Build a better web server – Part 1
Up your computing power with an upgraded or brand new server that you can build yourself
While big business and big data may be utilising mainframes more of late, the concept of servers is not going away any time soon. Servers are an integral part of any system, however large your IT infrastructure is. Whether it’s inside the data centre or tucked away in your (well-ventilated!) cupboard at home, there are still a lot of uses for servers in 2015.
For the office you may want to save a bit of money and create something perfect for your needs that you know exactly how to maintain. For home you may just want to enhance your setup and make the entire network more efficient. For both it’s a great way to separate certain aspects of your network to control it in a more efficient way.
There are many components of a server that you need to keep in mind, but it boils down to an appropriate hardware selection and a good distro for the task at hand. In this tutorial, we are going to concentrate on file and web servers, two base server systems that can be expanded and modified in multiple ways to best fit the situation you are in.
As we’re teaching you how to build a better web server, we will first take a quick detour to tell you what you should know if you want to upgrade your current server so that it can compete with the new tech.
What kind of hardware will you require to build a better server?
The hardware in a server is a very important consideration for building your system. Servers handle different requests to a normal desktop machine, often handling several people’s requests at once. This means that the resource priorities have changed and these can even be different between various types of servers.
Software counts as well, of course, but without a decent hardware base, it will be tricky to have the server work as intended. Scalability and peak loads need to be considered as a future-proofing method, so always try and make sure that you have a bit more power than you need. With all that said, let’s start looking at
the individual components.
There are six main components you need to put thought into, and the four most important ones are the motherboard, the processor, RAM and power supply – the core components on any computer. As we mentioned, you need to think differently about what you need components-wise because resource usage is different.
A minor concern for some will be a graphics card of some kind, whether it’s so you can directly interface with the system or do computational work that benefits from multiple different cores instead. You’ll also need a good storage solution for your server build.
Motherboards for servers come in various styles. A lot of server boards will have two ports to connect a CPU to, which is good for servers used for small businesses or if you expect to get a lot of requests on a regular basis. These are more expensive than single-CPU systems, but the benefits in the long run for a big office server are more than worth it.
For home use, a single slot for a processor will do you fine for most cases, the main exception being a web server where you plan to have a lot of regular connections made to it. In this case, you want to keep an eye out for motherboards with plenty of storage and connection slots to make it as flexible and scalable as possible.
The most important thing for a server CPU is the number of cores – that’s why dual-slots can be quite useful. More cores allows for more threads, essential if you plan to run VMs off a file server or several sites at the same time. Clock speed is not as important, but you should at least get one that is not ridiculously slow and comes with a decent cache.
With Intel’s Hyper Threading, each core can work harder by creating multiple threads in each core. Conversely, AMD processors will offer more cores for a lower price, especially if you’re on a budget.
A larger amount of RAM is more important on servers than it is on a desktop PC, enabling you to run more operations at once. Speed and latency is not so important, so gaming RAM with tweaked timings will not grant you a better system – in fact, it may be slightly worse since they don’t have ECC. ECC fixes single-byte errors that make up the most common forms of data corruption in the RAM.
While ECC RAM can be important, it’s more important in web servers and generally much more necessary in business and enterprise servers. On every level though, a larger amount of RAM is good.
While it’s best practice to never skimp on a power supply, it’s near essential when it comes to server power. While you may need 1,000+ watts for your ridiculous 4K gaming rig (electricity bills be damned), you can be a little more reserved in the peak power for a home server, depending on its intended use. Look for power supplies with an ‘80 Plus’ rating, as these ones have been through some level of certification to ensure that they have a degree of efficiency – this is a good idea for servers that are on all the time as they will save on electricity bills in the long run. Titanium and Platinum are the highest ratings, meaning they’re at least 90 per cent efficient (95 per cent efficient for
server power supplies).
Depending on your storage requirements, there are multiple solutions that you can use. At the very least we recommend you split up your storage with an SSD for the operating system and associated settings files, and use standard hard drives for storing everything else. This way, when the general files are not being accessed, the operating system can still run while drawing much less power.
Otherwise, your actual mass storage can be configured in multiple ways. You can have straight drives connected with JBOD for minimal complexity. Or you can start looking down the RAID route – mirroring in case of drive failure, striping to more efficiently use the space of two hard drives, or even going as far as RAID 5 and 6, which increases complexity but enables you to create one large, consistent storage space with redundancy failures. The more complex you go though, the more difficult it can be to maintain and the more catastrophic a major failure can be.
Keep an eye out for part new on January 31st.