Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Friday, September 17, 2021

Datacenter Investments Focus on Racks, Enclosures 

Overall datacenter infrastructure growth has slowed over the last several years as a result of datacenter consolidation, global economic weakness and IT equipment improvements. Among those upgrades is a projected shift in IT spending to emerging hyperscale datacenters, market watchers say.

One of the few bright spots in the market for datacenter infrastructure is IT racks and enclosures that form the skeleton of datacenters. According to a study released this week by market tracker IHS, global unit shipments of racks and enclosures used in datacenters are forecast to rise a modest but welcome 2.9 percent in 2015. That works out to a revenue growth rate of 4.4 percent, IHS said.

That forecast is ahead of other datacenter infrastructure such as cooling equipment and uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) but lags behind equipment like rack power distribution units, IHS said.

"The IT rack and enclosure market typically experiences higher growth rates than the UPS and cooling markets because of the slight product shifts occurring," IHS analyst Sarah McElroy said in releasing the datacenter infrastructure forecast. Those products shifts include going from two- to four-post and from four-post to enclosures along with upgrades from basic to premium racks.

The increased use of cable management and passive airflow accessories also are contributing to market growth, McElroy added.

IHS said enclosures continue to dominate the datacenter market, accounting for a whopping 86 percent of IT units shipped in 2014. Given features like better airflow and cable management along with security, enclosures shipments are expected to outpace the market for open frame racks in datacenters for the foreseeable future, IHS forecasts.

Other analysts note that IT spending is shifting as more enterprises transform themselves into "digital businesses." That shift, according to market watcher Gartner Inc., means a shift from on-premise IT to hyperscale datacenters. Hence, the trend toward more datacenter consolidation could further slow the market for datacenter infrastructure like racks and enclosures.

At the same time, there is still innovation in the seemingly mundane sector of racks and enclosures. One reason is that hyperscale datacenter operators have been pressing suppliers for custom racks that can cram more servers and storage into the same space.

For example, Dell's Data Center Solutions unit, which makes custom IT equipment for some of the world's largest hyperscale datacenter operators, unveiled a new rack last year called the G5. Dell said its G5 rack comes with multiple power bays and can support up to ten 1,600-watt power supplies per bay.

The G5 rack will eventually be upgraded with "infrastructure manager" software that monitors systems like inlet and outlet air temperatures along with various utilization rates for various components. That is seen as important since managing systems at the rack level is critical in hyperscale operations.

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