Trying to put together a game server at home, need advice from a pro.

JiPtheChip

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Jun 5, 2019
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I'm new to server hardware, and I wanted to build a public game server at home that runs 24/7. I've built multiple desktop computers but I'm completely new to the world of server hardware, so looking at all the options out there is daunting and confusing for me, and I need help selecting the right parts. I'd like the whole thing to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $1000, maybe a couple hundred over if necessary.

When looking at countless motherboards I noticed that some had "workstation" in the title. After looking at the reviews of these motherboards, I noticed that a lot of people have used them for servers but I'm not sure if I should because I'm not exactly sure what "workstation" means in this context or if it would suit my needs.

I originally wanted to put an i7-9700k on my server because the particular game I want to host has very few threads. I want this server to be able to host around 100 players or more so I need as much single thread performance as possible.

However, after talking with several fellow PC building enthusiasts on Reddit, they insisted I get a server motherboard (I was originally going for a desktop motherboard) and a Xeon processor to go with it. The problem is a lot of these processors have a lot of threads but not as good single core performance as the i7-9700k and cost over $1000, which is not what I want at all. If I were to get a so called "server processor", I'd want its price and single thread performance to be comparable to the i7-9700k, if that's even possible.

Another thing that's confused me throughout this ordeal is ECC. I get that it has to do with correcting memory errors, but I've heard that it can make it significantly more difficult to find the correct RAM for the motherboard. Also, does it have anything to do with the processor? Meaning do only certain processors support it or need to be matched to the RAM in a certain way? Do I even need ECC or could I settle for non-ECC? I wanna get 32GB of RAM for now, but leave some room for upgrades in the future if they're necessary.

Lastly, I've noticed a whole lotta nonsense when it comes to server mobos. They come with all these features that are usually oriented towards commercial use like IPMI, IDRAC, ILO, and having to pay $20 for a license just to update the BIOS, and I don't wanna deal with any of that. I just wanna SSH into the dang thing and be done with it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of these features just don't seem suited for a personal server and are rather confusing for the typical user. That's why I was interested in these "workstation" motherboards, because they seem less oriented towards that kind of stuff.

Sorry if I'm asking too many questions at once or if any of these questions sound stupid, I'm just a beginner. I'm mainly looking hardware recommendations or advice on where to look, so any of that would be much appreciated!
 

William

Well-Known Member
May 7, 2015
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What game do you plan on running in a home server ?
I have run several, Aion, Conan Exiles was the last one. It doesn't take much for a sever, you will need a good amount of RAM depending on game. Some guys even run them on laptops, just a small machine is all you need, old DELL or HP towers work great also.

The biggest single issue you will run into is how it connects to other players. I use Xfinity (Comcast) and they make it really hard to run a server at home, you really need an outside service to provide the gateway to other users, its been awhile for me but it was something about how Xfinity handles IP address and what they allow you to do. I found it far better to just go to one of those game server hosts, pay a sub and be done with it. You can still play around with your code if you want.
 
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MiniKnight

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Mar 30, 2012
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Are you looking to charge people for using the server?

If you get a server CPU, finding RAM is easy. If you see a board, we can help find the RAM. If you get a Xeon E5 or something and want a lot of RAM, then ECC RDIMMs are great. Let's find a board or barebones for you then we'll see the RAM.

iDRAC and iLO cost a lot. Supermicro there is a $20 BIOS update key if you want to do it from the web management interface, but you can do it from a USB drive without the key.

  • What are you looking for needing cores, frequencies, storage, RAM capacity?
  • Are there power constraints?
  • Size constraints?
 

nerdalertdk

Fleet Admiral
Mar 9, 2017
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Looks like its an Arma server you are building, if it is the best choice is an i7 that you overclock.
 

JiPtheChip

New Member
Jun 5, 2019
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Are you looking to charge people for using the server?

If you get a server CPU, finding RAM is easy. If you see a board, we can help find the RAM. If you get a Xeon E5 or something and want a lot of RAM, then ECC RDIMMs are great. Let's find a board or barebones for you then we'll see the RAM.

iDRAC and iLO cost a lot. Supermicro there is a $20 BIOS update key if you want to do it from the web management interface, but you can do it from a USB drive without the key.
  • What are you looking for needing cores, frequencies, storage, RAM capacity?
  • Are there power constraints?
  • Size constraints?
I'm not looking to charge people for the server, but I will accept donations.

