I have recently been looking into getting a server to act as a render manager for my renders, to act as a central hub for my textures and as a place to back up all of my work files, as I feel I have not been doing a good enough job when it comes to backups at all.
I also fancy having a play with virtual machines and having a look at various forms of Linux, along with hosting PLEX and a couple of other minor hosting duties, but I shall be using Windows Server 2012 R2 – and I will look into using Hyper-V as well.
I had two choices as far as I could see, go with a pre-bought server, something like a HP Gen 8 Microserver or towerserver, or do a white box build. I was tempted by the Gen 8, unfortunately the Microserver ‘only’ has a maximum of 16GB of RAM and I felt that I would like to play around with some Virtual Machines in the future so didn’t want to completely tie myself down in that respect. The next size up is obviously slightly more pricey and that also meshes with similar prices for a white box build. So a white box was the way to go in my mind.
After agonising over what CPU to start with, I ended up with a Xeon E3-1246 V3. This is a socket 1150 Haswell Refresh CPU – I was actually wanting the E3-1231 V3, unfortunately it didn’t have a on die GPU – that would have been fine if I had plumped for a Supermicro motherboard which had IPMI, however getting one of those would have meant getting some ECC RAM as well. This seemed too much considering I already had a motherboard spare along with 16GB of RAM – both were destined to be turned into another render node, in fact! Yes, I could have gotten a PCIe express GPU, but that would have bumped the price up to the price of the E3-1246, anyway, so there we go.
As I have already said, I already had a Micro ATX motherboard along with 16GB of RAM – enough to get me up and running at least. The motherboard isn’t perfect, however I already have it and there is room on it for a RAID card and a couple of network interface cards, should I want to add them.
Next stop, PSU – I ended up going with a Seasonic 460W Fanless one – this should cut down a bit on the noise and also comes with a fine seven year warranty.
Hard disk space – I was tempted to boot disk with an SSD drive, however once the server is up and running, I am not thinking of having it boot enough to possibly warrant the boot times that come with using a SSD. I won’t be reading and writing too much from that drive – the render manager will be ON that drive, but all of the texture files will be located on other drives, along with any cache. Instead, I will be going with a pair of Western Digital Black 250GB in RAID 1.
I’ll be grabbing a dual-port (or quad) network access card so that I can read on port and write to another, I am hoping this will reduce any bottlenecks, along with this I will need to upgrade my current switch to a minimum of a 8 port gigabit.
Case wise, I want to go with a Fractal Define R5 – this provides storage space should I need it, along with excellent sound damping qualities.
The parts are mostly ordered and finished build will be up soon.