Rack Like A Pro

Rack Like a Pro in the Data Center

To compete in the fast-paced data center industryor even to stay afloatrequires professional operations. To that end, DC owners and managers focus primarily on technology, data security, and the preservation of uptime. What can be forgotten is the work on the floor being handled by the operators: the methodology in handling all of the remarkable tech and equipment that makes up data center infrastructure.

Servers must be refreshed, decommissioned, removed from racks for repair and consolidation, and replaced. Day-to-day DC ops are physically demanding as IT pieces are moved into and out of cabinets.

The pros keep these physical challenges in mind at all times, along with a game plan on how best to attack them. Here’s what they know, and why ServerLIFT data center lifts and attachments can give you the same expert advantage.

Professional vs. Semi-Pro

Taking things to the next level in the data center can mean having even the slightest of advantages over the competition. There are many data center techs out there doing their best to make things work with the hand they are dealt. They are tackling projects one by one, teaming up to lift each piece of heavy equipment by hand.

This strategy is doable only because it has to be, but it’s not ideal—and it comes with a cost. These unsafe practices go from “every once in a while” to frequent occurrences, creating risk for employees, downtime, and project delays.

Of course it is both smart and necessary to focus on digital data safety (e.g., security and malware) or related issues such as fire danger and suppression, safe cabling, and creating a DC emergency evacuation plan. Data center operators correctly focus heavily on these concerns—but they must also address the prevalence of physical injuries caused by the unsafe handling of dangerous and expensive equipment.

By the Numbers

One piece of equipment can weigh hundreds of pounds. Fully populated racks can weigh thousands. OSHA limits manual lifting to 50 pounds in a warehouse setting, and 30 pounds in an office setting. In some DCs, operators will team up to remain (technically) within recommended lifting limits (three people to lift a 150-pound server, four to lift a 200-pound server, and so on).  But in 2016, there were more than 150,000 non-fatal back injuries reported by workers across multiple industries in the United States.

If you’re unsure about manual lifting limitations, the CDC has a NIOSH equation app that can be downloaded here.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), commonly known as ergonomic injuries, accounted for 34 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in 2012 . . . Workers who sustained MSDs required a median of 12 days to recuperate before returning to work, compared with nine days for all types of cases . . . MSDs involving the back required a median of seven days to recuperate and accounted for 41 percent of the MSD cases.”

Additional data from the BLS shows that companies where employees do not make direct contact with objects (in other words, they use automated lifting equipment rather than manual lifting) show a nearly 50 percent decrease in overall injuries. Setting up a server rack or installing a server is safest when an operator has access to automated resources to protect their back, neck, and arms.

Aside from the sheer physical burden of moving servers, there is also the danger of working on and around energized equipment. Arc flash incidents are responsible for one to two deaths daily. Two-thirds of these electrical injuries result from the inappropriate action of a worker, i.e., contact with equipment that should never be handled manually. The average incident costs $1.5 million for all associated medical treatments.

Streamlining Ops to Rack Like a Pro

The first step toward streamlining data center operations is mastering the three essential functions. ServerLIFT created the data center lift, and it is still the only brand of lift that does all three completely and safely.

To Rack Like a Pro, our server-handling lifts also do everything else you would ever need within the data center. Our lifts are designed to get servers and other parts from the loading dock to the rack, quickly and without fail. Here is how we go the extra mile:

Unboxing: ServerLIFT lift extensions attach to any ServerLIFT device to remove and lift equipment weighing up to 1,000 pounds (454 kg) from their boxes or off of pallets.

Angling: ServerLIFT solves the awkward problem of installing or removing servers from rails with J-shaped slots, allowing an operator to support a server at the perfect angle to drop it into these types of rails. That is a feature that isn’t found on any other lift on the market.

Positioning: ServerLIFT solutions can be configured to support a heavy piece of equipment all the way down to the floor, or all the way up to the top of a 62U rack (112 inches, or 284.5 cm).

Traversing obstacles: Each ServerLIFT data center lift has nearly an inch of ground clearance, allowing it to move over ramps, cables, and doorways/elevator thresholds.

Installation: The slim, open ServerLIFT design allows for installation and removal without the dangerous pinch points and closed, restricted-access frames found on other lifts.

The right tools can take your operations from risky to safe, and from inefficient to streamlined. See how purpose-built ServerLIFT data center lifting equipment compares to other brands, and see why the pros know that nothing but ServerLIFT solutions will do.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The top data center professionals are productive and efficient without wasting precious CapEx and OpEx. They aren’t doubling up on shifts, missing days due to sprains and strains, and they certainly aren’t risking damage to valuable property. They are working smarter by choosing operational assets designed to keep data center tasks flowing.

Avoiding injuries is one of the best ways to negate unnecessary spending, as demonstrated by OSHA:

  • MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) account for 34 percent of all lost-workday injuries and illnesses.
  • Employers report nearly 600,000 MSDs requiring time away from work every year.
  • MSDs account for $1 of every $3 spent for workers’ compensation.
  • MSDs each year account for more than $15 billion to $20 billion in workers’ compensation costs. Total direct costs add up to as much as $50 billion annually.

Each lift requires the help of only one operator, creating savings in shift management. A ServerLIFT lifting device also provides crucial protection for sensitive, expensive equipment.