The game I'm running a server for is Minecraft Java edition, which has very few threads, so I'm looking for as much single core performance as I can get for around $400.

I'd like the energy consumption to be less than $300 per year, and I believe my energy company charges $0.0678 per kWh.

No size constraints really, but I'd like it if it could be smaller than a typical ATX tower case.

Here's a breakdown as to what kind of parts I'm looking for.
  • I'm looking to get 32 GB RAM for now and leave room for future upgrades. ECC RDIMM sounds good, but I'm worried about the price.
  • If I could find a Xeon processor with single core performance and price comparable to the i7-9700k, that would be great. I'd also like to have 8 threads or more because in the future I might want to run multiple servers on this machine at once.
  • 2 motherboards I'm interested in right now, mainly because of the price, are the Intel c242 and c246. But do these boards support RDIMM?
  • For storage, I'm probably just gonna get a 7.2k rpm 4TB hard drive and leave it at that.
 
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redeamon

Active Member
Jun 10, 2018
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Hey man,

I share an unpopular opinion among the DIY crowd but I firmly believe you should just purchase an out of the box server. Dell, HP or Supermicro come to mind. I prefer Dell as they're cheap, reliable, and "Just Work" but most importantly plentiful which means good prices (supply). Any Dell Poweredge like r530, r630 or r730 will do. Those use Xeon V3/V4 and DDR4. If that's too expensive you can drop down to the r520, r620 or r720 series which use V1/V2 Xeons and DDR3. Dual socket any of those machines and you're more than good to go.

You'll save yourself a ton of hassle of having to research, source and build a server that may or may not work when it's all said and done- It's not worth the headache these days.

Check the For Sale section and if that doesn't work there's a ton of eBay. If you need a rack to hold it all together, grab a startech rack on Amazon. They're like $150 bucks for 12U, adjustable and well built. Not to mention you'll have plenty of room for the future.
 
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nephri

Active Member
Sep 23, 2015
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I would go for a ready-to-use server using Xeon E5 V2

Theses servers are cheap and your can have a lot of RAM for cheap (DDR3)

By example, on Bargain Hardware (UK seller that sells refurbished items)

You can have a HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 with
- 2x Xeon E5-2650V2 (8 cores at 2.6Ghz)
- 16x 8Gb DDR3 (128 Gb RAM)
- 750 Watt Platinium Plus PSU
- 4x SSD drives (128Gb each)
- 10 / 24 caddies (they grow up the price quickly)

For less than 700$
I'm sure in US you can find cheaper equivalent server (US Gray market is bigger than EU Gray market)
 

MiniKnight

Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2012
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Minecraft is single thread performance so you'd want a Xeon E-2100 series like the Xeon E-2186G but they're hard to find used.

The Core series CPUs and their Xeon alternatives the Xeon E-2100 don't support RDIMMs so you're using ECC UDIMMs. That's still easy to find.

If you wanted to do many servers with more RAM and drives I'd look Xeon E5 V2 or V3 since there's great deals there. It'll be lower single thread performance but many threads possible. Minecraft can use more GHz so this isn't ideal.

@William's idea of leasing a server is a really good one too.

Where is the server going to be located? If its a home Minecraft server I'd actually just get a Core i9 without ECC, a cheaper motherboard, don't overclock and call it good.
 

JiPtheChip

New Member
Jun 5, 2019
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Minecraft is single thread performance so you'd want a Xeon E-2100 series like the Xeon E-2186G but they're hard to find used.

The Core series CPUs and their Xeon alternatives the Xeon E-2100 don't support RDIMMs so you're using ECC UDIMMs. That's still easy to find.

If you wanted to do many servers with more RAM and drives I'd look Xeon E5 V2 or V3 since there's great deals there. It'll be lower single thread performance but many threads possible. Minecraft can use more GHz so this isn't ideal.

@William's idea of leasing a server is a really good one too.

