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Thread: Select motherboard for home server

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  1. #1
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    Default Select motherboard for home server

    I'm getting ready to build a new home server. Right now I run a pair of servers using flea-market special motherboards, and most of the rest of the components, for that matter. The "new" board has an i815 and 800MHz PIII. We had a power outage this weekend, and the backup server died on the way up. I haven't started debug yet, but it makes me think I might be skating on thin ice, using pure crap for my servers, even with 100% redundancy.

    The servers currently run Hardened Gentoo, serving DNS, DHCP, NFSV4, IMAP, OpenVPN and are a second-level firewall behind my appliance. One thing I'd like out of the new server is to make it a MythTV master backend. Currently NFSV4 serves 40GB RAID-1 as /home, and my MythTV backend machine is on one client, and has its own local storage. I have several MythTV frontend machines attached. In moving a MythTV master backend to the server, I'd like to move the storage (bump it up to 1GB RAID-1) there too, move my network from 100Mbs to 1Gbs. I can't get TV cable into my server closet, so it would run a dummy capture card, and leave the capture cards in the current backend, as a slave backend machine.

    So CPU performance isn't paramount - I figure about anything I can buy these days should be adequate. I'd kind of like it to be 64-bit, just to make progress on moving my whole cluster that direction. I am concerned about power, since this is on 24x7, so I'd like a motherboard/CPU combination that supports CPU frequency modulation, and C-states common to laptops would be a bonus. I'd like to make at least 1 part of the RAID mirror external, so I can quiesce it and hotplug another. With 1 internal and 2 external drives, 1 at a time, I have RAID + offsite sparing. (Carry the just-quiesced drive to work as a backup, rebuild the RAID on the drive just brought from work.)

    Video is obviously of negligible importance, though something would be good. I need to wind up with at least 2 ethernets, 3 would be better, but only 1 need be Gb, the others can be 100Mb. I recognize that it might be necessary to use slots for the extra networking.

    I have a favor-the-underdog/I'm-really-cheap preference for AMD processors.

    I've done a little searching, and this is the type of question that keeps coming up every now and then. So here's "now". I've also read through the motherboard brand comparison thread, with no real conclusion other than "they all suck," which only helps in that a few brands seem to suck less. I have several ASUS boards and they've been decent enough to me, though I'm concerned that someone says that they're now farming that job out. There were good comments about Supermicro, though they can be expensive, and Newgg doesn't appear to have any Supermicro AMD boards. I've had Tyan boards in the past, but those are really pricey these days, too.

    Thanks, phred14

  2. #2
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    Why not review this SuperMicro MB, C2SBX LGA 775 Intel X38 ATX Intel Core 2/Pentium/Celeron
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813182143

    or this site has many types of MB and a large selection of supermicro; Wiredzone

  3. #3
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    Take a look at some of the Atom motherboards: the Intels have two SATA ports and two IDE, I believe the Ions typically have 4 SATA and they're less power-hungry.

    My Atom-330 board runs fine as a combined server and MythTV box, though transcoding isn't the fastest operation in the world with such a slow CPU.

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    Quote Originally Posted by movieman View Post
    Take a look at some of the Atom motherboards: the Intels have two SATA ports and two IDE, I believe the Ions typically have 4 SATA and they're less power-hungry.

    My Atom-330 board runs fine as a combined server and MythTV box, though transcoding isn't the fastest operation in the world with such a slow CPU.
    While looking at Atom, I also looked at the Via C7 boards. The ones I easily found were all a bit cramped - mini-ITX with 1 ethernet and 1 PCI slot.

    This is an interesting range... These very low-power boards all the way to the server-class boards suggested by Biker.

  5. #5
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    perhaps a used machine. I know you dont want crap but IBM used to make some solid ass sh*t. I have an old thinkcenter which i use for backups/gameservers and that sob has outlasted every computer in my house over the last 5 or so years. Running 24/7. She only crashed a few times when i was running windows (silly me), but sense she has been on debian all has been well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Biker View Post
    Why not review this SuperMicro MB, C2SBX LGA 775 Intel X38 ATX Intel Core 2/Pentium/Celeron
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813182143

    or this site has many types of MB and a large selection of supermicro; Wiredzone
    I hadn't gotten into that (server boards) side of the site...
    The board you mention is an Intel board, listed at $200, and it would take $200 to put in a Core2-duo. I don't know anything about the E5000/E6000 or the Celerons. Are these really Pentium4-derived chips? Oh, that board also has only 1 ethernet - the other boards have 2. I need 2, though I can obviously plug in a PCI card.

    Then I looked on the AMD side of Newegg's boards. They are all dual-CPU, which pushes base board costs into the $300 range, though a low-end Opteron to fit is only $100.

    So board+CPU for Intel or AMD works out about the same, in practice at Newegg and avoiding what I think may be a Pentium4. I haven't really looked at relative performance... This is all a different range of cost/capability than I was really thinking of.

    OTOH, I run Gentoo, and a board of this capability would make a great binhost. I run a portage mirror which I sync on a cron job at night, then fetch source code for http-replicator. With an AMD system I could build all binaries at night, then I'd only have to wait for compiles on my 32-bit machines. (My other clients are AMD64.)

    Or for that matter, it would crunch on transcoding, especially if at some point I actually got the second CPU.

    But the price is a different range than I was thinking, though they all look like good boards.

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    Actually, I believe that the i815 board I'm using now came from an IBM machine. It says it's ASUS on power up, and I believe that too. But once you get into BIOS, it looks like IBM.

    Another thought on this just occurred to me at lunchtime... I'm serving /home out of NFSV4. That used to include .mozilla/firefox, but some time a while back I started getting horrible hangs on my clients. Then I started reading about the whole firefox/sqlite/ext3 stuff, and realized that firefox/sqlite/nfs would be even worse. I moved .mozilla/firefox to local disk, and things got better. At some point in this process I was looking at things in my server, finding signs of distress like buffer overruns on eth0. I believe the "write-storms" caused by firefox/sqlite may have been overwhelming my NFS server. The particular case was an Athlon64 client with the 800MHz P3 server and 100Mbs ethernet.

    I want to be running GigE, and it would be really neat to be serving the disk over NFS to my MythTV backend. So I'm thinking that I need a bit more beef available than I have today. But at the same time, when all of that isn't happening, I want it to throttle back to save power.

  8. #8
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    SuperMicro has many types that could fit ya needs.
    I have an older PDSLA I'm using for a server, works just fine, tho I'm looking into their X8SAX.
    Any of the X38 (ECC) and X48 (NonECC) works just as well.
    Wiredzone has them all

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    I spent a bit more time on Newegg, and the reviews were really poor for the low-end (certainly lower-end than you're talking.) Supermicro boards. At the moment I'm starting to settle on the ASUS P5BV-C/4L as a low-end server board, with a Core2-duo E7600. The whole package is just a bit pricey for me, but it's either this or settle back into consumer-grade/desktop-grade stuff, though probably at about half the price. I think I'm looking at about $400+/- for motherboard, CPU, and 2G ECC ram. That's before I start adding any spinning stuff.

  10. #10
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    I would have to say, some of the folks over on Newegg don't know their foot from their own head, reading reviews over there is boring.

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