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Ask Slashdot: Building A Server Rack Into a New Home? 402

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the bitcoin-mining-farm-in-the-closet dept.
jawtheshark writes "I'm building a house, and obviously I want a modest network built-in. Nothing fancy, two RJ-45 per room, four in the living room, and that's basically it. I already got myself a rack mountable Cisco Small Business switch and I have a self-built 4U server (low-power, won't make much heat) which can be rack mounted (505mm deep). Now, the construction company suggests a wall mounted rack (6U: 340mm x 600mm x 480mm — 6U definitely won't be enough, but a 12U model exists). It's not expensive, but I have never worked on a rack where the backside is unreachable. (For work, I get to work in a data center with huge racks that are accessible from both sides). Now obviously, I don't need a data center-grade rack, but these wall-mounted racks scream 'switch-only' racks to me. What are your experiences? Is it possible to put servers in racks like these, or should I find a 'both-side-accessible' rack instead?"
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Ask Slashdot: Building A Server Rack Into a New Home?

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  • by y00nix (775009) * on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:56PM (#39852205)
    Why mess around with wall-mount brackets? You'll be cramped for depth when you want to throw in a real PoE switch, or some other gear you're not thinking about now. They also have swing-out racks that you can open the front and back from (as there are hinges on one of the back sides), but you'll pay quite a bit for these. I believe they are somewhere in the realm of $300-350 when we buy them for clients. Personally - I like lots of space, because you never know when you'll want to end up building a home theatre or adding another server, and centralizing all the gear where it should be - the server room. I have 42U 4-post black open frame rack (from a common manufacturer), that I picked up off Craigslist for $150 (normally $400 new)...and put it in a closet I converted into a server room. Put down a new floor, and raised the floor a couple inches where the server rack goes (no underfloor cooling unfortunately). Two dedicated 20A 110V circuits, two 1500VA batteries w/ mgmt cards, two 15A PDUs. CAT6 patch panel in the rack, also have a 2x2 wallboard with 66 block for CAT3 termination. No 6509 yet ;)
    • by socceroos (1374367) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:15PM (#39852423)
      Why use the outdated rack system anyway? I use cheap free-standing metal shelving and vertically mount motherboards along the shelves - awesome ventilation and looks so cool. Plus, you can put whatever you like in it - all you need is motherboards with whatever you want on them. =D

      Building a nice 'super' computer. Beowulf anyone?
      • by similar_name (1164087) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:42PM (#39853577)
        I just nail the motherboards to the wall.
    • by toastar (573882) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:26PM (#39852537)
      I say get a real rack with wheels, When you move you can take it with you.
      • by nschubach (922175) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:55PM (#39852803) Journal

        What the OP is doing sounds like what I'm doing. I already bought the rack [newegg.com] and found a nice spot to put it: Under the basement stairs. It comes ready to assemble and I just didn't install the wheels. The rack is 3 feet deep and the stairs are 3 feet wide. It's the perfect place. All I have to do is re-frame the area under my stairs (there is already a roughed in wall of 2x4s) to add in a mounting location for the 12U rack. It just so happens that the stairs are in a centralized location in the house so wiring is going to be much easier. I got a 25 port switch (probably overkill) and a 25 port patch panel to accept all the wire I'll be pulling to it (and a few to spare.)

        I realize that not everyone has a basement stairway with both exposed sides, but maybe the OP didn't think about it.

        • by TWX (665546) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:20PM (#39853031)
          Or get a wall-mount cabinet with a door on the front and the back that mounts to the wall, something about 36" tall, 36" deep.

          Leave a service loop to allow the rack to swing open properly.

          I strongly recommend Cat6a with appropriate connectors. I also recommend considering running innerduct and adding pullstrings so you can later add. You might also consider pulling some OM3 or OM4 patch cables to use as horizontal fiber cable. Also pull the phone wiring to the same location, and RG6. There are modular patch panels that use keystones instead of fixed 110 blocks on the back, so one could put any of the four types of connectors into the patch panel. You would want angled faceplates in the rooms so that if you ever did use the fiber it wouldn't be at as much rich of being broken off.
        • by muridae (966931)

          I picked up two similar to these [newegg.com] at a thrift store for . . . let's just say less than the cost of a new video game and leave it. The ancient 10baseT hubs that were with them were marked as IRS, so government closeout probably. The top makes an excellent work surface, and the one that doesn't house working rack gear has some shelves in it to store containers full of electronic parts and pieces for future projects. University surplus auctions are another great place to get racks dirt cheap, the last I was at

      • I'll second that. I scored a 9U road case from a commissioning contract several years ago. It's done sterling duty in a couple of houses and works very well, with built in cable management. It's built like a brick dunny and looks like it'll last forever.
      • by xQx (5744) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:42PM (#39853181)
        Couldn't agree more.

        To answer the poster's direct question: Yes, I have dealt with racks that you can't get to the back of. I've dealt with racks that have the vertical rails integrated into the sides. I've dealt with half-height racks, wall mounted racks that swing out so you can get to the back of them, and I've dealt with home-made racks that have rails that bend when you hang a server from the front. I've also worked with Compaq servers with mounting brackets that don't work unless your rails are exactly the right distance apart front-to-back (meaning you need to tear down a whole rack to re-position the rails, to mount one bloody server).

