Server Cabinet VS Open Rack. Which Works Best For You?

Server cabinets and open server racks ultimately server the same purpose, but their differences do define some noteworthy advantages and disadvantages, which can make choosing between the two difficult. However, which best suits you will ultimately be up to the environment that you plan to put your cabinet or rack in as well as  your plans for usage and even your aesthetic preference. So, first things first, we’ll look at the potential advantages that open racks can offer.

The Advantages of Open Racks

  • For most, what first comes to mind when investing in any equipment is the COST. Typically, open racks are much cheaper than cabinets because they are simpler in design and thus require fewer building materials and labor to manufacture. There are definitely higher end open racks with features like wire management systems and sliding trays that may cost much more than your average lower to midrange rack, but for the most part you can look to the open racks for the price advantage. The simplistic nature of the open rack can be a virtue in its own right as well, which brings me to the next advantage –
  • HIGH ACCESSIBILITY is definitely something to consider when it comes to storing your rackmount chassis workhorses. Things like cabling when expanding or connecting new equipment, installing and replacing redundant power supply modules, and general server maintenance are all potentially much simpler tasks when you can easily access all sides of your equipment. While there are server cabinets with detachable and swinging panels for better access, you can definitely expect your average open rack to provide a more accessibility overall.
  • VISIBILITY is another thing that is often overlooked in the datacenter. With an open rack, your ceiling lighting can illuminate your equipment since there is no enclosure blocking outside light. This can also improve the maintenance process since there is no need to use a small flashlight to observe smaller details. Some server cabinets have combatted this problem with built in lights which, if powerful enough could potentially provide better lighting than that of a natural room, but of course you would eventually see it reflected in your electricity bill.
  • To even further the point mentioned above, the higher visibility and accessibility of open racks could also aid in accomplishing a much FASTER INSTALLATION than you could with an enclosed set up.
  • AIRFLOW is very important when it comes to high performance computing applications because servers function much more efficiently at cooler temperatures. When they are enclosed without any kind of air conditioning, much of the heat they produce is invariably stored with them. With open racks, that heat is allowed to dissipate throughout the facility instead of adversely affecting the equipment. In many cases, large data centers have notoriously found success with free air cooling alone, resulting in huge energy cost savings and a reduced footprint overall.
  • CHEAPER SHIPPING might not immediately come to mind as an advantage, however, if you are shipping heavy equipment like this, all those extra pounds do add up and you’ll see them in your shipping costs. Without the side panels, locks, padding, and cooling systems that you would typically find in a cabinet, racks are much lighter and consequently much cheaper to ship. And if you ship an open rack unassembled, the shipping will be even cheaper.

 The Advantages of a Server Cabinet

  • The PROTECTION of your equipment can be crucial depending on the applications you are working with. In many cases, it’s less about protecting the physical hardware and more about protecting data. In either case, security is an important issue that’s worth considering before you invest in any kind of enclosure. Server cabinets typically provide doors and panels with locks to keep non-associates from being able steal or leak data directly from your servers while simultaneously protecting your equipment from dust particles and the elements. While there are a some open rack solutions that allow you to add side panels and locks later on, it may be better to opt for a solution that’s made to pro-security standards from the get go.
  • There are a lot of small factors that can affect the overall performance of a data center that can go overlooked. For instance, some people work better in more organized environments and some can’t stand to work in messy ones. Cabinets can help to keep the overall AESTHETIC and feel of your data center tidy and cohesive. With an open rack set up, this would likely be a little more difficult to accomplish due to all of the exposed wires and messy equipment bits. One could even make the case that server cabinets do a better job of providing a “professional” demeanor to your datacenter that could benefit the company image or even employee morale.
  • If STURDINESS is an issue because of the intense weight of your equipment or the many varying edges and crannies amongst your racks, then a cabinet may be the way to go. There are open racks that are built to very high standards, but on average, the cabinet will likely be able to take a little more of a beating before your equipment is affected. So consider how harsh of an environment you’ll be putting your equipment in. if your servers are going to be around other industrial equipment with moving parts, a cabinet will likely be the better choice because you really never know what could happen.

While it may seem like the advantages sported by the open rack outweigh those of the cabinet, this is not necessarily the case. If you’re server is in a location where security is imperative, you should definitely opt for the cabinet. However, if the environment is one that supports the many benefits of an open rack, it may be worth sacrificing the looks and security of a cabinet for the efficiency, cost effectiveness, and ease of use that comes with an open rack.

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