Putting older hardware to work

If you’re like me, you’ve probably collected a bunch of older hardware that is left over from previous upgrades. And it’s probably sitting around doing nothing. I’ve decided to change that, at least in my instance.

In getting into rack mounting hardware, I figure what I need to do is rack up some of these older systems and put them to work. To that end, here’s the hardware in question:

  • AMD Athlon XP 2500+ with Abit NF7 nForce2 mainboard, 512 MB RAM
  • AMD Athlon 64 2800+ with ASUS K8U-X 754 ULi M1689 mainboard, 512 MB RAM
  • AMD Athlon X2 3800+ with Abit KN9 Ultra mainboard with 4GB RAM

The systems should all fit into 2U server chassis, such as the one used for the server I put together for my wife. The downside is that those are $100 each plus ground shipping, so I’d be looking at just $300 for the chassis plus shipping on all of them. Add in the power supplies and silent fans and things will add up quick. Hopefully I’ve got plenty of spare graphics cards laying around for this as well.

I’ll get started on building these systems once I have a rack cabinet built for all of this, and another rack surge suppressor as well.

So now the bigger question: why? This is all hardware that’s been sitting around — in some cases, for a long, long time. So it is computing power that could be put to use and actually serving a purpose, even if it isn’t my purpose.

I’m talking about distributed computing projects like BOINC, Folding@home, and distributed.net. While the systems mentioned don’t exactly have a lot of computing power to contribute to these causes, it’s better than just sitting around. If the hardware is still viable, I want to put it to use — though given the XP is only a 32-bit processor, it’ll be interesting to see how well it can be put to use.

I also have a 990FX mainboard I’m considering adding into this, along with two spare GTX 660s that I can add in as well. I have a 4U rack chassis that can support that mainboard easily along with both graphics cards, or I’ll go with something shorter. All I need to use that mainboard is just another processor. The question is whether to go with an Opteron or FX. The former would be preferred if I can find one as it’ll have a lower power consumption, but I can go with an FX-8370E if need be.

The plan as well is for the rack to evolve over time. When Absinthe or Beta Orionis are upgraded, those mainboards and processors will replace one of the existing systems in the rack so there is only ever just three or four systems to keep power consumption down — I don’t need to be maxing out a 20A circuit doing this.

But everything first starts with the rack cabinet. I’m probably not going to just stack a set of IKEA RAST nightstands, but will probably build up something — likely similar to the plans over on Tom Builds Stuff. I do need to consider ventilation and cooling on this, especially since we’re talking about systems that will likely be running around the clock. Speaking of, that’s going to mean an interesting consideration for the Athlon 64 (Socket 754) and XP (Socket A) processors and trying to find quiet, lower profile CPU coolers that’ll mount onto their respective sockets.

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