Because the data center is entirely unique from a warehouse or an office environment, each asset utilized within should be designed specifically for DC use. Any operations plan created for the data center must reflect these unique features.

Doing things “the old way” is easy, but experts note a cultural change occurring in data centers globally. A top-level professional ops plan will help to keep operators and other staff safe. Equipment moves, whether big or small, will be streamlined and efficient. And finally, by preventing injuries and protecting servers, considerable time and money will be saved. Click here to contact ServerLIFT and Rack Like a Pro.

We invite you to join us and learn to Rack Like a Pro with our brand-new Data Center Safety Group. It is powered by experts in the field, and fueled by a shared interest in improving safety and efficiency in data centers worldwide.

ServerLIFT and Digital Realty Join New Data Center Safety Group

ServerLIFT and Digital Realty Join New Data Center Safety Group

In partnership with Digital Realty, ServerLIFT is announcing the creation of a key forum on LinkedIn: the Data Center Safety Group. Its mission is to serve as a collaborative space for the sharing and exchanging of ideas on topics surrounding data center operations, best practices, improving working conditions, and developing compliance with global safety standards.

The Data Center Safety Group provides a comprehensive discussion space on the issue of workplace safety in data centers worldwide. These data center safety statistics demonstrate a need for change. Some of the most common injuries in the IT industry include strains and sprains of the arms, shoulders, and back. According to OSHA, MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) account for 34 percent of all lost-workday injuries and illnesses.

Arc flash incidents are responsible for one to two deaths daily in the United States. Two-thirds of these electrical injuries result from the inappropriate action of a worker, e.g., contact with equipment that should never be handled manually. The average incident costs $1.5 million for all associated medical treatments.

The world is becoming more conscientious about these issues, and many professionals in the industry are searching for a smart and comprehensive way to keep their operators safe. The legacy data center is no longer an optimal space for reliable function and service, and is ready to be modernized. The Data Center Safety Group is part of this industry-wide push toward progress.

Members are encouraged to join and share their expert opinions on data center safety, injury prevention, development of new global standards and regulations, and more. As the DC space grows more dense and data-rich, the goal of the new group is to protect the people who operate them and keep them all connected.

To join, please visit the Data Center Safety Group on LinkedIn.

PRWeb Press Release can be found here.

 

Data Center Equipment Safety Matters: Here's Why

Data Center Equipment Safety Matters: Here’s Why

Historically, the data center industry has been resistant to stagnation. Year over year, it sees tremendous growth and advancement. The Cisco Global Cloud Index shows sustained trends in both data center virtualization and cloud computing, with growth in nearly every associated sector. This positive news extends through 2021, when “data center storage installed capacity will [have grown] to 2.6 ZB, up from 663 EB in 2016, nearly a four-fold growth.”

Growth is always good news, but the way work is conducted in the data center needs to keep pace with it all. With more work comes greater challenges—not just in volume, but also in the practical logistics of operations. Keeping pace with the physical handling of servers and other rack-mounted equipment, for example, is now potentially more dangerous than ever.

The primary concern in this area is still safety—the prevention of physical incidents, including accidents and muscle strain. Lifting and handling capacity remains up for debate, even when it should not. Operators are often lifting more by hand than they should—or need to. Many times, they are also tasked with lifting using devices that were not designed for the data center.

Other top concerns include electrical work; heat; working at height; transitioning to new hardware and equipment without adequate training; operating at lower cost (leading to tired workers on longer shifts); DC density increasing; zombie servers, and the pressure to move or eliminate legacy systems.

We spoke with data center safety expert Walter Leclerc of Digital Realty about these growing industry demands and the need for a greater focus on safety.

“The demands for DCs are exploding, and the need for efficiency and risk aversion is paramount. DCMs must protect the safety of employees, customers, contractors, and visitors by reducing operational risk, while ensuring that their facility is running properly and uptime is maximized. DCMs need to have effective policies in place, procedures to follow and the right equipment to do the job safely,” Leclerc asserts.

Thankfully, a number of proactive practices are also becoming more common. Proper planning, including the right solutions for equipment transportation and installation, can eliminate so many of the risks we’ve mentioned.

Following data center regulations and utilizing a purpose-built Assisted Lifting Device (ALD) addresses many of these concerns. The only lift that makes sense in a data center space is one designed specifically to solve all its many unique safety challenges.

What follows is a safety-focused comparison of the choices presented as good options in the market, including ServerLIFT devices. The results are primarily based on a commissioned functionality and product performance review—via Arizona State University—of the ServerLIFT SL-350X hand-cranked data center lift, alongside a Racklift device and a standard manual warehouse lift. We will take a deep dive into how those results speak to the safety of all three devices.

Obstacles and Tipping Points

Some of the hidden dangers in data centers include floor obstacles like cord covers, door thresholds, and ramps that put rolling equipment at risk of tipping.

ServerLIFT

With nearly a full inch of ground clearance underneath its machines, ServerLIFT’s machine passed ASU’s competitive testing without issue. They navigated every floor obstruction with ease. The onboard server remained stable, and the unit didn’t show a hint of tending toward tipping.

ServerLIFT devices have a tested tipping point of over 150% of full rated load at the edge of its fully extended platform shelf—all while keeping itself stable without being attached or tethered to anything.

Racklift

Racklift machines have ground clearance of only half an inch. During testing (a cord and a mat were placed in the lift’s path) the device could not pass over the obstructions without immediately tipping, with or without a server on board. Had the operator not put all of his strength into pulling the machine back from tipping, the server would certainly have fallen off and been damaged.

