To kickstart our series on rackmounted units, in which we will review NAS servers from Synology and Promise, as well as UPS systems and a server case from Antec, we have to start with the basics: a cabinet is to house all these. We looked around and the people from 4Cabling were gracious enough to give us the best one in store, a huge 100 kilo beast from Universal Data Solutions. This is a 25RU cabinet which means that you can house 25 rack units of gear. Most equipment like servers or switches take up just one rack unit. A server case might take up four and a UPS about the same. So, what are our impressions of this massive cabinet?
A bit of background
Sooner or later most businesses are going to look for secure solutions with lots of expandability for their servers and their whole network. Inevitably they will have to make decisions on going to the 19 inch route with their gear. This is the de facto standard and has been for ages. It simply means that any 19 inch piece of gear that you buy will fit in a standard server rack. And there is a surprising amount of kit available for the small to medium business and enterprise market. In selecting a proper case there are a couple of factors to consider: expandability and security. On expandability a good rule of thumb is to double the anticipated capacity needed. Case in point: we thought we could get away with a 12 RU or 18 RU cabinet but we are glad we chose the 25RU chassis. It looks like we will fill it up as well. This particular unit also has the ability to stack another one on top of it but also because of its depth of 1000 mm it is possible to install further units in the back of the cabinet as well, effectively doubling the number of units it can house.
An obvious question to ask with all that installed gear is how about ventilation and cooling? This cabinet has four ventilation fans mounted in the top which can extract a huge amount of air. It is also reasonably noisy but if the server cabinet is housed away from people, as it normally would be, that should not be a problem. With only a few units installed which usually have their own small fans as well, you can switch off the main ventilation fans.
This cabinet is probably the most secure and well built cabinet we have laid eyes on. For a start it is massive at 1.2 m high and weighs 100 kg. Empty. Fill it up with servers and a UPS and you can probably double the weight. It can easily handle a weight of 1000 kilo. This cabinet is extremely well engineered and put together with heavy black 2.0mm thick steel used throughout. The four sides are all lockable. The front door is slightly curved and meshed and the back two doors have a lockable handle as well. The two side panels can be taken off completely but are normally locked into position. Moving the unit into place is pretty easy as it is castored and has levelling feet to secure it in a certain position.
Inside there is one sliding tray which you can typically use to mount a keyboard and display unit as well as a fixed tray which can be placed anywhere you like. In our case we use it to shore up the two NAS servers we installed which showed a bit of sag at the back as they are fairly heavy units with four hard drives each and they are only attached at the front. At the back of the unit is a single strip of 6 power points with overload protection. This is probably not enough if you are going to fill it up as one of the power points is already taken up by the plug for the ventilation fans. In that case going to a UPS, which typically supplies quite a number of power points with its backup system, is the best way to go.
With 40 cage nuts supplied installing gear is essentially a 2 man job as equipment needs to be held level while being secured, After that, getting rid of cables is made easy with the built-in vertical cable tray and vertical front and back cable management. On the top and bottom of the rack you also have removable cable access glands.
Some review websites can wax lyrical about a computer case. A server case is not much different except in scale and when it comes down to it what really counts is the build quality, expandability and how secure it is. Ah, and another factor: value for money. I have already expanded enough on the first three qualities, how this is a superbly engineered unit, big enough to house the equipment for most businesses and we praised the fact that every side of the unit is lockable. Adding to its security is the sheer weight of this beast.
Lastly, it is value for money at around $1200? Yes, you can have cases and cabinets for a lot less as they typically start at around a few hundred dollars for the very small units. These can be wall mounted or just be sitting on a desk or floor. It may be all you need but if you have a decent amount of gear, including several NAS servers, a UPS and a switch a 25RU cabinet would easily be considered as well. If you include the need for security and expandability have a look at 4Cabling as they can cater for all these requirements plus some. The only consideration you might take into the equation is whether you need to have such a deep cabinet as we have. At 1000 mm it is as big as they get but most businesses would be happy to have a 600 mm deep server rack.
To sum it all up: this particular server cabinet might be a beast but it will be a trusted guardian to house all the valuable data of your business!
Highly recommended. The same goes for the excellent service from the folks at 4Cabling.
Undoubtedly we will have occasion to mention this cabinet time and again over the next few months as we talk about the installation and testing of the several NAS servers and other 19 inch gear that we currently have under review.