Computer prices are just starting to normalize. I walked into a MicroCenter store the other day, and they have stopped rationing video cards (and have plenty in stock, without crazy markups).

I’ve also been thinking a lot about upgrading my servers…

Current Server Setup

Back in February of 2018, I started running my home websites on some used Rackmount servers.

When I bought these, I really wanted to experience running enterprise level hardware and building up microservices on Docker with full failover, and freinds, that all works, and I learned a lot. That said, I don’t think I’ll learn any more from this setup.

The current layout looks like this:

  • HPE DL360 G7, 142GB RAM, 2.2TB Storage, 2x Intel Xeon x5675 (24 vCPU)
  • HPE DL380 G7, 96GB RAM, 3.8TB Storage, 2x Intel Xeon x5650 (24 vCPU)

To put my setup in the Virtual Machine (VM) perspective:

  • 48 vCPUs
    • 6 cores, at 12 threads; 24 vCPUs per CPU x 4 CPUs
  • 238GB RAM
  • 6TB Storage

Even with slower CPUs and less RAM, the DL380 is my primary workhorse, most likely that THIS page is being served by a VM on that one (at least in the month this was written). Also notable, if BOTH servers are down this site is static and can be hosted from a Rapberry Pi 4 with nobody noticing but me (though that isn’t set up yet, it is set up for www.home).

After running my two, circa 2010, rack mount servers for four years in the living room of my New York City apartment, I’m starting to get itchy for an upgrade. Primarily for disk space, but maybe also quality of life.

Disk Space

As of now, if I want to build a new VM, I have to delete or move the image of another VM somewhere else first. I’m just out of local space.

Quality of Life

Even the 1U DL360 is remakably quiet most of the time… Most of the time. Both are sitting in a short rack in my living room, next to the couch. They need a LOT of dust maintenance to keep them reasonably quiet.

Proper maintenance means full shut-down, remove the drives, vacuum everything, open the top, vacuum the heat sinks, and dust out the fans (carefully).

Recently, I let them go for 3 months without a proper cleaning and it started to become difficult to hear the TV. They were unhappy. They weren’t screaming like jet engines, but they were 1/3 of the way there.

If I reboot either server, they spin up the drives to full during the boot sequence, which is a rather unpleasant 30 seconds. I usually only reboot them from the bedroom using the remote management features.

I have been spoiled by being able to remote in and watch a reboot happen remotely, in realtime, without adding a monitor and keyboard attached.

The Dream

A full size tower server, running a single 24+ core AMD EPYC processor with 256GB of RAM. This would be a huge upgrade without compromising vCPU or RAM to dedicate to my various Virtual Machines.

First, nobody makes this as a server. The few server class EPYCs that do exist are rackmount. Note that the HPE 7th generation was uniquely quiet, and I have never heard of another livably quiet 1U. There are a few custom workstation builders that will do a Threadripper Pro workstation for around $12,000. That is beyond what I want to spend and means server class pricing, but no server class features.

Dreams are dreams. It helps me realize that I got extremely lucky with the price to timing when I bought the servers I have with the RAM I got. I spent less than $1200 for everything, and I even have cold-spare drives.

Cheap, but Unsatisfying

Since these servers are rarely under any appreciable load, I could solve the space problem by removing the 20, ~12 year old, SAS, 10K RPM drives and just slotting in eight consumer 2TB SATA SSDs, four on each system to more than double the storage capacity of each server, without losing any performance.

I could also move them to the other side of the living room, where they could be closer to the air conditioner. Even if they ramp up, that corner is a nook that would help block some of the noise from the rest of the living space. It isn’t perfect, but it would help some.

This way, I keep the server class features that I’ve come to rely on, and keep running the same hardware I’m used to running, just with more storage.

Asking for Advice

Imagine a $4000 budget.

I have been scanning E-bay for used systems, but haven’t found the core count I’m looking for in one or two towers.

Because of noise, newer rackmounts are too risky.

There are Raspberry Pi based remote KVMs now that could suffice for remote management.

What would YOU do? My social media contact links are on the home page of this very site.