        I have the following advice:

        1. DO NOT BUY WALL MOUNTED RACKS (unless you are a large corporate or a public building).
        They are ugly as sin, they are never deep enough, and in a small-business or home environment they are only good for bumping heads on. If they swing out, half the time the installer hasn't accounted for the full weight of a loaded rack and it feels like it's going to fall off the wall.They are not built to deal with the heat of POE switches, let alone servers. Unless you need the security given by them, it's cheaper, more attractive and more accessible to mount a switch vertically on a wall or in a cupboard.

        2. DO NOT BUY HALF-HEIGHT RACKS (unless you desperately need the space)
        They cost almost as much as full-height racks, they often get replaced with full-height racks after 2 years because they get full - in the end they are almost never worth it.

        3. LOOK VERY CLOSELY AT CHEAP RACKS
        A good rack will last you 10 years. A bad rack will last you 20 years and piss you off every time you go near it. Imagine mounting a full-depth POE switch to the front rail of a rack, then seeing that the back of the switch is about 2RU lower than the front, because the front vertical rail has bent under the weight. That's what happens when they make the vertical rails out of 1mm low tensile steel, not 2mm high tensile steel. Or, imagine having a server or router that has decided to put a RJ45 port on the front (usually an iLo port) and you find you have to either leave a whole RU free above the server to run the cat-5 cable back. Welcome to the joys of an APC rack, where the vertical rails are moulded to the edge of the rack.

        4. AT HOME - USE A CABINET MAKER
        If you want the best & cheapest solution - I'd build a cupboard big enough for you to put a second hand 42RU rack on wheels into it, and terminate your RJ45's on 6-gang wall outlets at the top of the cupboard. For cooling, put a vent in the top of the door and run a ducted air-con duct to the bottom of the cupboard. Then you just roll your rack out when you need it, to guests it looks like a cupboard, and the next home owner will turn it into a linen closet.
        But, if you want something that looks a million dollars, I would take the internal steel of a comms rack and mount it on rolling cupboard rails (do the maths on the weight) and integrate it into a full-height cupboard, so when you open the cupboard door the whole rack slides out for you. If you get a friendly cabinet maker to do it while you're building the house, you would probably have the whole thing done for less than the price of an APC rack.
    • by Phelan (30485) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:31PM (#39852595)

      If he has the money to throw around then a rack made for branch offices and network closets with integrated cooling etc like a Liebert MCR would be perfect. Since its basically a plug and play configuration integrating cooling, PDUs etc.

    • by Sez Zero (586611) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:34PM (#39852615) Journal

      Go Big or Go Home

      But... he's already gone home!

    • by flyneye (84093) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:40PM (#39852665) Homepage

      Why worry about mounting anydamn expensive thing?
      You're building a server room. Got 4 walls? STOP!
      Measure 6 ft. from the wall. Put up a wall frame, like you were gonna sheetrock it. Space the 2"x4"s on 17 3/4" centers and use woodscrews for your new 64u rows of racks. This presumes you have 8 ft. ceilings. Got slides? Put another frame 3 ft. behind it. add fans.
      Measure out another 5 or 6 ft. if you have another 11 or 12 and put in another room length row of racks. Leave one open in each for rear access. Leave two if you're fat and remove the board in the way.
      This creates easy cooling methods using at least 3 halls for this scenario.
      If you're in an office building or strip. you can come in on the weekend and tap your neighbors air conditioner to cool your server rooms. All you need is a ladder , some ducting, rivet gun, rivets and a cutoff wheel or tin snips. Send the cool air low to cool the computers and force the hot rising air out. Again duct this INTO your neighbors space, it will encourage them to turn up their air conditioner.
      We're talking about cutting costs here friend.
      You want a bonus for cutting costs? Promotion? Just save the boss money and draw up some bullshit pie chart to show him just how much. Toot your own horn.
      You just set up a kickass server room with total access for replacements and room to expand Expand EXPAND. Cheap.
      2x4s and wood screws. Ducting.

      • by vlm (69642)

        I did something extremely close to this in the 80s for ham radio and electronic test equipment. That was the era when the "big" equipment was being disposed of for $5 at a hamfest. That stuff is all gone now, test gear, even at hamfests, is all tiny little plastic boxes for workbench use. On the other hand, you can buy 10 year old rack mount servers for $100 with $75 shipping, which are almost 1/10th the capability of a tower/desktop that you can get for free, what a fantastic deal (can you tell I'll nev

    • Do it right (Score:4, Insightful)

      by djlowe (41723) * on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:21PM (#39853445)
      Hi,

      Why mess with custom framing, etc., at all? If you have the means, just get a datacenter-class enclosure, and put it in the basement: http://www.werackyourworld.com/ [werackyourworld.com], and be done with it.

      All of this guff about building this, that or the other thing? Screw that - it just adds to construction costs, and limits flexibility. A standard enclosure will suit all of your needs now, and in the future, won't ever require reconstruction, and you'll be guaranteed of future compatibility, since it's made to industry specs.

      In addition, it will be accessible from all sides, assuming you place it so. And, if you have to, you can move it.

      Every time I read about this issue on Slashdot, some idiot wants to proclaim how his "closet" solution is best. You don't want it in a closet, unless you want to have to deal with cooling. In a home, a basement is ideal to help cooling, and noise, and since you're building your home, you can do this, with appropriate planning.

      Get an enclosure, put it it in your basement, with sufficient clearance all around, put in an overhead cable tray if you want to make it all pretty, and be done with it.

