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Multiple PC advice needed re: Rack Mount vs Desktops/Towers


ellesshoo
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Although I will try my hardest to keep things as brief and clear as possible it may be unavoidable - for that I apologize.

 

I live in a medium sized row home and there is really only one room that's acceptable for true desktop/workstation computing. It's got my computer stuff taking up about a third of the room, the wife's sewing stuff on the other end taking up a third, and the rest is taken up by some open space for the sleeper couch that we open for house guests. Right now, I have two computers (mid-size tower and SFF mini-ITX), router, cable modem, and of course input devices/monitor. As much as I've tried to keep it all tidy it is a mess of cords that I'm sure anyone reading knows all too well.

 

I have some ambitious plans for our home networking/computing experience and hope to implement them once I feel I have a well thought out plan. I basically need more/better/new computers for various tasks and the thought of setting things up the same as I have now has me wondering if there is simply a better way. I think I should first explain some of the new hardware I have plans for to give an idea of what we will be dealing with.

 

1) UPS: I have played with fire for too long and I know I'm going to get burnt if I don't take this seriously. This is without a doubt critical going forward.

2) Big Daddy PC: I'm calling it that b/c I want to run Server2008 R2 with VM's including WHS 2011 (I have lots of HD video footage and estimate I'll need storage in the area of 12-16TB to feel comfortable that I won't need to worry about it like I do now), Win 7 for various reasons (some arguably intensive processes), and probably a media serving/processing VM for things like IP cameras/TV tuning/HD capture.

3) Low powered PC for something like router software

4) mid-range win7 box (bare-metal) for reasons not really worth explaining for this post.

5) Need a new gigabit switch, a good number of ports to service all these PC's including two remote HTPCs and various internet enable devices in other parts of the house (everything is hard wired in every room).

6) KVM: I want to have just 1 keyboard/mouse/monitor located at my desk for all of these machines. Due to the nature of some of the activities I do, using RDP as the only method of access just won't cut it... I think.

 

So that's a lot. In my head, if I go about this like I normally do or as a normal consumer, I will end up with a lot of different looking/sized boxes, wires all over the place, difficult access to hardware, and a lot of valuable space gone.

 

This got me wondering if doing all this in rackmount is the way to go. Every single item in my list can be had in rackmounted versions, it seems almost too great the idea that I could have all these things in a rack maybe about as tall as my desk while keeping wires organized, things looking cleaner/more uniform, etc. I could even add a drawer to the rack for the oddball stuff like cable modem, etc..

 

My concern is I have no experience with rackmounted hardware and the caveats it brings to the table. I understand I may pay a bit of a premium over a general consumer desktop/tower setup. I realize the selection of hardware may be smaller. I also realize that server stuff is often considered loud, but I think with the right planning/research/ingenuity I can make it acceptable. What I don't know is WHAT I DON'T KNOW. I would greatly appreciate any of you helping me through this by advising on potential pitfalls, potential benefits, things to consider, whether I'm missing something entirely, your own experiences, etc... Really, that would be most helpful. Thanks.

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I think the biggest thing about rack mount from what you're asking is that you can get rack-mountable cases and install just about anything in them (3U or 4U cases should have enough room inside, depending on how many drives you want). So, you don't have to get ones that have loud fans. If you buy commercial server boxes, yeah, they tend to be pretty loud, but if you build yourself you can avoid that.

 

Another option is to use normal desktop cases put them sideways on rack shelves.

 

I also think you may find you need a taller rack than you anticipate. How many cases are you thinking?

 

BTW, KVM's can get pretty expensive (and the cheapo ones are not very good IMHO).

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If you are going to do this all at once, I would suggest using the same cases for all the machines. Asthetically it looks better and you don't necessarily have to build them all at once. Racks can be something as simple as the metal kitchen racks you see in home improvement stores.

 

The project doesn't have to look like an enterprise server room in order to server your needs.

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Hopefully you listen to the BYOB Podcast. I would like to directly address this in our next podcast.

 

Look forward to lisneting to this.

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Me too. I was thinking of future SBS Essentials 2011 or 2008r2 server build using a rack mount sever case. I also look forward to the next BYOB podcast.

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Hopefully you listen to the BYOB Podcast. I would like to directly address this in our next podcast.
Absolutely I do! Religiously. My number 1 podcast (out of the 51 I subscribe to regularly). My go to podcasts are BYOB, PCPerspective, Home Server Show, the Home Tech Podcast, and Entertainment 2.0. Just haven't been too active on these forums because I recently got married and then disappeared into Southeast Asia for a long honeymoon.
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This will be a good conversation. We definitely address this one. We have you really confused by the time we are done....

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My number 1 podcast (out of the 51 I subscribe to regularly)

HTH do you listen to 51 podcasts? I subscribe to around 6 and I barely have time to listen to them.

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