Colocation Architecture Installation – ServeTheHome 2013

Posted February 14, 2013 by Patrick Kennedy in Servers
STH colo full cabinet view

After a long selection process, it was finally time to do the colocation installation. I arrived on-site at our colocation provider Fiberhub in Las Vegas which is very easy to get to. In my carry-on I had two barebones servers, probably a dozen SSDs, an extra power supply, a Fortinet Fortigate-60C (if things went poorly,) two laptops and a myriad of external USB accessories. It turns out, the most important thing I brought was my screwdriver. Great to be over-prepared, but the folks at Fiberhub had everything already racked for me. Once there it was time to re-wire everything and get Rack911 setup with remote access. I snapped some pictures for those that want to see the installation.

The first thing we did was to setup the pfsense nodes. At first, we decided to use 1U Atom servers. Then we decided to use a single Intel Xeon L5520 CPU in the pfsense nodes with an extra dual port gigabit controller. Previously we were going to use a dual QDR Infiniband card to provide this interface. The decision was made to scale back and swap to an add-in PCIe dual gigabit Ethernet controller.

STH colo pfsense node and Mellanox IB node

STH colo pfsense node and Mellanox IB node

Luckily the Dell PowerEdge C6100 XS23-TY3 cloud server is very easy to work on and the entire swap was done in only a few minutes. The hardest part was maneuvering the PCIe network controllers into place but by the second pfsense box this was easy. ServeTheHome will occupy 10U of rack space. It is a very compact installation but the Dell C6100’s allowed us to achieve a very high density.

The first step was to wire everything up in the rack. We used Green for IPMI management. Red is used for the uplinks and switch to switch and pfsense to pfsense cables. Blue cables are the data cables for each node.

STH Colo 10U Rear Picture

STH Colo 10U Rear Picture

Once the pfsense nodes were installed, and everything was wired up, it was time to start with the first pfsense node. Luckily Fiberhub had a crash cart or KVM cart available with a CD/ DVD drive, monitor, keyboard and mouse all available. One of the really nice things is that the optical drive, keyboard and mouse were all wired to a USB hub, so this only took one port on the servers. One disadvantage with the Dell PowerEdge C6100 series is that there are only two USB ports available per node. Having the KVM cart connect using only one USB port was a major benefit because we could use optical media to do the installation.

STH colo kvm cart attached

STH colo kvm cart attached

After that first pfsense node was confirmed working, everything else could be completed via laptop and remotely. Rack911 started their processes and I played around also even doing a forum post from the setup below.

STH colo full cabinet view

STH colo full cabinet view

For those wondering what all of the components are this is an annotated view that gives a tour of the 10U. Spares are located above the top chassis:

STH Colo 10U Rear Picture - Annotated small

STH Colo 10U Rear Picture – Annotated small

The forums have been the site for a STH colocation architecture discussion for a few weeks now. The end result was very close to the last powerpoint representation there.

Network Example

Network Example

The obvious and major change was that instead of having two Fortinet Fortigate 60C UTM appliances, we installed a second Dell C6100 and used two nodes as pfsense nodes. Power estimates were very close.

There will likely be more on the installation, but we wanted to show everyone the installation. Far more power than the site and forums run on today!

About the Author

Patrick Kennedy

Patrick has been running ServeTheHome since 2009 and covers a wide variety of home and small business IT topics. For his day job, Patrick is a management consultant focused in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about basic server building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.



    Very useful article!

    One small note, though, in the bottom left, blue table:
    Firewall 12w * 2 = 24w, not 30


    What is the purpose of that Sch 40 PVC pipe?


    bdaniel7 – thanks for that catch. I overestimated a bit.

    femi – that pipe is a conduit for the bottom 1/2 cab and middle 1/4 cab partitions. We are only using 1/4 cab.


    Datacenter porn FTW

    LOL @ the indoor fences, what’s on the other side


    Datacenter porn FTW

    LOL @ the indoor fences, what’s on the other side?


    What are you using to failover between the Main Site and Forum nodes? HAproxy? Heartbeat?


    Are they using a cold/hot isle system in other parts of the DC?


    Just FYI, the link in this sentence “The forums has been the site for a STH colocation architecture discussion for a few weeks now.” on discussion is broken. Double paste of addresses it appears.


    And thanks so much for the details write up and pics – greatly appreciated sir!

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