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Building the Ultimate Linux Test Server, part 1

Dock, CPU and Mobo

March 3, 2011

We're going to build a stout machine fit for testing server operating systems, that can be quickly re-configured and run whatever we throw on it. Follow along as Paul Ferrill walks us through the hardware, and then the software.

Last year we built a DIY Linux workstation with an eye toward creating a high-end development machine with the ability to run multiple virtual machines at the same time. This year we're going to build a machine fit for testing server operating systems to include functioning as a KVM or Xen virtual host. The other goal is to have a flexible machine capable of being quickly reconfigured for testing purposes. As new versions of operating systems are released, they need to be tested with any custom software applications before putting them into production. Our DIY server will, hopefully, fulfill this role perfectly.

<em>figure 1</em>
figure 1

Combo Case

One of the accessories you absolutely have to have if you need to frequently swap hard drives is an external disk docking station. These handy devices look kind of like a toaster where you insert the hard drive into a slot and press an eject button to release it. When we looked around for a case to host our test server, we came across the Thermaltake V9 BlacX. This case has two hard drive receptacles built right into the top (see Figure 1), giving you that quick swap-out feature we're looking for without another external device.

Another feature of the Thermaltake V9 BlacX case is USB 3.0. There's a USB 3.0 connector on the top, giving you quick access to the high-speed data port without the need to access the rear of the case. A nice blue cable from the front panel connector exits the rear of the case so you can plug it into one of the external USB 3.0 jacks on the back panel (see Figure 2).

<em>figure 2</em>
figure 2

Internally, there's plenty room for lots of disk drives. With storage prices constantly dropping, it's easy to build a server with lots of storage without busting your budget. Quick no-tool release mechanisms add another dimension to the flexibility theme.

CPU and Motherboard

When it comes to a CPU / Motherboard combination, there are more options to choose from than you probably have time to sort through. The primary criteria for our test server machine were a multi-core CPU and a motherboard supporting up to 16 GB of memory and USB 3.0. AMD graciously provided one of their six-core X6 1090T CPUs on an Asus M4A89GTD Pro motherboard for our project (see Figure 3).

<em>figure 3</em>
figure 3

The CPU definitely fits our multi-core requirement, and the motherboard has the memory and USB 3.0 support we wanted. For connecting lots of storage it has six SATA ports (see Figure 4).

<em>figure 4</em>
figure 4


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