Hello everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve posted something on here, life was a bit all over the place in the last year. But I’ve managed to find a lot of new and interesting stuff to take a look at and (hopefully) make some blog posts about them!
But today, it’s a special day. It is Rack day. I just bought my first rack.
Gone are the days of servers sitting on the floor! (Almost…)
Table of Contents
- Why getting a Server Rack ?
- Packaging and Arrival
- Box Contents
- Rack Assembly Process
- Putting it all together
- Cable Management
Why getting a Server Rack ?
As you may have seen in my first blog post image, I was able to get my hands on some entreprise-grade hardware, some servers, switches and even a few firewalls.
And for the pasts few years these things were just sitting on the floor, making vibrations and noise for everyone to enjoy (especially me).
I wanted to buy a Rack for as long as I can remember… And so, in January of 2024, I pulled the trigger and bought the best rack on the market with the best hardware and options. So I chose the StarTech Open Rack, the 25U variant.
I’ve tried to find something that would fit my needs on the second-hand market but there were not many option where I live, only 42U or racks that were too small to put servers in. So I had to buy it new.
And why a 25U? Well, the 18U version would have been a bit too small and not really future proof for everything I wanted to do, with the extra 6U I’ll be able to add more hardware down the line. I didn’t want the 42U either because it is way too tall, and I don’t need 42U of space for now.
Packaging and Arrival
Delivery was quite fast, it came only three days after I placed the order! The packaging was fine and no physical damage were found. Some people complained on the Amazon listing that the packaging was not suited and a few even found some bend parts… However, it was not the case here, and I’m thankful for that.
It was in two parts mostly, one part with three boxes and the other with the rack parts. Total package length was around 1m50 and really heavy at around 30kg.
In those three boxes you can find all the screws and other equipments this rack comes with.
One box with all the screws and the 4 feet for the rack. This includes:
- 48x M8 Bolts & Washers
- 32x M6 Cage Nuts, Screws and PVC Washers
- 4x Levelling Feet
- 4x Screws for the Grounding wires
You also get a few tools to help you assemble the rack:
- a 13mm Wrench (M8)
- a 10mm Wrench (M6)
- a Phillips Screwdriver
- 4x Grounding Wires
Another box is dedicated to the four casters, and, oh man, that box was heavy, those casters are serious material and the quality of them just feels awesome.
And the last box contained 12 cable management hooks, they are just plastic but they feel really good and sturdy.
Rack Assembly Process
Assembly was quite straight forward (for the most part). At first you assemble the top and bottom beams which are fully adjustable in terms of length.
I choose the length randomly from what appears to fit me, I checked the max length of the server rails I have and so it was based on that mostly. I wanted to get the maximum length I could, just so I can fit more devices in front and in the back (for switches and firewalls mostly).
Once that was done, I started to work on the main rack and it was quite hard at the beginning because you build it side-ways and your brain can be a bit lost. But after thinking about it, it went smoothly. I mean, except for one thing. The rack posts can fit inside or outside the other parts, and I didn’t know which was the correct way, so I needed to find some videos to find out how to correctly build it. And the official video from StarTech was the one that helped me the most.
Once that was figured out, I was able to build the rack quite easily. When building it, you should just hand-tight the nuts and once you’re done, use the wrench to fully tighten all of them.
I built it all alone, which was quite challenging at times, but I’ve manage to do it!
Putting it all together
When I was done building, I put the rack on its feet (Or… casters) and I immediately tried to put my server rails on it. And it does fit perfectly, I was way too excited!
As you can see, my servers are on the floor, on top of one another and it does make a lot of vibration which I can hear all the way to the bedroom. Hopefully, the rack will solve this issue.
I then proceeded to install some more hardware! And I started to mount all the switches and firewalls I have on hand. While doing so I’ve used up almost all included cage nuts and screws, I only have six of each left, I’ll definitely need to get my hand on some more in the future if I get new hardware.
I’ve put my favourite gear in front and some not-so-cool gear in the back.
Here you can see a Cisco PIX 515E, some Cisco switches and a Fortinet 200B! They are clearly not modern but I just like them a lot and I just thing they look really neet!
At the back I have an old HP 2524, a Nortel 2550T and a small TP Link unmanagable 1G switch which is currently used for all my network needs.
For the next part, which was installing the server in the rack, I’ve waited a few days, so I could get help from my girlfriend to put the server on the rails. Those servers are heavy, and I didn’t want to do that alone. And you should not do that alone either !
But it went quite smoothly, they just slot-in the rails and then you can do all your raily-stuff!
You can even see the Dell server I’ve talked about in my previous blog posts, the SC1425. But sadly I don’t have rails for this one, so it just sit there on the Dell R715… Not ideal but it’s okay for now.
I’ve also kept 2U at the bottom for a future UPS (maybe, if I get lucky and find some good deals) and 4U between the storage array and the server, that because I have 2 other servers without rails that I plan on putting here once I can get my hand on some rails.
I will give you a few numbers on the dimensions of this rack. Once built it is around 1m 29.2cm in height with the casters on (1m 21.6cm without). With my setup, it is around 94.5cm in length and the spacing for the rails is around 81.5cm. And the width is around 60cm but you need to add 9cm per side if you add the cable management hooks.
I hope those numbers can help you. If I’ve missed something, feel free to ask me!
How about cable management? Is it any good?
Weeeeell… I can’t really say, as I have not tried to manage any cables yet… I only have 3 and 5 meters ethernet cables and they are way too long. I need to get my hand on smaller cables, then I will be able to make a clean setup.
I would also like to get some rackable power strip. So the cable could be managed better than a power strip on the floor.
But I’m sure I will be able to make some neat cable management once I get the proper hardware for that. However, I’ve already put three cable management hooks at the back of the rack and they help me manage some cables, just a tiny bit. I can’t put them in front as I have my chair right behind and I would probably break them when leaving the chair. And I cannot put anything on the left side because a wall is in the way.
Let’s talk money now. Racks are quite expensive when you want to install servers in them. I paid 350€ for this one, which is still quite expensive, especially for me. But I’ve waited so long to buy one so I’ve set aside enough money to buy it.
You can find this rack on the official StarTech.com website here: It is the 4POSTRACK25U model.
So… Was this what I’ve been looking for? Yes! Absolutely (For the price, it better be). It just feels right to have all those servers in a rack, in an easy to access and maintain environment. Plus the build quality is just on point and it feels really well made.
Bonus point: I cannot ear anything from my room anymore, no more vibrations! I’m sure my neighbors will thank me for that.
I can’t wait to put more stuff in the rack and to manage all those cables.
I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any question I’ll be happy to answer them!