Building a balanced server

It is possible to build a server that is green, low cost, but strong?

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9 Replies - 971 Views - Last Post: 11 January 2011 - 08:10 AM

#1 atraub  Icon User is offline

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Building a balanced server

Posted 31 December 2010 - 09:53 AM

Hey everybody,

I'm considering building a server for my house to fill the following roles:

  • Web server that I can use to host my blog.
  • Store my projects in a central repository and utilize svn.
  • Act as a mythtv backend.
  • Stream media?
  • Email server? (Why not, right?)


My blog doesn't get much traffic. It's been a year and I still haven't even made my first $100 from adds, so it won't need to be incredibly strong for that. I really just want to host it myself so that I can switch to wordpress, incorporate syntax highlighting, and run a few adds to help with cost. Acting as a repository won't take too much power either.

I also want to have it act as mythTV backend. I live alone, so it would only ever need to work with 1 front end at any given time.

Lastly, I figure if it's a web server AND it has my recorded shows on it so it would be pretty cool to be able to access and watch those shows from my laptop when I'm on the road.

So, that's what I'm trying to build. When it's on paper, it sure looks like I need a monster of a machine... I'm trying to decide on hardware/OS.

I have an extra motherboard laying around that I could use, but I'm not married to it.

So here are my questions:
  • Is this a feasible project?
  • What kind of hardware do you think I'll need? Space may end up being a concern, but I don't want to get bogged down worrying about the dimensions of it just yet.
  • What sort of system would you recommend for automated backups of the server?
  • Would it be possible to build a machine that wouldn't use a TON of electricity when not in heavy use?
  • What would be a good OS for the job? Security is a concern of mine and my research has show Fedora is a good balance between security and usability.


This is my first post in this forum so I hope I'm asking in the right place. This is also my first serious attempt at building a server. On the plus side, I think it'll be really cool to do system administration from a Pandora :)

Any other advice would be really appreciated.

This post has been edited by atraub: 04 January 2011 - 09:51 AM


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#2 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 31 December 2010 - 02:05 PM

Well you can have a decent machine that can do this for you and not break the bank. The one thing you will definitely want to consider is bandwidth however. If you are streaming videos and such, you will be pumping up your bandwidth usage. That and being a web server, etc. So I suggest you look at a good host that can give you a static IP and decent upload speeds. Then of course you will need a decent amount of hard drive space to store your videos, but 1TB/2TB drives are pretty cheap. So no real concern there.

1. Is this feasible? Sure, very doable.
2. Hardware you will need? Decent hard drives with space and speed, look at Western Digital's Black drives. RAM of course is always good and multiple core processors are pretty standard these days.
3. Automated backups? Well you can usually schedule backups using any kind of software, but it will depend on what OS you choose. If the computer is left running, you can even setup a task/cron job to do backups.
4. You can build computers that don't use a whole lot of electricity. You can get Green drives (WD Green drives), processors are getting better at using electricity and if you don't have a super high end video card, the consumption is minimal. But you are asking for a computer that does video well, so you may have to sacrifice a bit of electrical consumption for power. You can also check out system settings for power consumption schemes (In Windows 7 >> Control Panel >> Power options). But keep in mind that computers are not terribly expensive to keep running.
5. Any OS will work really and Windows 7 has really improved on security over earlier versions. Linux of course handles loads over time rather well and are also great for web servers. The real security comes in the way of firewalls and how you get to the machine through the network. A tight router that lets through traffic on one port and having a machine with a solid software firewall will work wonders.

Other tips I would suggest include keeping other apps off the machine and from running in the background. Does a web server need to be running tasks for preloading adobe products? Probably not. Let the processors deal exclusively with just your tasks and nothing extra. If you go with a PHP/MySQL/Apache setup and design a web control panel that only you access, you can also control a bit more there as well.

But overall, very doable project, can be done with a decent server but not something on the dirt cheap and reasonable power consumption.

Hope the advice helps. :)

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 31 December 2010 - 02:29 PM

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#3 atraub  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 31 December 2010 - 09:55 PM

Thanks Martyr2!

I'm afraid that due to some bad experiences, I've been reluctant to study up on networking; so you'll have to speak slowly for me :). When you say:

Quote

If you are streaming videos and such, you will be pumping up your bandwidth usage. That and being a web server, etc. So I suggest you look at a good host that can give you a static IP and decent upload speeds.


are you suggesting I buy hosting rather than host it myself? As it stands right now, I plan on getting Verizon internet for my house (I don't move in until February). I was intending on just using Verizon for internet and hosting it through that; I'm getting the 25Mbps package. Since I'm already planning on having the Mythtv backend, I assumed it made more sense to just use that machine as my own webserver.

If I used the mobo I linked then I would have to use it in conjunction with an I7. I'm sure an I7 will get the job done and because I already own the mobo, 1 great processor might end up being less than a good mobo/proc combo.

As for OS, I would prefer to stay away from Windows. I'd rather use Linux because it works very nicely with MythTV

As for hardware, what kind of graphic capabilities would I need for the streaming media aspect?

