I recently decided to clean up my server and network equipment area, as part of a basement remodeling project. I built a 11U rack cabinet from plywood and used rack rails that I scavenged from a junked cabinet many years ago. It sits on casters making it easy to move and service. I've wanted to rack my servers for a long time, to keep them physically protected, to make them easier to move, and to cut down on the space they occupied as separate towers.
I have two servers. I wrote about my unRAID video server here
(smallnetbuilder.com). The CM Centurion 590 tower is 17.3" tall, so it fits between the rack rails shelf-mounted on its side. I'm sticking with this case for the movie server; there are no inexpensive 4U rack chassis with nine 5.25" bays. Norco's RPC-450TH would be perfect, but it's damn expensive
For the past 5 years I've been using an an old Dell Optiplex GX110 for the music server. You can read about it here
(silentpcreview.com). All I need in a music server is something to host flac's and run slimserver/squeezecenter for my Squeezeboxes.
Although the price was right, I was never fully happy with the GX110 for these reasons:
- No USB 2.0. Backups over USB1 are tragically slow, so I would backup over my LAN, except...
- LAN limited to 100Mb/s (3Com integrated NIC). I could have added a gigE NIC, except...
- I removed and lost the PCI card daughter board! Oops.
- The chassis was enormous. It would not fit in my rack cabinet.
- No suspend to ram (S3).
I've wanted to rebuild the music server ever since Intel debuted the Atom, but the early 945G chipset Atom's were too power inefficient. I was looking closely at the Intel D945GSEJT, but it's a single-core Atom, requires notebook SODIMM (only 1 slot), and is more expensive than most Atom boards. The new Pine Trail Atom boards look great, and that's what I ultimately went with.
- Norco RPC-230 2U rack chassis
It's nice because it's not insanely deep. Many rack cases are 20+ inches deep. The case is nice overall, but there are some noteworthy design flaws:
The case is really nice to work with. Everything uses screws, which doesn't bother me. The only hassle is replaceing the front fans - you have to disassemble the entire front of the case to get them out. Combined with the overly restrictive front intake, there is a lot of room for improvement here.
- The 2 front fans are too close to the front intake grill. And this grill is very restrictive. This = turbulance. I tried to work around this by slowing down the stock fans. Even at 6VDC (wired in series) their noise was distracting. So I removed them and installed a single 80mm 0.9A Scythe that came with the minja a few years ago. Mounted in the same position as the stock fans, the Scythe is quieter but not by much - that grill is simply too restrictive. So I needed another solution, which I'll describe below.
- The case is too wide. Norco states that this case is EIA-310 compliant, which means the front panel shouldn't exceed 19 inches wide. The case I received was 19.25 inches wide and would not fit in my cabinet. I emailed Norco support, who replied that they are changing their tooling and would ship me narrower replacement ears as soon as they were available. WOW - how's that for excellent service! Since replacement ears are comming at some time (Norco was unsure of their ETA), I was free to modify the stock rack ears. They come off with a few screws. I removed about 3/16-inch from each side using a bench grinder. The chassis is now 18-15/16 from ear to ear.
My cooling fan solution: Since I'm using a picoPSU, there's a large vacant space where an ATX PSU would be. I built a little duct to hold the 80mm Scythe, angled to direct airflow over the CPU heatsink and memory. This works very well and is noiseless to my ears. The duct is constructed from corrugated plastic sheet. The fan is kept in position with double sided tape. The whole assembly is just slightly taller than the chassis, and with the top panel installed everything is held in place very snugly.
- Intel D510MO mITX motherboard/CPU
It uses the new dual-core D510 Atom and a PCIe Realtek 8111DL gigabit NIC. SPCR reviewed here. The 24-pin PSU connector doesn't need all 24-pins; the 20-pin PicoPSU works fine.
- 1x 1GB DDR2-667
Just basic 1.8V ram.
- 320 GB Scorpio Blue
Because of it's extremely low-power consumption. There are 4 3.5" HDD bays in the RPC-230; HDD's are attached by bottom screws in each tray. This doesn't accommodate 2.5" drives very well, so I removed all the trays and just strapped the drive down to some foam with stretch magic. It's inaudible.
- PicoPSU-80 w/60W brick
This is the smallest PSU I could find. DC-IN jack is installed in a PCI slot cover.
It's a very simple system, but achieves everything I need perfectly. Oh, and it IDLES AT 15W
Those last 2 pictures are my server cabinet. Top -> bottom:
- Rack drawer
- D510MO music server
- unRAID Movie server (CM Centurion 590 case on its side)
ps. Anyone spot the used bike parts in my cabinet?