Converting From Clutter Closet To Dreamy Datacenter

[DocDawning] had a nice home network up and running, but the messy pit housing the hardware made him avoid that part of the house. In an effort to cut down on noise, and clean up the clutter, he built himself a very nice data center inside a small closet.

One of the biggest changes in the setup provides adequate cooling. He cut a vent hole into a wall shared between the closet and a hallway. This was just the right size for a few large cooling fans which suck air into the enclosed space. But cool-air intake must be accompanied by hot-air outflow so he added an exhaust vent in the ceiling. This also received a trio of big fans, and as you can see above, the integrated LEDs act as a light source for the server farm.

The final part of the plan involved machine-specific brackets mounted to the walls of the enclosure. These racks were built out of 1×1 white wood. They hold the hardware in place leaving plenty of room to run cables. The new setup even opened up enough wall space to mount power and networking hardware. Now everything has its place, and [DocDawning] can finally close the door on his noisy servers.

51 thoughts on “Converting From Clutter Closet To Dreamy Datacenter

  1. It’s a nice project. I wonder if any space/heat could be saved by upgrading hardware and using virtualisation?

    And blue LED lighting? Yuck! And those ghetto looking holes won’t do any favours for the house’s value.

  2. Wow! Is this a setup for some sort of business or storage for data? How come there are so many computers and this is described as a home network.What do you do with all this equipment?

  3. Nice! I do wonder about the server orientation though. You might get better cooling if you flip the servers around. Normally, data centers have air intake side facing front of servers and exhaust side would sit opposite from it (cold isle – hot isle). That way you ensure you get cold air going into the servers and pull the hot air out the back (or the top in your case).

    Either way, great stuff!

  4. I went the with Pedro’s suggestion and consolidated 3 old machines and a stack of small (by today’s comparison) hard drives into one microATX Atom 510 with a few “green” terabyte drives. That one machine is the family video/picture/fileserver, asterisk pbx, weather station, local backup, and sometimes a development box. It also serves a handful of other functions, which don’t immediately come to mind right now.

  5. I once had a similar setup – a bunch of machines scavenged from here and there, cobbled together in quite an interesting array (on Visio, that is). In reality, I had the same nightmare he started with. Troubleshooting and upgrades were a problem, and living in Texas meant that the extra heat was an issue – not to mention the power consumption. In the end, I got rid of the whole lot and settled on one beefy machine that became my Xen server.

    I applaud the guy’s accomplishment, but I (like others) question the resale value of the home with the mod’s done. It appears to be an older home, and patching those holes seamlessly might be a challenge.

    Having gone down these same roads myself, he’s doing things better than I did when I was at this stage of the game.


  6. Isn’t this essentially a system which sucks loads of cool AC air out of the house and into the attic? I’m sure it cools down the server room but it seems like it’s equivalent to running your AC with a fan sitting in the window.

  7. “It appears to be an older home, and patching those holes seamlessly might be a challenge”

    Dude…what the hell are you talking about??

    It is going to take about an hour to patch those holes.

  8. I used a bathroom fan to move my hot air out the ceiling. Purchasing the quitest one allowed a lot more air movement than the computer fans. Wired it into a thermostat, so any time it goes over 71, the fan goes on. I also have my media equipment in my closet including blue ray, reciver, xbox, cd player and a few other toys.

  9. Daley I bet you never take off protective film/bag off you tv, monitors, sofa etc… what the point to have something if you constantly afraid to use it. Only what irreplaceable is friend and pets

  10. So he has a bunch of old ass tower machines in a cupboard?

    I used to have u1 boxes, sparc pizza boxes, networking etc under my kitchen sink. Does that mean I had an underwater datacenter. ;)

  11. my only thing with this nice new setup is how long the extraction fans will keep working for. I have used similar fans in the past for similar projects but found that the fans had a tendancy to burn out fairly regularly or melted the bushings in the motors and making lost of majic blue smoke :) still nice job, like it. if they are running all the time keep an eye on em :)

  12. Check with fire code before copying this approach.

    There are fire code rules about how you can vertically vent between floors. An open hole like this will both feed a fire as well as providing a faster path for flames to spread.

