November 2001


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November 2001

Revision 10: November 2001


Coming off a messy month like October, November looked to be all peaches and cream. And for the most part, it was. I was able to send back the DSL component of the Cisco 3620 to recover some costs, and moved my attention to the Nexland's ISB Pro800 turbo. This little NAT router is able to do what the Cisco 3620 couldn't do - handle two separate Internet connections (in my case, DSL and Cable), with both load balancing and fail over options.

The Nexland soon replaced both my LinkSys NAT routers and started into full time duty.

The Dual WAN NAT router by Nexland, shortly out of the box. You can see I've plugged in a network cable to talk direct to the unit, I also experimented with the Telnet features from the serial port in the back. The serial port also offers a third line of backup - it will do dialup if both network WAN ports fail!
Switching over to the Nexland router, temporarily placing it on top of the Linux box. This device replaced both LinkSys NAT routers.
Here's the network shelf, with both LinkSys NAT routers removed, the remaining LinkSys device there is the 802.11b wireless LAN access point. Also on the shelf, the 3Com DSL modem, the Terayon cable modem and a Hayes Optima Fax Modem.

Around this time, a new problem cropped up - the freshly rebuilt Cartman, after much pain and agony, was finally working perfectly, but drawing too much power for the UPS that it was connected to! The result was that the UPS would regularly trip into overload mode, which causes loud beeps and blinky red lights. The problem was simple, the APC 450VA UPS provides about 300 watts of power, and the file server was drawing more than that. It was time to bite the bullet and get new UPSes: black, rackmountable, less-than-22 inch deep UPSes.

Minuteman's Enterprise Series fit the bill perfectly, their largest units required 30amp circuits, and my breaker box is just plain full (gonna need a new one when the basement gets renovated). The largest UPS they make in a standard 15amp circuit is the E1500. Committed to the idea of getting new UPSes, now I had to actually do it.

Turns out that the supplier in Canada is different from the one in the US, and when we finally tracked down who the supplier was, they had gone bankrupt. After a week of begging, Minuteman themselves sent up four E1500s - two for me, two for a friend of mine.

Each unit weighed 80 pounds! They're essentially one solid block of lead (with a bit of sulphuric acid thrown in). Being ever so careful with my back, I removed the UPSes from their shipping boxes, bolted on the rack ears and slid them into place. 

The newly mounted high 1500VA Minuteman UPSes, taking up the 4Us that used to be occupied by the old drive array.

My caution paid off, I didn't hurt my back, I did however tear an abdominal muscle, which meant no more heavy lifting for me for a couple of weeks. And now that I had a new UPS solution and a new Internet connectivity solution, I was plain out of reasons why I shouldn't rebuild the rack - except that I couldn't actually move the hardware around.

Fortunately, my nephew Chuck was happy to assist me in a complete gutting and rebuilding of the rack - he did all the heavy moving, I did wiring, repairs and direction. We shut down the entire rack 9am Saturday morning November 17th. 

Here's Chuck hard at it, pulling the UPS that supported Chef (the SQL Server) which is on the desk behind him. Looks like he's having fun, huh?
While Chef is out of the rack, I take the opportunity to pop the cover, do a quick inspection and turn the floppy cable over so the floppy actually works. Shows you how important floppy drives are these days - Windows installation directly off the DVD drive means the floppy was incorrectly installed six months ago!
Now the less fun part - wiring up Cartman and Chef from behind. Chuck spent most of the job in this particular position. My aching gut thanks him for it, too.

The revisions to the bottom half of the rack were relatively simple - the two new UPSes go on the bottom, then the servers: Cartman, Chef, Stan, Kyle, Mackie (the DB/2 server). The task was pretty tedious - Chuck pulled the cables off the back of each machine, the remove each device (computer or UPS) from the bottom working up, and replacing each machine sans UPS. Then the whole thing has to be wired up again.

While Chuck was working the bottom of the rack, I was shuffling hardware - moving the DB/2 server out of the black desktop case, into the 2U case that Cartman used to live in.  I also took the opportunity to tear out the network wiring - time to retire that 16 port switch! 

