Choosing the right server rack can be difficult, and there are a number of different parameters that can create compatibility concerns. Finding a server rack or cabinet that can handle very heavy loads narrows the choices significantly. Add in the requirement for mobility and the selection becomes quite restrictive.
In our lab, we need to maximize space effectively, while also retaining portability. Our requirement for portability is the result of the need to swap servers in and out of the platform on a regular basis. A wide array of servers, JOBDs, power filtering units, and networking equipment make the rounds through our lab on a steady basis.
This vast range of equipment also introduces a requirement for wide compatibility. The StarTech 2636 is EIA RS310-C compliant, and its compatibility with standard 19-inch equipment allows the cabinet to support a large range of equipment.
We also require a solid unit that can withstand the abuse of frequent component installations. The solid steel construction of the 2636 adds durability and strength that can handle the wear and tear of our hectic lab environment. A lifetime warranty on the unit also speaks to the durability of its design.
Sufficient space is also important, and the StarTech 2636 provides a capacity of 15U. The heavy weight loading of up to 2210 pounds can handle dense deployments easily.
A great advantage of utilizing a closed cabinet instead of an open rack is the benefit of noise reduction. The StarTech Cabinet will find its home in many SMB, SOHO, and home user environments. Those with 1U and 2U racks are all too familiar with excessive noise generation from server equipment. The benefits of closeable doors on the front and rear of the unit go a long way to helping contain screaming fan noise. For users with home labs, the attractive finish is also a big selling point. While all cabinets and racks are utilitarian at their roots, the extra attention to the appearance of this unit is a nice touch.
There are many racks and cabinets on the market that are not suitable for our environment, and finding the right fit was a bit daunting. There are numerous pitfalls to avoid when selecting server racks. Thorough research is always important to ensure the rack meets or exceeds the requirements of the installed equipment. Today, we will walk you through why we chose the StarTech.com 2636 cabinet as our go-to solution.
Specifications & Accessories
The StarTech 4-post 2636CABINET comes with a lifetime warranty, a solid steel frame, and rear door. The unit comes pre-assembled on a crate with a package weight of 185.6 pounds. The bare unit weighs in at a solid 127 pounds. The unit moves well on the wheels, but the sturdy steel construction adds quite a bit of weight.
Included in Package
The cabinet comes with two keys for the front and rear doors. Each door requires its own key, allowing some restriction of access to the unit if desired. The unit also comes with screws with embedded plastic washers to protect the finish of installed equipment.
The rack holes are square to provide the widest possible compatibility. A generous helping of cage nuts are included.
Users often overlook a very important aspect when purchasing a new rack or cabinet. The availability of accessories with proven compatibility is very important. StarTech offers a plethora of accessories. Two available PDUs (Power Distribution Units) can provide either 8 or 16 power outlets to the rack. A Serial Control PDU, rated for 15 Amps, can also provide power control either remotely or with the local IP network. This is a particularly attractive solution for SMB and SOHO applications.
Extra fans, shelves, drawers, cable management panels, and fasteners provide plenty of additional options or replacements.
StarTech 2636CABINET Exterior
The dimensions of the StarTech 2636 adhere to the EIA-RS310-C specification. This standard defines rack units, vertical hole spacing, horizontal hole spacing, rack openings, and front panel width. This specification has defined 19-inch racks for 50 years, but does not cover all of the relevant features that should be considered before purchasing a rack.
One interesting caveat is that there is not an actual 19-inch measurement anywhere on the chart. The 19-inch measurement actually refers to the length of the front panel on the equipment installed into the rack. The actual hole spacing is 18-5/16 inches.
The unit arrives pre-assembled on a crate, with straps securing it and adequate cushioning for the castors and hardware. The front Plexiglas door is covered with an adherent paper covering to protect from scratching during transit. The unit is quite heavy, but the wheels roll freely, which allows easy movement once the unit is off the crate.
The unit is smooth with a black matte finish on the solid steel exterior. Extruded aluminum fittings cover the rounded corners and edges, providing an attractive appearance to the unit.
We can see the three fans that exhaust air from the top of the cabinet, and the nice 35.4-inch length of the unit provides plenty of room for most deployments. One common area of differentiation for server racks is the length. The EIA-310 specification does not allow the box to be wider or taller, but it allows longer lengths.
Many racks are now available from 42-44 inches deep, but some unique features of the StarTech 2636 make it suitable for longer server racks. Researching the rack for the best compatibility with your equipment is vital; a very common problem is the inability to close rear doors on some cabinets when used with extra-long server cases.
The rear of the unit is divided, with a smaller area on the bottom for an air filter. The upper portion has a removable and reversible solid steel door that can be oriented to open either left or right. The levelers on the bottom rear corners are extendable to bring the casters underneath off the floor, thus providing a very solid footing. Plastic spacers on the bottom of the levelers protect the floor surface.
Access & Cooling
Access to the interior is important, and the door opens to a wide angle beyond 90 degrees to allow easy access to both sides of the installed equipment. If more room is required, the door comes off easily. This angle gives us a view of the holes on the bottom rear of the unit. These allow for cabling to be snaked through the bottom of the unit. Some cable management is required where the cables snake out underneath the unit to prevent entanglement in the wheels during movement.
The front door handle is lockable, and there is a separate key for the rear door. The handle is operated by lifting and twisting it in a circular motion to unhinge the door. The design assures the unit cannot open accidentally from vibration or poor latching. The clear smoked acrylic window allows for easy monitoring of the various status lights on the installed equipment.
The front and rear doors are reversible and are connected via an ingenious pin system. Pulling down on the pins that attach the unit to the case allows quick and easy removal of the door. This also allows the user to re-orient the doors to open in the desired direction. This feature comes in very handy if the unit is near a wall or other obstruction.
