FutureRack PILL Project Thread

Rack History & Context
(To be further updated with additional information as I convert it into a forum post format.)

  1. History

    I have been further researching the historical backstory on the origins of the racks as part of this project. Progress on that has been a little slower than expected since there isn’t a lot of information available at the surface level of what you immediately find from quick online sources; I’m finding more relevant references buried in older materials like old books and manuals.

    Some summaries of what I’ve found so far, and what I’m still looking into:
  • I found a 1922 document from Bell Systems establishing their specifications for the 19" server rack format. (Internet Archive link.)
    It shows a record of how their equipment got consolidated over time onto increasingly organized and standardized racks.

  • I need to look more into other rack standards which developed before/after/alongside the 19" rack, like the 23" rack standard.

  • It looks like there may have been some parallel developments of rack systems for railroad signaling equipment alongside those of telecom equipment. I’ve seen speculation about that within blog posts + other kinds of online discussions which I need to verify.

  • I’ve also found some primary sources describing railroad signaling equipment (at early as the turn of the century) being organized in racks (“relay rack” I’ve discovered is a commonly-used term). I’m wondering if that approach might have been a predecessor to the telecom rack model.

  • I could also look into how telegraph equipment was mounted, prior to the arrival of more technologically advanced phone/radio-based communications equipment.
    (Source: “Richmond Terminal Interlocking” by C.J. Kelloway in Railway Signal Engineer Vol. 12, No. 1, January 1919. pg. 75-79)

  1. Rack standards
  • The 19” rack is also known as the EIA-310 standard. (EIA 310-D is the most recent widely recognized standard, and EIA/ECA-310-E looks to be a more recent standard developed after the consolidation of the EIA and ECA standards agencies.)
  • There are also some parallel standards from other (ie. international) agencies, in the form of DIN 41494 and IEC 60297.
  1. Related systems
  • This research should involve considering the scales of objects smaller and larger than the racks, ie. like 1960s+ mainframe computers (with the conceptualization of their scaling organized in increments of modules at roughly similar size to a ~20-36U rack cabinet) or blade servers (organized as ~8-16 blade units within ~6-10U of rack space).


    (Blade server image source: Flickr use seeweb / Creative Commons.)

    The Computer History museum has a page with some links to images/advertisements of the IBM System/360 and its competitors which I’ve been referencing to look at how the mainframes were marketed.
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