      Regards,

      dj
  • Get a swing-out rack - the catch is that most wall-mount racks aren't deep enough for servers of any kind.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:00PM (#39852251) Homepage

    Go with fiber optic. Nothing fancy. Just future proofing. That or conduits with pull strings.

    Avoid wall mounts. Those are too limiting. Make space for a rack cabinet, even if a small one like 16U. Don't back it into a wall. Make sure you can move all around. And a small mini-split cooling system just for that room (it will accumulate heat if closed in).

    • by Shoten (260439) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:32PM (#39852605)

      Dude, if you think the future of connectivity is fiber, you need to leave the 90s and come join us here in 2012. I'm not sure what's so 'future proof' about a relatively temperamental connectivity media that is supported by exactly *no* household devices, and very few wifi access points. As for the "future," I would point out that every high-speed LAN technology started as fiber and then became copper...because fiber is a colossal pain in the ass compared to copper. When something consistently goes from one thing to another, this is called a "trend," and trends tell you about the future. It ain't fiber.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Fiber probably is going to be the future still, at least for "in room" high bandwidth devices. Yes it's a pain in the ass, yes it's not fun to setup and get working. But it blows the hell out of copper for terms of throughput. What I would do, is wire in both. If you have the time and money. At worst, you'll be pulling the RJ45+CAT out in 20 years anyway, so if something better than fiber comes along, you can still string and pull the new stuff through.

        Just remember that trends don't always point to th

        • You're far better off just making sure you can actually get at the wiring relatively easily. If there's one thing I've learned about home wiring, is that the more sure you are that you'll never change something, the more likely it is that you have to get in their with the hammer-drill to try and change it later on.

          I've had in-wall network cables go bad too - at the end of the day, you want your stuff to be accessible for as much of the run as possible. If you're building new, there's really no excuse for no

    • Conduits definitely. Nobody knows what the future will bring, and even if it's optical the likelihood is that it will be an optical format that doesn't exist today.

      • by green1 (322787) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:07PM (#39853349)

        Conduits, even in new houses are expensive and difficult to install to every jack, and quite frankly, overkill.
        As a telco field installer here is my recommendation to everyone who asks about construction or renovation:
        - 2 cat5 and 2 coax to every place you could possibly ever want a TV or computer (and a minimum of one set to every room in the house)
        - drop ceiling in the basement. (if you finish the basement at all, and there better be one, at least a crawl space)
        - actual conduit, with as few bends as possible, as short as possible, and at least 1" diameter between the outside of the house where the telco connects, and the main panel in the basement where everything terminates
        - clear access and several square feet of free backboard where everything terminates. (and a power outlet, for the love of all things holy, let us have a power outlet!)

        my reasoning:
        - Too many existing houses have only coax and cat5, any new technology that is wide spread WILL find a way to use it, or will go wireless, If they don't, they'll never get the market share.
        - It's amazing how much wiring you can do, even on the top floor of a multi-story house, as long as the basement ceiling is accessible, if I need to run new wires to somewhere I cringe when i see a drywalled basement ceiling.
        - This is the one place where it is absolutely critical to run conduit, luckily when done right this conduit is only 1' long. (and if you're one of those builders that puts the service entrance on the opposite side of the house from where you put the main panel... I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!)
        - This is where the changes in technology will be, and whatever the future brings, people will need to get at it and work on it. (You wouldn't believe how many people drywall over the termination block with the large sign that says "WARNING: leave free access to this connection point at all times")

        As for racking, if you have the space, put whatever you want in it, but generally for the amount of equipment likely to be in your home, a shelf somewhere near the main panel is probably sufficient, even for a rack mount server and switch. I don't recommend doing anything that denies you access to the back of a rack, but often you can get them on swingouts of one form or other. We actually have a place in our city where our company has built what they call a WIC (Walk In Cabinet) which is really somewhat of a concrete bunker. It houses the telco end ADSL equipment, as well as other telco gear and such. The racks are all against the wall as the place is only about 6' - 8' wide with 2 rows of racks and a hall down the middle. all the racks have a hinge on one side and a wheel on the other so you can swing them open to get at the back (thereby blocking the aisle completely) (all cables properly dressed to the hinge side) these work well for the tight space (though I have some choice words for the person who thought this whole structure was a good idea... it has a ladder to get in to it for goodness sake, and the door at the top is only 3 feet tall! (not to mention that the punchdown blocks for the telcom circuits use a different punch tool than any other place in the city...))

        • by epiphani (254981)

          Conduits, even in new houses are expensive and difficult to install to every jack, and quite frankly, overkill.

          I looked at conduit when I was rewiring my house. A buddy of mine is an electrician and had a very simple solution that circumvents most of the cost that you're referring to: central vac piping for conduits. It's low power wiring, so it's legal - and you don't need super clean endpoints - just bring the pipe close to the box and be done with.

  • by xzvf (924443) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:00PM (#39852257)
    Assuming that you aren't installing raised floors and a HVAC unit, there are plenty of racks, both full and half hight available. Or you can look at portable rack systems for shows. You can hide it in a closet (well ventilated) and pull it out to work on it.
    • Portable is key when you want to resell your house. Unless you can find a like-minded nerd, anything screwed in to the walls is going to turn off buyers.
  • We use wall mounted racks that swing out (hinged) so the back is accessible. They are available in just about any size you like. I highly recommend this if you do want to mount on a wall. Having no easy access to the back of a wall mounted rack is really a pain in the ***.

  • My rack could "swing out" from the wall to get at the backside, I had it mounted on the side wall of a closet.

