized document that depicts exactly how the equipment is intended to be installed within the equipment rack. A rack elevation is created in addition to block and circuit diagrams, and allows a suitably exact understanding of the intended installation. Precision is required to ensure the intended destination space fits the racks or can be suitably engineered to do so prior to delivery.
Having rack elevations is a critical requirement for a successful rack and stack. Not having a suitable rack elevation can lead to a variety of potential challenges during or after rack integration, including insufficient space to fit the racks, to allow for heat management and cooling, or to allow access for maintenance and servicing.
Rack Integration Solutions: Doing More with Your Space
IT environments for enterprises in the 21st century are evolving faster than ever. As businesses grow, they need to scale up their technology resources; as new innovations and solutions emerge, businesses need to invest in these new technologies, or be left behind. Rack integration solutions are one strategy enterprises can use to ensure they are able to keep pace with scaling needs.
Rack integration is an overall process of testing, organizing, mounting, and programming equipment to meet the needs of a customer enterprise. Rack integration solutions should encompass a staged process oriented toward the customer’s needs:
- Assessment of requirements, environment, and all elements unique to the customer.
- Engineering or selection of specific technologies, components, and solutions.
- Preliminary organization of project materials, personnel, and scheduling.
- Rack integration process, including node assembly, networking, power, cabling, and cooling options.
- Configuration processes.
- Testing and validation.
- Packaging and transport to destination.
- Deployment, power-on, and troubleshooting.
Rack engineering, assembly, testing, and programming occur at the rack integration vendor’s location, such as AMAX Rack Integration Hubs in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Rack installation, power-on, final validation and testing, and troubleshooting occur at the destination enterprise. Separating rack and stack into two discrete processes at two separate locations optimizes the efficiency of both processes, reduces complexity, speeds up successful deployment, and boosts customer satisfaction.
Prepping for a Rack and Stack
Understanding basic rack characteristics and tolerances is critical to ensuring a successful rack integration operation. There are seven important factors to consider:
- Rack Design: Installing equipment in a server rack without proper planning can be quite a precarious situation to be in since you may not have enough space for the equipment, cables, cooling options, and serviceability. Building a rack diagram with an equipment inventory can help you determine the optimal set up of the rack, or to find out a rack size that best fits your needs, budget, and environment.
- Power: Identify the power requirements and the thermal design points of the individual nodes in advance. Make sure you have correctly allocated the number of circuits, power distribution units, power backups, and the right power connectors, including single-phase or 3-phase power.
- Rack Dynamic Load/Weight Capacity: Dynamic load capacity is a crucial requirement to ensure you choose the correct rack for your equipment. Because the racking portion of the installation process occurs off-site and is then moved, the rack must have a dynamic load capacity that is sufficient to provide stability and protection while the rack is in transit. Insufficient load capacity can result in damage to equipment prior to installation.
- Rack Mount Equipment: Equipment specifications will determine the exact types and characteristics of racks to be used, however, there’s generally no limit to the type of equipment that can be mounted on a rack during the rack integration process. Virtually any component that’s intended to function at the destination – servers, networking equipment, routers, switches, fans and fan assemblies, cables, cable management trays, etc. – can be racked together and then moved. This creates an ideal turn-key solution that’s simple and fast to bring online at the destination. Some equipment is heavier than other types, so placing the heaviest equipment at the bottom is common sense to ensure rack stability. Be aware of the rack’s dynamic load capacity to ensure safety during transit (see above).
- Rack Height: Rack stability has a negative correlation with rack height, i.e. taller racks are inherently less stable and more prone to load- or movement-related failure. Racks that are stacked too high may also exceed the height of storage available in a freight truck or other shipping vehicle. A rack’s height must also fit not just within the intended space, but within any spaces that must be traversed to get to the intended space. Ensure that your rack height is suitable for vehicular transport, transport through the destination facility, and the final installation location.
- Rack Documentation: An essential requirement is to document the rack design, layout, and any changes. This includes keeping an inventory of all bill of materials with correct labeling of all servers, IT equipment, cables, and accessories. Having a complete inventory and serial tracking numbers will keep your maintenance and administrative teams organized and efficient down the road.
- Rack Install and Deployment: Preparation is key. Site surveys must be conducted to ensure any installation obstacles and requirements are reviewed prior to delivery. Technicians will be prepared to use the proper tools and lifts required for onsite deployment changes and additions.
Faster Deployment with Professional Rack Integration Solutions
Rack integration services by AMAX is offer fully integrated turn-key solutions that include engineering, design, assessment, validation testing, assembly, transport, and deployment. Investing in professional rack integration services pays dividends: enterprises benefit by saving on resources, accessing innovative technologies and capabilities, and ensuring reliability and consistency in their technology environment.
If you are ready to upgrade your capabilities with a rack integration, carefully consider your needs and options, plan through the process, and determine which solutions are most relevant and value-focused.