Today we are looking at perhaps one of the simplest, yet most useful items we have reviewed at STH, Gruber rails. For those that are unfamiliar, the Gruber rails act as a one size fits all solution to mount servers in a rackmount enclosure, even without a server vendor’s rails. Let’s take a look at what makes up these units and how they are used. Before we delve in, I did want to say thank you to one of our community members, jac, who sent us Gruber rails he uses so that we could do this write-up.
As we begin preparing for the new STH 2013 architecture rollout one major area we are looking at is racking and cabling. While many servers come with rails, there are situations where they are not available. Sometimes rackmount rail sets supplied with a server become bent or warped during racking or shipping. Other times, rackmount rail sets are misplaced over time. Another scenario is when multiple generations of servers and devices are used together in an environment and a universal mounting option is required. Needless to say, there are many possibilities where a universal type of rackmount rail kit or shelf is needed.
Other pictures of the Gruber rackmount rail kit were not so clear so the first step is looking at what the kit is comprised of. Luckily, the Gruber kit is relatively easy to showcase. The main assembly is comprised of two opposing rails that are largely L-shaped.
The idea here is very similar to a standard rack shelf. One installs the Gruber rackmount kit into a rack. Servers or other devices can be added atop the shelves provided by the support lip. When installing the units, one can adjust the depth to a large degree.
One can see the adjustment mechanism to the rear of the Gruber unit. One piece is machined with slots to accommodate multiple mounting depths. The other piece has drilled holes. A simple nut and bolt mechanism is used to mate the two pieces to each rail. Once installed, devices can be added atop the shelf.
Tips for Using Gruber Rackmount Rails
The Gruber rackmount rail system is very simple, but here are a few key tips that will help a first time user:
- Test fit your Gruber rail and shelf system prior to installing it. Since the nuts and bolts holding the assembly are side mounted, installing a pre-assembled Gruber shelf in a dense rack is much easier.
- Use Gruber racks when you need to slot many different server types in the same rack space. Since the Gruber rails are universal, there is no need to re-install a mounting rail set when switching server types.
- Ensure that you have enough room. The Gruber rail and shelf unit is made of strong steel. That same steel does sit below the server on top of it so it is something to keep in mind.
- When installing the Gruber shelf ensure you have enough room above it. You do not want to install the rails in 2U of space if you may install a 3U server and there is not enough space to accommodate.
One of the coolest Gruber rail/ shelf installations I have seen is where a company’s test lab took Aluminum sheets and built fixtures to mount otherwise non rackmountable components. Although I cannot discuss what the components are, think about if you had a piece of sheet metal with a mITX motherboard, a book style switch and a book style network appliance. Now let’s say you wanted to swap that configuration for a mITX motherboard, a different book style switch and the same model network appliance. The company could remove the entire network segment by just replacing the fixture atop of the Gruber shelf.
Gruber rail and shelf units are an exercise of applying solid old world engineering to solve a new age problem. The Gruber units are sold with a lifetime warranty. They are also specified to support loads up to 200lbs which should support the vast majority of servers. For those applications where one needs to quickly rackmount servers and using stock rails are not an option, this my be a strong alternative. One major positive is price. The Gruber rackmount rails generally sell for under $50 shipped, which is less than many stock shelving units. Again, thanks to jac for making this review possible!