eRacks Open Source Systems Blog

Making the world safe for Open Source

What is a Rack?

Racks are frame structures designed for mounting standard 19″ rack-mount equipment-servers, switches, routers, UPS systems, audio/video-regardless of vendor. They provide rack equipment organization, security and cable management while enabling airflow. There are two basic types: rack enclosures (also called rack cabinets) and open-frame racks.

Where are Racks used?

  • Server rooms and data centers
  • Audio/video installations
  • Closets housing telecommunications equipment
  • Industrial environments such as a factory floor

What type of rack do you require?

Floor Standing

Wall Mount

Rack Enclosure Open Frame Rack Enclosure Open Frame
 FS-racks

If access control and equipment protection are important to you, we recommend a Rack Enclosure

 OF-racks

If you simply need an economical way to organize IT equipment, we suggest an Open-Frame Rack.

 RE-racks

Wall Mount Racks are ideal for securely housing IT equipment in classrooms or sites with limited floor space.

 WOF-racks

In small but secure locations, a wall mount open frame rack provides excellent airflow and easy access to wiring.

What size of rack do you need?

1U-measurement

The height of a rack, and the height of equipment in it, is expressed in “rack units” (a rack unit is 1.75 inches, or 44.45mm). The actual height of a 42U rack is therefore 42 x 1.75 = 73.5 inches. A 2U server would occupy two of the available 42 rack units.

Be sure to make an accurate assessment of the amount of rack space you currently need, and allow for future growth.

Rack Depth

Determine the maximum rack depth required to mount your equipment in a floor-standing or wall-mount rack enclosure cabinet.

 

Floor-Standing Rack Depth Designations
Rack Depth (in.) Ideal for…
Shallow 27 A/V equipment, limited space
Mid-depth 31 Limited space
Standard 37 Servers
Deep 42 Extra cables, improved airflow
Wall-Mount Rack Depth Designations
Rack Depth (in.) Ideal for…
Patch-depth < 16 Patch panels
Switch-depth 16 – 23.99 Switches
UPS-depth 24 – 31.99 UPS systems
Server-depth > 32 Servers

Can the rack handle the weight of your equipment?

rack_w
Racks have a weight limit. Make sure that the capacity of the rack is greater than the total weight of the equipment being mounted.

Do you need any special features?

PCI-Compliance

pci

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard requires that all companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

Shock Pallet Packaging

spp

Shock Pallet models feature additional reinforcement and shock-absorbing material for safely re-shipping loaded racks to remote sites.

 

Expansion

exp

Expansion models can be bayed together easily to form rows, which is ideal for hot-aisle/cold-aisle cooling techniques.

 

 

Disassembled Shipping

ds

Racks ship fully assembled for easy installation. However, sometimes doorways or tight spaces cannot accommodate fully assembled racks, so knockdown models ship disassembled for easier transportation.

Heat Removal

heat

Thermal Duct Rack Enclosures directly connect to a facility’s exhaust system to remove hot air not only from the rack but from the entire room.

 

 

Co-Location

co-location

Some data center sites host multiple users in a single Rack Cabinet. Co-location models have two separate compartments to allow secure access to the correct users.

 

Extra Width

extra_width

In addition to extended-depth models, extra-wide models provide extra space for cables and improved airflow.

 

TAA-Compliance

ta

GSA schedule purchases and other government contracts require products that comply with the Trade Agreement Act (TAA).

 

Seismic Protection

sessmic

Seismic Enclosures have a rugged welded construction and are tested to Seismic Zone 4 standards, making them ideal for sites that are earthquake-prone or are subject to regular vibration, such as an airport or factory.

 

 

Cable Management & Accessories

cable_mgmt

Shelves, mounting rails, stabilization, cooling, patch panels, hardware kits, casters, and more enable custom installations to accommodate any space limitation or expansion requirement.

