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Server / rack-mounted hardware put to use as a slave PC

Hello there!

 

tl;dr: What's a good place / resource to start learning about rack-mounted hardware?

 

For my work (as a media/film composer) I need a lot of computing power on a daily basis and it's common (in this business) to use slave machines for this purpose.

In my country (the netherlands) however, there are lot of second-hand HP Proliant (or alike) servers systems for sale which seem quite affordable for the computing power/amounts of ram they offer.

Now I'm quite familiar with the standard pc hardware routine. But the thing that I'm a bit scared of is that a lot of these 2nd hand servers are rack-mounted solutions. Especially since I know that they can make a lot of noise and I don't really have a space in my housing where I can stuff a server rack in a closet (which wouldn't be a great idea cooling-wise anyway).

 

Now my question is threefold:

1. What are the basics I have to know about rack-mounted hardware formats? (Would it be possible to adapt a rack mounted system into a 'standard' case? Or are there rack mounted chassis that allow for more silent cooling?)
Where would be a good place / good resources to learn about this stuff?

2. Is there a reason why this is either a very good or very bad idea that I perhaps haven't considered?

3. If this is a feasible idea I might also want to use this slave as a host for a future website / nas. I suppose it would be possible to run a machine like this for multiple purposes simultaniously (considering I know some friends who are comfortable enough around this kind of software setup.), or am I overlooking something?

 

As is probably evident from my post I'm not very familiar with this side of computing, so even very basic information/yourtube channels/forums/articles/books/etc... are welcome!

Thanks very much in advance!

 

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Just now, Amrasios said:

1. What are the basics I have to know about rack-mounted hardware formats? (Would it be possible to adapt a rack mounted system into a 'standard' case? Or are there rack mounted chassis that allow for more silent cooling?)

They're measured by how tall they are in "rack units". 1RU servers only have room for a couple single slot PCIe cards. 2RU servers can generally take double-height cards. 3U servers can take half-height PCIe cards standing up, or full height cards in sideways risers. 4U and larger are basically rackmount towers that can take full height cards standing up, like Linus's custom gaming case. There are cases you can get that fit commodity hardware (SuperMicro makes good ones, and there are a bunch of whitebox generic ones) but the servers you'll get from Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc will not.

 

There are exotic cases that take four dual-socket CPU modules, or have room for eight or more GPUs.

 

4 minutes ago, Amrasios said:

2. Is there a reason why this is either a very good or very bad idea that I perhaps haven't considered?

Do you need a lot of CPU cores, a lot of PCIe expansion, or storage? There's a server form factor for you.

 

You can get a lot of density with 1U servers, or a 2U chassis that takes four modules (which basically act like four separate servers.)

 

Just remember that power consumption still has to be a consideration. For a dual socket server with two drives and a bunch of RAM, figure 10-20 watts with each server powered off (IPMI staying awake), 100-200 watts at idle, and 500+ watts if it's working hard.

 

Rack servers can also get loud, and you can't really change the fans in 1U or 2U servers for quiet desktop ones because those don't build enough static pressure to shove air through the whole chassis. (Typically, rack servers have a wall of blowymatrons right behind the drive bays. They provide all the cooling for the entire system.)

 

If you want most of the benefits of a rack server with fewer downsides, look into contemporary workstations. They'll take the same CPUs and run much quieter, but they might have fewer drive bays and they'll definitely be louder.

 

12 minutes ago, Amrasios said:

3. If this is a feasible idea I might also want to use this slave as a host for a future website / nas. I suppose it would be possible to run a machine like this for multiple purposes simultaniously (considering I know some friends who are comfortable enough around this kind of software setup.), or am I overlooking something?

You can do that with a VM hypervisor like ESXi, HyperV, or Proxmox.

 

 

I sold my soul for ProSupport.

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For the cheap used servers that you mention (and others you don't - like dell r720 etc) assume that they all use proprietary Motherboards and can not be easily transplanted into a desktop case.

 

There are Hacks to reduce the noise , but in many situations, you are better off getting a tower version from the start.

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