  • Simply Put: Hell No (Score:4, Informative)

    by daphx86 (1276210) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:02PM (#39852269)

    At work we have 1U servers mounted on a two post rack. Every time I have to do any kind of work on the rack I basically have to do yoga to get at the back of the rack.

    As nice as it is to get a full body workout every time something needs to be added to or removed from the rack, I would strongly suggest you avoid racks that can't be accessed from the back like the plague.

    On the upside I have discovered unique ways to string together curse words while fumbling behind the rack.

  • Also plan for RG-6 for cable / satellite runs

    • by puck01 (207782)

      Agreed. I have two runs of RG-6 to each room in my house plus two runs of Cat6a. Use quad shielded RG-6 coax, btw, its a must for some systems such as satellite. Doing this now will prevent lazy installers from drilling holes all over your house later

      • Of just terminate your satellite runs at your cabinet for easy access to your Mythbackend. The frontends can all then just stream straight over ethernet.

  • by n5vb (587569)

    Hoping the closet you converted has an exterior facing wall where you can install a dedicated window AC unit. You'd be surprised how much heat can come out of even one rackmount server unit..

    • by farnsaw (252018)
      He already stated that it is a self built low power unit so it should not need a dedicated AC unit, but good ventilation is a must as well as in a cool location, such as the basement will help. He should keep it off the floor if it is in the basement... flooding happens.
    • Re:Cooling? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MachDelta (704883) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:54PM (#39852797)

      I always wondered if a home server could be water cooled with the cold water supply that ran into your hot water tank. You could even take an old water heater, strip the burner and insulation, and use that as your supply/exchanger tank, as the hot water line won't always be running. My dad did something similar with an old water heater tank to keep the basement cooler for wine storage.
      One of these days I might have to try it.

    • by jbeaupre (752124)

      I wonder if anyone has ever converted an old refrigerator into a server closet. Sealed from dust and moisture. Sound dampening. And cool. To hell with thermal efficiency or cost effectiveness. Or ease of use.

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        I don't think that is a good idea. Refrigerators are designed to cool the warm air that comes in when the door is open briefly, overcome any leakage through the insulation, and cool a few warmish things when they are put in. They are not designed to remove heat that is being generated inside them. I would think anything that is generating even a little heat in there is going to quickly overwhelm the cooling capacity of the fridge, and then you have an oven.

  • by MrLogic17 (233498) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:05PM (#39852307) Journal

    Wheels.We've got racks in tight corners, and the solution was to put the rack on wheels, and a lot of slack on everything going to the rack.

    Keep in mind that the diagonal of a square is longer than the side. Leave room to rotate without mashing hands.

  • If you use drawer slides in the rack, and use reasonable lengths for wiring, it could work. Another option would be to build a hinged frame to mount the rack on, so it can rotate out from the wall. Or, put it on/in a wall where you can open up the backside of the wall with a door that gives you access (I'm assuming the back of the rack isn't a solid panel). This would also make it easier to route cables down inside the wall.

  • make a closet, get two peices of 2"x2" angle aluminium, drill your holes, get self taping screws and firmly bolt it to your closet frame. Cantilever your equipment; just avoid heavy long 1u equipment. Option 2, go to a computer recycler, I can get a full sun rack for $150.
  • by JoeRandomHacker (983775) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:08PM (#39852341)

    I have a 4U server that I built hanging vertically on the wall in my wiring closet at home using one of these: http://istarusa.com/claytek/products.php?model=WUT-40B [istarusa.com] . My case has lots of fans, so no problem moving the air vertically through it, and I left enough space below it to afford access to the connectors. They make other sizes of vertical mounts which may be more appropriate for your switch. It isn't a full rack, but it is a lot cheaper than a full rack, more practical than a full rack, and you can always upgrade later.

    • by redelm (54142)
      Vertical is definitely better for only a few units. Instead of hanging from horizontal faceplates, they can also be hung flat against the wall with faceplates vertical for easier access to the back connectors. Consumer-grade switches, routers, etc can also be tacked to the plywood.
  • by Above (100351) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:09PM (#39852347)

    I have seen wall-mount racks that side-mount to the wall, leaving the front and back of equipment accessible. That said, I'm not wild about any of the wall mount racks, at some point they will all be a pain.

    If you have the floor space a small, 4 post cabinet is the way to go. You can often find used ones around for cheap. 4 post is preferred if you're going to have any quantity of systems in them. If the system count is low, and you won't do any 1RU or 2RU systems, a 2-post telco rack is super cheap and might take up less space. I put one in a basement a few years back. 4RU's mount fine with just front rails (screwed in, not on slides of course), and switches, routers, patch panels all work fine in a 2 post setup. Run a 20A dedicated run to it with a computer grade power strip down the side and you're set for life.

    FWIW, having done a few houses, my recommendation is that each jack position get 5 cables, 3xCat5e and 2xRG6. These get terminated on a 6 position keystone, 2xRJ45 Network on top, 2x2-line RJ-11 (4C) in the middle, sharing the third Cat5 (blue/orange first jack, green/brown second), and then two RG6's get Coax jacks on the bottom.

    The wire cost is low, additional pull cost is low. You pay a small amount to terminate all of that. However, you now have more than you'll ever need everywhere. That Sat system down the road, 2xCoax, check. Desktop and VoIP phone, 2 jacks, check. Home and business land lines, check. Buy keystone rack panels for your new rack, a row of network, next to the switch, row of telephone next to some splitters and/or DSL filters (if necessary), row of cable next to splitters and amps for whatever system type you have. Below that machines as necessary.