Even absent of floor obstructions, the Racklift has a tipping point (with the shelf extended) of only 23% of its rated load. Catastrophic accidents are a real and ever-present possibility.

Warehouse Lift

The warehouse lift and Racklift results were identical for cord and mat obstruction testing. The warehouse lift was unable to pass over either without tipping, with or without a server on board.

Server Installation and Removal

The most pivotal aspect of server handling is the transfer from the ALD to the rack, or vice versa. At this most tenuous of moments, the stability of the lift and being able to work with a clear and safe line of sight to the equipment is of utmost importance.

ServerLIFT

The ServerLIFT device stays stable during the installation and removal process. It does not shift, pinch hands, or strain arms and backs. Results from Arizona State University show the installation test was both easy and successful.

These units are all self-supporting and stable. This is due, in part, to a heavy-duty steel frame and stabilizer brakes that actually lift the back wheels slightly up off the ground to prevent rolling during an equipment transfer.

Racklift

The installation test using the Racklift took longer, and was deemed “uncomfortable, difficult, and awkward.” Ratchet straps are needed in order stabilize the unit by securing it to a rack or cabinet. If a cabinet has a door, there may be nowhere to affix the strap hooks, leaving the Racklift completely unsecured.

The four-post frame, combined with cross-bracing members and an exposed lifting cable, make the Racklift a device that is replete with dangerous pinch points precisely in places where the operator must work. Catching hands, clothing, or hair—resulting in a potentially catastrophic injury—is not just a real possibility but a constant concern. Within many data centers, these structures are so obtrusive that accessing the servers and mounting rails to facilitate an install is nearly impossible.

Also, when transferring new servers onto the device from a workbench or by hand, the Racklift’s greatest flaws are exposed. Its wheel locks are no match for absorbing the force imparted to it by the heavy server, causing it to move and roll at precisely the moment you need it to remain still.

Warehouse Lift

This was another very complicated and difficult installation for operators, beginning with the lack of brakes. A foot placed on the lift held it relatively still, but there was constant worry that the server would fall and be damaged. A hand also had to be used to hold one rail in place as the other was adjusted, because both could not be assessed visually at once.

The warehouse lift suffers the same fate as the Racklift in terms of stability. There is no scenario in which is can be adequately stabilized other than by having a colleague brace it with their own body weight, which is unsafe.

Visibility and Ergonomics

An ALD within the data center can be an essential tool, provided it doesn’t get in your way. Ensuring the ALD makes the task at hand easier and not more complicated is critical to keeping you and your payload safe.

ServerLIFT

ServerLIFT devices are designed with a longer but narrow structure that does not compromise visibility. Issues with obstructions are also, therefore, a non-issue. The placement of the winch and other primary mechanisms keeps these things out of the way of the operator for a worry-free server install. As ASU reviewers noted, it was also the only lift that could be nested closely with server housing for easy transfer. This keeps the chances of equipment sliding or falling to a minimum, keeping operators safe and protected.

Handles and their placement also received high marks. According to the review team, they provide better ability to pivot and provide control, while the braking system and easy-to-reach pedals were noted for their simplicity of use and navigational superiority. Ergonomic features such as these shield the user from surprise adjustments, and keep movements smooth and natural, preventing injuries.

Racklift

In testing, the Racklift device did not adapt well to narrow aisles, leaving the least amount of space on either side for the operator. In addition, the structure of the Racklift forces the operator to reach through the frame to make adjustments. Less space for users can lead to dangerous tight squeezes for the torso, and any awkward positioning raises the chances of getting hurt.

The ASU study highlighted some other issues: “Major obstacles include the thick metal band surrounding the middle of the Racklift, making mid-level installations incredibly difficult and uncomfortable.” Arms and hands were also put at risk due to minimal clearance pinch points in areas where access is required.

The handles were only located on one of the three sides of the Racklift device; in certain positions, the lift crank became an obstacle. This would happen every time the operator was attempting to utilize a server slot at the same level as the crank. Having to come down to or up to the server slot, instead of coming in straight, forced the operator to lose balance and stability.

Finally, operators had the biggest issue with the brake pedals. They referred to contact as “uncomfortable,” and stated that the brakes were very hard to use. In a number of positions, the locks were hidden from sight entirely and have to be activated by hand. The tester had to hold the rack in place to be certain it would not move. Any chance of a lift moving during server transfer means a drop or other accident can happen at any time.

Warehouse Lift

Originally, the light and spare frame of the warehouse lift appeared optimal for line of sight during ASU’s testing. That proved to be inaccurate due to the small amount of space allotted to the operator between the server and the lift frame. In fact, it led to an injury for the operator. Their finger was jammed due to low visibility.

The brakes could not be evaluated because there were none. Braking the machine consisted of holding it in place with a foot several inches off of the floor. Again, movement during installation or removal without an alternative stabilizing mechanism is an incident waiting to happen.

As expected, these features would be ideal for the less precise handling of boxes in a warehouse environment, but fall well short when it comes to working with sensitive, expensive servers in a data center.

The Evolving Data Center

Inside the data center, experts already know that there are limits to manual lifting that should not be ignored. As the analysis demonstrates, there are also major issues with attempting to use a non-purpose-built or poorly designed lifting devices within these same confines.

