Low Power Windows Home Server
I've been a WHS user since my participation in the original Microsoft Beta Program. Until recently my server hardware had consisted of a recycled Dell Dimension 4600 P4 machine with a variety of PATA and SATA drives totaling about 750GB.
Its primary functions had been as a file server, media server, remote access gateway, and client backups. It served 2 Media Center PCs, a general purpose Vista laptop, a development PC and guest access. The server had performed flawlessly with 100% uptime except for routine maintenance.
For various reasons, I decided that I needed to replace this hardware with something a little more energy efficient. Ok, my daughter-in-law was giving me a bad time about the energy consumed running a system 24 x 7. She’s a bit of a (loveable) tree hugger but she has a point.
The first step was to establish base line energy consumption and set a power savings goal. Just kidding! I’m not that analytical but I did spend $18 on a P3 Kill-A-Watt load meter to have some measurable results “justifying” the expense of a new server. Like I need justification to build a new computer. I found to my dismay that the Dell was drawing around 97 watts at idle. That’s about 850kWh per year.
After a bit of research I settled on an Intel Atom based solution. The Intel BOXD945GCLF Atom 230 board would have had more than adequate horsepower but it only offered a 10/100 NIC. For $14 more, the BOXD945GCLF2 offered Gig-E and a dual core multi-threading processor. No brainer. This is an awesome little board. Before building the new server, I loaded Win7 on it and was playing 720P and 1080i video flawlessly through Media Center. The only major issue with this board is the 40mm chipset fan. Loud? It sounds like someone is flying a model airplane. I have since replaced it with a nearly silent Scythe 40mm fan.
Build List minus Drives
PicoPSU-120 Power Kit - http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-120-power-kit $54.95
Scythe 40x40x10mm fan SY124010L - http://www.coolerguys.com/840556069027.html - $4.95
I had originally ordered an Antec earthwatts EA380 380W ATX12V v2.0 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail for $34.99. However, the zero noise and external power brick features of the picoPSU were attractive. My plan is to house this server in a very small enclosure when I find a suitable candidate. In addition the picoPSU performed a little bit more efficiently than the Antec. For storage I’m using 2 WD Green Power 750GB drives.
New Server in temporary utility case. Note P3 Kill-a-Watt in background showing 34watts.
So, for $265 plus the cost of the drives I have a nearly silent 1.5TB WHS. By the way, my original WHS product code validated on line just fine with the new hardware so the real cost of the upgrade was about $165 plus drives. And how about the energy efficiency? The server now idles between 34 and 36 watts as built. The following table lists the configurations tested.
I also tested the built configuration under load. The load consisted of simultaneously streaming two 1080i videos to Media Center PCs, a file transfer to the WHS over local GigE, a WHS Console session and a WHS Backup Cleanup. The load was between 38 and 40 watts. That level of usage is greater than what would be typical so my new server will likely consume less than 320kWh per year (365d X 12h X 34w+365d X 12h X 39w) which is much less than my refrigerator. Granted, a home server is not as important as cold beer but my daughter-in-law will be pleased. She may now even let my son put a Home Server in their house and after all, that was the real objective here.
Mini ITX Intel Atom Board –picoPSU (middle right edge) – 2 WD Green Power 750GB Drives
I’ll update this when I decide on a permanent enclosure. Cheers!