On Building a New Box
My $100 Craigslist Special IBM home server started flaking out sometime last year. I relieved its internet routing duties with an WL-530GU and the linode I serve this page from has satisfied my 'use a unix box' urges but the time has come for me to consolidate the half-dozen random hard drives I have scattered about into some semblance of a unified server...thing.
ZFS isn't perfect but until BTRFS stops kernel panicing when the disk fills it's the best that's easily/freely available. That means Solaris. There are a few good sources [via] on hardware compatiblilty (not as smooth with Solaris as it's become with Linux lately).
One of the concerns with home servers is power consumption, nerdblog addresses it with a 40w Xeon. I wasn't able to find that model on Newegg but there is a 45w E3110, for $389.99. Considering a quad-core Nehalem part is $150 less, that's hard to stomach.
But what's the reality of it all? We have The Internet, we should be able to solve this. And while we're solving it let's use the other New Hotness, Wolfram Alpha. Let's assume I'm maxing out the CPU on this box (staggeringly unlikely), so the efficient part will draw 45w constantly and the high powered one 80w. Ceteris paribus, that's a 35w difference in consumption. I live in NYC where we have absurdly high energy prices so I'd save $42.90 a year. Three years for payback is reasonable-ish.
Digging a little deeper, Intel says that Nehalem-based servers can expect idle power consumption that is about half of the power consumed at full load, down from about two thirds in the previous generation. Using those ballparks let's estimate that the machine is bone idle like its owner. The Wolfdale now pulls 30w whereas the Nehalem pulls 40. A 10w difference is only $12.30 a year. Twelve years for payback doesn't really seem a worthwhile goal anymore.
As an aside, I usually use Google for this kind of unit-merging fun but I couldn't quickly get an answer for the first query. The naive query that I tried first gave a web link to someone doing similar math but no actual result. I'm certain there's some combination of parentheses and careful unit labeling that will get the right answer out of google but when it worked the first time in Alpha I lost all motivation to continue trying.
Going down the power usage front, what if I picked up an Atom board (8 W TDP) instead? $9.81 a year to run the CPU alone. But that only gets me 2 drives? Assume I want all 6, I'd need to be running 3 of those boxes (and presumably some fun distributed filesystem), carry the two and you've got $30/yr for the CPUs. That's still barely a third of the $104 a year the Nehalem costs.
Obviously these figures aren't terribly informative if you're buying your PCs from Newegg instead of PhysicsExperimentLand. Factoring in the rest of the components necessary for anything but assuming a spherical CPU would be an exercise in futility. Better to just buy the three machines and a Kill-A-Watt and get some Real Answers.
What I'll end up with is a Nehalem box sitting in the basement doing double-duty as general home server and likely running a desktop environment over FreeNX or VNC or somesuch to make use of those cores and ram. Plus, then I can use the beefy box from the couch which is my kind of compromise.
Addenda: Making Time Machine work with a server is somewhat nontrivial. It seems to work over SMB and NFS. Or maybe netatalk is a better bet. No, iSCSI is the way. Yep, definitaly iSCSI. Err, maybe not. Either way, make sure your network card, you know, works.