    Far easier to pull up front than to be frustrated and without later.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alan Evans (875505)
      Here here on avoiding the wall mount rack. I didn't run quite as many cables as this poster but I did run 2xCAT6, 2xCAT3 and 2xCOAX to each location.

      In the basement I hung a piece of 2'x4' x 3/4" plywood on the wall with some cement screws and then got a surface mount CAT6 12 port punch block. A 8 way coax splitter with terminator caps. A signal amplifier and a small unmanaged gigabit switch. I haven't actually terminated the phone lines as I don't have "land line" phones anyway. I just ran the CAT3
  • by n5vb (587569) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:10PM (#39852357)

    If the drywall isn't up yet, take the opportunity now to run PVC conduit to the server rack closet from the room locations where you're planning on Ethernet drops, and possibly to other locations where you might want to run AV cable later on, such as likely mounting locations for a ceiling-mounted projector. It'll save you a ton of work later drilling through studs and firestops later on. Even if you don't run the cable now, you can run a fish tape through conduit and pull cable through it without having to cut through drywall to route it, especially in rooms that have no access to the top or bottom of the wall space.

    I'll also agree with y00nix on the impossibility of having too much rack space. You never know what you might decide to install later, and more rackspace (and preinstalled conduit, see above) give you more expansion options. Trust me, 5-10 years down the road if not sooner, you're going to want to put more stuff in that closet. :D

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:28PM (#39852555)

      Running open ended pvc pipe could be a building code violation. At the very least, you'd have to look into fire blocking the ends after installation. Even with plenum rated cables, you could be denied for a fire claim due to this 'neat' addition.

      • by Mabhatter (126906)

        No, most places REQUIRE commercial electrical installs to use conduit of metal or PVC for all electrical work. You might have to put proper boxes at the ends, but not a terrible thing. You run it just like PVC drain tubing.

        Plenum rated cable is specifically rated to run in "airspace" either INSIDE air return ducts or above drop ceilings. You're trying NOT to do that here.

  • Lack Rack (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animal Farm Pig (1600047) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:14PM (#39852407)
    Have you considered building a Lack Rack [eth-0.nl]? You could do a small stack. Then, you don't need to build anything into your house and it's relocatable.
    • by discord5 (798235)

      Have you considered building a Lack Rack [eth-0.nl]? You could do a small stack. Then, you don't need to build anything into your house and it's relocatable.

      Neat, now I can put my drink somewhere and enjoy the soothing whirring sound of a server running at full blast.

    • IKEA also makes a modular shelf system called IVAR [ikea.com] in two depths, 30cm and 50cm. The width is unsuitable for rackmount equipment, but the depth is perfect in the 50cm option.
  • by sk999 (846068) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:17PM (#39852453)

    >

    Let's face it - you're designing an office building. Ignore the construction company - make yourself a machine room with a raised floor, fluorescent lights, extra HVAC, the works. You may not need it all now, but you're going to need it eventually to keep all those RJ-45 jacks humming ...

  • You need to keep the wires and crap out of the way, you need to be able to get to all sides of the unit regardless of what it is. It needs to stay clean.

    While you're building that also integrate the A/V system in and set it up the same way in the same clean room. Have AC, humidity control and filtering preferably HEPA filtering on the incoming AC since it should never have heat you'll want a unit just for that and a temperature control that will keep it at the right temp. It doesn't take much and even if it

  • by SJHillman (1966756)

    I bought a full height enclosed rack with cooling fans for $100 off Craigslist. It's on wheels so when I don't need to access it, it slides into a gap between the water heater and chest freezer. Just make sure all of the cables going in/out of it have enough slack for sliding it around a few feet.

  • by kriston (7886) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:24PM (#39852519) Homepage Journal

    I use a two-post telco rack.
    The network patch blocks panels mount right on it and so do all switches and routers.
    For computers, I buy center-mount shelving. For the odd electronic device, a cantilevered shelf does the trick.

    The two-post telco racks are fantastically inexpensive and are easy to fit in a furnace room or utility room. Since you're in a house, combining the network wiring with the servers economizes in space.

    If you want to go fancy check out Smarthome.com.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:29PM (#39852565)

    There are reasons why racks are set up the way they are, with space around them, the back accessible, and so on. Follow that example. And don't ask the construction company how to essentially build a small data center...they don't know. Don't wall-mount, but do anchor whatever rack you install to the floor. Have some space around it, and be able to vaccuum out dust (since you'll have a bigger problem with that than most data centers). Also, if you put it in the basement, make sure you have all power a decent distance up off the floor. I don't know your environment or climate, but minor flooding does happen in basements, and what would normally just be a bit of a mess can become a disaster if you have a PDU low enough to get wet. I don't agree at all with the idea of fiber for everything...whatever that guy is smoking, I'm sure I won't keep my job if I have any myself. (Yeah, for that guy...how many household electronics come with fiber interfaces? Or, for that matter, wifi access points with fiber connections?)

    Look at any holy trinity of a server room, and scale to your liking. Patch panel, networking gear, server space. A half-height rack should do you just fine, and still be quality enough that the whole thing will look nice and sanitary. Velcro strips for cable management will be your friend as well, to keep it all super-sano, especially the cable bundles coming out of the rack. Oh, and if you're really interested in making some things easier to trace, there are now ethernet cables that light up at both ends, so that you hit a button on one end and can see the other end light up. The light stays on for about 30 seconds, and it's a godsend if you have a significant cabling area.

