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I would like to build (or purchase) the smallest, quietest most energy efficient servers that I can for a low demand environment. These would only have a small disk for guest swap files, a CPU (XEON preferred), 32 Gb of memory and minimal graphics. The virtual machines need to be up but demand will be quite low.

Any thought on case, format processors, fans, motherboard, et al? Small, quiet and lots of RAM are the operative words here.

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closed as off topic by joeqwerty, Massimo, HopelessN00b, Tim Brigham, John Gardeniers Nov 22 '12 at 12:40

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Why do you need small, quiet and energy-efficient? Is there a reason you can't use standard servers? – ewwhite Nov 21 '12 at 21:06

I asked why you needed such a disparate set of qualities in a server... Something will be missing.

(Is this for a VMWare host server? NAS storage server? It's not clear.)

Small is possible, but performance and expansion suffer.

Quiet is possible, but size or RAM capacity may not be where you wish.

It's easy to find systems that meet your RAM specs. But if you're looking for something that can support 32GB of RAM, you probably care about performance more than the size of the system.

A serious recommendation would be something like an HP 300-series tower. ML350 and ML370 are whisper-quiet. I use one at home. These are no-compromises servers that may be larger than you want, but are pro-recommended.

If you need small and low power, but can live with smaller CPU and RAM capacity, buy an HP Microserver -

Maybe the right answer lies in between the two, but I'm more curious about the reasoning for your requirements.

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If you don't need clustering (vMotion, HA, etc.), there's little point in using multiple servers and iSCSI storage; it would be probably better to just stuff some disks in a server with enough CPU and RAM and be done with it.

If you instead need (or at least want) some form of high availability, you'll require vCenter and proper licensing: the plain ESXi hypervisor will not suffice. And then, even with a small deployment, you'll be in for some quite nasty licensing fees...

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Even without vMotion and HA, using shared storage saves you from losing access to the VM's if one of the hosts goes down. – joeqwerty Nov 21 '12 at 21:31
Technically true, but quite uneasy to manage if you don't have any vCenter coordinating the hosts. – Massimo Nov 21 '12 at 21:34
That's true but I recently went through this with a client and I would have much preferred to have the VM's on shared storage then isolated on the local disks of the host server that we struggled to bring back to life. – joeqwerty Nov 21 '12 at 21:36
Well, one could argue that having everything on shared storage makes for a very dangerous single point of failure :-) The real solution, of course, would be having a backup system in place... something that is just too easily neglected ("Hey, we have RAID, what could possibly go wrong?"). – Massimo Nov 21 '12 at 21:39

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