According to a recent global C-suite survey conducted by IBM, cloud computing and services ranked the highest among emerging and prominent technologies, with regards to their capability to significantly shape the near future (as in, the next 3 to 5 years). It’s not hard to see why this is the case – with digitalization existing on the global scale it occupies today, the demand for cloud computing – and thereby, servers and data centers – is growing at an unprecedented rate. With that in mind, it’s crucial to have a reliable packaging partner that makes sure the necessary hardware arrive safely at their end destinations. However, it is important to first understand server racks and the surrounding landscape before diving into the challenges of shipping them.
How to protect server racks
Our reliance on and utilization of cloud computing and data storage is a trend that is not going away anytime soon.
Server Racks and the Rising Demand for Data
A server rack is an enclosure which is used to contain and organize various types of data storage units. Server racks are efficient for organizing server equipment due to a vertical, standing design, which allows for the optimization of the components they contain without using too much floor space. Due to the world’s ever-increasing need for connectivity, servers and the racks which enclose them have become essential for so many businesses around the world.
Not dissimilar to other markets, the server and data storage market is segmented primarily by product characteristics, in order to service the differing needs of various consumers. In some cases, the manufacturer’s primary focus involves maintaining a very high level of reliability and security. This emphasis is often necessary for customers who have extremely sensitive data and strict security requirements, such as hospitals, governmental/infrastructure organizations and investment firms.
On the reverse end, other manufacturers are categorized by pure networking power. These players are often seen as disruptors in the industry and have become increasingly relevant over that past decade or so, due to the rise of technology and cloud-based companies on a global scale. These are often lower cost options as well, which can of course be more ideal based on customer needs.
It is important to note that as a society, we are truly still in the beginning stages of utilizing networking hardware, and that its importance and usage will only continue to grow at an exponential level over the next several years. With the advent and relevance of cloud computing, there is a higher need.
The Challenges of Shipping a Server Rack
With all the relevant equipment packed inside them, server racks prove to be extremely heavy and quite unwieldy constructions. A standard server rack with dimensions of 24x40x88” could weigh anywhere between 2000-2500 pounds, and even then, it is not uncommon to see larger and heavier units.
Because of these factors, the shipping of these racks can be quite difficult – though those are not the only challenges faced. Server racks must also be shipped upright to avoid damaging the equipment stored within. As an object with a high center of gravity being shipped in this position, server racks are highly prone to tipping over, making the handling process extremely complicated and potentially hazardous if not accounted for correctly. On top of this, they are fragile and very valuable, often costing upwards of several hundred thousand US dollars.
Additionally, many manufacturers of the hardware enclosed in server racks are beginning to pack more and more into these units in order to support the need for increased networking power (and an overall trend to use physical space more efficiently), effectively making the entire units more capable, but much denser. This trend has further altered the landscape for server racks and introduces another layer of challenges when it comes to protecting the racks and the units that lie within. Piece of cake, right?
Addressing these Challenges: Solutions for Server Racks
With something as heavy and valuable as these racks are, you can imagine that a lot of time and care must go into the design of its packaging. Though each design will inevitably differ in some way, there are a few considerations that are taken into account as the first steps in each scenario. Most notably, we must investigate how can we make it as safe and efficient as possible, in order to mitigate the server rack’s weight, size and center of gravity; this often comes down to analyzing different materials and finding areas within the packaging where support is needed most. At the same time, the packaging must be able to protect it from both shock and vibration in order to prevent damage during transportation. Depending on the mode of transportation used, the stresses that it will be exposed to will differ, and can therefore also impact the design of the final solution.
At Nefab, we understand this market inside-out and how it works, from the manufacturers all the way to end users, and have solutions that help you – wherever you lie in the chain. We have gained experience in telecom and datacom over several decades – our experts can work with you to identify the areas which are giving your business the most trouble and work to develop solutions which alleviate them.
The most common solutions we provide for server racks are returnable systems, which enhance repeated flows between distribution points and cut down on unnecessary waste. Shown here is an example of a returnable server rack packaging with an integrated ramp system and a cushioned pallet, which work together to allow easier loading and unloading while providing extra support and shock absorption.
In some cases, our customers ship these racks internationally via air freight, in which case limiting overall weight is of primary concern. For these situations, we can shift our focus to providing a lightweight solution that doesn't sacrifice product protection. Of course, there are many more factors which can affect the design of a solution and the selection of materials. Each situation is different, and we can help you with a tailored solution which addresses the demands of yours.
The Value of Partnering with Nefab
Over the years, we have gained the expertise to help us provide the complete roadmap for you and your business. In the long term, we strike the ideal balance of performance and cost, due to the implementation of our Total Cost Approach and Packaging Optimization, but most importantly, we strive to grow with you as the business environment and market sees gradual shifts. We take on a high R&D focus in tandem with current projects with our customers, in order to continuously improve our offering and stay ahead of the curve. By partnering with us, you are investing in the future.
We can support you on a global level due to our geographic footprint, standardizing your solutions throughout the world and streamlining your processes. Our global network of 200 engineers is next to none, and we are constantly challenging ourselves to create smarter solutions.
In the end, our work in the datacom industry is centered around our ability to provide global support for all of our customers, in a way which realizes reduced supply chain costs across the board, all without compromising quality. For server racks, that comes down to designing and supplying solutions which can fully protect your products and provide for a safer, easier shipping process.