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Pros and Cons of Half rack versus full rack colocation

Posted by QuoteColo on September 27, 2012

When looking to outsource your colocation environment, clients have plenty of options. Data center colocation providers offer space from 1U, quarter racks, half racks, full racks and private cages. Companies looking for half rack versus full rack colocation will need to analyze all of the pros and cons…..

Depending upon  the data center provider, half  racks (cabinet)  are approximately 20-22U of colocation space. Full racks (cabinets) are approximately 42-44U of colocation space. Today, some more aggressive colocation providers are even offering full racks at 48U. A rack or “U” is defined at 1.75″ which is the thickness of the server.

Pros of a HALF RACK solution:

1) Cost – most  half rack options are cheaper compared to full rack options. Depending upon the colocation provider and the geographic location of their data center, most half rack pricing starts at $400-$600 a month. This half rack option will typically include a 15 or 20amp 110v power feed. Additional power can be added at an extra monthly fee. Most providers will include 1 or 2Mbps burstable to 100Mbps  billed on the 95th percentile method. In more expensive areas of the USA, in New Jersey offers a half cabinet (20U), 10Amps, 10TB bandwidth and 5IPs for $649 a month.

2) Security – many colocation providers offer half racks that are lockable. If you are a security conscious company, getting a locked half rack or cabinet is highly recommended because only you will have physical access to your equipment.

Cons of a HALF RACK solution: 

1) Cost – WAIT A SECOND, YOU SAID THIS WAS A PRO! In many major US data center markets, providers do not price half racks that much cheaper than full racks. In the NYC and Boston metro areas, half racks typically run $700 to 800 a month. These providers charge more because of “real estate” costs and the fact that is takes them as much time and effort to provision a half rack compared to a full rack. If you only require a half rack, perform your due diligence and check with multiple data centers in  your preferred geographic area.

2) Scalability – half racks are adequate for companies that do not plan on adding more equipment down the road. If you need to add more equipment in the future, make sure you take a hard look at full cabinet option so you do not have to migrate your new equipment to a another part of the data center at a later date.


Pros of a FULL RACK solution: 

1) Flexibility – full racks will allow your company more space to grow. If you have extra space within the rack or cabinet, you can store servers or network gear. Some companies even “resell” or lease additional space to their clients or strategic partners for a monthly fee. If you plan on grabbing another cabinet of space in the near future, some data centers will allow you the “right of first refusal” on an adjacent cabinet as well.

2) Security – most data center operators provision full rack space  in the form of a lockable cabinet. Both the front and back of the rack are locked and can only be accessed by your company’s approved IT personnel.

Cons of a FULL RACK solution:

1) Cost – don’t be forced into a full rack unless you need the additional space. Many companies utilize half rack solutions for years and years without ever having  the need to upgrade. Many of these clients eventually migrate to a fully managed or cloud platform.

2) No elbow room – full cabinets are typically 15 to 30% cheaper than compared to a private cage option. If your growth plans include multiple cabinets, you might be better off in a private cage.  Private cages give you more flexibility for storing network equipment, adding additional cooling elements and bringing in amenities like desks and key boards with monitors. In addition, you won’t be stuck with full racks displaced all around the data center floor.

Half rack versus full rack colocation – plenty of things to think about. Make sure you understand your infrastructure growth needs. If you have geographic flexibility, shop around and you are likely to find something very suitable for your requirements and monthly budget.





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