 

 

If you are in need of a rack cabinet, enclosure, or open-frame rack, or
have any questions, or just need advice on your installation, please do
not hesitate to contact us at info@eracks.com, or use our contact form at: https://eracks.com/contact/

May 23rd, 2016

Posted In: How-To

Leave a Comment

cloudThis is what we’ve been saying for years now – that the best path to the cloud is to:

  1. Own your core / foundation infrastructure and hardware, at least one server worth, and
  2. Architect it properly with DRY DevOps best-practices and repeatability, to scale into the cloud as needed to meet spot demand

Here’s the reference:

The Hybrid Cloud Helps Midsize Companies CompeteThis e-book is based on insights and recommendations by the Ventana Research, benchmark research report, “Business Technology Insights: Six Key Trends in Optimizing IT for Competitive Advantage.”

Source: The Hybrid Cloud Helps Midsize Companies Compete: Networkworld White Paper

December 23rd, 2015

Posted In: How-To, servers, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Comment

Zenbook with beverage - IMG_20131019_231446531Minty Zenbook

I am typing this on a nifty new eRacks/ZENBOOK13, with Linux Mint15 installed.

This is a slightly newer rev of the very pretty Asus Zenbook line, with twin 128GB SSD modules installed in a small carrier which screws into the standard 2.5″ HD space (it could also be replaced or upgraded with one of our standard HD/SSD choices, here: http://eracks.com/products/laptops/ZENBOOK13/)

This post will walk you through what we had to do for the installation, with the details.

Installation Cookbook

  1. Boot to an Ubuntu 13.04 install disk. (13.10 should work, or Ubuntustudio works too, that’s what I used).  For some reason, the Mint installer doesn’t install the default EFI boot choice properly, so you have to start with Ubuntu, then replace it with Mint. Read on.
  2. Using gparted (fdisk could work, too), delete the partition tables on /dev/sda and /dev/sdb, and replace the GPT-based partition tables with with msdos-type partition tables.
  3. Install Ubuntu on the 1st of the two SSDs. Don’t worry about the 2nd disk (_yet_).  Be sure to check the “Install with LVM” box after you select the default “Erase and install…”.
  4. Reboot into Ubuntu, and note the partitions cerated.
  5. Boot into a Mint 15 Install disk.
  6. Install Mint15 into the same partition structure – in other words, do NOT select the default “erase and install…” , but rather the “Something else” choice, and tell it to put the root partition on the same partition you noted in step 4.
  7. Install rEFInd (http://www.rodsbooks.com/refind/) from a rEFInd install disk, that you downloaded and burned from there. (I used v0.74). Be sure to install it in the /boot/efi partition (typically /dev/sda2) created earlier. The reason to install rEFInd, is it’s an invaluable tool to use to boot from any EFI-capable location on your computer, and will be used later on.  I put mine in EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi
  8. Be sure to also copy shell64.efi into /boot/efi/EFI/tools/, so rEFInd can find it, and show you the EFI Shell choice & icon.
  9. Boot from rEFInd.
  10. Choose the EFI shell.
  11. Using the bcfg command, (help -v bcfg is your friend!), list the boot choices, and verify that “ubuntu” is there.
  12. Add “mint” as a boot choice, pointing to EFI\linuxmint\grub64.efi – mimic the way the “ubuntu” boot choice is done.
  13. Reboot into the boot menu (hold Esc down during the Asus logo) and verify that “mint” and “rEFInd” are there.
  14. Test them both out – rEFInd should also give other interesting choices you can try out.
  15. You should be able to launch Mint from either the “Mint” choice in the Asus boot (holding Esc), or from the Mint choice in rEFInd.
  16. Optionally, you can add the 2nd SSD (mentioned in step 3) to the main volume using LVM, to use the full 256GB.

That’s it!

Wrap and Beverage

I must say, this is a BEAUTIFUL machine – I want one myself!

Between the FullHD display, and being roughly the same thickness and sizeas the magazines I often carry into any given bar / restaurant here in Los Gatos, this is a joy compared to my regular 1920×1080 Asus laptop..

…And it beats the heck out of a tablet..

…And the battery life seems great, it barely made a dent in the hour or so I spent surfing with it while drinking my beverage of choice at one of the local establishments here.

…And did I mention it’s screaming fast, with the i7 CPU and 10GB RAM?!

