Building your own 19″ server for a datacentre

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Hi all,

I thought I would document this server build as I went along. I hope it will be of use to you.

I had a need to have a server colocated at a data centre and needed not only processing power and RAM, but also hard drive space. To buy the power I needed in a new machine as going to cost quite a large sum of money so instead, I have decided to build my own.

I had initially understood that the main way that datacentres calculated the cost of colocating servers was by 1U spaces in their racks, with this in mind I went of in search for the most powerful server I could get in a 1U space. I did look at second hand servers which, on initial inspection, seemed to be reasonably priced, but I soon discovered that if I needed anything decent, it was still going to cost quite a bit.

Parallel to searching for a 1U server (at this stage I believed it had to be 1U because the main pricing for datacentres was all about rack space per 1U) I was getting quotes for rack space at datacentres. It was at this stage that I realised there was a new item to throw into the mix… Power consumption! I always thought that as long as I could get my machine into a 1U space the only other thing I had to worry about was data transfer. Wrong! Not only did I now have to consider the power consumption, some datacentres were quoting in miliamps! Yes, in miliamps!

I now had a whole new problem…

Not only did I have to get all my processing power into 1U, I also had to get it to have a mains rating of less than 0.4A! Just to be clear, there are many other power ratings available, but the price soon starts to go up after you go over the maximum of 0.4 on the basic entry level and don’t forget, I’m on a budget here!

It’s at this stage I decide to do some measurements on a machine I have at home to get an idea of how much power I can get away with. At home I have a desktop with Asus M5A78L-M USB3 Motherboard with an AMD Quad Core 4.2GHz Bulldozer FX-4170 processor. This should give me a good indication of how much power I am going to use… Here’s a pic of the motherboard:
motherboard

 

 

 

 

 
I’ll try and do updates every week with how it’s all going and include some pictures on the way too!

As they say, stay tuned!

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UPDATE 11/03/2014
So, it’s been a while, lots has happened but I haven’t had time to do any updates at all!

Here is the 1U server case that I bought


And the 2 SATA 2TB hard drives that I am going to RAID up:
2013-12-09 17.34.551

 

 

 

 

 

Well, unfortunately, the 1U server case didn’t work out! So, despite all attempts to squash everything into my pretty new 1U server rack (which I did manage!) the fan that I bought was unable to dissipate the heat from the powerful processor fast enough and within a matter of seconds of being switched on it ramped up to way past the 61C maximum temperature that this particular processor can run at. So that was the end of that.

Here’s the 1U fan:
fan

 

 

 

 

 

This meant that I was going to have to find not only a 2U server case, but also a datacentre that had decent prices for housing a 2U rack instead of the 1U that I was hoping for.

So, back to the drawing board and buying a 2U server rack! Oh, and a bigger CPU fan too, since that was the main problem.

Well, the 2U server rack turned up, as did the hefty AM3+ CPU cooler and all was fitted into the rack and tested again and guess what?? The fan was again incapable of dissipating the heat from the processor. Within just a few minutes of starting up the server and stressing it, the temperature again reached over 61C (although it took longer and didn’t go much above the 61C) so I was left with little option to find a server case that would accommodate the original fan that came with the processor. This would mean ditching the 2U case and going or a 3U case which was going to cost much more money (per month) at the datacentre. Remember they charge per U of rack space and per 0.1A of current used. All of a sudden, this was getting expensive!

Here are the pics of the 2U server case:

I spent what seemed like an eternity searching for CPU fans for the AM3+ processor that would not only fit in a 2U server case but would also be able to disipate enough heat from the processor to keep it under 61C but ended up with the same one that I had already bought, so resigned myself to the fact that I could do no more in 2U.

Time to buy a 3U server case! Unfortunately, as this was getting a little expensive now (first the 1U case, then a 2U case), I had access to a 4U case rather than having to shell out on a brand new 3U server case so I decided to grab the 4U case and start installing all the bits in there.

Here are some pics of the box going together:

Of course in the background to all this, I had the concern about finding a datacentre that could offer me a decent deal on a 4U server! This turned out to not beĀ ‘too’ much of a problem, and I am currently in negotiations with a datacentre in the UK.

More soon!