Peter Lishman at Retex UK looks at how flat packed 19” racks can cut costs and reduce the carbon footprint of Data Centre installations

When designing a new data centre the last thing that anyone will want to compromise on is the quality of the racking; the potential losses that can be accrued due to failures will easily dwarf any saving made by opting for budget components. However, it’s important to consider how savings can be made by reducing the associated costs, such as transport and installation time. Using innovative designs and high quality materials, some flat pack rack products can offer significant cost savings over traditional racks while delivering the same levels of reliability.

Alan Lewis, Business Development Manager for Retex UK, explains how flat packed 19” racks can reduce the carbon footprint of your Data Centre and reduce costs at the point of installation.

19” racks are the backbone of the modern Data Centre, they are used to support and house hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of servers and routers; equipment which is responsible for the storage and transfer of data which can be priceless. In total some racks house up to a tonne of electrical equipment which means that a product’s strength and stability is of greater importance than its potential cost saving. Steel and aluminium racks are favoured due to the inherent strength of the materials; the standard dimensions are 2215mm(42U) by 600mm by 1000.

Once installed the strength and size of the racks are a huge positive in terms of guaranteeing the protection of the electronics that they house. However, transporting the products to site and moving them into position can often prove costly and time consuming. If a standard rack has 1.3m3 of volume then approximately 50 racks can be carried by a single 40 foot lorry. It’s not uncommon for hundred of racks to be required for a single Data Centre installation, meaning that delivery costs quickly stack up – especially if the products have to be imported.

Racks can prove equally as awkward once they have been delivered onsite. Data Centres are often located in rooms with limited access or, more often than not, in a building’s basement. Negotiating corridors, stairs and narrow doorways will require at least two people at a time and can add days to the installation process as the products are moved into position. As we all know, time is money, and this extra installation time can quickly start to eat at the budget.

By specifying racks which are delivered flat packed, it is possible to take days off the installation process; while reducing delivery costs and the project’s overall carbon footprint at the same time. For example, the Logic2 from Retex UK offer a volume reduction of up to 70 percent during delivery, meaning that almost 170 units can fit in a single lorry; more than trebling the efficiency of each delivery load. Once delivered the racks can be stored out of the way until they are ready for installation, at which point they can be quickly moved into position and easily navigated through tight doorways.

The concept of flat pack racks is quite new to the industry and is still met with an inherent degree of skepticism as thoughts turn to wobbly coffee tables with the inevitable single unused screw left over. However, it’s important to remember that in an industry where reputation is king, no respectable company would risk its name by releasing an unreliable product. A good quality flat pack system should be made using the exact materials that one would expect to find in a traditional rack and offer the same load capacity and mounting options.

The Logic2 is constructed entirely from aluminium panels which makes it light, but extremely robust, while ensuring that it carries the aesthetics of a high quality product. Aluminium was chosen as it offers a 30 percent weight reduction when compared to a steel rack, thus further cutting the carbon footprint during delivery and making the product even easier to move around on site. Once it has been built the frame’s structural integrity is no different to a traditional rack and the product is able to bear over 1,500kg of static load.

Once concerns about the strength and stability of a flat pack rack product have been answered it is natural for attentions to turn to the assembly process: how simple is it and what are the risks associated with assembly mistakes. A product that is easy to move into position but then takes a day to build is clearly inefficient so it’s important that these questions are asked at the procurement stage to avoid nasty shocks later on.

As would be expected, every product available on the market today features a different assembly method, some better than others. One which requires five people to spend half an hour on a single rack quickly negates the benefits of the reduced delivery times. If a lot of small screws and joining parts are used it may also be possible to make a mistake during the build process so that a rack which looks complete is actually liable to failure. By asking for a live demonstration of how a rack is assembled it is easy to work out whether the product will offer the real term savings which are promised.

Retex UK has invested heavily in developing a flat pack system which is extremely simple to build, using very few parts. The product is precisely tooled so each panel fits together smoothly without the requirement for numerous fasteners along the profile edges. Just eight bolts are required and assembly can be completed by one person in less than five minutes, faster than any other product on the market. Because there are no minor stages in the assembly it is impossible to miss a stage out, meaning that once the product looks complete it is complete.

The original design considerations also extend to the way that the product is packaged. The packaging features two ‘legs’ on either side with enough width between them for a custom designed trolley to fit through. This facilitates quick and stable transport once on site.

The development of flat pack rack systems has allowed designers to make real term cost savings in an area where traditionally it has been challenging to do so without compromising on reliability. However, that isn’t to say that all flat pack systems offer the same savings potential. It is important that before any product is specified it is tested in relation to the equipment that it will housing to ensure suitability. It is also advisable that the packaged volume is measured (to ascertain a realistic estimate on the saving in shipping costs) and that the assembly procedure is well understood.

Peter Lishman is Managing Consultant at Retex UK

Retex UK