Servers Designed For The Real World

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Extreme conditions call for extreme servers


When most people think about servers and the rooms in which they live, they think of serious air-conditioning, dust-less raised floors, and row after row of pleasantly blinking lights to let everyone know that all is well. Sometimes in the real world of IT, the world where the data and applications actually live, there are no clean floors or carefully controlled temperatures.

A new generation of servers designed for the real world is emerging. With some tweaks, you can make the most adverse conditions tolerable for your hardware. So how do you deploy servers in those situations and have the confidence that they’ll be reliable for months or years on end?

1. Room To Breathe

The first parameter to consider is temperature. It is remarkable how many servers manage to function in small, unventilated closets with no real airflow and an in-closet temperature that would be reasonable in a sauna. 

Modern blade servers tend to be designed around convection cooling as well as fan-enhanced forced air. If you know that a server will be deployed in extreme conditions, don’t stuff it full of processors or storage boards. Allow the air to flow unimpeded between the components. Modern servers are capable of keeping themselves cool as long as internally air is allowed to flow.

2. Rack Space

Give some thought to how components are stacked in the rack, as well. In many cases, storage is placed at the bottom of the rack because it’s heavy and the stability is good. In extreme conditions, it can be worth looking for secondary sources of stability — bolting the rack to the floor wall — while the heat-generating spinning disks are situated above the processor units.

With careful rack construction, physics can work in your favor with convection currents adding to the airflow and heat dissipation.

3. Stop The Spinning

Another consideration is whether it might be possible to eliminate spinning disk storage altogether and replace it with solid state drives. This is one of the tradeoffs that will involve thinking about:

  1. The data that will be generated and used on site

  2. The budget for the system

  3. Whether network connectivity is available to make cloud or central storage a realistic possibility

4. And The Rest

Other considerations will include networking, backup, and connectivity for any on-site instrumentation that will be part of the deployment. With everything that is connected to the system, look for jacketed connectors and ask your vendor about rack fan units that can keep air moving in the warmest situations.

One more thing: monitor the environment. There are a number of possibilities for environmental monitoring and reporting, possibilities that range from those that are standard in blade server frames to separate temp/humidity/vibration reporting units. Current Technologies has been designing hardware networking and storage racks for 20+ years. Our experienced and knowledgeable team can deliver you a set up that will survive any conditions long into the future

After designing the server and rack properly, then keep an eye on the conditions inside the rack. There’s no reason why your server can’t survive in the most demanding circumstances.

Functionality In Every Climate

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