  • I went with the rolling half rack. Easy peasy, $100 at the surplus. Just make sure you secure it in case of earthquake.
  • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:38PM (#39852651) Homepage

    Just my opinion, but speaking from experience, you will want front and back access. EASY front and back access. I've tried the slide-out rails, but frankly, I'd rather just walk around back and eyeball the connections myself. It's surprisingly difficult to change something when you're working at an angle.

    We built all of our racks into a wall, but we cheated: it's a wall between rooms. (The "Technical Information Center" and the "Technical Operations Center" -- TIC and TOC.) :) We just walk around back and tinker to our heart's content, while the people who walk by the Engineering area in our studios get to see pretty blinky lights and other stuff through the glass. You might consider mounting your server into the wall with its butt in a closet. That way, you not only hide the wires, you simply walk into the closet for good access.

    You will tell yourself, "I hardly ever change anything." You'll try to convince yourself that a little side access should be a plenty. But again, speaking from experience, you'll regret.

    Oh ... and don't forget that server needs to breathe. If it's farting out several cubic feet of air per minute into that closet or wall-mounted rack, you'd better plan on a fan to pull that hot air out of there. (Again, speaking from experience.)

  • by robi2106 (464558) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:41PM (#39852681) Homepage Journal

    Just get a metal bracket and hang the server vertically (or invert it so that the cold to hot flow is from bottom to top. That takes up a LOT less room. But if you want a full sized one, I have a full height full cage rack in my garage you are welcome to have for free. But you pay shipping. :-)

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:51PM (#39852761) Journal

    As you surmised, wall mount racks are switch only. I went through the same intellectual process and saw no solution but to buy a floor standing rack. It sits in my garage and is accessible from both sides. Mine has a large enough footprint to be stable, but if you get one of those skinny spidery racks, you should sink some bolts into the floor to make sure you don't have a sudden gravity-induced catastrophic failure.

    If your equipment has redundant supplies, you should plug them in separate circuits. I did this after a GFI blew and took out my servers. I wasn't even aware that the GFI in the master bath was on the same circuit as the plug in the garage.

    If you're interested in battery backup, instead of a dedicated UPS, consider a true sinewave inverter (available on amazon) and a couple of marine batteries (available almost anywhere) fed by a heavy duty battery charger. Why? Because it's easier to switch to solar later if you're so inclined.

  • Hinged racks are really expensive ... just buy a conventional wall-mounted rack and mount it on regular hinges. It's nice to carve 10cm or so into the wall so that cables fit nicely when you close it. Front and back access without using much room. Another thing I've done when not much room is available is build a trap door in the wall where the wall-rack will be mounted. When you need to access the backside, you just go to the other room and pull out the trap door. If none of this is feasible, just mount th

  • If all you need is space for a network switch and a single server, why not put the server in a desktop case, and put both the rack and the switch on a shelf. Or just keep it in the rackmount case and put it on the shelf.

    Or, if you're looking for something to impress your friends when they see your server room, put in whatever it is that impresses your friends. With lots of blue LEDs.

  • Commonly used for decades, you get some quality rack slides that let you pull things out far enough to get to the back sides of them. Remember, the standard 19" rack has been around a long time, and this situation also - consider a Navy boat or an AWACs plane with stuff mounted to the walls - same problem, and they need quick access. I never knew what those things cost new, because for a long time they were almost give-away surplus. Probably an almost lost tech now, but they really made some quality stuf
  • If you aren't then all your geek credentials will be revoked.

    Some people have recommended a hinged rack that swings out. I would suggest a rack on wheels. IMO using a rack is not crucial. The only crucial thing is having easy access to all the connections and all the equipment.

  • Also brings back memories. I built a house years ago and ran wires within the walls--for a Lantsastic network! This was before widespread ethernet, of course. Then WiFi showed up. I laugh at my own lack of foresight! I fooled myself.

    I applaud your efforts. Just plan for MORE rack space and keep your versatility. Everything will be connected. Sounds like fun. Wish I could do it again.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:00PM (#39852851)

    Use a wall mounted rack for the switch, patch panels, etc. for all the CAT6 runs to various rooms. You'll only need front access for this stuff.

    Get a half rack for the servers. Put it on wheels so you can pull it out of the closet, turn it around to access the back, etc. There will only be a couple of Ethernet drops from the switch to the moveable cabinet, so you won't pull loose all the house network wiring every time you move it.

  • A couple suggestions:

    1) Run more wire. Nobody ever said "Damn, I ran too many cables while the walls were open". It's really cheap to do now. You also may want to run some quad-shielded coax for future cable or satellite hook-ups. You might not want 'em now, but the cable's really cheap.

    2) If you have an attic and a basement, run a good-sized conduit between the attic and the basement. Like 2" or larger. Leave it empty except for a pull cord. This will make it very easy to pull any future wires betwe

  • Find a surplus sale and buy a used 42U rack.

    Home run all the Cat 6 into the rack (you are having all the phones wired with Cat 6 right?) and add a patch pannel
    Also have all the house cable home run into the rack plus a couple runs of fiber from the telco service entrance just to be future proof.
    Feed the rack a dedicated 220v circuit with an in rack PDU.

    If possible have a 2-3" conduit run from the entertainment center to the rack for media PC use so you can run HDMI or whatever comes next without opening up

  • by Vrtigo1 (1303147) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:04PM (#39852899)
    Agree with others that have suggested "go big or go home". If you're the type of person that thinks about installing a server rack in your house, a 6U or 12U rack probably isn't going to be big enough for long enough. Plus, as you've noted, the smaller racks are really designed for network equipment, not servers. If you're going to put a server in there, you may as well go for at least a half rack. And I'd really recommend a four post setup with sliding rails for whatever servers you end up putting in there - it just makes things so much easier. You'll inevitably end up needing to upgrade RAM or something, and it's a huge PITA if you have to pull the whole server out of the rack. Plus, four post racks are readily available second hand on craigslist.

    As to your comment about two cat5 jacks per room and four in the living room - as someone who did exactly that four years ago when I build my house I can tell you that you're boxing yourself in. If you're going to have a home office, you probably want to put at least four jacks in there. For your living room, just think about all the stuff you may someday have that will want cat5. I have an Apple TV, Samsung TV, Xbox, Bluray, and a PC. I ended up putting a 5 port switch in my entertainment center, and it may well be more cost effective to only run one network jack to a small switch at locations where you need higher port density. Most home stuff doesn't have really high throughput requirements, so losing the single highspeed backplane of a centralized switch isn't a huge issue. The only issue here would be (as in my case) if you need PoE on some of those ports.

    Here are a few other things I'd do differently if I was building again and had a budget for this sort of thing:
    1) Run a min 20A (30A is even better) dedicated circuit with a twist lock connector to the rack's location. If you want to get a rackmount UPS in the 2000-3000VA range, it will probably require this.
    2) Install sound deadening around the rack - network equipment is typically pretty noisy
    3) Plan for cooling - if you can run an A/C duct to the rack's location that's good, but plan for how you're going to keep stuff cool when the rest of the house has reached your target temperature and the central A/C turns off for 30 minutes. You may want to look at one of the smaller portable A/C units that you can duct either into the crawlspace (check local codes about this, you may run into problems with mold if you duct moist air up there), or outside.
    4) Run CONDUIT - this is probably the biggest tip I can give you. If you're able to install wall boxes and such before drywall goes up, spend $100 on a roll of blue flex conduit and run that from your wall boxes up into the attic/crawlspace. Make sure to stub the conduit up high enough so that any blown-in insulation doesn't cover the top of it. You'll be so glad you did this in a few years when you want to upgrade or add more wiring.
    5) Cable management - don't overlook it. Patch panels and wire management to and at the rack make life so much nicer. You can get by without it but if you do a really nice job you'll find yourself wanting to show it off to your friends to impress them (unfortunately, it usually just draws a blank stare). 6) K.I.S.S. - since I'm a network engineer, I built my home network with a cisco router, AP and switch, created VLANs and public/private WiFi networks, then realized that most consumer level tech isn't designed to be compatible with that in the least. Take Apple TV for instance - it relies on network broadcasts. If you have an iPad or iPhone with airplay and want to send a stream to your Apple TV, the two devices have to be on the same network. There's no way to manually enter device IP addresses to get two devices on separate subnets to talk to each other. Naturally, if your PCs are on a private network with the Apple TV, that's well and good, but what if a friend comes over and connects to your public WiFi and you want him to be able to use airplay from his iPhone? I've had similar problems with Slingbox, etc. That kind of stuff just isn't designed to work on a network any more complicated than what you get with your standard Linksys router.

    Hopefully some of this is helpful to you.
  • by lanner (107308) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:05PM (#39852903)

    I am some guy who has done stuff like this, including oversaw the construction of a custom condo where I directed certain changes be made to accommodate data networking and a little server room. For my day job, I sysadmin and have directed the construction of a modern mid-size data center (30 racks) and multiple office environments. I oversee lots of structured cabling installations.

    I have beat my head against the wall many times, over stupid stuff. So, let me give you some advice.

    For example, the fact that you want a 4U rackmount anything in your home is just crazy. Knock it off. You really don't want anything rackmount in your home, though that is the only form factor you are going to find larger switches in.

    No professional sysadmin or programmer would put a rackmount server in his home because he knows it is stupid. There is a reason you put computer guts into that form factor and those same reasons do not apply in your home. Get over it.

    You are using the logic of "Penguins are Black and White. Some Old TV Shows are Black and White. Therefore, Some Penguins are Old TV Shows" . Just because professionals use rack servers in data centers doesn't mean you are a professional when you put one in your home.

    You almost certainly do not want a rackmount chassis for your server. Instead, use a desktop chassis which meets your needs (or whatever is cheapest). The only time you might use a rackmount chassis would be for mounting it directly onto a wall using the ears, but even then, I would never use a 4U height chassis.

    Same thing goes for the patch panels. You don't need a rack at all. Ortronics makes a nice little 12-port wall-mounter patch panel which is perfect for home use. I have exactly 24 cat5e runs in my home, so two of them were perfect. FYI Ortronics also makes pretty good jacks and plates too -- get a catalog and call your local Anixter or Graybar for an order.

    In my particular case, I have a single do-it-all server with five internal SATA disk drives for primary storage, an old SCSI card which attaches to an external DLT tape drive for backups, and I have an external 5-disk SATA enclosure which is inside of a fire-proof enclosure in case the place burns down. I have a bunch of old APC UPS units in the home which all have network cards in them. I use wireless only for my laptop and phone, where every room has at least two network jacks and as many as eight.

