Build a Green Server
Server Training - Server Management

There are a number of ways to save the is just one of them, creating Green Servers that dramatically reduce power consumption and heat.  Recently, virtualization has been a very popular method of reducing environmental impact.  This is a great option and will save companies money as they implement as well. But there is another way to  build Green Servers with mini-itx.


Why Choose mini-itx?   Well the answer is:

1. Save Money - using mini-itx is cheaper than a server

2. Save Energy - this is a big factor in that you can reduce energy requirements by 70%.

3. Save Space - reduce the space consumption of the firewall by 60%.


Advantages of mini-ITX

There are several significant advantages of mini-ITX. The first of course is size. This form factor will provide you with significant size reduction so that you can either consider taking the project as a mobile solution or save on desktop space. You could easily save 90% in space reduction vs. a desktop case. Noise is another advantage. Many of these small form factors systems have no fan options. This may make a much more enjoyable experience for the user. The other major value is power consumption.

A typical server situation may be  an ATX format tower or rack mounted server with a 350-600 watt power supply.  Typically these wattage figures are maximums and no system runs at these levels for long. But you will need to account for these issues so that you could if you had to. Now this does not even touch on the aspect of heat. If you put this kind of setup into a room with 30 other such machines you will need to turn on air conditioning to maintain a livable temperature and you would need to increase the electrical circuits in that room with additional circuits because one circuit could not handle this type of load from 30 such computers. In larger  institutions heat and power issues are a serious financial issue. Anyways, the advantage here is that you can move from looking at 350-600 watts to 25 watts.  This is a huge savings on power and suddenly the heat issue is non-existent.

Another advantage of Mini-ITX is sound.  Since the example does not use a fan they are more distant humming.

An additional advantage is when bad things happen.  Typically if you lose power, you have minutes on the UPS.  If you are using Mini-ITX you have a much longer time as you are using considerably less wattage.

 Disadvantage of mini-ITX

The main disadvantage of Mini-ITX is that it is not a format to be used when you are needing a high power server that will handle a lot of traffic.  The design should be for special purpose servers that function as appliances.

Typical Uses:

Small Web Server
DNS Server
Small EMail Server

Uses That Are Not Practical:

Multi-Hosted Web Server

Any Heavily Used Server (the processing power is less than an ATX box)


Build a Green Server with mini-itx

 This project goal is to build a small server using the mini-ITX format. The mini-ITX mainboard provides a extremely small, integrated and flexible x86 platform to the home or business user. Many times mini-ITX provides fanless options that create no sound.

The mainboard provides onboard integrated graphics, audio,TV-Out support, 2 10/100 LAN Nics, primary and secondary controllers and an additional PCI slot for expansion.

For many server uses you must have two network cards. This mini-ITX borad has them integrated into the mainboard in many cases.

 network cards

This board has two fans that disipate heat. There is no fan on the CPU.


Notice the power supply is on the left hand side of the picture. It uses ITX for a power supply attached to an external power supply.

 Linux Servers

 The mainboard measures only 170mm x 170mm making it 30% smaller that most other ATX platforms. The VIA Apollo PLE133 North Bridge allows for 2D/3D acceleration and supports Soundblaster Pro compatible audio.

 There are a lot of options for creating mini-ITX projects and you should review those choices so that the mainboard will help you accomplish your goals for the project.

The power supply is also an important choice as you will want to make sure that the power supply is compatible with your mainboard. The example shows a 60W power supply. Often the power supply will come with the case that you purchase.

 Linux on mini-itx

There are three options for a hard drive. The typical choice for mini-ITX is a 2.5” hard drive that you see listed below that saves on power. Another choice is the standard 3.5” hard drive. The third option is to use a compact flash disk. 

Linux Servers

The size of the distribution will determine the hard drive installation. In order to create a transparent firewall in this example CentOS was installed to you will need a hard drive unless you purchase a 1GB compact flash disk.

This is a picture of the hard drive and the 40 pin connection to the primary controller. Notice that the hard drive is drive that a laptop would use and therefore uses a floppy power connection instead of the typical mutext connector for larger hard drives. Old disk drives for laptops can be had at reasonable prices.

 Green Servers

Often the hard drive and CDROM that you put into these projects will attached to the cover of the case so actually your hard drive and CDROM are almost on top of the processor and mainboad. Again, the margin for error is thin so make sure all of your components will fit together.


The example below shows that the hard drive is attached and the CDROM will be attached to the case to the right of the hard drive. This example shows an optional fan that comes with the case but is not mandatory as the example uses a fanless CPU.


Below is a picture of the hard drive attached to the mainboad. Notice that the connection used for a floppy is employed in this connection.


The operating system will determine the needed size of the compact flash disk.

 Linux on Compact Flash

Now you will also need to be alert for low-rise RAM. Many cases this is not an issue, you can use a normal RAM chip. But, there are cases where you will be required to purchase special RAM to fit that does not rise as high as other RAM chips.

Linux Training

Once you have all of your components connected you will begin to prepare to put on the case cover. There is usually not much space so you will need to be careful sliding the cover on so you do not damage or disconnect the cabling. Take your time with this process as it will be time well spent.

Often the clearances are very small for the heat sink and cabling that is required to run the system.

 Linux Training


The example below shows the case almost together and illustrates the typical abundance of airflow options to cool the case. Heat is one thing that you need to consider closely when putting together a mini-ITX because there is usually very little space for airflow inside the case.


In the image below the hard drive is under the plate. You can see the mounting screw holes in the case for the hard drive.


 Linux Training



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