The New Rack

From May 2002 to February 2003, we renovated the entire basement of the house. This renovation covered a lot of things - it was the first comprehensive upgrade of the house since it was built in 1961. The original plumbing, writing and heating system were all replaced. Part of the renovation included a new office for me (actually, for both Stacy and I, its a huge office), complete with a server closet - the noise, heat and mess of the old rack was finally even getting to me, it was time to solve it once and for all.

There are a few specific design features to this rack closet, in no particular order:

You can click on any of the photos below to see a larger version of them (in a new window, too, clever me).

October 6, 2002. The initial frame-in of the server closet, you can see the raised floor and initial electrical rough-in. Oh, and some of the data, teleco and cable wiring. The boxes of junk sitting in the closet are all the bits and pieces involved in actually doing the ends of the wiring around the basement, there is data, teleco and cable jacks in every room, using keystone modular jacks and decora panels.
This mess of wire isn't even half of what would ultimately be pulled into the closet. This pile of wire is sitting on a small support buttress for the north wall of the foundation which has no other supporting walls in the center. Ultimately the buttress would be buried in the closet wall.
October 18, 2002. Drywall is up. The shape of the closet begins to show - you can see how thick the near wall of the closet is to hide that buttress from the previous picture.
The rest of the wiring is in, ultimately the basement would be wired with 24 ethernet jacks, 15 telephone jacks and 14 cable jacks, all routed through the patch panels in the server closet. And that's just for the basement, there's plenty of room to grow when we renovate the upper floor!

Notice also that some of the wiring is patched together - throughout the renovation the old rack continued to function, we just kept rerouting wires to keep the phones, cable and DSL running. The box in the center of the wall is where the wall-shaker air conditioner will go.

November 11, 2002. The office walls, floor and ceiling are finished. The server closet now has a rubber floor in to minimize vibration transmission into the house. The walls of the closet are filled with layers of drywall, plywood, donnacona board, glass-fiber insulation and foam. The variations in density of the different materials was the key factor in making this closet virtually silent from the outside.

From this angle you can see the power available to the closet: two 30amp circuits, plus two 15amp circuits. The air conditioner circuit (not visible) is also a separate 15amp plug on the other side of the closet.

Although when purchased the two Middle Atlantic AXS racks were identical, they didn't stay that way for long. The left hand rack shown here is the wiring rack, so it could stay 20 inches deep. The right hand rack is off at the metal shop getting new 30 inch deep bits made up. You'll see how the rail on the floor works in a little bit.
A closer in shot of the wiring rack. You can see that the wall-shaker style air conditioner is installed in the back wall of the closet, venting outside. Also notice the wiring channel that's been added on the left-side of this rack for handling all the wires about to be fed into the panel.
A test run of the sliding rack system. Freaky, isn't it? The entire rack slides out on rails so that it can be serviced from all sides. There are a pair of folding arms connected to the rack so that it won't just keep sliding out. These arms also serve as cable guides for wiring going on and off the rack. Also installed on the rack (from top-to-bottom) is the 48 port ethernet patch panel, a 2U horizontal cable guide, the 48 port keystone panel (for teleco and cable), another 2U horizontal cable guide, a 1U rackmount power bar and 3U Minuteman UPS.
A detail shot of the folding arms that serve as cable guides and rack restrainer. At this point I'm deciding that all AC will go over the right hand arm, and everything else on the left hand arm. You can see lots of different types of cable bundled up - tons of Cat 5e for the data and telco, but also RG6 for the cable and external video cameras, speaker wire for the ceiling speakers and DC power cable for the video cameras.
Side shot of the wiring rack. This is the last time it would ever look this neat, soon the wiring would begin. But first, I needed to get the other rack installed. That meant actually getting other rack built, which would take another two weeks. Making something ten inches deeper sounds simple, but it really wasn't.
December 5, 2002. Its moving day for the rack. This animated gif shows the old rack and office being stripped down for the last time. As soon as I could get cleared out of here, the demolition crew came in to rip out the walls and finish the last two rooms of the basement.

Each piece of gear is removed, thoroughly cleaned (they've been living through a renovation, after all) and then assembled into the new rack (see below).

While one rack comes down, the other rack goes up. First the wiring rack receives the networking hardware, you can see the initial pull of wiring installed, there's still plenty more to go.

Then the server rack comes out, and each server is installed in turn, then the KVM and audio gear, and finally a little console is stuffed into the back for testing purposes.

December 19, 2002. The magical, mysterious server closet doors appear. They look simple, but they really aren't. The frosted glass is actually three different materials of different densities laminated together and glued into a multi-layer plywood and laminate door frame, hung with European hinges and weather stripped. The result - NO NOISE. The doors work way better than we ever hoped, and makes cool multi-colored glowy blurs at night.
The beauty shot for December 19, 2002. The rack is essentially fully operational in its new sound-proof and air-conditioned environment. The little white gizmo between the two racks is a wireless remote temperature sensor that lets me know what the temperature inside the closet is all the time (and sets off an alarm if it gets too high or low).

That's about all there is for photos of the rack. Obviously since these photos were taken, more changes have occurred to the rack, but nothing terribly dramatic. Somehow that poor wall-shaker air-conditioner is still running, 24 hours a day, keeping the closet around 70F.