When it comes time to roll out a computer server that
will operate from within an Internet Data Center (IDC) or hosting facility,
sending over a mid-tower computer case that looks like the re-incarnation of a
Voltron character is not going to go over well - even if it's packed
with the latest & greatest computing technology.
Hosting centers are secure locations which
offer direct connections to the internet, housing their clients computer servers
in climate controlled rooms with special fire suppression, air conditioning,
power backup, and physical security measures put into place. These aspects
effectively dictate that hosting space for computer servers is expensive, so the
more computers the facility can squeeze into a given space, the better. Desktop
PC cases are notoriously un-compact, full of wasted space and poorly suited for
environments like this.
In hosting facilities, individual computers are stacked one on top one
another in 7-foot tall 19" wide metal framed racks. Each individual computer is
contained in specially shaped cases that conform to standardized dimensions, and
specific rack mounting criteria. These 19" rackmount cases come in several
vertical thicknesses which are based upon a standard 1.75" Unit, or "U". The
smallest of which is the 1U rackmount chassis, and the largest is generally a 5U
chassis. Blade server systems, and other enterprise equipment like UPS battery
backups may be as thick as 10U, but for most situations a 1U, 2U, 3U or 4U
chassis is going to be the norm.
The modern day 19" four-post server rack evolved from the days when telephone
companies operated thousands of telecommunications switches, each mounted atop
the next in two-post switch racks to save floor space. A typical modern four-posted
server rack stands 7-feet tall, has 42U of useable space, and offers a
convenient standard with which to house and deliver electrical power, cooling,
network connectivity, and administrative access. Desktop cases on the other hand
are bulky, difficult to gain access into, and are a really poor use of
Most commercial rackmount computer servers use proprietory chassis layouts, with
proprietory cooling systems, proprietory hot-swapable drive caddy's and the like.
None of which is very helpful if you're intent on building a custom computer
server system from off the shelf hardware. A small handful of companies manufacture
bare 19" rackmount chassis, and for the purposes of this review PCSTATS
will be examining iStar's offering, the D-Storm D300.
||iStar D-Storm D300 3U Rackmount Chassis
Instruction booklet, power cord, case mounting
hardware (screws and PCB stands), zip ties, (6) I/O slot
D-Storm D300 is a 20.8" deep 3U steel chassis that will accommodate a
standard ATX2.0 motherboard, up to four 3.5" hard drives, and four 5.25" devices.
The D-Storm D300 features two lockable vented aluminum swing-out doors that
protect the drive bays from unauthorized user access (with integral dust filters
no less) and two 60mm exhaust fans at the rear for maintaining reasonable
internal case temperatures. The case mounts into a rack via two front brackets (cage
nuts and screws not included), and tapped holes along the side of the chassis can
alternatively be used with rails for easier pull-out access. The rails are not
The top cover of the iStar D-Storm D300 is secured with two screws at either side
and a tooless captive thumbscrew at the rear. The top cover has abundant venting
along the back edge, but once installed into a rack that will more than likely
be blocked by whatever is above. The anodized aluminum doors at the front of the
D-Storm D300 incorporate removable dust filters that can be rinsed out and
reused when the dust bunnies get too thick.
The midnight-black iStar D-Storm D300 3U
chassis measures 20.8" deep, 19" wide and 5.25" high. It weighs about 12kg
empty, although the unit we received for testing came equipped with a 300W power
The two aluminum handles at either side of the front of the chassis make
maneuvering it into and out of a rack reasonably comfortable when the chassis is
fully installed with heavy computer hardware. The handles are comfortably curved
along the edges, and powder coated black for a solid grip that should stand up
to years of IT abuse.
The chassis itself is made from 1.2mm thick steel which has been Zinc-coated
for corrosion resistance. The iStar D-Storm D300 3U chassis retails
for about $220USD ($250CDN, £115GPB), remarkably inexpensive considering what these types of cases used
to go for, and because it also ships with a power supply.
The printed manual included with the iStar D-Storm D300 3U case is brief, but
well illustrated. The necessary motherboard mounting hardware is included, as
well as keys for the case locks, a couple zip ties and some adhesive cable
organizers. If you are so inclined, you can also get an optional fan speed
controller with temperature sensor or a set of sliding rails to make mounting
the D-Storm D300 3U chassis fit into a 19" rack a little more easily.