    (note: fire codes don’t guarantee fireproofing anything… they’re mainly designed to ensure a slow rate of fire spread. This is why you can not have gaping holes around pipes which penetrate drywall. The drywall will eventually burn but it’s designed to sustain a certain number of minutes abuse.)

    A safer and more energy efficient approach would be a pair of heat exchangers, fans, and closed loop coolant.

    1. In the case of this house, my house, the ceiling of the closet is completely openly exposed to the downstairs bathroom, which, has other ceiling “panels” the previous owner made by stapling burlap on the roof and painting it. You have a great point and I think it stands. In the case of my rickety very old house… My walls are more illusions than anything.

  13. It’s bad enough that HaD authors make so many mistakes in their posts(I sometimes wonder if it’s an inside joke) but must commenters also be so retarded?

    “space converting a closed into automated grow box”
    “this the small high speed fans you have to watch out for”
    ” I only run 3 and I thought I where extreme”
    “I went the with Pedro’s suggestion and”
    “Only what irreplaceable is friend and pets”
    “my only thing with this nice new setup ”

    Read your comment before submitting it!

  14. You are absolutely correct that the older systems are almost useless (and could be virtualized). I’m not sure he would even need to upgrade the host server except for the memory. The other servers are just toy/nostalgia systems as he notes.

    If “where he archives his data” means “onsite backups”, the exercise is pointless (as on-site != backups). Encrypt that stuff and shove it in some cloud service. But he could also have meant fileserver.

    I’m not above sarcasm, Stevie, but you’re too harsh. The closet -looks- nice and is well organized, and it’s HAD’s fault not his if it’s a slow news day.

    That said I hope he DOES see this, and has the local fire inspector or home inspector take a look at his vent because it seems like it would violate fire code as well as risk life. Beyond that I would be worried it violates some clause in homeowner insurance which is not a good place to be at.

    1. Safety is paramount to me, always has been. Nothing posted about this was able to give the entire context. Suffice to say, I deemed the risk to be very low, especially compared against what I had before. Probably the biggest risk in my household remains people (not me) leaving the oven turned-on.

  15. Wow, trollfest 2011! Hah…. Such energy, such life!

    To answer some questions/dick-comments:
    * The house is from 1926 and I’ve ripped out most of the basement where this closet is. In ~10yrs, I’m knocking down the house. An old (very) inner-city house across two lots isn’t worth scat (even with corn in it). The land, that’s where the money is. Holes in a wall are easy fix anyway.

    * I have been a massive throbbing fan and pusher of Virtualization since the late 90s. The assumption I didn’t already, concerns me.

    * The machines are:
    — pfsense Router (may move to a WRT box)
    — File Server
    — VM Server (ESXi FTW)
    — Secondary Workstation
    — Scratch Pad box

    * The ventilation is in to a vacant bathroom. Interesting comments about the mold. Calgary is VERY dry. But I’ll keep that in mind, thx

    * If you go to my journal site ( you fan analysis. The bathroom ones I saw had terrible flow rate to device volume ratios. And, were very expensive for similarly low volume levels.

    * The LEDs came with the fans. I was after good flow rates, low dBA & cheap. Powering 1 LED costs me ~0.00043 $/yr (if left on a full yr). If that’s significant to you, seek therapy.

    * I calculated that I spend ~$30/mth to power my computers. I’d say that’s a lot, to me it’s worth it. If it’s not to you, that’s fine. You also don’t actually know what I use my machines for.

    I adore the comments that riddled with false assumptions. That reinforces that the hacker culture is inclined to assume everyone is stupid. We should work on this. I’m no genius, but I didn’t explain every dimension here as most don’t have a sufficient attention span.

    Anyway, it was a fun project. Probably a bit overkill, I’m cool with it. Thanks to HaD for putting it up.

  16. I’ll add, no where have I REALLY explained in REAL detail what I’m using the main machines in there for. I consider doing so a (minor) security risk I’d rather not incur. But I like how certain most seem to be that it must be for stupid purposes. That said only really three of those machines matter. But you know, there’s this thing called the future, it’s unknown, but I’ve tried to prepare a bit.

