I have to reuse old rack and servers.

The server is 74 cm deep and the rack around 65 cm.

With a few tricks I'd be able to mount everything I need if I leave back and front doors opened.

I thought about more dust, more humidity, all the danger of having an opened door h24 that cannot be closed (a person closing and breaking it), physical access to servers granted to anyone able enter the room.

I am generally against working this way but I would like to hear your thoughts and get a complete list of technical reasons that describe what is bad about the decision to mount anyway.

  • 5
    We had cabinets with this same problem. Luckily the vendor had cabinet extensions which allowed adding up to 16 inches.
    – jscott
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 11:26
  • 5
    At the very least, remove the doors so nobody can close them accidentally and smash something. Most rack doors come off just by pulling a pin on the hinge.
    – Grant
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 0:27

3 Answers 3


Recycle an old server rack?

Arguments against

  • Unsafe : someone could injure themselves by colliding with a server that should not be there.
  • The doors are now more of a hindrance than a help and should be removed.
  • No doors = no security. Defeats the purpose of having a rack.
  • Maintainance of older racks is more time-consuming than more modern racks.
  • Looks (and is) unprofessional and does not give a good impression.
  • You should use up-to-date standardized equipment so you can add and remove servers seamlessly.
  • Relocating an open rack to another room or site will require more time and effort.
  • Keep dust out and servers live longer.

Arguments for (devils-advocate)

  • An old rack is better than no rack.
  • No doors = better airflow (for old racks anyway) :D
  • Will the old servers even fit into a new rack?
  • The old servers and, presumably, operating systems must serve some useful function that may not be smoothly migrated to new hardware.
  • Even if there is more dust the old servers are probably not that valuable and cheaper to replace one at a time.
  • There may be plans to replace them in the next couple of years anyway.
  • The server room itself should be secure.
  • There is no money left in this years budget (or other cashflow issues).
  • Perhaps old rack is mostly unused and space is cheap.

Mounting safely inside the rack

To make it possible to close the doors consider mounting the server in one of the following arrangements (assuming old server is 4u):

  1. vertically at the front side of the rack with the front on top so drives bays are accessible if this is more important

    Real-estate Penalty: 13u = 16 modern servers that could fit where that old server goes and 13u are wasted.

  2. vertically at the rear side of the rack with the back on top so cabling is more accessible

    Real-estate Penalty: 13u

  3. My favourite: diagonally and proudly show it off.

    Real-estate Penalty: 7u (approx.)

    This may increase your changes of getting a new rack sooner (but I would not like to have to look at that every day!).

enter image description here

  • 1
    "Looks" unprofessional rather tha "Is"? Let's rethink this: you buy a product and the guys come installing both rack and server. They can't close the installed rack. I suppose you're really happy with the job, right? Tells a lot about the whole project, imho.
    – Pitto
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 14:37
  • 2
    LOOKS is an argument for your boss who doesn't seem to care that it IS unprofessional :)
    – chriskelly
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 14:57
  • 5
    The room isn't secure? In a secure shared room space, the rack should be secured within a secure caged area, in non shared environment physical security is via secure room door. The cabinets in our datacenter don't even have door options.
    – Jeremy
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:21
  • 2
    Jeremy - there's different levels. I worked in an environment where cabinet-level access was given via paired (physical) keys, for the PKI infrastructure, to only certain individuals.
    – mfinni
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 17:35
  • 1
    Interesting alternative suggestions. Cabinet doors give little security. I know most brand name cabinets use the same key for every lock. So anyone with an HP key can get in any HP cabinet, etc. So they are more for keeping a random passerby away rather than full security. It all depends on what the datacenter is like.
    – Devon
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 15:34

Racks are inexpensive and can purchased used or refurbished. It's nearly impossible to go wrong with a modern rack. The cost of doing this the right way is so low that any janky, tacky or unprofessional solution is just adding to your technical debt.

Temporary workarounds always seem to become permanent or otherwise end poorly. A good example is this server installed in a rack without using rack rails. Shortcuts end up causing more time to you or someone else in the long run.

enter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description here

That should be reason enough. (and maybe avoiding an appearance on http://thedailywtf.com)

  • 4
    +1 for "technical debt". If rack purchases are a critical cost pile the gear up on the floor or start sending out resumes.
    – msw
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 18:05
  • Can I downvote the pictures? That's cringe-worthy!
    – Bigbio2002
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:46
  • 2
    I think I vomited in my mouth a little bit.
    – tombull89
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 19:21

In any kind of rack with a chimney or fans based at the top, the proper airflow depends on having the rear doors closed (and the front correctly blanked).

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