IT administrator installing a new rack mount server


How to Choose Racks for Edge Data Centers

Low-latency data processing at the network edge is key to achieving the network speed and performance gains necessary to support increasingly distributed workforces. As a result, the market for edge data center infrastructure is experiencing explosive growth.

According to the IDC, worldwide spending on edge computing is expected to reach $232 billion in 2024, an increase of 15.4% over 2023.1 Meanwhile, Global Market Insights predicts that edge data market value will grow by more than 500% through 2032.2

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Planning, designing, and constructing edge data centers can be a bit tricky due to some unique design requirements. Depending on its specific purpose, an edge data center might need to fit in anything from a branch office closet to a shipping container. Space limitations are therefore a significant consideration when selecting the racks you’ll need for a mounting server, storage, and network equipment.

42U and 48U racks are standard sizes for floor-standing racks, with the “U” referring to the standard unit of measure for data center equipment, which is 1.75 inches. A 42U rack is about 6 feet tall and a 48U rack is 7 feet tall. Racks of up to 70U (more than 10 feet tall) are sometimes used in high-density data center environments.

Those sizes are often much too tall for small-footprint micro data centers. 22U or 27U half-racks will likely be better edge options depending on your workload requirements. Compact wall-mount racks as small as 1U can be optimal for environments with limited floor space.

Rack width and depth are also important size considerations. The standard width of a mountable server rack is 19 inches, so the server chassis must be less than 17.75 inches to fit within that opening. Racks up to 30 inches wide are available, leaving extra space for cable management or power distribution units (PDUs).

The standard rack depth is 36 inches, but depths of 24 inches or 48 inches are also common. Some racks have adjustable depth to accommodate a wider range of hardware formats. Deeper racks provide extra space for cable management and make it easier to access hot-swappable power supplies.

Keeping Your Equipment Cool

Racks should also have efficient cooling mechanisms in place to increase efficiency and extend the life of the equipment. That can be difficult in edge data centers in remote locations where temperature control is challenging due to environmental conditions and the absence of onsite IT staff. For example, an edge data center located in a manufacturing facility could be exposed to high temperatures and humidity.

There are a variety of systems that can be used to keep edge servers cool, including rack-mounted air conditioning units, in-cabinet fans, room-based AC units, liquid cooling systems, or heat exchangers. Those might not be appropriate for the size and layout of your edge data center, however. Another option is a “data center in a box,” a self-contained cabinet with built-in cooling for areas where environmental, power, or space limitations make it difficult to adequately cool the equipment.

Address Your Infrastructure Challenges With Wesco

Edge computing delivers significant business benefits by pushing data processing closer to data sources to minimize latency and preserve bandwidth. However, power, cooling, and space constraints make deploying and managing edge data centers challenging. Wesco’s team of data center infrastructure specialists can help you address those challenges. We can help you choose server racks tailored to your specific needs and the environment in which your edge data center is located. We’d welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss your edge strategy and evaluate your infrastructure needs.

Wesco Data Center Solutions

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Randy Hinson


Randy Hinson
Global Account Manager, Wesco Data Center Solutions
Randy Hinson has been with Wesco since 2004 and is a 35-year veteran of the data center industry. He began his career working with mass storage and memory systems for IBM, Wang, and DEC. Randy has worked with and held technical sales positions for industry leaders in networking, storage, HPC, and supercomputing.

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