Homelab 10″ mini-rack

Update: 2021-01-10

I made the following changes and updated the post below (not the pictures) to reflect those changes:

  • Replaced side vent panels with metal bars
  • Added labels to patch panel
  • One of the RJ45 couplers was stuck in 100Mbps mode and would not transfer full 1Gbps. I switched it around to a device that only has a 100Mbps NIC (IP camera)

Introduction

I don’t have space in my house for a full-size 19″ server rack (but a man can dream). My fiber internet service comes into the basement and terminates at the ONT. A Cat6 cable runs from the ONT in the basement, up through the ceiling directly above it where it plugs into my router. The hole drilled through the first floor is hidden by the entertainment center that houses all the equipment. My entire homelab lives on the bottom shelf of that piece of furniture and is designed to be low-power and quiet (since it’s in my living room):

  • pfSense router (APU2D4)
  • Netgear switch (GS108PE)
  • UniFi AP (UAP-AC-PRO)
  • Intel NUC (NUC7i3BNH)
  • Synology DS 718+
  • CyberPower UPS (CP1500PFCLCD)

It’s a pretty small setup that only draws 50-60 watts, but lets me run 10+ VMs and 25+ containers. However, physically organizing it has been a pain. I’ve been using a small cabinet shelf (made for kitchen plates) and zip-ties to separate the router, switch, and AP, but it was ugly and various lengths of Cat6 were everywhere.

Racks typically come in 19″ widths, but I had seen a few Reddit posts about 10″ racks (one, two) and a bunch of 3D printed solutions (one, two, three, four, five, six). However, these racks were usually custom-made, or typically sourced from parts in Europe (apparently 10″ is a popular rack size there).

Then, I stumbled onto this post. It stuck out to me because the user was based in the US, it required very little metal-work, no 3D printing, and he included a parts list. It was a proper rack, just shrunk down to 10″. This is my attempt to recreate that rack.

Presenting: The mini-rack

Pictures

And here is the obligatory GIF of the blinkenlights.

Parts

This rack is based on the post from u/othugmuffin, but I changed a few things to better suit my needs.

Part Link Quantity Price (per unit) Total price Comments
Rack posts Penn Elcom Online 4 $1.94 $7.76 The shelf where this rack is going only fits a full 4U rack (5U is too tall), but I was able to cut off 1/3-of-a-U on a 5U rack (for a total of 4.66U height)
Cage nuts Penn Elcom Online 50 $0.18 $9.00 I’m only using 24
Cage screws (M6) Penn Elcom Online 1 $12.24 $12.24 The ones with the tapered ends make catching the threads so much easier
Cage nut tool Penn Elcom Online 1 $16.05 $16.05 Optional, but makes life much easier
10″ blank patch panel Amazon 1 $25.39 $25.39 This patch panel has a mounting plate for the keystones, whereas the panel u/othugmuffin used did not (which would cause the keystones to stick out in the front)
10″ rack shelf Amazon 3 $15.95 $47.85 I wish these were a little deeper
10″ vent panel Amazon 2 $12.00 $24.00 These are used on the back (where u/othugmuffin used aluminum bars that he had to cut/drill)
7.8” mending plate 6-pack Amazon 1 $14.97 $14.97 Used on the sides. I was originally using the 10″ vent panels but ended up switching to these
Cat6 RJ45 shielded coupler keystones FS.com 12 $2.00 $24.00 I only used shielded because I liked the silver color
Cat6 patch cables 5-pack (1ft) Amazon 2 $9.99 $19.98 I tried 6-inch cables, but they were so stiff they lifted the switch off the shelf
Rubber feet Amazon 1 $8.22 $8.22 To cover the cut ends of the rack posts
Misc screws/washers/nuts Lowes ~$8 ~$8
  $217.46 total

Physical layout

Here is how everything is physically connected.

      -----------------------------------------------------------
      |                                                         |
      |  ------ -----                                           |
------|->| UniFi AP |                                           |
|     |  ------ -----                                           |
|     |                                                         |
|     -----------------------------------------------------------
|     
|
|     -----------------------------------------------------------
|     |   AP     Camera               NAS    NUC    Roku   LAN  |
|     | ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ |           -----------------
|     | | 01 | | 02 | | 03 | | 04 | | 05 | | 06 | | 07 | | 08 | |           |               |
|     | ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ |           | FiOS Internet |
|     |    ^      ^                    ^      ^      ^      ^   |           |           ^   |
|     -----|------|--------------------|------|------|------|----           ------------|----
|          |      |                    |      |      |      |                           |
|          |      |                    |      |      |      -------------------------------------- 
|          |      |                    |      |      |                                  |        |
|     -----|------|--------------------|------|------|----------------------------------|----    |
|     |    v      v                    v      v      v                                  v   |    |
|     | ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ |    |
|     | | 01 | | 02 | | 03 | | 04 | | 05 | | 06 | | 07 | | 08 | | 09 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | |    |
|     | ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ |    |
|     |    ^                                                                            ^   |    |
|     -----|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|----    |
|          |                                                                            |        |
------------                                                                            |        |
                                                                                        |        |
      -----------------------------------------------------------                       |        |
      |                                                         |                       |        |
      |    -------              -------              -------    |                       |        |
      |    | WAN |              | LAN |              | OPT |    |                       |        |
      |    -------              -------              -------    |                       |        |
      |       ^                    ^                            |                       |        |
      --------|--------------------|-----------------------------                       |        |
              |                    |                                                    |        |
              ---------------------|-----------------------------------------------------        |
                                   |                                                             |
                                   ---------------------------------------------------------------

To-do

  • Replace side vent panels with metal bars (will require cutting and drilling)
    • Cheaper
    • Custom length
  • Add labels to patch panel
  • Try Monoprice SlimRun Cat6 patch cables (which should bend easier)
  • Find deeper shelves
    • https://commsonline.co.uk/products/1u-10-inch-mini-cabinet-shelf

Conclusion

If you have a 10″ rack, let me know about it! I’m looking to improve mine and would love to find other parts retailers in the US.

Also, shout-out to my wife for letting me put this monstrosity in the living room. Her only complaint during the whole thing was “it’s no uglier than what you have there now”.

Thanks for reading!

-Logan

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