The three 120mm fans pull 300 CFM of air from the unit to facilitate cabinet cooling. Air is drawn primarily through a rear filter that catches dust and other debris. There is some collateral airflow through the bottom cabling holes, but with an informal test, it is minimal. The upper-rear orientation of the fans is optimal, though we would prefer some means of pulling air in through the front of the unit. This would allow fresh air to come near the front of the server racks.
The cabinet provides adequate cooling for small to medium deployments, but when loaded to maximum capacity it will likely need one of the doors removed to provide adequate cooling. There is also the option to replace the fans with variable speed DC units to reduce fan noise.
The internal view of the fans reveals the standard AC plug used for powering the fans. The unit is rated for 39dBA. This is not whisper-quiet, but it is easily within tolerable range. One great advantage of the cabinet is the amount of sound it contains from installed equipment.
Some noise of the installed equipment will escape, but the unit does a good job of damping the high-pitched fan whine of screaming 1U and 2U servers. The noise absorption is not enough to allow the use of heavy equipment in an open office setting, but it does make the noise bearable.
Setup, Airflow/Filters & Installing Rails
Setting up the unit is quick and easy. One of the most redeeming qualities of the unit is the heavy-duty design, which can tolerate up to 2210 pounds of equipment. The casters are free spinning and appropriately robust to handle heavy loads. The mobility of the unit is particularly convenient, especially if the unit is near a rear wall. The easy movement allows quick access to the wiring at the rear of the unit. The casters also feature a lockable design, which can be foot-activated, to prevent movement.
The unit also features levelers to the rear and stabilizers on the front. These provide additional footing if required. The stabilizer feet fold out from the front of the unit to support the unit when pulling out heavy drawers. It is always good practice to install the heaviest racks to the bottom of the case, but stabilizers allow for varied setups without the fear of the unit tipping when sliding racks out.
The stabilizers can support the unit, in conjunction with the levers to the rear, when mobility is not required. Simply turning the nut on the stabilizer foot raises the unit until the wheels are slightly off the floor. The plastic coating on the bottom of the feet protect flooring, such as our wood base here. With heavyweight deployments, it is wise to use weight-distribution pads on floors without a high loading rating.
Airflow and Filters
The rear of the unit reveals two removable cable management arms to the left. These arms can move to facilitate longer rack lengths. The silver tab on the middle right allows the rear door to latch shut. This tab is mountable on the left side if the user reverses the door. The levelers are at the bottom. The filter comes off with four screws and can be periodically cleaned with soap and water.
The 4-post design features square mounting holes. The number one reason for server and rack incompatibility stems from the use of round hole types. Square holes are more flexible from an installation standpoint. Very few rails are compatible with both round and square holes. With square holes, users can always install the included cage nuts to provide compatibility with either system. The rack supports both sliding and fixed shelves.
The L-type posts are easily moved farther back to provide wide compatibility with different rails and shelves. Hole types, rack mounting depth, and obstructions between the front and rear rails are a common source of frustration for users. The StarTech 2636 avoids these major shortfalls with a solid design that supports wide compatibility.
One great feature of the StarTech 2636CABINET is its quick-deployment capability. The cabinet arrives pre-assembled and ready to go. All of the necessary fasteners are included. There is no real case set-up required. The mobile aspect of the rack makes installing, removing, and adjusting equipment a snap.
The solid-steel and extruded aluminum exterior has an attractive black finish and rounded corners and edges. Do not let the pretty exterior fool you, though, as the StarTech 2636 is a utilitarian workhorse. Its robust design is resilient and handles up to 2210 pounds of equipment. We have utilized the cabinet for several months, and its sturdy design has easily stood up to the wear and tear of our constant equipment changes.
The heavy construction of the unit is reassuring, and we have no qualms whatsoever storing heavy equipment on top of the unit during equipment changes. Users beware, this is not explicitly approved, but the solid steel design is certainly strong enough to handle the weight easily.
The reversible doors allow for easy access regardless of the cabinet's orientation, and the ability to remove them entirely is a nice advantage. The wheels provide an easy means of accessing the rear of the rack, but are easily lockable to prevent unwanted movement. The stabilizers and levelers are extremely robust and can lift the wheels off the floor for more permanent and secure deployments.
Front clearance is adequate for forward facing networking equipment, such as our 1Gbe and 10Gbe switches. Rear clearance can be tricky for larger server cases. The ability to move the cable management harnesses alleviates some of the cramping to the rear of the cabinet, and users can remove the rear door if required.
Perhaps the only improvable area is on the cooling front. The fans draw air in through a filter that is located on the rear of the unit. The location of the filter is convenient for easy removal and cleaning, but does not provide the best airflow location. We feel that a filter placed underneath at the front of the unit would allow for better airflow into the front of our server equipment. This fresh air would be heated and then exhausted to the rear fans for removal. Most users with small to mid-size equipment deployments will not face any problems, but those with heavy usage profiles will need to monitor equipment temperatures.
The most redeeming quality of the unit is its sturdy build and its easy customization. Users can move or remove the lockable doors as needed, and use the unit for stationary or mobile applications. The wide range of available accessories will provide users with ample options for multiple usages. The lifetime warranty is reassuring, and the wide availability of the StarTech rack is an advantage. Readers can purchase the 2636CABINET from StarTech.com or Amazon, and quick shipping options can place a very heavy crate at your door quickly.
The StarTech 15U 19-inch Server Rack 2636 Cabinet is a robust and sturdy design that is customizable enough to address a multitude of deployment scenarios, which earns it the TweakTown Editor's Choice Award.
PRICING: You can find the StarTech 15U 19-inch Server Rack 2636 Cabinet for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
United States: The StarTech 15U 19-inch Server Rack 2636 Cabinet retails for $1,012.87 at Amazon.
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