Bon Appetit,

j

 

 

October 20th, 2013

Posted In: How-To, Laptop cookbooks, New products, News, Open Source, Products, ubuntu

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments

EDIT: Binary modules have now also been provided for 7.4, 8.1 and 8.0.  The instructions below should apply to all three, with the exception that you’ll want to download either mps-bin-7.4.tar.gzmps-bin-8.1.tar.gz or mps-bin-8.0.tar.gz.

Unfortunately, the mps driver, which supports LSI Logic’s 6Gbps series of RAID controllers, didn’t make it into the FreeBSD kernel until after 8.2-RELEASE.  As a result, FreeBSD users who require this driver are forced to either install 8-STABLE — which, despite the name, is a development branch — or pull the driver’s source code from 8-STABLE and build it on FreeBSD 8.2-RELEASE.  Since we recently needed to use the mps driver and had to stick with a production-ready release, we opted for the second option.  Along the way, we decided to bundle up the driver’s source to make the task easier for those who don’t want to install a development branch, and to pre-compile binary modules for those who wish to install 8.2-RELEASE directly to the hardware RAID array.

If you have a separate hard drive for the operating system that’s not on a 6Gbps LSI controller and simply use the hardware RAID for additional storage, you can do a normal install of FreeBSD 8.2-RELEASE to the hard drive, boot into the new system and perform the following steps:

1) Download mps.tar.gz
2) Extract it, cd to the ‘mps’ directory and type make && make install
3) Edit /boot/loader.conf and add the following line at the end: mps_load="YES"
4) Reboot (or type kldload mps.ko without rebooting)

If instead you want to install 8.2-RELEASE directly to an array on your 6Gbps LSI controller, a few extra steps are required.

First, download mps-bin.tar.gz, extract it by typing tar -zvxf mps-bin.tar.gz and place the contents on some form of removable media mountable by FreeBSD.  A USB thumb drive, a floppy disk or a CD will suffice (though, a CD would be an awful waste of space… :))

Second, make sure to download the FreeBSD DVD and not the CD.  We will require the live filesystem that’s contained only on the larger DVD.  Once the installer is running, choose your language as usual, then select “Fixit” instead of the usual installation method.  Choose the CDROM/DVD option.

Figure 1: Select 'Fixit' instead of an installation method

Figure 2: Select 'CDROM/DVD'

Figure 3: The 'Fixit' Prompt

Now, insert your removable media.  For our example, we’ll assume a USB thumb drive with a device node on /dev/da0.

Before continuing, let me first warn you that the ordinary mount command will most likely not work.  Usually, mount will determine the filesystem type and automatically call the appropriate binary.  However, the way the live filesystem is setup, this doesn’t work — or at least, it didn’t work on my machine.  So instead, you’ll want to call the command for your filesystem type directly.  If it’s a CD, that command will be mount_cd9660.  If you’re using a USB thumb drive with a FAT32 filesystem on it (as we will be in our example), the command will be mount_msdosfs.

Assuming our example with the USB thumb drive, you’ll issue the following commands:

#mount_msdosfs /dev/da0 /mnt
#cd /mnt/mps-bin/i386 for 32-bit (or #cd /mnt/mps-bin/amd64 for 64-bit)
#kldload ./mps.ko
#exit

At this point, you’ll be returned to the FreeBSD installer.  Make sure to re-insert the DVD, then continue with the installation as usual.  Once the installation is complete, don’t reboot!  If you do, you won’t be able to start up FreeBSD, as we still have to install our kernel module and tell the boot loader to load it on boot.

So, now that the installation is finished, re-insert the DVD and return to the Fixit prompt.  Once again, choose the ‘CDROM/DVD’ option.  Assuming our USB thumb drive on /dev/da0 from before — the commands you use will differ based on the media you choose — type the following commands:

#mount_msdosfs /dev/da0 /mnt
#cd /mnt/mps-bin/i386 for 32-bit (or #cd /mnt/mps-bin/amd64 for 64-bit)
#./install.sh

If all goes well, the shell script will terminate without any output.  Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that the newly installed root filesystem is mounted on / when you enter the Fixit environment after installation.  Now that we have the kernel module installed, we just need to tell FreeBSD to load it on boot.  To do so, we just have one last command:

#echo 'mps_load="YES"' >> /boot/loader.conf

That’s it!  Just unmount your media and exit the Fixit prompt.

