Looking for power-efficient barebones servers

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (568 Words)

I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to get my local server situation sorted out - I’m still running an old version of Debian on my primary server, which works fine but really needs swapping for Ubuntu LTS now, and in addition, the hardware is getting long in the tooth.  It’s still running on an ancient discarded home PC, an Athlon 1Ghz with 512Mb RAM and software RAID1 disks - and runs all my office functions (mail, web, test environs, backups, data sync, databases, you name it) beautifully with that. Linux is just so good at doing more with less on the server that I’ve allowed it to languish on this hardware for probably a little too long - it’s noisy and sucks way too much power for what it’s actually doing.

I’ve been meaning to do something about it, but today the PSU on the machine decided to ‘take a break’ which was a bit annoying. It came back up again after a complete hard reset (disconnecting the power), but that’s given me a kick up the arse to get it sorted out. Everything is replicated daily, so it wouldn’t be a disaster if I lost it, but even so it would be a PITA to have to deal with.

So, I’m in the market for new server hardware. Not rack mountable, and preferably small, quiet and low-power. Since that inherently means that I’m looking at a custom enclosure, I’ll probably need two of them to provide redundancy, since beyond disks they won’t be self-repairable. I already have a home media / backup server which is pretty nice, a QNAP TS-209, but that isn’t appropriate for my main business needs, since the OS is in the firmware and so not flexible enough for installing new packages etc.

I’m liking the look of the Tranquil PC BBS2 - hardware RAID (hot-plug SATA2), Intel Atom 330, low power consumption (57W with 4 drives), reports of running Ubuntu on it seem positive. They do a pre-packaged version of it with Windows Home Server on it too, but that costs about £100 more (once you’ve deducted the cost of the HD they bundle with it), and in any case WHS doesn’t really do what I need (I need to replicate my public server environments which are already Linux, and I have access to more free software with Ubuntu anyway).

Anyone know of any alternatives, or have opinions about Tranquil PC? As I say, the downside of custom enclosures is that non-HDD failures require a manufacturer return to fix, so I’d have to factor resilience issues in, but I really want to be a bit greener / quieter with my servers in future 😀

[edit]Ok, the BBS2 isn’t looking quite so attractive given that the RAID controller is not a real hardware RAID controller at all, it’s one of these semi-software BIOS jobs which are not very well supported in Linux, and aren’t much of a step up from software RAID anyway. I could still get one, use software RAID and just not hot-plug I guess. But, seems a bit of a waste.

I’ve just pulled out & replaced the PSU in my existing server because it died again. Here’s hoping it stays up until I can replace it! The fact that I can do that makes me think twice again - maybe I can just build a power-efficient machine instead, and keep the fixability…