There are many voices in our industry singing the death song of the raised access floor, with verses about the decline of the datacenter, the emergence of alternate solutions for wire management, and the next new thing in the tech industry.
Not all those songs should be sad dirges filled with doom and gloom. Access floor still represents a valid, economical, practical solution to the everyday dilemmas faced by the IT professional, as well a creative solution for the non-traditional applications looking for an answer to their challenges.
Many server rooms have become a minefield of tangled wiring, with no clear path from the door to the racks. They are a tripping hazard to the personnel working and a potential disaster if something were unplugged accidentally causing an unplanned shutdown. Access floor can provide a sub-floor cavity for wiring which leaves the walking surface unobstructed and safe. It allows the network cabling to be grouped together and bundled by rack, while separating the power cables to be clearly marked and tie-wrapped together without concern for creating an obstruction on the floor. Any visit by the fire marshall or OSHA is not faced with dread but with confidence.
Cable re-routing to a new rack, or replacement of damaged and obsolete cables is a breeze with the use of access floor. A single panel can be lifted from the supporting grid and the operator has instant access to everything underneath. There is no need to bring in a ladder, climb up and over equipment or asking for assistance from additional personnel while balancing on a narrow step several feet in the air.
Renovations of large warehouses in historic districts have experienced a surge lately, and access floor is the perfect solution for these spaces. People want to live and work downtown in buildings with character, but often these large open spaces are not an ideal environment for distribution of power and network connections. An access floor can provide power virtually anywhere in the space with no ugly power poles dropped from a ceiling, which may not even have a crawl space between floors. Open concept work environments with easy access to recharge laptops and cell phones, the ability to plug in to secure networks and the flexibility to provide intimate spaces in the larger space are all possible with an access floor. Upgrades can be easily performed and the smaller areas moved almost instantly. Frequently the chorus of the death song is the overwhelming cost of raised floor.
In years past this may have been a clear issue, however; there are now many more cost effective access floors available. Pre-owned floors can frequently be utilized and often appear to be nearly new. Refurbished floors have made a large impact in the raised floor market. Refurbished floors are recycled panels and understructure which has been stripped and a new surface applied. These systems meet all the design requirements of a raised floor, including the ability to support heavy server rack weights, while reducing the costs to nearly half the cost of a new floor. The added benefit of keeping an abandoned access floor from the landfill should be applauded as well. The true cost of an access floor is more than the cost of the materials initially, and when considered over time, is often much more economical than traditional methods.
Access floor is not dead, and even if the largest datacenters move in another direction to capture climate benefits there are many other applications, many other users who will find access floor the best solution for them for years to come.