How and why we designed the “Mini Rack” for our Intellicentre data centres

October 18 2013, by Macquarie Telecom Group | Category: Group

John Truong, our Product Manager for Colocation, explains how we developed a brand new rack form factor for our colocation customers – the ‘Mini Rack’, offering 6RU of dedicated space for when a full sized rack isn’t required.


I’d like to tell you the story behind our new Mini-Rack product, exclusive to Macquarie Telecom and designed by us for our Intellicentre colocation customers.

Four Macquarie Telecom Mini-Racks in our Intellicentre 2 data centre.

Most standard dedicated colocation rack products require a customer to take a full sized rack (usually around 42RU) or a half sized rack (around 20RU).

Taking a full or half sized rack is not cost-effective in some circumstances. For example, small businesses often require between 1RU – 6RU space for a small server, firewall or switch environment. Similarly, enterprises sometimes have a need for hosting smaller standalone devices such as WAN accelerators, tape drive enclosures, NAS boxes, a UPS, or Google search appliances.

The way the industry has been serving this market has been with shared-rack colocation products. Shared-rack colocation is where a traditional full rack is “sliced up” and customers purchase and share the rack on a per RU basis.

The concept of shared-rack colocation has been around for decades. Ever since organisations started outsourcing their data centre racks to colocation providers, there has always been a requirement for small colocation spaces.

However, shared-rack colocation raises a number of risks:

  • Physical security – Any customer accessing their equipment in a shared-rack suddenly has physical access to every other customer’s equipment in that rack including power buttons, USB ports, optical drives, tape drives, hot-swap hard drives and network ports/cables.
  • Power stability – We’ve all seen it at home or in the office, an electrical appliance suddenly switches off because someone pulled out the wrong plug, or tripped over a power cord. The risk is the same at the rear of a shared rack where an accidental bump of a power cord by an engineer suddenly brings down another company’s high-density virtual machine host.
  • Airflow – It’s sometimes hard enough keeping your own rack cabling neat and tidy to provide the optimum airflow, let alone worrying about someone elses. All it takes is another customer in the shared rack to install a high-density 48-cable Ethernet switch in a hurry without using a cable management arm near your equipment, creating a blockage, and suddenly the hot air coming out of your equipment is trapped with nowhere to go.

The way most colocation providers mitigate these risks is by mandating that customer-access to shared racks are escorted and chaperoned by a staff member. Unfortunately, while escorted access may provide a level of security oversight, it does not eliminate the risks outlined above and accidents can still happen. Furthermore, if customers spend a few hours working on their environment in a shared rack, the escort staff’s time is being used for a generally low value task.

These risks were all taken into account when we designed the Colocation Mini-Rack at Intellicentre 2, and its features eliminate many of the issues identified with shared racks. After having reviewed the needs of our customers, as above, we commissioned a special design exclusive to Macquarie Telecom that would best fit the usage scenarios our customers have. Working directly with the manufacturer, we then tested and deployed these mini-racks into optimal locations in Intellicentre 2. We were able to bring a unique product to market.

  • Mini-Rack provides a tidy compartment 6RU of space perfect for small colocation environments.
  • Each compartment is partitioned from other compartments and secured with a separate door and electronic lock. This gives customers all the security benefits of having their own rack but without the need for escorted access.
  • Each compartment has its own separate cabling channel meaning a customer’s network and power cables are protected from accidental bumps from other customers.
  • Mini-Racks enjoy all the redundant power and cooling features that helped Intellicentre 2 achieve the Uptime Institute Tier III certification.

In developing the Colocation Mini-Rack product we hope that even customers with small colocation requirements can enjoy all the benefits of outsourcing their data centre to Intellicentre 2.

Next steps

For more information about Mini-Racks and Colocation at Macquarie Telecom, call us on 1800 004 943 or visit our Colocation section of the website.