I know I have more questions, but given that it's 5 minutes until 2011, I think that's good for now.

This post has been edited by atraub: 31 December 2010 - 09:55 PM

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#4 atraub  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 03 January 2011 - 12:28 PM

Ba-da bump

EDIT:
  • Decided not to use server parts.
  • Added a graphics card


So, I think I'm honing in on the parts I'll be using for this build:

ZALMAN ZM500-RS 500 Watts ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply

COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW Black Aluminum Bezel , SECC Chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

AMD Athlon II X4 610e Propus 2.4GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 45W Quad-Core Desktop Processor AD610EHDGMBOX

ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 AMD 790GX HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard

GeIL Value PLUS 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10660) Desktop Memory Model GVP34GB1333C9DC

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1850 (updated version of 1800) MCE Kit 1128 PCI-Express x1 Interface x2

LG Black 10X Blu-ray Burner - Bulk SATA WH10LS30 LightScribe Support - OEM

Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive x2 (Raid1)

This post has been edited by atraub: 11 January 2011 - 07:59 AM

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#5 MorphiusFaydal  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 07 January 2011 - 10:16 PM

Are you going to be streaming media around the house? Or streaming over the Internet to wherever you happen to be?

Either way, if this is a server and going to be stuffed in a closet somewhere, save your money and get a motherboard with onboard graphics. You don't need a video card to stream media (a gigabit Ethernet port and gigabit router would be good though). The reasoning behind this is that the videos are being pushed out the Ethernet port as data, and decoded and displayed on the client. The server is just pushing bits, so having a high throughput on that is what would help the most.
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#6 atraub  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 07 January 2011 - 10:39 PM

View PostMorphiusFaydal, on 07 January 2011 - 11:16 PM, said:

Are you going to be streaming media around the house? Or streaming over the Internet to wherever you happen to be?

Either way, if this is a server and going to be stuffed in a closet somewhere, save your money and get a motherboard with onboard graphics. You don't need a video card to stream media (a gigabit Ethernet port and gigabit router would be good though). The reasoning behind this is that the videos are being pushed out the Ethernet port as data, and decoded and displayed on the client. The server is just pushing bits, so having a high throughput on that is what would help the most.


FINALLY!! Advice that leads to me paying less :D

I plan on streaming to both the internet and around the house. What do you think about power consumption? I'm worried that the quadcore processor is going to cause my electric bill to spike. Do you think I can/should get away with just a dual core Athlon 2, or perhaps move to an i5 or even an i3? the up-front price difference between dual and quad is marginal, but I do worry about the electrical bills.

This post has been edited by atraub: 07 January 2011 - 11:11 PM

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#7 atraub  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 08 January 2011 - 06:59 AM

Waaaait a minute. I do need that graphics card. When I want to play my recorded TV shows on my TV, the backend hardware is what will be doing all the graphics processing.

This post has been edited by atraub: 09 January 2011 - 08:55 AM

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#8 MorphiusFaydal  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 09 January 2011 - 01:00 AM

View Postatraub, on 08 January 2011 - 06:59 AM, said:

Waaaait a minute. I do need that graphics card. When I want to play my recorded TV shows on my TV, the backend hardware is what will be doing all the graphics processing.


In that case, yeah, you'd need a graphics card. I was under the impression you wanted a server stuffed in a closet that would stream to the equipment already on your network - and as far as the TV is concerned, I assumed you had an SFF/HTPC already hooked up or would be streaming to an Xbox 360/PS3/something like that. If you're going to hook this server directly to the TV, then yeah, you'd need a graphics card of some kind.

As far as power bills are concerned, if you get a good CPU (just about all of them these days) they will shut down parts of the CPU when they're not needed. So if the computer is just sitting there doing nothing, then you won't have much running at all. Some cores will be turned off, and others will be scaled down to draw less power. When you start doing something (video encoding/decoding, playing games...) the CPU steps back up to it's full potential, and that's when it starts to draw a lot of power.

Unless you're on a *really* tight utilities budget, I wouldn't worry too much about your electric bill spiking.
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#9 atraub  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 09 January 2011 - 08:54 AM

oooh.... streaming to a ps3... I have a ps3 ^_^

you sir have a gift.
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#10 atraub  Icon User is offline

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Re: Building a balanced server

Posted 11 January 2011 - 08:10 AM

Alright, the parts list has been updated to reflect the final build. The new power supply is on sale today for $40. It's not gold certified, but there's only a 5% difference between gold and bronze; so it'll be fine.

You might also notice that I've decided to use 2 WD black hdd's with a RAID1 configuration. Realistically, the black hdd's should outlive their utility; but just in case they do come with a 5 year warranty. With a RAID1 and great surge protector, I like my chances of not losing any data.

I've changed the processor again. I'm using an energy efficient quad core that only uses 45W as oppose to 95W.

Lastly, I'm taking MorphiusFaydal's suggestion and using a ps3 to handle the playback of my media.

Total build cost will be about $850... speaking of which... I need to get to work!
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