The Lab.

This is the new and improved lab setup at my new place. Updates as they happen (and I remember to post them).

When we moved in May of 2021, it was a big change in that, after several years of employer-provided housing, we actually own this place. This meant I had some liberties I could take with my lab rack, but also some new challenges: at the old place, there was a great workshop space under the garage that was a great place to put a rack and not have to worry about noise or heat. In the new house, I needed somewhere to put the rack that would still allow me to make calls in my office without the noise drowning out the audio. but I also wanted to make it look cool.

After several months of kicking around ideas, I had decided I wanted to have a built-in rack that I could see from my desk. but it would have to be enclosed in order to keep noise down, and an enclosed rack was going to require me to get creative with airflow.

The Cabinet

As luck would have it, adjacent to the basement bedroom that was chosen as my office space is a large finished utility room (about 12×15 feet) that now housed the laundry room, as the original laundry space in this 1975 home having been just off the kitchen and long ago repurposed as a pantry. The wall between my office and the laundry room was found to be non-load-bearing, so it became easy to cut open a hole about 2 feet wide, from floor to ceiling where the rack would go.

For aesthetic reasons, I chose to put the rack inside a 34 inch deep by 24 inch wide cupboard, as well as a matching cabinet base with a countertop on the rest of the wall to act as a work space in the laundry room for ironing, folding, or whatever,. From the laundry room side, this just looks like regular cabinetry, revealing little about its hidden purpose:

The cabinets on the laundry room side.
(Yes, it’s straight, level, square and plumb, which is more than can be said for the adjacent closet wall!)

Turns out, I had to build these myself. Nobody makes this kind of cabinet for rack mounting stuff. So I consulted some youtube videos on how to make cabinets (The most useful was one from Bourbon Moth Woodworking – While my workshop is nowhere near as well equipped as Jason’s, I’ve accumulated some tools over the years and could make a decent go at it). I was under no delusions that my finished product would be as good as his, but they turned out pretty decent, and if you’re making a go at building your own cabinets, a laundry room is a good place to practice. Ultimately, these are more paint grade than stain grade, but once I decide on a color and paint them, they’ll probably look great. The cabinet structure is made of 18mm (3/4″) Sande Plywood. Sande is another name for Brosimum Utile, a versatile hardwood related to Mulberry and Fig that is native to northwestern South America and southern Central America – the plywood sold at Home Depot comes from Ecuador where it is grown for carbon capture, lumber, and paper, as well as food an medicinal uses. The face frames are made of aspen. Door panels are 1/4 plywood, and hinges are a 1.25″ overlay concealed face frame hinge (the kind you find on almost everything) – I had found a bag of them at ReStore, but they were only 1/2″ overlay, so I had to get some of the right size on Amazon. I also acquired and made extensive use of a Kreg Jig for making pocket holes.

On the front (I know you’ve been eagerly awaiting a picture of the front!), the doors panels are 6mm (1/4″) acrylic so I can see into the rack and bask in the glow of the blinkylights.

The front, in my office – I ended up doing split doors because of the available sizes of acrylic sheeting that weren’t obscenely expensive. I got my hands on the piece of glass but it was too wide for my cabinet, and cutting tempered glass is hideously difficult and complex. Also: Cutting acrylic with a circular saw smells absolutely awful.

OK, so you’re probably wanting to know what’s inside this spiffy cabinet…

What’s in the box?

The rack itself is two pairs (front and back) of 37U Cage Nut Rails. They are mounted to an internal plywood frame that can be adjusted forward and backward if needed – The frame also provides space on the side walls of the cabinet to mount some lacing bars to help with cable management.

Power and Environmental

The power behind it all.

Starting from the bottom, I have two CyberPower OR2200LCDRT2U rackmountable 2200VA UPS systems with a network management card, each connected to an environmental sensor, one monitoring intake temperature, the other measuring top of rack temp. Each UPS is connected to a dedicated 20A circuit, on opposite legs of the 240V, with color coded outlets and cables. The “Blue side” UPS is named Mulroney, and the “Red side” UPS is named Trudeau (Pierre, not Justin). Mulroney also feeds a 1U PDU mounted at the back of the rack for the various DC power supplies.

