What is a rack?


A rack is a cabinet or frame designed to accommodate and secure various types of electronic device, servers, networking equipment or other IT components in an organised and easily accessible arrangement. These installations are essential for administration and operation of data centres, businesses and IT infrastructure in the telecommunications sector.

Racks also assist with the cooling of equipment, improving the flow of air through it. And the cabinet provides a structured environment for cable management and maintenance, making optimum use of the available space.

Definition and purpose

Metal frame racks come in a range of heights, widths and depths to accommodate different types of equipment and requirements. The height of a cabinet is often quoted in terms of the number of units (U) it can hold, each unit being 1 3/4” (44.45mm) high. This standardisation makes it easier to design and expand IT infrastructure.

Construction of server cabinets

There are two types of rack: open frame and rack drawer. Open frame racks do not offer any physical security or environmental protection, but do maximise air circulation. In contrast, the drawer construction creates a lockable container that protects the hardware against physical and environmental harms such as dust or unauthorised access.

 Key features of state-of-the-art racks

  • Ventilation and cooling: Racks are designed to optimise the air flow to stop devices overheating. Some cabinets also have their own integrated cooling systems.
  • Cable management: Efficient cable management is the key to maintaining an overview and simplifying maintenance. Many cabinet and rack designs feature integrated cable management mechanisms such as ducts and brackets.
  • Accessibility: Server cabinets provide easy access to equipment, making it much simpler to maintain them and troubleshoot.
  • Extensible: The modular format makes it easy to expand IT infrastructure by adding extra units when more space is required.

 Where racks are used:

Racks are used in many different areas. The commonest areas of use include:

  • Data centres: Server cabinets form the basis for the IT infrastructure in data centres and are used to hold servers, storage and networking components.
  • Corporate networks: Racks are frequently used to organise networking hardware and servers in offices and businesses.
  • Audio and video studios: Server cabinets are used here to hold and secure equipment used for audio and video processing and broadcasting.
  • Telecommunications: They play an essential role in organising telecommunications systems and links. The predominant size (width) of rack used here is 19”.

Racks are a key element of IT infrastructure as they provide organisation, security and efficiency in the installation and administration of technology and equipment. Their standardised and modular design means they can be flexibly adapted to the requirements and growth of organisations and technology environments.