I have a lot of computer equipment: some of it is even useful. My network gear has grown in sophistication over the years, but has never been housed particularly well.
That has changed: say hello to my new infrastructure rack (image above).
What is a rack?
Basically, it is a ‘structured’ shelf system for housing computer hardware. It is a standard size, with a well-defined fastener system that is generally ‘universal’. So when I say I have a 15U 19″ rack, I can be reasonably confident that 1U rack component will slide in and bolt into place.
I only have a couple of truly ‘rack mount’ components thus far: a power distribution unit (PDU aka fancy power bar) and a 16 port network switch. For the rest, I have a couple of rack mount shelves. But the rack enclosure itself makes managing even the non-rack components easier. Everything is designed for easy access to the front, sides, and even the back.
My 15U rack is wall mounted- lag bolted to wall studs. The entire rack ‘swings away’ from the wall, the sides can be removed, and of course the front opens up.
What goes in the rack?
I have the following items in my rack currently:
- 16 port Netgear network switch
- Protectli firewall/gateway server running Pfsense
- the server that runs this website: an Intel NUC server
- 8 TB of Netgear ReadyNAS NVX network attached storage
- APC UPS
- 16 outlet PDU
My plan is to gradually add a couple more rack-specific components e.g.: replace the UPS with a rack mount UPS. I also want to clean up/standardize the wiring and upgrade the NAS to something a bit more modern.
Why a rack?
I have had my network gear on a shelf in my office for two decades. In that time I’ve had a lot of time to think about the shortcomings of that arrangement. Notably, the servers, switches, and so on are exposed to the curiosity of our cats; airflow is a challenge; and the wiring is a pain to work on.
But I think my main reason comes down to a matter of aesthetics. “Serious” computer equipment should be in a rack. Having my network and server gear on a shelf out in the open has bothered me for a long time. For whatever reason, putting it in a rack makes me feel more proud.
I am listing some of the key parts for my rack setup below. The links are to Amazon.ca: I don’t make anything if you buy from them, so feel free to find a different vendor.
- Rack: Startech 15U 19″ wall mount network cabinet (RK1520WALHM)
- Hub: NETGEAR 16-Port Gigabit Ethernet Smart Switch (GS716Tv3)
- Firewall: Protectli Vault 6 port appliance; 4 GB RAM, 32 GB SSD (FW6B-0-4-32)
- PDU: 16 outlet 1U PDU (RKPW161915)
I also acquired a couple of shelves and cables, velcro wire ties, and some wire channels that I’m still installing to keep the cabling neat.
The rack itself has 16 bolt cutouts on a 16″ spacing. I used 12 5/16 x 2.5″ lag bolts (4 were not practical for me to drill due to the angles inside the rack) on two 1″ thick 4″ wide oak boards that were themselves mounted to the vertical joists using 6 5/16 x 3″ lag bolts. It seems more than solid enough to support the rack (40 kg) and hundred or so kilos of equipment.