In every category, the ServerLIFT data center lift demonstrated not just superior but exceptional, and hence safer, results. It is a device designed specifically to solve every safety problem involved with handling servers in data centers. More importantly, it does not solve one safety challenge only to create new ones.

Neither Racklift nor warehouse lifts meet the standards put in place to protect the people who maintain some of our most expensive data center real estate. Warehouse lifts, in particular, are deeply unsuited for the DC environment.

ServerLIFT solutions are the right and only safe choice:

  • For protecting your staff in any situation
  • For protecting your equipment and prevent expensive accidents
  • Designed appropriately for the data center
  • Certified to meet safety standards globally

Click here to review the full study done in partnership with Arizona State University.

alaska data center lift

ServerLIFT Donates Data Center Lift to University of Alaska

ServerLIFT recently partnered with the University of Alaska to improve safety and efficiency in the data center by donating a brand new ServerLIFT [SL-500C] server handling lift.

ServerLIFT’s Director of Sales, Steve Bashkin says, “The donation will enable this small team to make significant progress. While serving major clients, the University of Alaska is run by a professional staff. Up until now, they’ve been forced to complete projects with the help of an inadequate, warped data center lift. This team will now complete their assignments on time and move their heaviest equipment quickly, without additional problems.”

“For the first time, we will be agile enough to complete installs with just one operator on shift,” says University of Alaska’s Derek Ward, Manager, Office of IT – Data Center Operations. “We have faced a reduction in resources, specifically staffing. We are very grateful for this assistance from ServerLIFT and their donation.”

Ward first got in touch with Bashkin and the ServerLIFT team at the Data Center World Conference in Texas. “I didn’t even know that a lift existed until that first conversation,” notes Ward. “This reliable, pristine data center lift will allow us to execute installs across all shifts and meet important delivery goals.”

The largest data center in Alaska is a 12-thousand-square-foot facility located on the University of Alaska campus. Built in 1993, it houses 110+ racks and serves clients across the state, including the Alaska Satellite Facility, Alaska Earthquake Center, and Alaska Volcano Observatory along with multiple University of Alaska affiliates.

Up until recently, transportation, positioning, installation, and removal of servers has been difficult for this small data center team.  A combination of few staff numbers, insufficient lifting equipment, and manual lifting created a data center environment where projects were delayed and operators and servers were at risk for injury. Use of an old manual-assisted lifting device that maxed out at 400 pounds meant that multiple operators and dangerous physical exertion was needed for every move. In addition, the lift platform they were using was no longer stable.

(Original press release can be found on PRWeb.)

The Current State of Data Center Safety

The Current State of Data Center Safety

Data centers are unique spaces that come with unique challenges. Each DC is designed differently depending on its geographic location, service providers, data storage types, etc. Cooling and power concerns are typically the biggest expense and therefore always top of mind. As a result, most feature restricted spaces that include narrow aisles and/or overhead/ground-level obstructions. And, no matter how they are configured, the handling of servers and other expensive, sensitive equipment is an often-overlooked challenge.

Rack-mounted data center devices are expensive, large, and oftentimes heavy. They should never be lifted by hand. 30 pounds is the limit for a person carrying items in an office or in another non-physical role. In a warehouse or industrial setting, the recommended limit for manual lifting of equipment from OSHA only goes up to 50 pounds. In any case, with dimensions of at least 17 inches wide and 30+ inches deep, even the lightest of rack-mounted servers are awkward to handle, physically speaking.

Some of the most common injuries in the IT industry include strains and sprains of the arms, shoulders, and back. The probability of an incident and its potential severity while conducting this type of work in a DC is significant,” notes Walter Leclerc, Director, Environmental Occupational Health and Safety at Digital Realty.

The Data Center Cultural Shift

The good news is that a global cultural change is taking place in data centers. The baseline expectation for safety standards in DC facilities is starting to shift quickly.

“Early on in the history of data centers . . . there was a lot of bootstrapping and there weren’t a lot of established standards. And one of the things we are seeing is that the industry is maturing. Facilities are starting to consolidate into similar kinds of standards across the world. A baseline expectation of facility safety and standards for most data centers has developed within the DC cultural consciousness,” says Brandon Budd, Vice President of Operations at ServerLIFT Corporation.

Expectations are increasing for both physical and digital standards. On the physical side of the spectrum, there is a greater focus on safer working conditions, improved compliance, and the reduction of bodily injuries. New occupational health and safety standards are being crafted in response. Informed and demanding customers now have a better understanding of the significant workplace hazards hidden within a data center.

“The cultural change has been brought on by incidents, an increased enforcement posture by government agencies, a better understanding in the workplace of safety hazards as well as rules and regulations, design improvements, and an overall culture shift in the DC industry,” says Leclerc.

Data Centers at Risk

Manual lifting carries great risk for both the operator and their employer. Injuries drive up the data center costs while limiting growth and expansion capabilities. There is a battle over the short supply of technical talent as it is, making losing a tech to a preventable injury or downtime even more costly. Aside from the significant threat to employee safety, there is also the potential damage to storage, processing, and distribution equipment. These risks are no longer going unnoticed in the industry.

A strategic roadmap to better safety standards, improved productivity, and cost reduction in the data center should include a physical solution that offsets the dangers and costs of injuries and accidents.

Safety First: Mechanical Server Handling 

A mechanical data center lift brings risk levels down to nearly zero when used properly. It is a safety-focused solution, designed for use in an IT infrastructure environment.

“I can see how a tech might not want to bring out the lift just to move one 50-pound  server. But it would only take one time for a tech to trip or drop that, and then they have to replace a $25,000 piece of equipment that only weighed 50 pounds,” says Budd.  

A server handling lift does the following for data center operations:

  • Speeds up work/efficiency
  • Server support with precise positioning and angling
  • Complies with global regulations

Getting Results with an Assisted Lifting Device

Digital Realty Manager of Remote Hands Services John Scoggins describes the process his operators used to move equipment before they purchased an ALD (assisted lifting device): “When installing a heavy piece of equipment into a cabinet, we would install a temporary equipment shelf using use the two-man rule while we lifted the equipment onto the shelf, to install it at a high-level RU position. Once the equipment was secure, we would remove the shelf.”

Scoggins says their first ALD was purchased when they had to install heavier customer-provided equipment. He says they were also getting requests from customers asking if they had a server handling device to assist with installations. Size and mobility were their top concerns. They now use it for server, switch, and router moves. “It sure makes the job safer and easier when they do use the ALD,” says Walter Leclerc.

Does Every Data Center Need an ALD?

“Any DC that has multiple racks and definitive aisles is probably big enough to benefit from it,” says Budd. “Even if they only need to install or remove a piece of equipment once or twice a year, the risk or chance of getting hurt or damaging something is high enough that it is worth making a one-time capital investment into something that prevents or mitigates against those risks.”

Leclerc says the ALD purchase feeds into that overall cultural change he is fostering within his company, Digital Realty. “I think this is really about the well-being of our employees, our safety culture, and continual improvement.”

Priority and risk variables come into play for safety issues, and they need to be considered before an ALD purchase. DC design is another factor: “How high are the racks? How narrow are the aisles? Is growth part of the business plan? Purchasing something that can do it all is really the number one thing,” says Budd.

Best Practices Leave Manual Lifting Behind

Many DC managers and owners have already made the switch to reduce costs and increase safety. The creation of a safe environment is weighed against budget and often results in a shift in overall mindset.

“What an ALD can do for a DC in terms of efficiency, cost reduction, morale of the staff, is all really just a bonus. At the end of the day, it tends to be a win-win for everyone,” says Budd.

Spanish-English Translations Now Available on All Data Center Lifts

ServerLIFT Corporation is announcing the immediate availability of bilingual Spanish-English documentation related to all data center lifts and accessories.

Introduced to expand customer access, and in compliance with European regulations, the newest additions to the ServerLIFT library of bilingual product instructions, operator’s manuals, spec sheets, brochures, and decals are critical for assisting an increasingly global audience. Spanish is the official language of 20 countries, and claims the second largest number of native speakers in the world.

“This announcement reflects the globalization efforts of ServerLIFT. Bilingual information will help maintain the high safety standard with a Spanish-speaking user base that is not familiar with the solution. It will make ServerLIFT more accessible to [our] region and will support  [our] education effort,” says Arieh Broide of RLA Power in Costa Rica.

ServerLIFT products streamline data center operations and provide a safe choice for transporting, positioning, installing, and removing server equipment. ServerLIFT has developed Spanish translations for products including:

Server-Lifting Machines:

  • ServerLIFT SL-500X: The best all-around solution with easy, one-touch electric lifting.
  • ServerLIFT SL-500FX: The ideal choice for facilities with wide aisles.
  • ServerLIFT SL-1000X: The premier safety-certified data center lift.
  • ServerLIFT SL-350X: A premium hand-cranked electric lift alternative. Great for infrequent moves.

Add-Ons:

  • LE-500X and LE-1000X Lift Extension: Removes equipment from boxes and off of pallets.
  • RL-500 Riser: Ideal for reaching taller server racks.
  • RS-500X Rail Lift: Angles equipment into and out of drop-in rails.

All of the documentation detailed above is available immediately by request. ServerLIFT users can obtain Spanish language documentation by calling (602) 254-1557 or by emailing sales@serverlift.com.

The release of Spanish-English bilingual product instructions, operator manuals, and more follows the well-received news of the availability of French-English translations for ServerLIFT equipment.

(Original press release can be found on PRWeb.)

 

Streamlining the Data Center: IT Infrastructure Trends

Challenges for IT operations teams are growing. One of the ways many data center leaders are attempting to deal with these IT infrastructure struggles is by streamlining the DC environment.

Your team may be aiming for the elimination of redundant files or data, improvement of data integrity or security, or decreasing maintenance and operations costs. All three make sense. In this blog post, we will review the top data center trends for streamlining your unique DC environment.

No Data Center is the Same

There is no “typical” data center, says Phil Isaak of Isaak Technologies, and every space is unique. He notes, “Clients have different types of hardware, different mixes of hardware, and that affects the design of a data center.”

There is no typical solution, therefore, for the following issues:

  • Virtualization
  • Dropping IT budgets
  • Process automation

Isaak says it is important to ask some standard questions before considering a change: “What are the project requirements? What’s the best solution for that particular client, based on their specific data center needs . . . and operating practices and budget? Obviously, the budget is a primary consideration.” Often, budget considerations in conjunction with the issues listed above lead a client to the streamlining options below.

