Decommissioning My Rackmount Server

Author: Jake Bauer | Published: 2020-04-11

I love self-hosting stuff. It allows me to exercise system administration skills and allows me to be in control of my data. I try to do this as cheaply as possible which includes keeping my power usage down. Not only is power efficiency light on my wallet, more importantly it’s better for the environment. Power-efficient things also typically need less cooling which leads to lower noise output from those machines.

My Dell R415 rackmount server was basically the antithesis of all of those values. It was hot, loud, and sucked down 200W when idle. All for a meagre 8 threads and 16GB of RAM.

Although I got this server for a really good price ($95 USD, shipping included), the reason that I got it for such a low price was because the hardware isn’t particularly high-end. It came with 16GB of RAM which is more than enough for my needs but the problem is that it has two AMD Opteron 4130 CPUs which run at 2.26GHz and have 4 cores each with no simultaneous multithreading.

One morning, I decided to run some benchmarks on my server versus one of my spare laptops which couldn’t function as a laptop anymore due to missing the screen. I used the program stress to run some CPU, RAM, and I/O benchmarks and to my surprise, my spare laptop with its i5-2450M (2 cores and 4 threads) beat my server by about 33% in both CPU and RAM benchmarks although it was unsurprisingly slower I/O-wise.

I had previously been using this laptop as a server to collect mail from my virtual machines and it had been running as long as the R415 so I knew it could reliably function as a server even though I would lose things like hard disk redundancy.

I decided I was fed up with the noise and heat from the R415 and decided to switch over that same afternoon.

I first installed Proxmox on the laptop, added both machines to a cluster, used the migrate feature built in to Proxmox to move all of the VMs to the laptop, and finally powered down and removed the R415 from the cluster. Silence at last.

Once I finished moving around hardware (I am using a Lack Rack), I powered everything back on again and noticed that this new configuration was only drawing 65W on average and that’s for my entire homelab. Where my entire homelab used to draw about 240W, it now draws 27% of what it used to and it’s almost completely silent while doing it.

The laptop sits at around 15% CPU and 45% RAM utilization with all of my virtualized services running and I haven’t experienced any slowness in using them. Although I don’t have redundant hard drives with this laptop, I do still back up all of my VMs and configurations which means I’d have probably only a few hours downtime if the hard drive fails. It’s something I can live with in exchange for what the laptop offers.

You can get more detailed information about the specs of my lab machines over on the page about what I use. Suffice to say, I’m now very happy with what I have.