Cabinets and cages are essential structural components in a colocation facility. They are where a client’s information technology systems are installed. Though decidedly “low tech,” these infrastructure elements provide a secure environment where air flow, temperature, and humidity levels may be controlled. Let us unlock some of the nuances of these enclosures as we consider their role in colocation.

Cabinets are normally included by the colocation service provider as part of the monthly service contract. The most common cabinets used in data centers are black ones that are 24 inches wide by 42 inches deep by 73.6 inches tall (42U). A variety of other sizes and colors are available.

Keys Provide Security

Cabinets include front and rear doors with keys or combination locks. CAPS keeps spare keys for all our colocation clients in case they forget to bring their key when they visit our data center.

Cabinets may be partitioned into multiple bays to provide cost-effective secure access for more than one colocation tenant. Half cabinets are available with two doors for two separate clients with each bay having 20U capacity. Four door 44U cabinets are also available, providing 11U for each of four clients.

Racks are a lower cost alternative to cabinets. Racks do not have doors with locks, so they are much less secure. As such, racks are usually only used to mount equipment within a cage. Cages include a locked door to restrict access to the racks within the cage.

Cages are custom-built using steel mesh. As such, they are more costly than cabinets for most requirements. If a client needs to collocate one or two cabinets, usually a cage will be too expensive. For those who want to place 3 or more cabinets in a colocation data center, a cage may be the best choice. The lead time before cutting over at a colocation facility will be longer for cages than for cabinets because it takes time to build a cage. The one-time installation cost will also be higher.

Though data centers usually supply the cabinets, racks, cages, and Power Distribution Units (PDUs) for a colocation engagement, the client provides the rest of the equipment. It is usually the client’s responsibility to install their servers, switches, firewalls, and other systems in the cabinets and racks provided by the colocation data center.

Client Responsibilities

Clients are responsible for connecting cables to their systems. Since cabling can impact airflow, and thus temperature control in cabinets, data centers may provide guidance about cabling practices.

Clear labeling of cables and equipment in a colocation cabinet can help when technicians are called upon to service equipment or to make a configuration change. This is important for a client’s service personnel, but it can be particularly helpful when Remote Hands services are invoked because the colocation support team may not be familiar with a client’s equipment and cabling layout.

Colocation tenants have some discretion about what they store in their cabinets and cages. Spare parts and cables are often stored within colocation space. It is important to maintain proper airflow, to avoid creating a fire hazard, and to keep colocation cabinets clean and organized.

Cabinets and cages are the building blocks of colocation. Please contact CAPS if you are interested in relocating your IT systems to our secure data center in Shelton. We will be happy to give you a tour of the data center and point out examples of how cabinets and cages have been used by our clients.