Since the rack is fully enclosed, ventilation is a key factor – The cabinet is effectively set up as a cold aisle/hot aisle configuration, with the front face of the rack acting as a supply plenum through the use of blanking panels for unused spaces. The lower front door has an AC Infinity Airplate S9 three-fan unit with the fans flipped to blow in. The back door has a matching Airplate, and both are connected to a thermostat fan control mounted in a modified Panduit 2U modular patch panel . There is an additional Airplate S3 single-fan unit on the side of the rack near the top. Total airflow from the S9 units is about 150cfm, and the S3 moves an additional 50cfm from any other openings. This provides approximately 8 full air exchanges a minute – the top of the rack by the exhaust fans is typically about 10°F above the intake temperature (which is ambient room air). The “cold aisle” source is my office, and the “hot aisle” exhaust is in the laundry room, where it then gets sucked into the HVAC.

AC Infinity Thermostat Controller

Connectivity

Connectivity is pretty straightforward, using Panduit Mini-Com jacks that snap into the modular panel. Cable is a mix of Cat6a, Cat5e, and Cat6, depending on what I had on hand. There are also two RG6 coaxial cables coming into the rack, one from the CATV demarc, and one from the house distribution box.

Patch cables are MonoPrice SlimRun Cat6a, following this color scheme:

  • Blue: House LAN
  • Orange: Trunk Links
  • Red: WAN Links
  • Green: AP Links
  • Black: Management Links (Ethernet)
  • Gray: Management Links (Non-Ethernet)
  • Purple: Sensors/Instrumentation (Non-Ethernet)
  • Pink: IoT/Sensors/Instrumentation (Ethernet)
  • Aqua: Multimode Fiber (OM4)

Network

The network is divided into two physical segments: One for the house LAN, and one for the lab. They converge at the router

Router

  • pfSense software
  • HP Proliant DL360 G7 server
    • Intel X5660 @ 2.80GHz,
    • 32GB RAM,
    • 4x320GB SAS10K (RAID10)
    • Dual-port Intel X520 SFP+ NIC
    • Quad-port Broadcom gigabit copper interface (integrated)
    • ILO3
  • Lab network connection: Dual 10Gbps fiber (LACP aggregated)
  • House network connection: 1Gbps copper link
  • WAN: 1Gbps copper link from AT&T BGW210 CPE, static IP.

House LAN

The house LAN is kept (mostly separate) for operational stability.

Additional IoT gateway devices:

Lab Network

  • HP ProCurve 3800M 48-port PoE+ switch (J9574A)
    • Dual Power Supplies
    • X410 4-post rail kit
  • 2 Aruba 2930F 8-port PoE+ switch (JL258A)
  • 3 Aruba AP-315 Access Points
  • 2 Aruba AP-515 Access Points
  • 2 Aruba AP-505H Access Points
  • 3 Aruba AP-303H Access Points
  • 1 Aruba AP-215 Access Point
  • 1 Aruba User Experience Insight sensor (F series)
  • 3 Aruba 7005 Mobility Controller with JW084A Rack Kit
The wireless portion of the lab. Keeps me warm in winter.

Servers

  • VM-PYRE
    • HPE ProLiant ML110 G10
    • Intel Xeon Silver 4110 @ 2.10 GHz
    • 64GB RAM
    • 2x 6GB SATA 7200rpm (RAID1)
    • VMWare ESXi 7.0
    • Dual-port Intel X520 SFP+ NIC
  • VM-OOSE
    • HP ProLiant DL360 G8
    • 2x Intel E5-2640 @ 2.50GHz
    • 128GB RAM
    • VMWare ESXi 7.0
    • Dual-port Intel X520 SFP+ NIC
  • VM-INAL
    • HP ProLiant DL380 G8
    • 2x Intel E5-2640 @ 2.50GHz
    • 128GB RAM
    • VMWare ESXi 7.0
    • Dual-port Intel X520 SFP+ NIC
The adjacent workbench.