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So, I'm cheap and I buy tower servers instead of blades. I was thinking of getting a workstation for my servers, but came across some industrial shelving. The shelving is metal and is capable of holding 3000 pounds. The potential concern I have is that the shelving is on wheels (but they lock) and that the shelves are wired and not flat.

Does anyone have any input on using these shelves as a rack for about a dozen servers?

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7 Answers 7

We're using baker's racks in our test lab for the same purposes. It's relatively secure but it really depends on your comfort level and budget. I wouldn't do it in production unless it was a really small shop.

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+1 for baker's racks - durable, sturdy, and cheap –  warren Nov 30 '09 at 15:08

It will probably work just fine for a small/cheap/lab setup, but for production i'd recommend a rack solely because of the better air-flow (given that you properly fill up blank space with panels).

Edit: A better explanation by Mr Furious (thank you):

Racks are designed to ensure air travels through the front of the machine and exhaust the warm air out of the back. When you have a machine that sits completely unaided in a warm server room, you typically get less efficient movement of air (cross flow between warm and cold air). With this less efficient movement, you're reduced to a "brute force" method of air conditioning. Racks allow you to drop cold air in front and have return air at the rear for more efficient cooling (provided you use blanking panels for open slots).

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how can you get better airflow than wire? –  mson Nov 30 '09 at 15:28
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Racks are designed to ensure air travels through the front of the machine and exhaust the warm air out of the back. When you have a machine that sits completely unaided in a warm server room, you typically get less efficient movement of air (cross flow between warm and cold air). With this less efficient movement, you're reduced to a "brute force" method of air conditioning. Racks allow you to drop cold air in front and have return air at the rear for more efficient cooling (provided you use blanking panels for open slots). –  Mr Furious Nov 30 '09 at 17:30
    
@mson: in an open rack or shelf you don't get what's considered "airflow", you get a co-mingling of hot and cool air. Rack mount servers and racks are designed for airflow for the cool air to come in the front and for the hot air to be exhausted out the back. Situating rack mount servers on shelves or in racks that have empty slots without blanking plates disrupts the "designed" airflow and makes cooling a more laborious process. Not only does it not effectively and efficiently cool the equipment as designed it probably also reduces the life of that equipment and leads to higher energy costs. –  joeqwerty Nov 30 '09 at 18:43

I don't see any reason you couldn't use that sort of shelving. However, I would consider anchoring them to the wall so that they could not tip accidentally. You could consider removing the wheels if it is possible.

Another option is buying used racks. I purchased a few used racks for not a ton of money. My company also disposed of a bunch of older racks at one of our sites. You might look on Craigslist for another company doing the same. We just gave ours away for someone willing to pick them up.

Good luck!

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I've use baker's racks for production gear: tower servers, network gear, etc. That was a small shop - a few hundred users scattered across a dozen large and small offices. It worked and was cheap, which was perfect for us.

One gotcha: the wires are hard on equipment feet, if you try and drag the heavier gear around on the shelf.

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I'm using some industrial shelves for my home rack, and it can't stand the comparison with a real server rack:

Pros:

  • cheap
  • sturdy
  • easy to change wiring (useful for a lab)

Cons:

  • bad cooling/not efficient
  • good cabling is difficult
  • units are stacked: difficult to change a server/replace ram/...

Mine has no wheels, and I'm happy with it. Stacked servers might not be an issue for you, with tower servers, but pay attention to how cabling is done (what a pain to unplug a server just to remove another one).

Here is a side picture of the rack before cabling was done: industrial_shelves

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Geez wtf do you do at home with all that stuff? –  Jakobud Jan 10 '12 at 23:03
    
@Jakobud: some usual home services (file sharing, print shares...) and mostly lab'ing to practice/test topologies & technologies. –  petrus Jan 12 '12 at 15:56

I've previously used cheap Ikea shelving as racks in a small office, and I've seen wire racks used in many other places. The wheels can be handy for moving it around, as long as you load heavy stuff onto the bottom shelves (that's where the UPS should go). You just want to minimize the possibility of it tipping over.

If the shelves are adjustable, put the bottom one down as far as it will go, that will also help the stability.

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This office was using similar racks for years - in both production and development server rooms. They were doubtless cheap, and pretty effective for years. Just pulled the last of them out because we've grown a bit. The only downside to these racks (assuming they're stable) is that they take up a lot of space (requiring you to cool a larger area, assuming that's a concern). Other than that, no problem.

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