I’ve been thinking about building a small server for years, and getting closer to it now, but I’m trying to figure out how to avoid creating another vampire in my household.
At one point, I was running four computers here twenty-four hours a day in my office, and it greatly reduced the need to heat this room in the winter. My electric bills were impressive, even compared to the gas bills in my uninsulated house with an ancient furnace.
I’ve pushed those bills down over the years, replacing most of the computers with laptops and cutting out the servers in favor of appliances - first a SnapServer, then a Linksys network storage link, along with a few HP JetDirect boxes. The appliances still suck power, but it’s a total of about 60 watts instead of the 500 their predecessors used. I leave an iMac up most of the time I’m here, though it does at least get turned off when I travel. Oh, and I replaced the furnace and insulated the house.
I’m at the point now where I’d like to have a server again, running programs that go beyond the file and print services that were easy to replace. Mapping and database services don’t seem to come in prefab boxes, at least not cheap prefab boxes.
This leaves me with a problem. This server will have a lot of work to do for short periods of time and long stretches of complete idleness. Power management can help with some of this, turning off parts that aren’t needed, but there’s still either a significant power drain or a substantial delay when the system first gets pinged.
Options I’ve looked at include:
- Trying to do this with a mini-ITX system that uses less power overall. My initial plans should fit within its capabilities, but I’m not nearly as certain over the long term.
- Use parts designed for notebooks, like the Pentium M chips and the Intel 855 chipset. There aren’t a lot of motherboards available for this, and it is more expensive, but I’ve been very fond of it in my notebooks. The chip’s ability to select a speed (and power) based on use makes it very appealing, though more expensive per MHz.
- Build a standard system, maybe with a less power-hungry chip, and hope power management tools are more effective and less intrusive than I remember them being.
Any suggestions for striking a balance on this are welcome. It seems like power consumption is an area that the server manufacturers have explored for higher-end blade systems, but not something that’s come down to more ordinary box-building.
Oh, and I’d like it to be really quiet too.
Any suggestions for how to balance processing power with power consumption?