I have a couple of servers at home for personal use, and I'm considering replacing them with rack servers that I'd scrounge up in used condition, just for easier management and whatnot.

I don't have any professional experience dealing with rack servers, however, and I seem to be having trouble finding good information on the webs. What concerns me the most is whether and/or to what degree rack-server components are standardized. If a motherboard. PSU or fan breaks, what are the chances that I can recycle a similar component from another server for replacement instead of having to order original replacement parts from the vendor?

On the tower side, we obviously have nice standards like ATX, but I haven't been able to find anything similar for rack devices. Does that mean that they don't exist, or just that I've been blind? If they exist but aren't universally adopted, are some vendors better than others? Are there other aspects I should keep in mind if I don't generally want to have to get involved with the original vendors?

closed as off-topic by user9517, HopelessN00b Mar 3 '15 at 1:34

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  • 2
    Buy branded servers. Used HP and Dell will be your best bets. – ewwhite Mar 2 '15 at 1:13
  • @ewwhite: In what way is that preferable? Are components interchangeable between server models of the same vendor, or what? – Dolda2000 Mar 2 '15 at 1:14
  • The advantage of rack-mounted kit is that it comes with sliding rails which is much better for hardware maintenance, cooling and server density. The advantage of a brand is primarily the long term enterprise support. You can typically still get authentic spare parts long after commercial-off-the-shelf-components are even scarce on EBay's bargain bin pages. – HBruijn Mar 2 '15 at 21:19

If using HP/Dell/similar nothing apart from the RAM and hard drives will be readily interchangeable from any other vendor or generic part. Technically you could swap out CPUs although the heat sinks will be specific and the motherboard will often only support a certain speed and model number of CPU. If you going down this route IT shops generally stick to the one brand of server so the probability of being able to swap parts is hither.

Moving on from fully custom branded servers, there are tier 2 brands and many generic cases out there that do take standard motherboards and most other parts, however they may have their own specific power supply which is not readily interchangeable with a generic part. They may also require a certain subset of motherboards available. These requirements are usually driven by the form factor - anything 1U or 2U will need non-standard heat sinks and PSU. Check out Super Micro as an example of these types of machine. The chances are reasonable that you'll be able to swap parts out of another server, however you will probably still be better off sticking to one brand. It's still not as flexible as the desktop / tower market.

Finally, if space is not an issue, 4U server chassis are readily available which take generic PSUs, motherboards, etc. This is really the only option if trying to match the ease of part sourcing and replacement as your current desktop / tower machines since they are using all the same tower parts anyway - you're essentially just putting a tower into a rack.

  • Thanks for the answer. If that's the case, then I suspect my best option is probably just to keep a backup tower around to take over for a broken-down server until I can scrounge up a new one, simply. :) – Dolda2000 Mar 2 '15 at 13:47

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