[svlug] Hardware for a new server

Luke S. Crawford lsc at prgmr.com
Mon Feb 11 11:51:54 PST 2013

On 02/06/2013 11:23 AM, Rick Moen wrote:

> The main general objective is minimum long-term hassle (from parts
> failure, wonky operation, noise, etc.).
>                           Old       New
> Est. total power draw    100W      15W
> CPU                      PIII/650  AMD G-T56N/1.65GHz[2]
> Physical RAM             1.5GB     8.0GB
> Disk space               89GB      430GB
> I'll be going from 3 count of ancient internal 3.5" SCSI drives to 1
> internal SSD boot drive + a RAID1 pair of external 2.5" drives on eSATA,
> and going from three noisy fans to _none_.  So:  tiny, fast, quiet,
> reliable.
> Old: http://ebayimages.rswhost.com/301735/73414D.jpg
> New: http://www.fit-pc.com/web/images/fit-PC3-standard-front.jpg
>       (omits pair of external drives, obviously)
> A bit of money up-front, but OTOH fully featured and enough server
> firepower for another decade, and in fact CPU/RAM left over for VMs.
> Tab so far is looking like this:
> $412 fit-pc3 Pro Barebone
> $170 Intel SSDSC2CT180A3K5 180GB 2.5" SATA3 SSD
> $130 2x Western Digital WD2500BEKT 250GB 2.5" 7200 RPM SATA3 HD
> $ 52 2x Vantec NST-260SU-BK HD enclosure
> $ 20 2x 5V power adapter for enclosure
> $ 55 2x Crucial SODIMM 4GB DDR3-1066 64-bit
> ----
> $839

Hm.  So if you want to spend a bit more money, and a bit more power, 
I've had very good luck with the xeon E3-1220L   -  it's a dual-core 
xeon with a 20w TDP, and it supports up to 32GiB unbuffered ECC.

I don't know if you'll be able to get it to the completely fanless 
state, though, which might make it not worth it to you;  it's also going 
to cost more   maybe $200 for the chip and another $150 for the 
motherboard, plus unbuffered ecc ram.

It might be overkill for your application, but personally, I go through 
all sorts of contortions to avoid being responsible for computers that 
don't have ECC ram.  Without ECC, I never know if a particular problem 
is hardware, 'cosmic rays'  or software.  ECC gives me a lot more 
visibility into errors;   I sleep much better if I know what, exactly, 
caused that crash last week.

The other thing I'd suggest (if the primary goal is to minimize hassle 
and if you can spend a few more bucks towards that end) is to mirror all 
the disks.  All the SSD, too.  People talk a lot of SSD failing from 
wear, but from what I've seen?  they fail like any other disk, which is 
to say, how likely they are to fail is inversely proportional to how 
recent your last backup is more than anything else.

And mount all disks/ssd in hot-swap bays.    Sarah and I have a 1u under 
the desk right now that is a older cheap server from back before I 
instituted a "hot swap everywhere" policy on hardware prgmr.com buys, 
and it's got one bad disk, and has had one bad disk for weeks now.   The 
new disk is sitting on top of it;  if it were hot swap, it would have 
been fixed the first day.

Frys and central both sell things that fit in 3.5" bays that have 2 hot 
swap bays in them (note, this doesn't work with 'enterprise' 2.5" disks, 
which are thicker, but will work fine with SSD and laptop drives.)  - 
you can jam them in the space meant for 3.5" floppy drives on chassis 
that are old enough to have such things.

I've taken to putting these in some of my 2u servers that have 3.5" 
fixed mounting slots, in the hopes that someday I'll have ssd caching 
working in a trustable way.

I don't have advice on the case other than "why not go big?"  -  I mean, 
the larger the fan, the more air it can move at any given RPM, and the 
noise is dependent on the RPM.    Of course, if you can get by with no 
fan at all, that's even better;  the less heat you generate, the less 
air you need to move.

For my latest desktop, I've used one of my older servers in a 3u server 
chassis, but I've replaced all the fans with quiet fans.  The hard part 
is the PSU;  right now I'm still using the server PSU which is pretty 
loud (and would not be suitable for a low-power computer anyhow.)  so 
that might be a bad idea.

But, I think having the whole thing in a good solid box, and having 
integrated good hot-swap bays is worth something.  The server chassis is 
really solid;   I could pretty much throw anything in the room at mine, 
and I don't think the server would be hurt.

Of course, all of these things cost;  using a server chassis costs you 
labour in the time it takes you to swap the fans out and in the effort 
it takes to fit a quiet (and probably desktop) power supply in the 
thing, and hot swap bays (and extra drives) cost money, and the extra 
drives will cost you power, and the xeon, even the e3-1220L, is still 
higher power than AMDs atom killer.     But, I absolutely know I can 
trip over my home server without disturbing it.  (my foot, on the other 

More information about the svlug mailing list