    As for fire concerns, it’s a house from the 20s. If you guys saw the crazy shit previous owners have done to this place, and then the pains I’ve gone through to safely power my machines, you’d know it’s as good as it’s gonna be. I’ll also re-state: the (seriously trivial) heat, vents in to another room. But the walls themselves are not dry wall, (well some are), but most of them down there are cobbled together with weird crap that wouldn’t remotely a fire. Maybe if the rooms were air tight, but they’re far from it.

    Thanks for all the love gang.

  17. With all the pussy bitching aside, and straight to the Point of this ‘hack’.

    Well done, I’ve got to say you modified the closet to your needs keeping clutter away from eyes and putting it in its own dedicated space.

    I actually respect your ingenuity, someone posted about the out dated systems I was thinking that my self ha, I still got a few running :)

  18. “The Grid” ran just fine on SunOS 5.x, not everything has to be cutting edge.. har har har

    @Life2Death: I respect your metal. I’ve been tempted that way many times. Just, I don’t need tier 1 hardware so I don’t care to pay for it.

    @Decius: Thanks for the pleasant comments dude. My upgrade interests are about Memory and Storage. If I need intense processing, that’s what my 8-core Xeon workstation (not in the closet is for). Future spending will be on a nice Oscilloscope & various musical instruments.

  19. First of all – great job.

    Second – to all those people crying about resale, that stuff is either fibro or the modern replacement, it’s dead easy to patch (or replace a whole sheet, it’s like a few hours work, bam.)

    But why would he? there are grills on it, most people would just see that and go “Oh hey, three vents, that’s wierd.” and that would be in the end of it. I’m sure there are other things in the house a prospective buyer would care about more.

    I built a similar setup a few years back in my basement – and yes, it was a “permanent” installation. If I sell the house, the server room comes with it. Some might like that (not many I’d hazard.)

  20. Hehe, should replace the blue LED lights with RGB LEDs, or at least add a bunch of red LEDs. Could then set up some temperature probes and change the lighting based on temperature, as the highest temperature amongst the computers gets higher, the lighting turns red, then finally starts flashing on and off, or something similar.

  21. I can’t believe the amount of tolls on hackaday. Surely people can take things for what they are? Yes, you might build your cupboard out of titanium and rick astleys hair, but who cares? This guy has built it, it looks awesome, and it achieves what he wants to achieve. Can’t we leave it at that? If you have something to say, let it be constructive.

    On topic, well done. It is a very neat job. I have a 19 inch rack at home, and wish I had the time to cable it as neatly as you have yours.

  22. Not a bad setup. Perhaps if you were concerned about security, you wouldn’t describe the house and neighborhood to challenge others to look for…and you’d post anonymously. I mean if I wanted to figure where you live, it’s all right there. Check the guy with the 1920s house and meter running like crazy.

  23. @Itwork4me – There are different kinds of security. There are plenty of houses from the 20s in Calgary, if you can figure out exactly where mine is, I’ll give you $1 over paypal. As for the network security, yeah, that’s another discussion I’m not bothering to have.. Also, my equipment all running uses less power than a hair dryer, lots of house hold equipment uses heaps of power, computers aren’t that bad once they’re past the first second of powering up.

  24. Jeez… some people are dicks. Nice effort man, not to mention a good read! I’ve just bookmarked your post for future reference when i say bye-bye to rented accomodation :)

  25. I used to run a number of machines like this but my electric bill was killing me. Each machine cost between $8-10 dollars per month. I shut down four machines and saved over $36 per month.

    Then I used the savings to pay for dedicated web hosting. Now I run just one machine as a file server and the other machines are hibernating when not in use.

  26. I think this is cool as hell! I’ve been renting forever and am buying my first home in about a month and there is A LOT of free space in this new house. I am claiming a small room in the basement with a closet similar to yours and may do something similar. Fortunately the house isn’t as old as your’s and has a lot of ventilation and duck-work already there. I could easily do something similar without having to find a place to dump the heat and pull the cooler air. This looks awesome!

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