Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Beer Budget Hyper-V and/or Lab Server

Sometimes past memories happen to drop in when a question gets asked or something happens to trigger them.

One of those moments came when looking at a question we answered for someone going way back where they asked how to build a beer budget lab box.

At the time, server based hardware was significantly more expensive than the entry grade server equipment that we can get today.

So, in answering this question, the memory that popped up was one of the first lab boxes that we ever had. It was a server board that was a few generations prior to current, a pair of Intel CPUs running at what speed we are not sure of (not Tualatin CPUs), 32MB or 64MB RAM, and a pair of IDE or SCSI hard drives. Everything was sitting essentially out in the open.

Eventually they were mounted to the lid of an old desktop case much like our current Data Mule system was.


MPECS’ Data Mule system

Keep in mind that there is a need to know how to use a Tap & Die set to create the threaded bores the motherboard standoffs will need to be set into if custom mounting the server board to an old case shell.

Otherwise, an old Styrofoam hard drive shipping container will work fine for setting the server board and drives into for protection but minimal initial cost.

So, here is the beer budget server setup that will allow for Hyper-V to run with hardware virtualization with prices showing in Canadian dollars.

  • Intel S3420GPLC $232
  • Intel Xeon X3430 $209
  • RAM configuration options
    • 8GB (2x 4GB) Kingston $290
    • 16GB (4x 4GB) Kingston $580
  • 2 SATA drives RAID 0 $120
    • no redundancy but gives performance.
  • Decent three rail 550 Watt PSU $80
    • Intel PRO series dual gigabit NIC $200
    • Intel SC5650UP server chassis $250
    • 16GB (2x 8GB) Hynix $840
    • 32GB (4x 8GB) Hynix $1,680
    • Intel RS2BL040 PCI-E RAID $350

Using the above guide, we can have the bare minimum lab box up and running with 8GB of RAM for $931 plus applicable taxes and/or shipping charges if needed.

We all have USB keyboards and mice kicking around or can be had for pennies. Plus, a local system builder would probably be more than happy to part with a few bags of system screws, standoffs, and the like for a couple of bucks.

A DVD optical drive can be had very easily though newer OS installs can be done via USB flash drive thus eliminating the cost there.

As the budget allows, speed up those installs by purchasing faster 8GB USB flash drives with the best speeds being a real-world 35MB/Sec read and 30MB/Sec write. OCZ makes some great ones in the Rally2 Turbo and the ATV Turbo.

Note that USB 2.0 flash drives will become harder and harder to find as USB 3.0 drives come in. So far, the USB 3.0 drives are _a lot_ more expensive than their older USB 2.0 siblings.

BTW, a couple of LED fans would provide stylish cooling for that extra touch . :D

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

*Our original iMac was stolen (previous blog post). We now have a new MacBook Pro courtesy of Vlad Mazek, owner of OWN.

Windows Live Writer

1 comment:

David Moisan said...

Phil, I had that problem a few years back. I'm going to blog about my home server once it gets cooler, but this is what I've done:

I know you're an Intel partisan, but Tyan has some very good low-end boards based on Opteron 64's, which are available in AM3 sockets (eventually AMD is phasing in a low-end and high-end socket to replace AM3 and Socket F for servers.)

I have an Opteron based board that runs SBS 2008 quite well. This is despite the server case, which was literally junk--it was the crappy server I wrote about in my blog.

It does have a 550W EPS12V PS, perhaps the only thing in common with yours. Peripherals and such are regular cheap stuff, a USB KVM here, a repurposed OEM DVD rom there. WD harddrives in a cheap HighPoint RAID 1 config.

Only thing in common with that old system is the case and that I want to replace when I refresh the system in a few years (not now sadly.) It should be able to run SBS 7 when I try the beta.

My server runs in a very hot apartment so I've tried to improve the cooling. The high point, or low point, was the 86C (!!!) measured on my server's CPU at 12 AM one morning. I told you my house is hot but...

So it is possible and my budget is virtually nothing.