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Building a 1U Server (Bad A$$ 1U Server)


Hey Guys! It’s Mike from The Geek Pub. And on this episode we’re going to build
this bad ass 1U server! Now this video is not about building the biggest,
baddest, and most redundant server we can build, rather this video is about building
the biggest and baddest server that we cram in to a 1U case that is only 19” wide by
12” deep. It won’t come without its challenges, but
in the end it is going to be worth the struggle and awesome! Now I plan to use this box as home network
server running VMWare ESX, meaning I will have multiple virtual servers running on it
all at once. This server will be actually be the second
server in a pair of servers forming a redundant cluster. These two servers connect via iSCSI to a Synology
RS2416+ to share a VMS storage volume contains the goes operating systems. This is awesome because it means if one server
fails the other one immediately takes over. On this server cluster I have several machines
running. I have a Windows 10 VM running HomeSeer which
is pretty powerful home automation package for controlling lighting and other aspects
of the home. I also have an Ubuntu Server VM running Plex,
which is an incredibly powerful home media server. Attached to Plex is a 10 terabyte volume for
storing movies, TV shows, and music, as well as family home video and photos. In addition I have several lab boxes including
Windows 2016 server, Observium for network monitoring, and some other boxes. I chose the Intel Core i7 6700K for this server
build. It’s a Quad-core 4 GHz processor design
for an LGA1151 socket that can be reliably overclocked to as high a 5 GHz. This is of course a Skylake processor. Now some of you are probably wondering why
I didn’t choose the new 7700K Kabylake processor and that is absolutely a fair question. I chose the Skylake, because this is the second
server in a cluster and I wanted this new machines to be identical to the original. It just makes things with VMWare ESX simpler. However, if you decide to build this box,
I would definitely recommend you step up the 7700k. It will work in the same motherboard we chose,
and costs only a few dollars more. Now if you don’t need this kind of horsepower
in your server, you could scale this chip back to a Core i5 or Core i3 and same some
pretty serious money. To install the CPU, simply line up the triangle
with the markings on the the socket, set it in place, and close and lock the CPU socket. This build has one interesting challenge that
you won’t face on most builds. The CPU cooler has to be less than 1 inch
tall and still be able to adequately cool a 91 watt CPU! This is no easy task, and I went through several
different CPU coolers before I found one that could actually handle the job reliably. The cooler I landed on that passed all of
my stress tests with flying colors is the K199 Active Blower from Dynatron. This cooler is barely 7/8 of an inche tall
and puts out an amazing amount of air. And it has a feature that is not only nice
to have, but necessary for a 1U server build! The top of the cooler is sealed and the cooler
has a side ejection port for exhausting hot air. This is required because when the cover is
placed on the case there will be less than 1/8” between the top of the cooler and the
bottom of the lid. To install the CPU cooler, add the backplate
rails to the bottom of the motherboard. They connect with the included double sided
tape. Flip the mother board and screw on down the
cooler after placing it on top of the CPU. The K199 comes with thermal paste already
applied, but you can replace it with better paste if you desire. Orient the side ejection vent on the cooler
towards the left side exhaust vents on the case. This will provide the most efficient airflow
pattern, resulting in the most optimal cooling at the lowest RPM. Because this is an ESX server, and it will
be running many virtual machines RAM is something that will be important – and lots of it. For this build I chose to use 32 GB of Corsair
Vengeance DDR4 at 2666 Mhz. This is the max amount of RAM that this motherboard
will support, and also the fastest. Installing the RAM is very simple, pull back
the tabs on the DIMM slots, align the notch on the bottom of the DIMM with the notch on
the slots and simply press them firmly into place at both ends until the levers click
back into place on its own. The case I chose is a 1U 19” rack mount
case from iStar USA. This case is bare bones and doesn’t include
a power supply, or even a fan. One of the nice things about this case is
that the rack mounting ears can be placed on either end of the chassis, allowing for
the motherboard ports to be at the front or the back of the rack depending on your preference. I’m going to mount the case with the ports
towards the front. This case is not without its shortcomings
however, and we will address of few of those shortly. The motherboard I chose is a mini-ITX ASUS
Z170 Pro Gaming motherboard. I chose this board not because of any of the
gaming specs, but because it allows overclocking and is 99% compatible with VMware ESX 6.5. I say 99% because this board like most non-server
boards will not pass IPMI data to ESX, meaning VMWare won’t be able to read the temperature
sensors. In my case this is fine, because the motherboard
BIOS will handle cooling and fan speeds independently of ESX and I have plenty of other devices
that I can read temperature sensors from in my network closet. Just to be clear, you can get mini-ITX motherboards
that support IPMI, but I am not aware of any that are supported by ESX that also support
a Skylake or Kabylake processors, overclocking, or independent chassis fan controllers. And by the way, this board supports Aura RGB