Moving to the Cloud

As you know, transitioning to the cloud has become a popular choice in recent years, particularly for an enterprise with budgetary concerns. Typically, it entails the reduction of your own IT department in order to shift some or all of your existing data storage needs to an off-site third-party provider.

Despite the popularity of the cloud, many business leaders opt to retain some infrastructure in-house and utilize a hybrid approach. Isaak sees a multitude of strategies in his consultation work: “What is the level of reliability and redundancy that they need, in a cost-effective manner? Again, it all comes down to the cost. What is the cost of the service versus the risk of the reliability of the service?”

The Edge Data Center

Another “on-trend” data center strategy is the establishment of “edge” data centers. Interestingly enough, the edge data center has become popular as a direct result of the cloud. Microservice architectures allow streamlining as a certain portion of a business’s applications are moved to the edge of the network.

Tom Bittman writes that the agility achieved by the cloud is only restricted by two physical limitations: the “weight” of the data, and the speed of light. In contrast, an edge data center moves processing back closer to the end user and eliminates latency. The edge DC trend also translates to a significant increase in the number of data centers.

Corporate entities, in particular, are looking at the edge setup to determine if it is a good fit. In the corporate world, Isaak says, an edge DC is either a backup to an unreliably large network, or it is solving the high cost of a large network. Originally used primarily by global content providers and telecommunications companies, its impact is now spreading.

Micro Data Centers

Like ripples in a pond, the edge market is creating new demand for the micro data center. As the name indicates, a micro data center is small and usually contained within a standalone rack, complete with cooling, security, and an incorruptible power supply. This modular server system can be shipped and installed fully assembled.

The racking system utilized within a micro data center minimizes its physical footprint and creates a more eco-friendly setting for data storage and processing. It does far more, however, than just eliminating cable clutter. One Florida solutions provider asserts that companies looking for fast growth are opting to move to the cloud, but businesses experiencing steady growth are often opting for edge and micro data center solutions. See what Dell EMC has to say on the topic in the video below.

The Eco-Conscious Choice

IT is also on the cutting edge of creating more environmentally friendly options in IT infrastructure design. This is a change brought about by a desire to do the right thing, and by the cost savings involved.

Energy costs have exploded for data centers. “They’re energy hogs,” says Isaak. He says he is surprised, for example, by the number of data centers still running at 70℉. “It surprises me because it’s such a simple operational change— [all it requires is] to increase the temperatures slowly [and not drastically], and see if there’s any change in performance or reliability.”

Improvements in tech can allow the data center to shrink, but power and cooling concerns often remain the same. Going “green” is one streamlining tactic with big impact for DCs. “They’ve always been good candidates for implementing newer, greener technologies,” says Isaak. “The payback is much faster than if you implemented that same technology in a retail or office space somewhere, or in any other type of building.”

What is Next for the Data Center?

What is ahead in 2018 and beyond? Isaak says data center operators will be feeling more pressure as the level of service expectations rises for IT groups. Most will opt for the hybrid approach, mixing cloud and traditional DCs to find an appropriate mix based on the business or corporation’s tolerance for risk.

Other trends that will contribute to data center streamlining:

  • Higher-density equipment
  • Liquid cooling
  • Taller racks
  • Preconfigured racks
  • Layout/operating procedures

The physical footprint of servers and other equipment will continue to drop. Liquid cooling is developing quickly, and it is primarily being utilized to cool the chip layers within servers. Taller racks (well above 42U) and preconfigured racks are options Isaak sees more IT managers exploring to save space, go green, and automate processes if a company is busy deploying DCs across the globe.

The Streamlined Data Center

Doing more with less is not an original concept for the data center, but it is now exacerbated by calls for optimized data processing with diminishing geographical room. Server rack components are getting smaller, but they still contain the same or greater computing power, and it must all still be kept cool and organized.

Combined with lower IT budgets and concerns about a warming planet, the data center is getting smarter, not bigger. Isaak says that is the challenge: “Identifying the best way to configure all of our applications, all of our hardware, the network, and then the physical infrastructure to support that.”

Saving money and saving the planet are just two of the more practical perks of streamlining  data center and IT operations environments. We continue to move steadily toward a dynamic, scalable DC with capabilities far beyond the traditional siloed space.

Why Not Go Higher? The Trend Toward Taller Racks

A data center manager hears this question often: “How can we safely expand IT operations without having to move to a new facility?” One of the easiest and most cost-effective answers appears to be to move upward.

The 42U rack is a data center industry standard, but in the next few years, we expect server rack dimensions to change. As data racks become more affordable, they are also getting taller. A recent Global Data Center Rack Market report shows shipments of 48U racks have already well outpaced 42U racks, and data center rack units as tall as 51U show strong sales growth. Intel put in 60U racks at their Santa Clara data center a few years back. They went from 25,000 square feet supporting 5 megawatts to 5,000 square feet for the same amount of support.

Here at RackSolutions, data center product design and custom product design is our specialty. We’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. Our primary concern—far beyond what’s trendy—is in the creation of a data center rack that will make sense for you, the customer. The source of our inspiration often comes directly from our clients and their needs.

Any innovation that increases server capacity while still allowing access to power and cooling systems is going to be of interest to us. We are also responding to concerns regarding the smartest usage of available space. That’s why we began creating custom racks far taller than the industry standard.

