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A mainframe to satisfy a family?

Last response: in Components
December 16, 2011 2:24:43 AM

I would like to build a "mainframe" to host something like virtual machines that my family and I could terminal into from multiple points in the house simultaneously, without experiencing performance issues while playing videogames, developing apps in visual studio, running windows 7 on the VMs.

To me it sounds pretty expensive, but I'm willing to do it if i can just build it slowly over a few months.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: no set date, will be a long project if I do it.

BUDGET RANGE: flexible, would like to stay under 1k(for the mainframe build at least) if possible

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Videogames, media serving, app development, and other CPU intensive apps.


PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: whatever gets the job done.

PARTS PREFERENCES: open to suggestions at this point (intel/AMD based architecture?).

OVERCLOCKING: if necessary, SLI/Crossfire support if it would help, in a mainframe setup

MONITOR RESOLUTION: N/A but enough power to handle what i throw at it?

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Something i wouldn't have to plug into the washing machine's power outlet :) 

Form Factor: N/A at this point.

thanks in advanced,
have a good night :) 
December 30, 2011 1:31:07 AM

I think your budget and your desired app support aren't really in sync and therefore will be tough to even spec a system.

Most things except video games can be supported by VM since those use easily sharable resources (CPU, RAM, and Hard Drive space). The one thing that isn't easily sharable is video card resources to play video games. Normal videos have a solution like Citrix's HDX, but not really well tuned for video games which generally prefer low latency between mouse/keyboard/monitor.

The second aspect is how good are you with software to put together a bare metal hypervisor and launch your own domain controlling software (free w/ Linux, but looking at $600-$3k for MS Server 2008). At least with Server 2008 you can use Hyper V to create Win 7 VM's, but outside of that you better be confident in IT skills to roll your own production VM server.

A few questions worth asking yourself before going down the VM route:

CPU, RAM, and Hard drive resources are more expensive than standard PC equivalents (e.g. Xeon processors are more expensive but more reliable than i7-2xxx). Are you ready to invest more money for similar hardware that is more reliable for a server?

How many VM's are you supporting and will be running at once? Will you be getting thin clients or re-purposing current old PC's?

My guess is you will need to test out your build but it will likely use all of your budget just to pull your proof-of-concept together.

Best suggestion is to make friends with someone who is VmWare versed locally and just put together a system just to understand what it takes to deploy a system so at least you will get an idea of what your on-going support effort might entail.

I don't want to discourage you from using VM's, but its important to make sure the goals, solution, and cost all make sense before making the plunge.