#umount /mnt
#exit

At this point, you can exit the installer as usual and reboot. Once the system starts, you should find yourself face to face with a shiny new instance of FreeBSD 🙂

August 10th, 2011

Posted In: FreeBSD, How-To, Open Source

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Comments

If you’re a student like I am, you know how important it is to save money. Some students are too busy with their studies to work at all, and those who can are usually only able to do so part-time. And, like books and tuition, software is a significant source of financial burden to the average student. While it’s true that student licensed versions of software are significantly discounted, popular titles such as Microsoft Office will still cost you somewhere in the ballpark of $130. And of course, that’s only if you don’t intend to use the software for anything other than your academic or personal endeavours. If you utilize the same applications on the job, you’ll find that you’re no longer eligible for student licenses, and suddenly you’ll discover that $130 magically turns into $300.

Fortunately, the current digital climate is rife with free software alternatives, which have the potential to save students (or parents!) hundreds of dollars.

The Operating System

Let’s start with the most fundamental bundle of software, the operating system (hereby abbreviated as OS.) The OS is what sits between the hardware and the user’s applications. Some examples are Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.

For many students, purchasing an OS will be a non-issue, as most computers come with one pre-installed. For those in this category, most of the software mentioned below will run on both Windows and Mac. That being said, there are also a significant number of people who need to include an OS in their financial plans. Perhaps you purchased your computer used and without software. Or, maybe the OS on your machine is old and needs to be upgraded. You could have even assembled your own computer, as many hobbyists do.

It’s true that students can purchase Microsoft Windows at a discount of 30-60% off, but why would you do that when you can get your OS for free? Over the last few years, a veritable cornicopia of easy-to-use free software-based OSes have emerged, the most popular, and in my opinion, the easiest to install and use, being Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/). For the more technically inclined and perpetually curious, there are a slew of other Linux distributions, as well as the *BSD family of OSes — FreeBSD (http://www.freebsd.org/), NetBSD (http://www.netbsd.org/), OpenBSD (http://www.openbsd.org), PC BSD (http://www.pcbsd.org/) and Dragonfly BSD (http://www.dragonflybsd.org) — and Sun’s OpenSolaris (http://www.opensolaris.org/).

In reality, we do still live in a Windows world, so you may find yourself in a position where you have to use a program that only runs on Windows. Luckily, there’s a very mature and very complete open source implementation of the Windows API that’s been actively developed since 1993 called WINE (http://www.winehq.org/) You simply install WINE through the point-and-click interface provided by your OS and install your Windows applications on top of it. Many will run out of the box, and others will run with a minimal amount of tweaking.

Office Productivity

As mentioned earlier, a student copy of Microsoft Office will cost roughly $130, and in some cases, students won’t even qualify for the student license, making the product much more expensive. So then, simply by installing a single free software replacement, you’ve literally saved hundreds. There’s a fantastic open source alternative called OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org/), a spin-off from Sun Microsystems, Inc. The download is a little large (over 100MB), but the price tag is worth it (it’s free), and OpenOffice really is a solid application capable of doing anything Office can. It includes components that replace Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access, as well as additional components for drawing and for editing HTML documents.

In addition, you’ll find Scribus (http://www.scribus.net/) for desktop publishing and the creation of professional quality PDFs and Dia (http://live.gnome.org/Dia) for drawing diagrams, roughly like Microsoft Visio.

Multimedia

Of course, no college-ready system is complete without the ability to play movies and music! Fortunately, open source has you covered there as well. With Totem (http://projects.gnome.org/totem/) and Xine (http://www.xine-project.org/), playing your videos on Linux is a snap (Windows and Mac users of course have their own respective built-in players and don’t have to worry about this.) As well, there are applications like Banshee (http://www.banshee-project.org/) that do a great job of managing your music (it also plays videos.)

