Racking up data centre knowledge

Oct 12, 2022

Students enjoyed a hands-on lesson in connectivity, when representatives from CNet Training came in to deliver a Data Racks Workshop to Year 11 students as part of the *Digital Futures Programme.

This is what a rack would typically look like from the rear, which shows the connectivity.

Front view of multiple racks in a row.

For the uninitiated, data racks are a type of physical steel and electronic framework designed to house servers, networking devices, cables and other data centre computing equipment.

The workshop was broken down into small chunks of information followed by various thought exercises, culminating in a real-world example of populating and connecting a data rack.

“One of the challenges in delivery and maintaining interest from the students was gauging their level of knowledge of both data centres and their real-time interaction within a data centre,” said Lee Johnson, technical developer at CNet Training, who delivered the workshop alongside Craig Larkins, also a technical developer.

As a data rack by itself is a particularly dry subject, the workshop aimed to connect with the students by showing what, how and why:

  • What does a data centre mean to you?
  • How do we connect to a data centre?
  • Why is global connectivity important?

“We encouraged the students to dive deep into a particular area of interest for them, challenge their understanding and expanding their knowledge in areas they perhaps haven’t thought of or didn’t know existed,” explained Lee

“One example of this arose when we were discussing how countries are connected to each other via a submerged fibre optic data link, its construction and deployment.”

Students were given the equipment they would be using as part of the practical exercise, again discussing what, how and why behind each item.

Prior to the exercise, Lee and Craig explained some safety information such as sharp edges, electrical hazards and LASER safety. The students weren’t at risk, this was more to get them thinking about safety.

For the practical exercise students were asked to install switch and voice panels, blanking plates and cable management panels to set positions within the rack, while discussing air flow and cable management.

They were the asked to connect the voice panel to the switch panel using cable management. They were instructed, individually, to connect a specific port on the voice panel, which was an hypothetical office in a building somewhere, to a specific switch port, which represented the connectivity to the internet or other network.

Bringing all the areas together at the end in a summary, the students could then see how, when they connect, they are interacting with a piece of equipment, in a rack, in a data centre, in a country, from their device every time.

Lee summed up: “We found that overall that the engagement and enthusiasm grew among the students as new information and understanding was being delivered, particularly in areas that they never knew existed. At one stage, we were being bombarded with intelligent questions, which showed strong desire to want more information on global connectivity. The students got to engage, be challenged and handle the equipment on offer, which made for a very positive experience for both the learners and us.”

*The Digital Futures Programme offers students an exciting curriculum aimed at giving them the best possible start to a career within the digital infrastructure industry.

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