    The biggest issues in this server closet are air flow for heat removal, and noise isolation. I live in the southwest where it gets really hot in the summer and the closet where I keep my gear is next to the garage, where it gets warm. I had to cut a vent into the door near the bottom so fresh/cool air could enter the closet, and I have a small fan which blows the old/hot air into the garage. The little 'server closet' has that do-it-all server with the ten disk drives, a cable modem, a 24-port switch, an APC UPS, an APC per-port controlled PDU, and sometimes I keep a second little cheapy server in there for experiments. So I need a little bit of air flow to keep it at a reasonable temperature in there.

    However, all of these fans and junk make noise, which is bad. My old switch was the worst offender and I had to ditch it for a different switch. I also found that wall-mounting the switch caused vibrations to go through the wall, so I had to solve that problem by putting it on a small shelf with a layer of foam underneath.

    Cat5e cable is probably fine for now. I like Berk-Tek brand riser/plenum cable as an intermediate of price and quality. If you really want to be able to do 10GBASE-T some day, you will have to go with Cat6a, which is crazy expensive. FYI, the current 10GBASE-T spec calls for spans of something like 25 meters with Cat5e, so you might be able to do 10GBASE-T over the Cat5e anyway.

    Get over it, stop rack mounting things in your house, and get someone who knows structured cabling in there to help you pick some good cable, jacks, and the patch panels. I already told you about Ortronics and Berk-Tek. A clueful person could go from there.

  • At a friends house, they have all their AV equipment in cupboards embedded in the wall. If you need to reach the back of something, you walk around into the corridor and open the cupboard. The same thing could easily work with a rack assuming you allow for ventilation.
  • are you going to be plugging stuff into the back of these computers? you wont be as flexible in 25 years

  • by EdwinFreed (1084059) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:49PM (#39854239)
    This was when we were remodeling. The cost was negligible compared to everything else. It's been about 2/3 full ever since, and I have never regretted it.

    The thing I do regret is not running enough cable. I put two CAT-5E in each room and it isn't enough. I should have pulled 4 everywhere. I've had to add a couple of runs, and doing that after the walls are closed up is difficult and expensive.

    I've found Wifi to be a poor substitute for wired. When two laptops are backing up trying to watch some video is painful.
  • by Just Brew It! (636086) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:56PM (#39854271)
    My home data center consists of three old PCs (two servers and a router, all running Ubuntu Server), a couple of gigabit switches, and a pair of UPSes, stacked in a corner of my crawlspace.
  • by RudyHartmann (1032120) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @12:34AM (#39854405)
    Good grief. If you're going to run a home network, what the heck do you need a fire breathing data center for? I have done this at my house for my family. I have Cat5 cable running through the house. But no matter how hard I have tried to predict the future of technology, I have missed the boat too often. Forget all the big power hungry servers and resources. It's ridiculous to build a home system that requires active external cooling. The most I have needed was sharing files, printers, DHCP, firewall, webserver, domain controller and a few misc goodies. I have done this all on some tiny super low power Via based mini-ITX based motherboards. The darn things together use fewer watts than my workstation. Most of them run notebook 2.5 inch low power drives. An enclosed area can get pretty hot, but these don't. My one big main server for sharing video, music and other stuff does run some 7200 RPM 3.5" drives, but they go into hibernate when they haven't been used for a while, then do a wake a request is made. Those are 2TB SATA drives that are mirrored. I do want more storage though. I connect my computer, my kids computers and all the TV's. I use some of the TV's for monitors too. I connect the Sony PS3's and I also have a wireless network for my laptop. I have 2 printers. A standard B&W laser printer and a nice color inkjet . I only have 1 RJ45 per room. I use a hub or switch there if I need more. I can control all the security via the main server. I run my own domain too. Anyway, it let's me control what my kids can do or guests. My network is controlled by Linux too. I don't need a rack, or special cooling or any of that stuff. Beware of over engineering. It's all a few tiny cases sitting sideways on a closet shelf. I have ripped my favorite movies and stored them on my servers. I also ripped my entire CD collection of music. It never skips on music or video. I have 2 external USB interface drivew for a backups that I rotate. I always keep one of these at the office in case the house burns down. This is an on going project that has been a lot of fun. Keeping it all cool and the electricity bill is negligable.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @12:58AM (#39854487)

    We did some renovation work on our new office suite and since we had access to the bare walls, we did all the cat6 wiring ourselves. Here's what I came up with.

    * The biggest recommendation I'd make is for you to install good conduits to all your rooms and rooms you might even *remotely* think about expanding network access to. Don't just staple your lines to the 2x4 since that makes it impossible to secure new line later. Factor in the bulk of the cat6 you're running through conduits and make sure you've got plenty of breathing room. You can usually muscle cables through with lubrication, but save yourself the aggravation of having the cable-pull slip off.
    * Keep in mind the directions that you'll be pulling from and make sure that the cables can be pulled without snagging or going around sharp angles. We use angled joints in the appropriate direction for a pull.
    * Leave pull cords/strings inside conduits to each outlet and secure both ends so they don't get pulled inside the conduit later. You'll be thankful later when you have to expand one outlet for your spouse's new printer.
    * Label *both* ends of pull cords and strings.

    Oh yeah, and future proof. Estimate high on outlet usage, use the latest cable standards (assuming it's still 6), and again don't be stingy running cable to rooms you don't think you'll need. If you don't run cable, at least run the conduit and pull-string for later. That Ethernet port might come in handy when you decide to put in a streaming set-top box in the kitchen.

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