You’ll also more than likely be managing a great deal of pictures. For editing them, you’ll find the GIMP (http://www.gimp.org/), which is very similiar to Adobe’s Photoshop, and for browsing and managing your pictures there’s F-Spot (http://f-spot.org/).

You’ll only run into a couple of hitches when dealing with multimedia on an open source OS. The first is that you won’t be able to play many Windows Media files. Fortunately, this can remedied by purchasing the Fluendo Windows Media Playback Bundle (http://www.fluendo.com/shop/product/windows-media-playback-bundle/). True, it’s not free, but for $20 it’s a small price to pay compared to all the hundreds of dollars you’ll be saving on everything else, and if you can live without Windows Media, you can save yourself the expense. The second is that technically, according to the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act (http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf), you’re in a legal predicament if you install software to decrypt your DVDs. More than likely nobody’s going to care, and the software to do so is readily available and in common widespread use, but if you choose to play your DVDs on an open source OS you should first take the time to thoroughly understand where you stand from a legal perspective. [Ed. note: there are fully licensed DVD players available for Linux, but even so, legal scholars now feel that this area of the DMCA has not yet been fully tested in court, but recent precendents suggest that if it were, in the end, that Fair Use doctrine would win out in the end over the DMCA – Ed.]

A Plethora of Other Goodies

Depending on your field of study, you’ll find many other professional-quality free and open source applications that are outside the scope of this blog that will save you even more money. Just google around. You’ll find all sorts of amazing applications, all of them free.

Conclusion

Fellow students, let loose the shackles of expensive proprietary software and embrace the freedom of open source. Not only will you save hundreds of dollars, you’ll be drawn into a community of users and developers that are passionate about writing and supporting software. Once you get used to using free software alternatives, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

Here at eRacks, we specialize in providing users of all kinds with open source solutions to meet their needs. So contact us today, and ask us how we can help you save money and get even more out of your academic experience!

April 20th, 2009

Posted In: How-To, multimedia, Open Source, Reviews, ubuntu

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Comment

I will relate a recent battle I had with a laptop that uses the Prism54 wireless chipset and runs Fedora 10. For quite some time, I could not get it to connect to a WPA protected network. With an open network, it would connect just fine. I didn’t bother with WEP. I wanted to find out what was causing it to fail with WPA.

This is an older eRacks CENTRINO laptop (Pentium M 1.6ghz, 1GB RAM and an 80GB hard drive.) This post will also hopefully help anyone else who has a laptop with the Prism54 chipset (mine specifically is a PrismGT mini-pci card.) Note that Prism54 is also available in PCI and USB wireless devices.

At first, I thought it might be a problem with the GNOME NetworkManager.  So, I tried other methods of connecting, such as using the command line (for iwconfig/ifconfig), wicd, Wireless Assistant and WiFi Radar. Some of these seem to work better than others, but again, none would allow me to connect to my WPA protected network at home. Thus, it was time to dig deeper.

After some sifting through forum posts, blogs, and bugzilla, I finally came across something that might help. Apparently, the prism54 drivers have several different modules that are loaded. For some reason, there is a module (prism54), which might be an older version of the complete set, and then there are other separate ones: p54common, p54pci and p54usb. So in my case, it was loading prism54, p54common, and p54pci. According to what I have read, the prism54 module causes conflicts with the newer p54common and p54pci set. The suggestion for now is to add prism54 to the module blacklist, located in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist. You add the following entry at the bottom:

blacklist prism54

Once I did this and restarted networking, I could connect to my WPA-protected network using the default GNOME NetworkManager. All is well again in WiFi land.

Hopefully, this little jaunt with prism54 will be able to help someone else.

March 13th, 2009

Posted In: How-To, Laptop cookbooks

Tags: , , , , ,

One Comment

This article is geared toward eRacks customers who have a desktop or laptop system, i.e. a personal workstation.  It is not intended to serve as a guide for customers wishing to upgrade a server.

With the above in mind, for those who use Linux on  such a machine, your choice of distributions that cater to this niche is growing nicely.  You have the “Big Boys” such as Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva or OpenSUSE, as well as a host of more specialized distributions, the main focus of most being on user friendliness and “up-to-dateness.”  What this usually leads to is a faster upgrade cycle than what you would typically find on a server oriented distro such as Debian (stable), RedHat Enterprise, SuSE Enterprise or CentOS.

