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The Home Server

posted Apr 24, 2015, 7:33 PM by GamerDadster Video Gaming   [ updated Jan 16, 2016, 6:42 PM ]
Workstation Update 2016: New video card and Windows 10 upgrade (see below)
Server Update: New build in-progress including Intel i7-4Ghz

The Process
My home server build went through two phases, both were built from scratch, and using two complete sets of new parts purchased from Canada Computers.  They were built in series with the first being a power-house, and a power pig!  The second was far more efficient, with more storage.  They both exist now, but serve different purposes.

First Build
The first build was the most powerful using the best hardware and processor available on sale without breaking the bank for the project.  Given that the server was to be running non-stop 24/7 it was important that it had enough computing power, but did not use excessive electrical power.  After being fully built and operational with applications running, the server was pulling anywhere from 100-130 watts which in my mind was far too much.  The amount of computing power was far more than expected, and could be used in good conscience.

Ironically many of the things learned at work include problems experienced such as rack space design, cabling, cooling, and power.  Consolidation means less cabling, less complexity, less hardware which means less power, and less power results in less cooling being required.  It is very important not to oversize or undersize the solution, doing so would result in too much power wastage, or applications that are not responsive enough.  The lesson here for home was to not oversize, but to keep the workload right, and thus the power load reasonable.

The original i7 configuration went like this:
ASUS P8Z77-V LE Motherboard
4x8GB Kingston Hyper X KHX1600C10D3B1/8G
Intel i7-3770K, 3.5 GHz, 8MB Cache, LGA1155 (unlocked)
Intel 4-Port Network card
2x3TB WD Green Drives
VMWare ESXi 5.5

After the power discovery, I decided to remove many of the components from the original server build and donate them to the new server in the second build.  Above is the original server configuration, below is after the parts removal and rebuild.  Since the initial build, this system has been re-purposed to be a high-end workstation.  Given the new purpose of the system I had to purchase some additional components including video card and faster WD Black hard drive.

UPDATE 2016: The final i7 configuration went like this:
ASUS P8Z77-V LE Motherboard
NEW 2x4GB DDR3 PC3-15000 1866MHz - Patriot PVI38G186C9K
Upgrade 2016: 2x4GB DDR3 PC3-15000 1866MHz - Corsair CMY8GX3M2A1866C9B
Intel i7-3770K, 3.5 GHz, 8MB Cache, LGA1155
NEW Onboard Network card (actually re-enabled)
NEW 1xWD Caviar Black 1TB Drive - WD1002FAEX
*Removed* LG Multi DVD Writer - GH24NS95
Upgrade 2016: ASUS 16X Blu-Ray Disc Drive - BW-16D1HT
*Removed* ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB DDR3 video card
Upgrade 2016: ASUS GEFORCE GTX 960 2GB - STRIX-GTX960-DC2OC-2GD5
Antec One case
*Removed* Microsoft Windows 8
Upgrade 2015: Microsoft Windows 10 - Huge improvement, better desktop

Second Build
So, I did a little research and found that the i3 processor from a cost/computing perspective was the best value.  The processor I really wanted was a specific low power model of the i3 (35 watts), but the lead-time to order was almost 3 months.  I opted instead for the next model up, a little more power, a little more performance, but same cost.  The new server build was a huge success from both a compatibility perspective with VMWare, and overall power consumption.  Including the cable modem, and the server running a reasonably heavy load the power meter was indicating a mere 60-65 watts; almost a 50% savings.  The final and only configuration of this server is as below, and it has been operating in this configuration for approximately one year:

The only i3 configuration:
ASUS B85M-G Motherboard
4x8GB Kingston Hyper X - KHX1600C10D3B1/8G
i3-4130, 3.4GHz, 3MB Cache, LGA1150
Intel 4-Port Network card
1x2TB 7200 NAS Drive
2x3TB WD Green Drives
Removable drive tray for one of the WD Green Drives
VMWare ESXi 5.5

Keep on the look out for another article with more information on the VMWare build, the servers running on the host, and their respective purposes.

Screenshot of the VMWare console running on the new server: