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What are the cons to using a PC/cheap PCs as servers vs hardware designed to be used for servers?

I would like to build some my rack servers based on commodity pc components, which would be and cheaper and better performance with same amount of money spent

In face I have already built 2 i7-920 two years ago with stock cooling system. and they all happily running, haven't had single failure and manual force reboot.

Could there be any potential problems?
does commodity pc has higher failure rate than branded server and server components?

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marked as duplicate by Tom O'Connor, pauska, Sam, GregD, Ben Pilbrow Jan 20 '11 at 18:14

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

3 Answers 3

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It's not so much the failure rate, assuming you get quality components, but rather the support. One of the reasons to buy a server from a vendor is the maintenance agreement that comes with it, so when one of those components goes belly up, a replacement can be immediately dropshipped to you.

A lot of it depends on what the systems are responsible for. If extended downtime (a week, lets say) isn't a big deal, and there is a really tight budget, I can see the argument for stretching the dollars a little further with "white boxing" a server. Sometimes it may not even be a tight budget, but the way in which the money has to be spent.

The thing you have to balance out is the tradeoff between the extra time required to maintain a whitebox system vs the cost savings.

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You can use a standard pc as a server, in a rack- but most IT guys will suggest this isn't a good way to do things. Rack servers are designed to go in a rack, with the cooling to match- a regular pc isn't. You don't usually have RAID, or redundant power supplies in normal PC's. PC's usually aren't designed to be on 24/7, whilst a server is.

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Also note, this has been answered previously here: serverfault.com/questions/190982/… –  AliGibbs Jan 20 '11 at 11:36
    
It's very hit and miss. I've seen some PCs last years in a rack (not very high density rack) while others died in days. Also, most standard PCs are going to be a lot bigger than a rack server, so if you're putting it in Colo, you'll be charge for 3 or 4 units of rack space. –  Niall Donegan Jan 20 '11 at 12:16

It's easy for 3U and up, but if you want to limit the height of your server 2U, then the price of your PC components is going to shoot up.

Also, unless you need bleeding edge i386 CPU performance or a super-duper number crunching video chip, these days, you will find cheap rackmounted servers everywhere.

I very much prefer expensive options like dual hot-swap powersupplies, because my servers need to be up and not give me emergencies when a single component goes down. Of course, you always have to carefully check the cost of 2 systems against 1 system with redundant hotswap components.

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