I myself have been tracking RedHat (including Fedora) since version 5.0, doing a mix of upgrades and fresh installs.  I have also kept up with Ubuntu since 6.04, and have had similar experiences with it.  I have found that one way of making regular upgrades easier is to keep a separate /home partition.  This way, you have a choice of an upgrade or a fresh install, without losing valuable data.

My experience, and that of many other salty seasoned Linux gurus, is that upgrading from a previous version tends to be a bit messier and usually takes longer to do than a fresh install.  This can be true, especially if you use third party repositories, if you install software not maintained by your distro package manager (DEB or RPM) or if you do a lot of tweaking.  Doing so may leave you looking at a broken system when the upgrade finishes.  For this reason, it is usually more desirable to do a clean installation and install your third party applications afterward.

How then to keep from losing your data?  Many system admins would suggest the multiple partition method, which has been used on servers a lot, yet not so much on the desktop.  The multiple partition method can have advantages and disadvantages, but since hard drives are so big these days, many of the disadvantages are no longer prevalent.

While most modern desktop distros have a default partitioning scheme that gives you just a swap partition (usually about 2x the amount of RAM, or physical memory) and a large root partition for everything else, most server configurations have multiple partitions for directories like /usr or /var, which can have many advantages.  For example: if you wanted to have /usr mounted as read-only to prevent unauthorized system-wide software installs, if you wanted to keep /boot separate for a RAID array or if you wanted to keep /var and /tmp separate to avoid corrupting the core system files; these are all examples of why one might want to make use of multiple partitions.  In this case, however, the partitioning must be very carefully planned according to the intended use of the server, what programs need to be installed, how many users will be logging in, etc.

Luckily, there is a happy medium that works well for desktops, and that is to use a swap partition with 2x the amount of RAM, a root partition for your operating system and a very large /home partition for all your data.  When you do a fresh install, all you have to do is make sure you don’t format /home, and your data will be safe across installations.  If you want to save any system-wide tweaks, you will, of course, also have to backup important configuration files and check them against their replacements, making changes where necessary.

In my case, I have a 120GB hard drive for Linux, which makes use of the following partition scheme:
20GB /
75GB /home
1GB /swap
14GB “other” (at times it has a Gentoo install, other times it has FreeBSD, depends on my mood…)

I have found through experience that this setup works well.

When I do an OS update, such as my recent one to Fedora 9, I usually backup important configuration files to /home, do a fresh install and finally install any third party programs I need.

In the past, when upgrading systems without doing a fresh install, things for me have tended to get rather wonky.  However, I have recently tried upgrading Ubuntu, and I must say that the recently improved Upgrade Manager, a graphical front end to the apt-get dist-upgrade functionality, is a nice touch.  It allows you to upgrade to the next version of Ubuntu, while still allowing you to run your system so you can go about your business as it downloads and installs all the packages.  When it’s done, you simply reboot, and voila, new version!  Upgrades on Fedora, by contrast, are still usually done by the tried and true method of booting the install disk and running the upgrade procedure.  Fedora does have the capability to do upgrades using the yum package manager, but that functionality isn’t as mature as apt-get dist-upgrade, and thus is not for the faint of heart.

So now, what if you have an existing Linux installation utilizing only a single partition and you want to do a fresh install while keeping your data safe?

Of course, you could just back your data up to a large external hard drive, but not everyone has one at their disposal.  In this case, what you could try is resizing your root partition, create a new partition for /home and copy your personal data to it before starting the upgrade.  Then, just run through the installation as usual.  This is, of course, only if you have enough space to resize.  If not, you may still require an external drive, at least temporarily, to copy your data to before starting the installer.

If you want to make use of multiple partitions on a new eRacks system purchase, just ask for it during your order.  This way, your system will be ready when the next OS update rolls around!

Matt

June 27th, 2008

Posted In: How-To, Laptop cookbooks, Upgrades

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Comment