How to Build a Server Computer – Page 2

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Server Motherboard

When building a computer, the most important decision is which type of motherboard? The motherboard you buy, will dictate the type of CPU you will need, the type and amount of RAM memory you will need, and whether or not you will need a graphics card. When researching the motherboard, you probably want to target your search to specify a ‘server’ motherboard. A server motherboard will have characteristics suitable for a server as opposed to say, a gaming computer. For instance, a server specific motherboard usually supports a lot of RAM, but may not require a dedicated graphics card since it will not be used to play 3D games. The motherboard may support additional management tools and storage functionality, like RAID or SAS (serial attached SCSI) support integrated into the motherboard. You will also need to decide on the architecture, deciding between either an Intel or an AMD motherboard.

For our class servers, we decided to go with Intel motherboards. The larger of the two server motherboards has two LGA 1366 sockets for two CPUs. The motherboard has twelve memory slots for DDR3 DIMM memory sticks.The server motherboard is an extended ATX (EATX) motherboard, 12×13 inches large.

 


ASUS Intel server motherboard, with 2 x LGA 1366 CPU sockets

The second motherboard is smaller than the first, a standard ATX form factor. Excellent cooling, features and extras. It also is an Intel motherboard with a LGA 1366 socket.


ASUS Workstation Intel motherboard

Video Demonstration

We install an ASUS EATX server motherboard into a Rosewill 4U server case. Once we placed the motherboard into the case, we realized that the standoff screw holes on the bottom plate did not matching the pattern of our motherboard, so we had to drill two additional holes into the plate, so that all of the necessary standoffs would be in place to hold the motherboard securely off of the bottom of the computer case.

How to Build a Server Computer – Page 3

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Power Supplies

Typically, servers need to be running constantly. For instance, web servers that host e-commerce web sites cannot afford to go down for an extended period of time or their customers will lose money. For this reason, most commercial servers have redundant power supplies, that way if one fails, the other power supply takes over and the server stays online. For our classroom server, we decided to save money and purchase just a single power supply. One thing that you need to check on before you purchase, is the number and type of power connectors coming off of the power supply. In our case, the motherboard required two eight-pin power connectors to power the two CPUs. The power supply on the left also came with a five year warranty.

 

 

 

Installing a Power Supply Video Demonstration

In part 2 of the lab demonstration, we install an Athena Power power supply into our new classroom virtualization server.

How to Build a Server Computer

Overview

If you need a server computer, for your network why not build your own? Today, many organizations and businesses are virtualizing the host computers on their networks. In order to virtualize, you need a computer with the ability to serve multiple virtual machines over the local network. In our computer lab, we are engaging this current trend; we are implementing virtual host computers, but we are in the need of servers capable of handling the greater demand on system resources. Instead of purchasing a few expensive enterprise level servers, we decided it would be less expensive and more fun, to just build our own.

Purchasing Online

Here are some great online stores for researching and purchasing your computer components: newegg.com, tigerdirect.com, frys.com, and amazon.com. To build our lab servers, we purchased all of our computer components from newegg.com. Newegg offers regular 24 hour deals, rebates, and promotional codes if you are a regular shopper. You can find great deals if you are not in a hurry, and your are willing to not buy all of the parts in only one day.

Here is an outline of the computer components we used to build our servers:

Computer Cases

We decided to go with a server style case that could mount on a rack. Rack mounted servers and networking devices are labeled in 1.75 inch height units like 1U, 2U, 3U etc.. The cases we bought are 4U, meaning 4 x 1.75 inches tall. The key question when researching a computer case is will it fit the motherboard you are purchasing? In our case, we needed to make sure that we had a case that could fit a 12″x13″ motherboard (see below), which is unusually large. You also want to make sure that your case has enough fans to properly move air through the case, keeping the system from overheating. For a server, you want to consider purchasing a computer case with a locking front panel, protecting unauthorized people from quickly accessing the server’s optical drive, USB drive, power and reset switches.


Rosewill 4U server cases with locking front panel and front panel fans

 
Inside picture of the server case, showing interior fans and motherboard plate, standoffs and standoff hole patterns


Motherboard standoff and case plate holes

See the video tutorials for this project starting on the next page: How to Build a Server Computer – Page 2