Meandering Out Loud

Don Thorp’s Musing, Muttering, and Mischief Along a Random Path

Greener Data Center at Home

Let’s face it, I collect computers. Trust me, I don’t want to be in the computer collection business, but some how I have several sitting in the closet and many up and running as I write. Being an entrepreneur, start-up engineer, software developer, etc, I need machines to get things done. So, I tend to treat the house like a personal data center. Several enabling technologies have emerged that have helped me start down-sizing my home data center to be much more energy and space efficient. At this point noise and heat are still my biggest issues.Product photo of a blue Dell Studio Hybrid

In the past, I would buy the best computer I could build and install everything under the sun on it to try and keep costs down. Problem is each machine would start collecting more and more cruft and the next thing you know, you’re wanting another box.

Not too long ago, VMWare unshackled their server product and allowed me to start collapsing physical hardware on to virtual hardware. They also made their product run on Linux, including Ubuntu my current distro of choice. The combination of VMWare Server with Ubuntu gave me the power to have a low/no cost solution for collapsing physical machines and easily re-using older hardware.

Another benefit is that I could start building single purpose “machines”. I could afford to run a Virtual Machine (VM) per application or have development specific VMs. A huge benefit was that you can migrate a VMs quickly to different hardware. I can, for example, take a web application from my “data center” drop it on my laptop and go mobile. When I get home, I simply move it back into the data center. When I buy a new host machine, I can easily move the VMs and recycle the old hardware without having to re-install all of the software. Not only have I started running server type applications in their own VM, I have also started creating single purpose VMs for desktop applications. Currently, I have a VM for my trading/investment software and I’m about to build a VM for my QuickBooks and other bookkeeping and business tasks.

I know I’m behind, but I finally took a look at the Dell Studio Hybrid. There is a review on PC Magazine. Seeing the form factor, I immediately wondered if it would run Ubuntu. Quick little search and I found the quote below at Dell’s IdeaStorm.

Posted 01 Aug 2008 on Dell's IdeaStorm.

To me, a home VM server needs:

  1. The capacity to have lots of RAM
  2. Enough storage for all of the VMs you want to host
  3. A fast, cool running multi-core CPU
  4. Runs quietly. Noise is tiring and annoying
  5. The ability to run Ubuntu and VMWare server
  6. Draw as little energy as possible
  7. One or more Gb ethernet adapters

What it doesn’t need:

  1. Fast graphics, I access the machines remotely
  2. Big form factor, I might want it in a closet.
  3. Proprietary anything, we want to run linux
  4. It should be relatively inexpensive

The Studio Hybrid allows:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo up to 2.6GHz
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 320 GB SATA Hard Drive
  • Integrated video with DVI and HDMI
  • Built-in wireless N and Gigabit Ethernet

What I haven’t been able to determine is how quiet it is. You can see from the back panel that it does have a fan, so it can’t be completely silent. But in all other aspects, it looks like it could be a viable platform for a VM host in my greener home data center.

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August 2nd, 2008

Don Thorp


One Response to “Greener Data Center at Home”

  1. John Hattan says:

    Yeah, I saw those last week. Very classy looking machine, although $130 for the bamboo housing is pretty steep. I’d get one for Maggie but it’s pretty hard to cost-justify that purchase when I’m getting ready to spend $4k on a new plotter.

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