All the network cables pulled from the 16 port SMC switch. You can just see the 24 port switch at the top of the rack that is taking over. All the network hardware was moving up.
The beginning of the rewiring job. You can see the first cables plugged into the 24 port switch, the network gear shelf has been moved up, as well as the Cisco and Nexland routers.

The thing dangling in front of the rack is the Belkin KVM switch. Wiring all the machines into the switch box is best done when you can see what you're doing - seven computers and two consoles means 27 cables!

A glance to the right in the middle of the rewire displays a wife's nightmare - wires everywhere!

You can see the LinkSys NAT routers sitting (rather dejectedly) on some other old hardware.

Believe it or not, almost all these wires went back into the rack.

The Belkin KVM switch, completely wired. The VGA plug empty in the middle is for the development workstation, which uses DVI video directly to the flat screen.

The 24 port switch cabled up gradually - only one cable from the networking gear ran to the switch (the Nexland). As computers were installed their cables went with, the patch panel was the last to be connected. The Belkin KVM went all at once, hanging from the front of the rack. Once everything was installed in it, getting it to slide back into place wasn't easy, especially since the Sony receiver moved up with it. In the new configuration, all non-computer components are above the patch panel.

Finally, after six hours, it was finished. Time for some detailed photographs, top-to-bottom.

The networking gear at the top (taken without a flash because it washes out). From the top down: 24 port SMC switch, 3COM DSL modem, Terayon cable modem, LinkSys 802.11b Access Point, Hayes Fax Modem, Nexland ISB 800Pro turbo, Cisco 3620, Belkin 2x8 Matrix KVM switch, Sony DAV S300, Voyetra AudioTron.
Directly beneath the patch panel are a couple of the APC UPSes, then the desktop case (hardware installed, no purpose as of yet), two more APC UPSes, the development workstation, the beta workstation (1U). The 1U beta workstation is running a cloned configuration of Mackie, the DB/2 server, for replication and failover testing.
The four 2U servers together at last, from the top: Mackie (DB/2), Kyle (Exchange), Stan (IIS), Chef (SQL Server).
At at the bottom of the rack, the VXA tape backup unit, connected to Cartman, that big old 400Gb file server, and the two new Minuteman E1500 UPSes.

Think everything was roses and sunshine? Of course not! The addition of the 5U server and a pair of 80 pound UPSes had added rougly 200 pounds to the rack, and the cantilever legs were showing the strain. The rack now leaned backward at a precipitous angle!

Some carefully cut and precisely placed 2x2 wood blocks propped up the E1500 UPS, leveling everything back out again. 

Notice the angle between the wall (the white part) and the rack frame (the black part).
Ah, much straighter! Well placed and sized wood blocks did the trick. In the lower right-hand corner of the photo, you can see the magnetic level used to determine if the rack was bent or the floor.

Then the next problem cropped up - the heat alarms in Cartman (the file server) started to go off. But the high power fan never spun. After taking the machine back out of the rack again, I determine that the problem was the heat sensor on the motherboard, not the actual heat in the case - the fan had separate heat sensors that weren't that warm. Disabling the motherboard alarm did the trick, just have to keep an eye on things can make sure it doesn't fry.

Actually, I think heat is becoming an issue all around - the DSL modem is failing almost daily, needing to be powered off and on to perform. And its very hot to touch - should get a replacement, and/or some sort of active cooling on the 2U shelf.

The beauty shot: the newly rewired and configured rack, end of November, 2001.

I swear, I'm actually running out of things to do with the rack. I had some spare hardware that I put into the desktop case that still sitting in the rack, but really have no plan to do anything with it. Still haven't figured out what to do with the Cisco - with the essential failure of WEP, I'd like to use the Cisco as a firewall to secure wireless network connections. I'd also like to use the rest of my static IPs on the DSL line, the Nexland only supports one (like the LinkSyses did). And the Belkin is completely full - five servers, two workstations and one spare set for plugging machines under repair leaves nothing free. Dunno what I'm going to do about that.

Issues with this revision:

Heat in the new file server.
Still trying to figure out what to do with the Cisco.
Belkin KVM is full.