DIY Cable Ladder Rack Installed

Hey everyone – sorry it took a while to post a follow-up to my original blog post regarding my DIY cable ladder rack (linked here – shows how I made this thing) but work had been busy and I had to travel and such.  I managed to go over to the location housing my APC AR3100 rack and servers and got the DIY ladder rack installed.

The good news is that the location now has the ladder rack and an internet connection installed.  The bad news is that I spent an inordinate amount of time wiring the rack super clean-like only to arrive and find that the ISP installer pretty much just draped wires wherever they wanted paying no attention to the detail that was before them when they started rat-nesting everything.  I wasn’t surprised in the least but it means that I will at some point have to go over and straighten up.  I did the best I could with the time I had – the big annoyance is not seen in any of the photos and that’s the phone wiring.  Because the phone setup here is POE I punched down a few phone jacks over CAT6.  The ISP installer decided to use a small punch board to break out to twisted-pair/RJ11 style stuff, which is fine, except they left the punch down board sitting on my shelf inside the rack.  That means I can’t move it without pulling the punched down wires and pulling about 3 – 4 CAT5E/6 cables back out of the rack, landing the board on the wall, and re-terminating everything – sigh.  I’d love to say that this is the first time I’ve set something up really nice and come back to it after other vendors touch and its all whacked out, but it’s not.  I’ll fix it.  For now, keep that in mind when looking at pictures.

Installation was pretty simple (once I moved some of the wiring that was put through the top of the rack that prevented me from putting the ladder rack flat on the top of the rack).  I made the rack about 24″ longer than needed so that I can move the rack out if I ever need to.  I did not etch-prime it and paint it flat black like I originally considered – just not enough time and I do like the raw aluminum look.  Once I situated the portion on top of the rack I was able to use a heavy box to hold it up parallel to the floor and mark the holes on the plywood behind the rack for the screws (notice the nice counter-sunk holes!) that hold it against the wall:

Ladder Rack Fastened to Wall

Ladder Rack Fastened to Wall

There’s about 1/8″ or 1/4″ between the patch panel wall-bracket and the ladder rack – perfect!  I was thinking I’d have to move the patch panel down to clear since I didn’t measure when hanging the wall bracket originally.  Once anchored to the wall, it was time to try and make sense of the cabling mess.  Here’s the results for now:

Ladder Rack Cables

Ladder Rack Cables

I brought the large PDU cables over the rack and down through the wall bracket (to keep them from spreading out and looking too sloppy).  I am going to use plastic wire “staples” to keep the cables fastened to the plywood for a better look.  They’re heavy gauge so they kind of take their own path wherever they want – note that the one PDU is 120V and plugs into a NEMA 5-20R on the left.  The other PDU is 240V and plugs into a 30A 240V circuit using a NEMA L6-30R on the right:

Ladder Rack PDU Cables

Ladder Rack PDU Cables

The end result is that the heavy, thick PDU cables are no longer on the floor or swooping down waiting to tangle someone up.  Additionally, all data cables are also making their way from the patch panel to the APC rack over the ladder rack.  The end result looks like this from the side:

Ladder Rack Side Profile

Ladder Rack Side Profile

You can clearly see in the above picture how you can walk behind the rack to access the HVAC/etc. without any issue what so ever.  Almost data center worthy!  Because the rack is just resting on the APC rack at the far end, the APC rack can be rolled out further if needed.  The two screws holding the ladder rack to the wall work great and the ladder rack is very solidly attached.  Since it’s about 14″ wide where it fastens to the wall it does not shake side to side at all either.

All said and done, this is what you see from the front of the rack – you can barely see (click to zoom if you don’t believe me!) the ladder rack side rail from the front:

Ladder Rack Installed Front Profile

Ladder Rack Installed Front Profile

I’m content!  One last photo shows how this thing looks without the lights on:

Server Rack Lit Up!

Server Rack Lit Up!

Everyone loves blinking lights!  In the image above you see the Dell R710 at the top (well spec’d with dual 6-core E5649 CPUs, 144GB of RAM, ~900GB of RAID50 SAS 15k internal storage) and a Dell MD1000 completely full of 1TB Enterprise 7200 RPM SATA disks in RAID50 direct attached to the R710, sitting below.  What you don’t see is the Synology DS1513+ inside the rack on a shelf holding 5 x 4TB disks with 4 NICs in a LACP for iSCSI access.  In all, it’s a pretty sweet lab setup.

Also, the reason you see the ominous blue light behind the rack is actually because I am using the Dell R710 cable management arm (Dell P/N#: M770R) so I can slide the R710 out full extension on the rapid rails without unplugging anything.  Part of the cable management arm is a remote mount LED (on the arm itself) so you can see errors/locating LEDs since the arm blocks the blue LED on the back of the server itself.  It’s really trick and although it’s a pain to setup initially it makes later maintenance cake!  Here’s a cell phone picture of that (sorry for poor quality it was taken on another occasion without my D-SLR):

Dell R710 with cable management arm

Dell R710 with cable management arm

Thanks for reading this blog post!  I don’t think I’ll post when I clean up the wiring more overhead since it’s just cosmetic.  I do wish I had more time but when I installed the ladder rack I was also migrating to a virtual firewall at this location and so I had to balance my time between the two projects.  Stay tuned for new projects!

Author: Jon

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