One mans perpetual headache in the land of data centre automation


Snoring man - couple in bedAs the new lab build features three servers each with five gigabit NICs my trusty old 8-port Netgear hub wasn't going to cut the mustard any more. I needed a serious switch for serious people...but the bloody thing is so loud!

I rummaged around on eBay for a bit looking for something that would fit the bill, the bill being...

  • At least 24 gigabit ports
  • Managed
  • VLAN support
  • Jumbo Frames
  • LACP

At first I found a Linksys SWR2024 up for auction. I managed to get it for 1p above the reserve (£30.01 + £10 P&P), result! Or so I thought. Long story short, after initially filling me with confidence by congratulating me on winning the item and promising to get it posted first thing in the morning mere minutes after the auction ended, the seller then decided to go AWOL for a week without dispatching my item or responding to my numerous emails.

I opened a dispute case with eBay, wrote it off and went looking for a replacement switch. The second time around I found a Dell PowerConnect 5224 for £74.95 with free P&P. Admitedley this is more than I wanted to pay, but I needed a switch quickly so the additional £35 wasn't going to be the end of the world.

After receiving the Dell PowerConnect a day or two later, I powered it up and hooked up the serial console port. The first thing I noticed was that this thing sounded like my Dyson vacuum cleaner sucking up gravel. The switch had three 40mm fans mounted in the rear, one of which sounded like it was about to explode.

I whipped the case lid off and powered it up. I disconnected each fan one by one until I isolated the culprit. After disconnecting the dying fan the noise was somewhat reduced, so now instead of sounding like a Dyson sucking up gravel, it just sounded like a Dyson. Not ideal.

I have this kind of drawer unit which on one side is a veritcal drawer that contains CD racks and on the other side is an open backed enclosure presumably for putting a PC in (well, that's what I use it for). It looks like this...


I haven't used the CD racks for a number of years and so decided it was time to repurpose this drawer. My plan was to mount the switch inside the drawer vertically. However, doing this would require a few adjustments of the unit. First of all, there was a solid back behind the drawer which needed to be removed. After my initial inspection, it appeared that removing this panel would require me to completely disassemble the unit, which seemed like a lot of work. Instead, I opted to utilise a special tool I have for these scenarios; a size 9 trainer...


After kicking the back panel clean out in one go, it was time to modify the drawer itself. After removing the plastic CD racks with my Birmingham screwdriver (hammer) I had the bare frame of the drawer to work with, so decided to size things up.


So, the switch generally fit within the dimensions of the drawer, but sat too high. There wasn't enough clearance between the drawer frame and the unit with the switch sat in position, so I would need to modify the drawers frame.

My Focus own brand Jigsaws internal mechanism turned itself from premium quality Chinese steel into iron filings while I was in the process of installing a new kitchen a while back, so I needed a replacement.  After a swift trip to Wickes to pick up a new Jigsaw (which was WAY too expensive) I came back with a coping saw that cost be about a fiver and set to work.


Coping saws are great for small intricate work, but they're not so good for cutting in straight lines. Even so, I battled my way through the first cut.


Looking good so far.


OK, well I didn't manage to keep the cuts particularly straight, but it does the job. The middle parts are to allow cables to run through. Remember, this travesty won't be visible once it's all properly installed.


Looks much better from the top. Now, of course gravity was going to try and ruin my fun, but I was prepared. The minute I turn that drawer vertical the switch is going to fall out. Not if these metal "things" I bought can help it...


Genius! These metal strips pivot on a single screw. They're just enough to hold the switch in position and stop it falling out of the drawer when it is positioned vertically.  Another issue I had was that since carefully removing the back panel that had been behind the drawer, the unit had now lost a good deal of its strucural integrity and was beginning to look a bit rhomboidy. Nothing a few more metal "things" won't address...


I should have been a carpenter.

Once the switch was finally installed, this is what the finished modification looked like.


Glorious. Final thing to do was to re-use an old 200mm fan I had laying around to augment the cooling of the switch (since I disconnected one of the three internal fans).


This is just a temporary measure. After destroying my fingers on a number of occasions while trying to route cables, I decided I would be having a new panel made to properly mount the fan and channel the airflow better. More about that in another post, but for now here's a mock up of the design.





  1. Ed Bayo

    Wow! What a wonderful thing you get going on here. I stumbled upon your website and it has been my bible since last night. Your instructions are amazing and on point. This has inspired me to do stuff with my newly acquired HP Proliant Gen8 and my Synology DS213+….

    Thank you, thank you for sharing this.

    • Lee Harris

      Thanks for your kind words. I haven’t been doing many updates lately but I hope to change that soon.

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