I'm putting servers on a rack for the first time, and am thinking a 4-post open frame rack is adequate for my needs. I'm putting in a few HP DL 385's and a few other things. What I'm wondering is if there's reason to be picky about the rack selection. I'm not concerned about heat or size - just installation and fit. Any recommendations or considerations?

  • 4
    Do you have any dell rackmount servers? They tend to be longer and require adapters or a deeper rack to get the rails mounted correctly.
    – iainlbc
    May 17, 2010 at 17:44

5 Answers 5


Some things I have learned looking after a smallish machine room of 6 cages:

  • I have had good luck with the APC netshelter, 42U unit.

  • Make sure it's long enough to accommodate your rackmount equipment

  • Make sure you have the rails for your equipment - they are often mated to your case

  • Account for space eaten by UPS unit(s), I put mine in the bottom of the rack as they are heavy

  • Take into account power cable lengths; typical server power cables are usually not long enough to reach servers in the top 8 or so of U the rack, you may need to get a power strip to distribute power

  • Make sure there is enough room behind the unit so that you can get in behind to cable, power down and generally fiddle with stuff

  • Make sure there is reasonable ventilation in back as all the heat is going to be concentrated to some degree

  • Most folks don't leave spaces in the rack between units as the only airflow that matters is what can actually be sucked in the front of the rack to cool the parts inside

  • Never rackmount new gear alone. This stuff is heavy and bulky. Have at least an extra set hands to help: no need to lose toes, hands etc or damage equipment especially when racking in the upper portion of the cage. Get a lift unit or scissor table to help if you can

  • Make sure you have the right kind of power plugs at the installation - rackmount equipment doesn't always have the nema office power plugs, especially the 30+ amp rackmount ups gear - no bigger bummer than putting it all together and have no way to power up :(

Hope this helps.

  • 3
    All of this is sound advice, plus if you're mounting server kit don't get a rack with inadequate door ventilation. Some racks are fitted with perspex on the front door and fewer air vents, and are better suited for comms and networking gear rather than active CPUs. The stuff you want will have a full-door grille. May 19, 2010 at 9:08
  • It may sound like a joke, but one important consideration are the holes of the frame; there are two types, a relatively uncommon threaded hole and the standard square hole for cage nuts. As most devices you can buy are prepared for the square hole, this is a safer bet. But even then, be careful when you buy devices.
  • If you anticipate any growth, you should consider what kind of accessories are available for the rack you chose. Many companies (like APC) offer whole systems of devices like lights, door switches, PDUs etc.etc
  • If you decide to buy a rack with doors, consider the depth of the rack and make sure you don't buy a 60cm version for cabling and networking, as you won't be able to close the back doors with a server in it.
  • 2
    +1 Also consider wider racks with some extra space on the sides for cabling and/or utility devices if this is the only rack you'll have - perhaps some panels and other stuff want to live in it ^^ May 17, 2010 at 18:11

Not joking here either if you are going for a freestanding rack make sure it has some kind of stablization (some people call it a kick-stand lol), epsecially if it has wheels.


When you bend down to pick something off the floor make sure that the rails are pushed back into the rack. I made this mistake once and stood up into the rails resulting in my one and only IT injury stitches to the head.

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    Especially that keyboard tray, which tends to be pulled out when you are physically troubleshooting those servers. Not only can you whack your head against the sheet metal and get a scar, but you might be completely disoriented while stumbling around for 10-30 seconds, swearing at the top of your lungs the while time. And it might be 2AM in the datacenter, and you are all alone, looking for a tissue, bandaid, paper towel, or anything. NOT THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED TO ME, or anything. May 18, 2010 at 0:16

I don't have any specific recommendations that haven't already been covered but when I was faced with a similar situation I paid a visit to a local company (Hallam Oz) that makes racks and rack fittings. They will even custom make them if required. On that visit I took a slide with me so that I could actually see how it would fit. It seems that apart from the more obvious issues, such as the holes, the pillars come in a variety of profiles and not all slides will readily mount all racks.

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