Taller Racks and Maximizing Square Footage

The need for increased rack height first became apparent about a decade ago. A customer came to us with concerns about their East Coast facility. It was a large space, with a great deal of headroom over the racks. They asked us why we couldn’t go any higher. With the industry standard holding steady at 42U, we went up to 55U in our first design.

Since then, a number of clients have also requested taller racks. We usually stop at about 58U, but that is only due to shipping restrictions. The internal height of a semi is 110 inches. Once a rack gets any taller, it has to be laid on its side. This leaves a lot of unused space in the trucks. Logistically, it’s not the best use of space or money. It also means racks any taller than 58U cannot come pre-populated with equipment, which has the potential to severely impact the customer’s installation time, costs, and ultimately their bottom line.

Challenges Posed by Taller Racks

The first problem we often face is the door of the facility itself. For many data centers, the door needs to be reframed to accommodate taller racks. Equipment must also be highly specialized to get staff up to the top portions of the rack safely. Finally, there is the cooling issue. How does the client circulate cool air that high?

We’ve come up with a number of solutions to address these issues. Data center personnel often place lightweight components near the top of supersize racks. Components such as switches, patch panels, and fan trays do not require frequent access. Servers and heavier equipment remain at the bottom, which increases rack stability.

Most data centers are built on raised flooring, on 24×24 panels. Clients add grates for directed airflow, and we supply baffles to send cool air back downward. Directing conditioned air properly is a major consideration when taller racks are installed. Airflow must often be increased in the data center before new racks are placed and IT equipment is rearranged.

The hot-aisle/cold-aisle configuration is another solution we see frequently. Cabinets alternate two fronts and then two backs, channeling hot air away. Proper cooling techniques are particularly important with tall racks. Temperature-controlled infrastructure goes a long way in saving you from unnecessary headaches down the road.

The Tall Rack Trend

Taller racks make sense to a large number of our clients. In fact, just three years ago, racks 50U or larger made up more than two-thirds of our total sales. We expect to see an even greater number of customers coming to us in the future for customized racks of greater height.

Those who have moved ahead with installation have immediately seen the cost savings per square foot. The higher power density and the ability to pack more servers into limited space offer tremendous advantages. Those servers are becoming more powerful every year. When we speak to someone planning a relocation or a new data center, it is all about utilization of floor space and placing as many servers on each rack as possible.

It’s unlikely, however, that racks will continue to grow taller. Once you go above 70U, safety and convenience are both affected. While our racks are highly durable and meet the strictest industry standards, they are still limited by weight capacity.

If you are considering extending your server racks and taking advantage of taller ceilings, these are all issues to consider. Overall, this trend is allowing expansion for data centers in a highly cost-effective manner. We expect to see many conversions to taller racks in the near future.

Additional Information from ServerLIFT

ServerLIFT server-handling products are uniquely qualified to tackle the demands of a taller rack.

Our data center lifts include an extendable frame which can safely support servers being placed into racks up to 65U (120”) high*. Yet, when retracted, our lifts are compact enough to navigate any facility – even through standard height doors and elevators. Lightweight and rugged, the ServerLIFT data center lift improves employee safety by alleviating potential back strain and maintaining even alignment of heavy equipment.

Positioning for both hot and cold containment aisles is simple and straightforward with our RL-500™ Platform Riser. It is designed for low ceiling clearance, and will help you to navigate obstructions with ease.

ServerLIFT provides custom solutions for data centers across the world. Whatever your specifications and design needs, we can assist.

* Recently we even developed a special order model that allows operators in specialized facilities to lift and install servers to the top of 90U (nearly 14 ft.) custom racks.


ServerLIFT often invites thought leaders in the server, product solutions, and rack storage industries to contribute to our TechLIFT blog. The opinions in these blog posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the ServerLIFT point of view.

server-installs-level

SmartTILT™ Platform Allows for Micro-Leveling of Server Equipment Installs

Data center server and IT equipment handling solution manufacturer, ServerLIFT Corporation, announces its newest innovation for advanced positioning of equipment in the data center. Increasing variations in floors, racks, and server positions dependent on weight have created new challenges for the ServerLIFT user community. The SmartTILT Platform provides user-controlled micro-adjustment of the ServerLIFT equipment platform up or down to perfectly level any server with rack posts or attachment hardware.  

This is the second SmartTILT Platform offering by ServerLIFT. Due to high demand, a side-loading platform version of the SmartTILT technology is now available as a standard feature of the SL-350X® Hand-Cranked Lift, and on the company’s flagship model and the best-selling data center lift of all time—the SL-500X® Electric Lift.

SmartTILT Platform Provides Fine-Tuning for Server Adjustments

The new SmartTILT Platform allows the operator to change the angle of the platform by turning an adjustment screw. The adjustment screw is conveniently located under the platform away from the server equipment. Using an included removable ratchet, the platform and server angle can be changed up to .5 degrees down and 1.5 degrees (or more) up.

ServerLIFT’s Vice President of Operations, Brandon Budd, explains the advantages of a micro-leveling adjustment system available directly on the platform itself:

“We think that this is a real game-changer for the industry. With our products, data center professionals now have the freedom and ability to position their equipment exactly where they need it in all three dimensions . . . the machines themselves can lift servers up as high as needed, our Rail Lift attachment allows them to angle servers towards the rack for drop-in rail installs, and now the SmartTILT feature means that they can have their servers angled perfectly parallel to the racks. This kind of product versatility and focus on solving the precise challenges data center professionals face every day is not something you can find anywhere else in our industry.”