lighting, which means your server will glow through all of the open vents, if you’re
into that sort of thing. Installing this motherboard into the iStar
case represents a few challenges. Lets start with the fact that the IO shield
is about 3/8 of an inch too tall. This is a pretty common problem with 1U cases
and the good news its not too hard to solve for. Mark the IO shield with a pencil, and using
a pair of aircraft snips, remove the top portion of the shields and then place it into the
IO shield slot on the motherboard. The second challenge you may face with the
iStar case is that the motherboard standoffs on the bottom of the case are just not quite
tall enough to lift the motherboard to the proper height allowing it to align with the
back of the case and keep the CPU backer plates from making contact with the bottom of the
case. I solved this problem by using some 3M Super
77 spray adhesive to add two small nickel washers between the case and motherboard on
all four posts. This added the necessary height to the standoffs
and everything fit perfectly in place. Follow this up by installing the four post
screws and snugging them up. The Power Supply Selection The power supply I chose is a 1U variant from
Apevia. It’s a relatively small 250 watt supply
but it is more than enough to power our motherboard, CPU, SSD hard drive, and a 4 port network
interface card. The power supply just slides into place and
is attached by four screws on the back of the the chassis. Follow that up by plugging the power supply
leads into the the motherboard. Now is also a great time to plug in each of
the connectors from the case for the power and reset buttons along with the power and
activity LEDs into the appropriate pins on the motherboard. Also attach the USB block connector for the
case front USB ports. I chose to install two fans in the case. Both are 40×40 millimeter brushless fans. The fans are installed by screwing them into
the front of the case with the eight provided screws. You can position the fans to either exhaust
air from the cause or intake air. Be sure to orient them in the correct direction
based on how and where you are mounting your server in your rack. I will be mounting my fans in the intake position. One fan will be connected directly to the
power supply and run continuously at full speed. The other fan will connect to the chassis
fan connector on the motherboard where its speed will determined by the cooling needs
of the system. The iStar 1U server case supports the mounting
of two drives, however, our internal storage will only be used for holding the operating
system and some installation images for our virtual machine installs. This is because all of our virtual machines
will be booting and operating from a shared VMS volume on a Synology Rack Station 2416+
over iSCSI. I honestly, could have skipped the hard disk
completely and just booted my servers from a USB stick, but I wanted to provide for future
functionally should I ever use these for any other purpose or decide not use network attached
storage. The drive I chose is a Samsung EVO 850 SSD
in the 500 gigabyte variant. Again, complete overkill for me but likely
perfect for most of you who won’t have network storage. The iStar 1U case does allow for two drives,
meaning you could mirror two drives for better performance and redundancy. To install the drive, simply screw it to the
backer plate with the four provided 2.5” drive mounting screws, and then attach the
backer plate to the bottom of the case. Attached the SATA power connector from the
power supply. Attach the SATA connector to the hard drive
and then to the SATA 1 port on the motherboard. Since this server is going to not only get
its storage from iSCSI, but also be responsible for streaming movies and media throughout
the house, robust network connectivity on this box is of vital importance. For that reason I selected an Intel Pro 1000
VT Quad port card. This card is 100% compatible with VMWare ESX
and performs exceptionally well for the price. Since this card mounts sideways at a 90 degree
angle from the motherboard a PCIe riser cable will be required to mount it. First, plug the riser cable into the motherboard
and then plug the card into the other end. Orient the cable so that it will not interfere
with other components and then screw the card into the case card slot with the provided
screws. I installed the server in the 1U rack slot
above my existing server. It just slides into place and is secured by
four rack screws. That’s really all there is to it. I connected it to my gigabit network switches. loaded VMware ESX and I now have two servers
in a VMware cluster. I honestly couldn’t be more happy with this
pair of servers. Anytime I build a box I always stress test
it before putting it into daily use. In this case, I used Prime95 to calculate
prime numbers for 24 hours straight, all while keeping the CPU at 100% utilization. The CPU never thermal throttled meaning everything
is working as designed and we don’t have any cooling deficiencies in this build. The CPU cooler and case fans did run at 100%
during the entire time which can be quite noisy, so if you plan to run your Bad Ass
1U server at or near maximum load, placing it in a closet away from the main part of
your house might be a good idea. That being said, under normal loads the server
is extremely quite and barely noticeable do to the fans running at near idle speeds. Well thats all for this video! If you enjoyed it please do me a favor and
like this video, subscribe to my channel, and by all means share it with your friends. And hey if you hated, go ahead and hit the
dislike button and comment below to tell me why. See you in the next video!

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