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New Community Lab Rack Sponsored by Dantrak Net

By stretch | Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 4:55 p.m. UTC

Last week, I mentioned on Twitter that I was looking to move the community lab from its position on a folding table to a more secure 19-inch equipment rack. A number of people recommended the Skeletek brand of modular rack systems. Not wanting to draw from the lab's budget (funded entirely by generous donors) for something which was not of complete necessity, I opted to contact Dantrak Net, a distributor of Skeletek products.

I'm happy to announce that Dantrak Net has generously sponsored a complete rack system and accessories, and the lab is now comfortably secure in its new home! Dantrak Net has become the lab's third organizational sponsor, joining Opengear and Force10 Networks.



The specific rack sponsored and shown above is the Skeletek C24U-4P-EX12, which consists of a 24U rack and a 12U rack secured to a common wheelbase. This has proved to be a very convenient and compact configuration. The bulk of the rack gear is mounted on the front-facing 24U rack, whereas the PDUs and UPS for management devices have been mounted on the rear 12U rack. The four Cisco IP phones are on a handy shelf mounted to the top of the rear rack.

I'm quite pleased with the way the rack migration turned out. The rack system was shipped to me in pieces, but was pretty easy to assemble. The necessary wrenches are included with the rack, however a socket wrench from your own toolbox will greatly speed things up. After assembling the rack, I spent around four and a half hours cleaning, mounting, and cabling the lab components. Accounting for time spent on cable management (e.g. cutting and applying Velcro strips) rounds the previous figure up to an even five hours.

Moving the lab from a free standing table into a rack yields several advantages:

  • Security - Equipment and cables are less likely to be damaged from something falling onto or bumping the gear.
  • Convenience - Recently I had to replace S4 due to an apparent PSU failure. This entailed manually lifting seven other devices at once to get to the switch. With everything rack mounted, device swaps and maintenance become much easier.
  • Mobility - The rolling rack makes it easier to access all sides of devices.
  • Space - I have regained a few square feet of space in my basement. Hooray!
  • Appeal - Gear just looks better when it's rack-mounted.

Thanks again to our lab's new sponsor Dantrak Net!

Posted in Announcements, Hardware

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Clint Laskowski
January 4, 2011 at 6:38 p.m. UTC

Very nice, Jeremy! Looks good and I'm sure it's much more efficient for you. Just make sure those wheels stay locked down. I'd hate for that mobile rack to roll away from its outlets!

January 4, 2011 at 8:21 p.m. UTC

Congratulations! looks better every day

January 5, 2011 at 1:10 a.m. UTC

As I walk around the Savvis datacenter my company co-locates in, I see very good and very bad examples of cabling jobs... Stretch, you can come and help me cable anytime!

That nice little rack might have some DR application, never seen one quite like that before.

January 5, 2011 at 5:38 a.m. UTC

That looks awesome. Seems like a great price point also, unfortunately they don't ship internationally.

Hows it balance? I'm sure they took it into consideration during design, but does its center of gravity shift to the side where most the equipment is mounted [I.e. the side w/ out the VoIP phones] and make it unstable? Just curious mate

January 5, 2011 at 6:16 a.m. UTC

Way to go Jeremy... Congrats!

January 5, 2011 at 8:39 a.m. UTC

How much for the lawnmower?...Sorry, I couldn't resist!

January 5, 2011 at 9:56 a.m. UTC


Great work. Also I saw some IP Phones.Is theses phones part of the lab? Can we simulate some scenarios for CCIE voice.


January 5, 2011 at 12:35 p.m. UTC

Thank you Dantrak

January 5, 2011 at 3:23 p.m. UTC

@Hells: I don't know where you are but Dantrak has sister sites in Sweden, the UK, and Austria.

As for balance, the thing is very stable.even if you were to load only one of the two frames full with gear, all that weight is directed inward and downward to the wheelbase anyway. IIRC maximum load for this particular rack is 1000 lb (453 Kg), but don't quote me on that. :)

@naoufal: The IP phones are there primarily to serve as PoE and DHCP clients for testing. There is no dedicated voice gear, however the 2811s do support CME.

January 5, 2011 at 3:29 p.m. UTC

Im in Australia :D

Great to hear they are stable though. I found a Skeletek rack on Ebay that shipped to Australia, but shipping was about 250US, more than the rack itself. I guess owning one of these will remain a pipe dream for now!

January 5, 2011 at 8:09 p.m. UTC

That looks nice and tidy!

I've not tried Dantrak's racks yet but I've bought plenty of their DCE/DTE serial cables via Ebay. Quality is good and their UK outlet usually sends them next business day.

January 6, 2011 at 7:58 a.m. UTC

One of my pet hates when working on customer's racks is having to replace a device that has short patch leads running down in front of it.

For example, imagine that the second 3560 from the top in Stretch's rack had a hardware failure. Assume that most of the network is still operating OK and you want to replace the faulty switch during business hours with no further interruptions to the rest of the network. You will now find that you have to label and unplug a large number of other unrelated connections to get the faulty switch out.

This will either result in other services having outages, or alternatively you may be forced to wait till after hours to complete the change (which could mean you have 20-odd users off the air all day).

In this case it's a lab rack and no big deal but I strongly discourage anyone from cabling like this on production equipment. Where space allows, I encourage customers to have one cable minder per switch and to use appropriate length patch leads such that all devices can be removed without interfering with connections from other devices.

That rack looks perfectly suited to a lab setup. I've not seen a 24RU/12RU combo rack like that before.

January 7, 2011 at 12:39 p.m. UTC

Totally agree with @Gorgonzola - in my experience from spaghetti to nice data centers - always, always, always put in as large horizontal and vertical cable management as will fit. Do not skimp (it's pretty cheap compared to the equipment anyway). There is no such thing as overkill when it comes to cable management, the cables will grow to fill the space given them - and beyond. :)

January 7, 2011 at 3:32 p.m. UTC

I agree with both of you; this could have cabled better. However, as this is a free lab, the name of the game is "cheap." I opted to reuse what cables I could from the prior setup. I also wanted to get the lab installed in the rack as soon as possible.

That said, I have acquired some longer cables and promise I'll work on cleaning it up a bit in the near future. :)

January 14, 2011 at 6:13 a.m. UTC

Wow, that's very gracious of Dantrak Net! Keep up the good work and enjoy the new toy!


January 17, 2011 at 3:57 a.m. UTC

I believe I'm going to order myself one of those racks. It's exactly what I need for my pile of gear. I'll make sure to mention you name, Stretch! :)

January 20, 2011 at 6:29 p.m. UTC

Hey jeremy!! Thanks a lot for the LAB.


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