Put the SmartTILT Platform to Work Today

The newest SmartTILT Platform is currently available as an exclusive feature with the SL-350X Hand-Cranked Lift and the best-selling SL-500X Electric Lift. Call ServerLIFT at (602) 254-1557 to request a demo or contact our solutions team today.

(Original press release can be found on PRWeb.)

 

Data Center Migration Relocation Checklist

Data Center Relocation / Migration Checklist

Updated for 2018:

Data Center Knowledge recently identified exponential data growth as a critical challenge for the IT industry. More organizations are being presented with the idea of migration or data center relocation. Some of the key reasons a company will plan for a data center relocation include potential cost savings, the need for more physical space, and security/compliance issues. Regardless of the reasons, data center relocation is a high-risk operation and an overwhelming task to tackle.

Data center moves and migrations have become an inevitable fact of life. Modern data centers typically move three to five times, with 53% of companies expecting to do so within the next few years, according to senior project manager Shawn Simon of National Computer Warehouse Services, LLC. (NCWS).

The most common data center moves, according to Simon, involve two types of workers:

  1. In-House Staff. In-house staff may move servers daily, but they are often not prepared for the difficult and fast nature of a massive server deployment during a data center migration. They need to prepare for it in concert with professional movers, and remain involved in the planning process.
  2. Professional Data Center Movers. The professional mover takes care of the physical move, including servers that have been packed and prepared as freight, and all of the big items such as cabinets and furniture. You need to make sure you connect with an experienced partner who has extensive knowledge of the intricacies encountered during a move. Doing so can make the difference between a smooth transition and a potential nightmare.

Involving in-house staff, including management, budgeting, and facilities maintenance, can help to avoid surprises from outside your IT staff and facilitate company-wide buy-in. Early in the process, establish and practice coordinating efforts between the in-house staff and professional movers.

While all data center migration projects require some custom decisions based on the needs of your company, there are standard best practices that will make relocation easier. Here is a quick migration checklist of important aspects that should be considered before the move:

Data Center Relocation / Migration Checklist

1) Project Planning

  • For large moves, choose an experienced, certified moving company with data center experience.
  • Establish and practice coordination between the data center movers and in-house staff.
  • Develop a budget and a Data Center Relocation Blueprint, including:
    • Planning time and effort
    • New facility acquisition, evaluation, and renovation costs
    • Additional staff
    • Overtime
    • Relocation company cost
    • Risk identification
    • Contingency plan
    • Possible server replacement or diversification
    • Cooling requirements
    • Infrastructure acquisitions and modifications
    • Wiring/cabling
  • Schedule all deployment and re-installation events
  • Verify inventory of all hardware and virtual system elements, noting:
    • Equipment condition
    • Size
    • Weight
    • Serial numbers
  • Review and update the full system diagram

2) Pre-Deployment Documentation, Warranty, and Insurance Coverage

  • Review equipment manufacturer warranties
    • Current coverage
    • Possible limitations affecting installation or removal of servers
  • Verify and review internal insurance policies
  • Verify and understand mover’s insurance coverage terms and conditions

3) Pre-Server Deployment

  • Prepare the target server area
    • Network connectivity
      • Ensure Internet connectivity
      • Layout/server room diagram
      • Network cabling
      • Power management
      • Rack placement
      • VPNs
      • DNS
    • Prepare in-house deployment participants
      • Safety procedure training
      • Training session/rehearsal of the server deployment protocol, including:
        • Labeling and packing equipment
        • Cables
        • Rails
      • Pair experienced partners with first-timers
      • Remind staff of availability and importance of the data center lift for server:
        • Installation/removals
        • Transportation
        • Positioning
      • Arm leaders with program timelines and server room diagrams
      • Advise staff and clients of upcoming system downtime
      • Schedule project manager to work onsite from start through sign-off

4) Preparing In-House Hardware and Software

  • Review and update diagrams and lists for each rack
    • Verify in-cabinet physical availability
    • Verify safe stored backup copy
  • Verify 100% backup of virtual assets
  • Identify and schedule upgrades to perform during migration
  • Inventory all hardware and virtual system elements
  • Identify and remove unnecessary abandoned cables
  • Charge and inspect server lift
  • Verify truck availability
  • Verify availability of impact, moisture, and other hazard-resistant packing materials

5) Execution of Server Deployment

  • Mirror power requirements when changing cabinets
  • Shut down servers, storage, and networking devices according to established protocol
  • Inspect, clean, repair, and re-inventory all items prior to reloading racks
  • Project manager sign-off on hardware list and scheduled tests once all items are deployed and inventoried

Conclusion

Fortunately, while the actual move is fast and furious, it is also short-lived. Most of the effort lies in effective planning. Help yourself and your coworkers to avoid as much stress as possible by investing time and effort in collaborative planning. Keep in mind that skillful coordination and cross-device collaboration will minimize potential difficulties that could arise. Bringing in a specialized consultant or migration coordinator for the project can help your team avoid common pitfalls.The payoff will be well worth it.

Of course, you will keep safety at the forefront during the entire process. A safe move is a smooth move, which, in turn, reduces the risk of downtime, injury, or damaged equipment. And start early – it’s worth taking the time to do it right.