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Protecting Equipment in Harsh Environments


Operating servers in harsh environments is challenging, but various types of equipment including specialized racks can help in tackling this problem. Military forces, in particular, need rack options that allow them to run servers in the toughest outdoor environments. Military data operations not only present climate-related challenges, but also threats from a hostile combat and electronic warfare environment. For this reason, military organizations around the world typically have standards for racks and other equipment.

In addition to military applications, servers used at particular types of manufacturing plants, mining sites, refineries and other locations where equipment is subject to adverse conditions require protection similar to military servers

Harsh Environments
Among the threats faced in harsh environments are:

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Dust, water and moisture seeping into and damaging servers and other electronic equipment
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Airborne particulates 
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Oil or coolant seepage
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High heat and flames
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Electromagnetic and radio frequency jamming and interference
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Corrosion
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Explosive shock and vibration
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Wave action for shipboard equipment
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Seismic activity
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Impact from projectiles and bomb fragments
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Accidental contact by personnel


In order to address these challenges, racks must enclose the server to provide full protection and, in most cases, a controlled internal environment. The construction material will be durable with excellent tensile strength capable of withstanding sudden shock and high pressure. The enclosure material should be corrosion-resistant and it should have good insulating properties. Stainless steel and zinc-coated stainless steel are common choices.

For protection against hostile electromagnetic and radio frequency environments, measures can include using copper foil to protect even against electromagnetic pulses. The electrical contact areas should be paint-free with special gasketing for seams and joints. Honeycomb filters and louvers can provide shielding for vents. In many cases, it is possible to load all the equipment into the enclosures in a clean environment and then move the enclosure fully protected through harsh environments with rugged, wide-diameter casters. The doors, top and cable ports must have sealing sufficient to prevent moisture and dust from penetrating into the enclosure. 

The United States military has a set of equipment specifications and qualifications for all of its server equipment including racks. Equipment must undergo specific tests and inspections for shock, vibration and impact. Shipboard equipment, for example, must be able to handle the vibrations associated with maritime use. Elements such as shock, vibration, isolation, product weight, corrosion, EMI/RFI, water, temperature, wind, rain, ice, etc., must often be considered.

Specific military standards include:

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MIL-S-901D - Shock-approved Systems
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MIL-STD-810D - Climate/Environmental
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MIL-STD-167 - Vibration
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EMI/RFI Shielding
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Mil Spec Painting

Seismic-ready racks conform to standards that ensure protection for critical equipment in the event of earthquakes. The strength-to-weight ratio must be sufficient to provide protection against extreme shock and vibration levels. Equipment may have double walls for extra protection along with various measures incorporated to absorb vibration. Cooling, cable management and power systems typically are integral in these types of racks. As servers and similar types of equipment require controlled environments for optimal performance and for damage prevention, it makes sense in most situations to integrate these systems. 

In military applications, for example, forces may need to deploy servers remotely in situations that require transporting the least possible amount of equipment. Servers and racks that are highly "mobile" are of great advantage on the battlefield. 

Conclusion

Racks used in harsh conditions typically conform to standards that require testing and inspection. The racks generally provide full enclosure for electronic equipment with the idea of preventing damage from dust, water, oil, coolant and other threats.Racks built to military specification will provide protection against electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. The equipment must also guard equipment from shock, vibration and possible impact from projectiles. Additionally, servers used in tough conditions often have climate control and other systems integrated into the rack enclosures. In this way, they equipment can operate independently providing easy movement through harsh environments.

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About Legrand
Legrand is the global specialist in electrical and digital building infrastructures. Its comprehensive offering of solutions for use in commercial, industrial and residential markets makes it a benchmark for customers worldwide. Innovation for a steady flow of new products with high added value and acquisitions are prime vectors for growth. Legrand reported sales of close to $6.2 billion in 2013. Legrand has a strong presence in the North American market, with a portfolio of well-known product lines that include C2G, Cablofil, Electrorack, Middle Atlantic, NuVo, On-Q, Ortronics, Pass & Seymour, Quiktron, Vantage, WattStopper and Wiremold. The company is listed on NYSE Euronext and is a component stock of indexes including the CAC40, FTSE4Good, MSCI World, ASPI and DJSI (ISIN code FR0010307819). www.legrand.us