We're Almost There

We successfully installed the new Xserve hardware last night. This was after we upgraded to a full cabinet. Initially, things seemed bleak when we got there. Although we now had four posts to mount on, the rails for the Xserve wouldn't line up on the posts.

In the Xserve manual, there's a section on installing the mounting rails. The instructions give you two paths: one for square-hole racks, and one for threaded-hole racks. The holes in our cabinet were threaded, so I used that set of instructions:

Xserve Threaded Hole Mounting

But then we hit two challenges. First, we couldn't find the spacers for the threaded hole configuration. Presumably, they were lost somewhere in the unpacking. But then we decided to just try to do it without them.

Then we hit challenge two. It turns out the mounting rails that come with the Xserve are too shallow for the threaded-hole racks that Hurricane Electric provides. Although it seemed like there was no way to make it work, I started looking around and discovered that some of the racks in the same suite had square mounts. I tested the Xserve rails and they fit perfectly.

Xserve Square Hole Mounting

I asked the HE technician about it and he said he could get us some racks with square holes. A few minutes later, he brought them over and we started uninstalling the old racks and installing the new ones them before he even brought us the proper tools. A short time later, we had the Xserve installed.

Wherein I Get Slightly Philosophical

In what strikes me as a semi-Douglas Adams moment (which is appropriate because Hurricane Electric seems like bowels of a ship in a sci-fi movie), just as we started looking for the square-mount spacers they suddenly fell out of a bundle of hardware I was holding.

Right onto the ground. Like "Hello, I'm already here. No need to search."

That in itself would have been mildly entertaining, but the irony is that I was later concerned about not being able to find the threaded-hole spacers. In my head, I saw it as "we have threaded hole racks, we need threaded hole spacers to make this work." It seemed like there was no way around that.

We decided to stop worrying about it and just try to mount it anyway. Only by doing that did we discover that the point was moot. We needed a completely different set of posts to make it work. Ultimately, we used square-hole spacers which — as you might remember — are the ones that I saw in the beginning.

So two thoughts here. One, if you want to install an Xserve, you want a four-post cabinet with square holes. Secondly, if you get stuck on something, just keep moving, pay attention, and the answer may present itself. Or at least it did for me. It's amazing how often that happens.

There's one last challenge. The plug in the back sticks out too far to close the door. Does anyone know where to get a "flat" three-prong plug for an Xserve so that it fits comfortably in the cabinet?

As I said to Jesper, the hard(ware|part) is over.
Design Element
We're Almost There
Posted May 21, 2007 — 5 comments below


Charles — May 21, 07 4136

What type of plug are you looking for? Is this a power cord with a special socket or does it use that regular shape that most CPUs use? I think I have a "flat" cable like that, it turns at a 90 degree angle just after the block that sticks in the CPU, so it has a lower profile than a regular power cord that just sticks straight out the back. If you could provide more details on what you're looking for, I might have what you need, I'd gladly send it your way just to help clear out my box of cables. It's amazing how many random power cables I've accumulated over the years.

Tim Buchheim — May 21, 07 4137

that must be a pretty shallow rack. The Xserves are long, but I've never used a 4 post rack where they wouldn't fit easily.

on the other hand, I once tried to put a Belkin KVM/LCD/keyboard thing into a rack. It was documented as being one size (both in the manual and on the box, as well as the web page) but when I unpacked it and tried to put it in the rack, it was six inches too long. It was easily a foot longer than an Xserve. Crazy.

Then I had the fun of shipping the damn thing back and getting my refund.

Square hole racks are great. That's all I buy these days. Most servers come with hardware for square hole racks, and some (like the Dell RapidRails or whatever they call them) are really, really easy to install. Apple's rails for the G4/G5 Xserves really sucked.. it looks like the Intel ones are only marginally better. The Xserve RAID isn't too awful, but they're not great.

IBM's rails are pretty bad. They stick out 6 inches in the back (to hold a cable management system which I haven't had any reason to attach) so I can't close the back doors on my main server rack either. :-( It's not as if the machine itself sticks out.. it's just the stupid rails.

Scott Stevenson — May 22, 07 4138 Scotty the Leopard

@Charles: What type of plug are you looking for? Is this a power cord with a special socket or does it use that regular shape that most CPUs use?
I think it's a standard one. I'll just check Fry's or something. More I was wondering if somebody knew if this was a special part that had to be ordered.

@Tim Buchheim: that must be a pretty shallow rack
I maybe should have described it differently. I mean shallow in the x-axis sense. The holes are too far from the edge of the post to align with the hole in the mounting rails. You sorta have to see it.

it looks like the Intel ones are only marginally better
Actually, they seem great. They were very easy to assemble. Unless you mean that the posts and the rails don't agree on measurements.

Chris Ryland — May 22, 07 4147

Seems like there must be a lot of room for error in this business.

When I installed my G5 Xserve in a square-hole rack at my new ISP last winter, the Apple-supplied square-hole nuts wouldn't let me tighten up the back enough--something about clearances wasn't quite right.

I had to scrounge some other nuts from the machine room supply cabinet that sorta worked, though with very little margin for tightening. I'm hoping that long-term vibration doesn't loosen them.

Bud Freeman — May 25, 07 4174

I have a similar problem--new Xserve and threaded hole configuration racks. I thought Apple had shipped the square hole version as it will work on a square hole rack. Apple shipped replacement rails and they were the same. My solution will be to hacksaw slots in back of the bracket with the flange so that it will flush mount on the front post which is either I_Beam or U_Shaped.
Any thoughts?


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