Rack/Enclosure Purchasing Guide

Mark Tracy, the director of marketing for Middle Atlantic Products, a provider of rack and enclosure systems, recently sat down with Security Technology & Design magazine to discuss what end-users should be looking for in the typical rack/enclosure system. Here is what he had to say:

ST&D: What options/features should an end-user be looking for in a rack system, and how does that differ from what an integrator/installer looks for?

Tracy : From an end-user's perspective, the rack systems' primary function is to house and protect the electronic components of the system. The end-user is always concerned about reliability, and is often interested in aesthetics, depending on the location of the system.

In order to ensure reliability and satisfy the client, the integrator must take many factors into account when designing and installing the enclosure system. Obviously, the rack must be tall enough and deep enough to accommodate the electronics, but a complete rack system must provide four essentials:

* Structural and aesthetic considerations: Is seismic or other certification required? The rack must be agency compliant where required (seismic, UL, etc.), and must provide the proper structural support for the equipment (weight capacity, rear support provisions, etc). It must also integrate aesthetically into the environment in which it is installed, whether that's a lobby or an equipment room. And do not forget to leave room for expansion.

* Thermal management: Does the rack provide adequate ventilation for the installed equipment? Today's NVRs and DVRs generate more heat than ever, and designing proper cooling into the enclosure is critical. Many integrators will additionally provide total waste heat information in BTU's to the HVAC contractor for system balancing – to ensure the ambient temperature of the room is adequate.

* Cable management: How will signal and power cables enter the rack, and how will the installer keep it organized inside? Sophisticated security systems include many different types of wire and interconnect cables, each of which has different cable management requirements. The rack system must include multiple options for cable entry: top, bottom or rear, depending on the building wiring. Proper internal management of cables is critical to system performance, and essential for effective troubleshooting and for changes or additions.

* Power distribution: How many circuits and what type of power is required? Electrical power distribution and control is best provided by the rack manufacturer, and integrated into the rack design. Although most components may not draw large amounts of current, many units have redundant power supplies that require multiple circuits, require remote switching and notification, or simply require strategically placed outlets to minimize power cable management. In all cases, power distribution must be as space-efficient as possible.

The final benefit for both the end-user and installer are features of a rack system that save installation time. Some of these features include easily re-positioned and marked rackrail, abundant electrical and laser knockouts for conduit and cable entry, field-configurable power, and the ability for racks to be ganged while fully-loaded.

ST&D: Are there any common misconceptions about deploying/installing a rack system?

Tracy : The most common misconception is that simply loading components into a rack will result in a reliable installation. The most reliable and easy-to-install systems are those that are well-planned, and that include the four essentials of an integrated enclosure system, as discussed. Best practices dictate that integration and commissioning occurs at the shop in a controlled environment, while simultaneous field wiring and termination occurs at the job site.

ST&D: How have racks and consoles changed over the past few years? What have been the driving forces behind the changes?

Tracy: The rapid change in rack systems over the past few years has been driven not only by changes in technology, but also by changes in security system topology – both of which are the result of advances in computers and the advent of IP-based systems. These changes have required rack systems for security to function more like network enclosures, while still maintaining the ability to effectively manage large amounts of coax cable.

ST&D: How important is keeping individual units cooled when using a rack/console system? What's the best way to accomplish it?

Tracy : Maintaining the temperature inside racks is critical to the proper functioning and survival of the electronic components operating within them. The Uptime Institute states, “For every 18 ° F increase above 70 ° F, long-term reliability is reduced by 50 percent”. The best way to control this temperature is to take an integrated approach to thermal management, and ensure the entire rack system is properly cooled. For additional info, download “Best Practices for Thermal Management of Security Installations” at http://www.middleatlantic.com/support.htm

ST&D: What are some of the changes to rack systems you see coming in the next few years?

Tracy : Rack systems will continue to evolve and change as technology and user requirements change. Continued migration to IP-based systems will require deeper enclosures, while increased processor density will necessitate increased attention to thermal and cable management facilities and techniques, as well as place greater demands on power distribution.