Where is the server going to be located? If its a home Minecraft server I'd actually just get a Core i9 without ECC, a cheaper motherboard, don't overclock and call it good.
I did look at dell's pre-built server options and they did offer the Xeon-E-2186G, but the hard drives they offered were incredibly overpriced and didn't have the amount of storage I need, the RAM was also overpriced, and they force you to accept features I don't want. I'd rather put it together myself so I don't have to pay for overpriced components and have complete control over what goes in it. I don't wanna lease a server because I want this server to be as powerful as possible.

I am going to run the server at home so if I go with the i9 option and run my server 24/7, am I likely to run into hardware issues down the line due to worn out components, or will my server be able to stay operational for years? I'm going to restart the server daily if that helps at all.

Also, when you say cheaper mobo do you mean a desktop mobo as opposed to a server mobo?
 

redeamon

Active Member
Jun 10, 2018
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I did look at dell's pre-built server options and they did offer the Xeon-E-2186G, but the hard drives they offered were incredibly overpriced and didn't have the amount of storage I need, the RAM was also overpriced, and they force you to accept features I don't want. I'd rather put it together myself so I don't have to pay for overpriced components and have complete control over what goes in it.

I am going to run the server at home so if I go with the i9 option and run my server 24/7, am I likely to run into hardware issues down the line due to worn out components, or will my server be able to stay operational for years? I'm going to restart the server daily if that helps at all.

Also, when you say cheaper mobo do you mean a desktop mobo as opposed to a server mobo?
You don't need a Dell branded drive- any drive works. Same with memory- but ask us first since some dimms don't work.

For the r520/r620/r720 16gb dimms go for about $25 these days with r730/r630/r530 being about $50 each.

If in the end all you want to do is run a small minecraft server, you really can just go with what you've been saying. However, it won't be future proof. If you decide to add things- say Plex, storage, or whatever else then you'll find yourself back at square one. Don't buy new- those are Enterprise prices meant for Businesses. Get a used Dell Poweredge and call it a day.
 

JiPtheChip

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Jun 5, 2019
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You don't need a Dell branded drive- any drive works. Same with memory- but ask us first since some dimms don't work.

For the r520/r620/r720 16gb dimms go for about $25 these days with r730/r630/r530 being about $50 each.

If in the end all you want to do is run a small minecraft server, you really can just go with what you've been saying. However, it won't be future proof. If you decide to add things- say Plex, storage, or whatever else then you'll find yourself back at square one. Don't buy new- those are Enterprise prices meant for Businesses. Get a used Dell Poweredge and call it a day.
I don't plan on the server being small, that's why I'm looking for powerful components. Would an i9-9900k with a desktop mobo and non-ECC UDIMM RAM be insufficient for that?
 

marcoi

Well-Known Member
Apr 6, 2013
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I run two-three servers at home that are based on e5-2680v2 Dual CPU. One is a dell r720 and the other two are Intel units. I use the servers for running my prod home services, development lab, gaming services, etc.

I also run a minecraft server for myself and family/friends. My server is based on ubuntu OS, with 4 CPU and 8 GB Ram. The Disk storage is back by FreeNas pool built for VM performance, but storage speed isnt an issue since MC loads into memory. That one VM runs 3 minecraft servers with mods. One MC PE server and also a starbound server. Granted the MC servers dont see a lot of usage since only a few people are on at any giving time. But in the past I ran a MC server for a few people on the HardOCP forums and that seen 20-30 people on at a time during peak usage and the hardware was plenty.

if you want to look over a huge thread of my home design you can find it here:
https://forums.servethehome.com/index.php?threads/home-setup-design-changes.20609/
https://forums.servethehome.com/index.php?threads/intel-s2600cp-w-intel-p4000-case.9104/


For MC I use:
Server - Running 1.14.2 using SpigotMC - High Performance Minecraft
For MC server setup - Docs · MSM
Magic
MythicDrops
Dynmap

Map of my current base build out.
mcmap.jpg

I think used intel e5-26xx v2 hardward will be more then enough for running a MC server. You can look at intel ark page to find CPU with the specs that best fit your needs.

My servers run about 200Watts each, but they all have 16 sticks of Ram, multiple cards and hdds in them. So a server that is bare bones should run around 150 watts. etc.
 
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EffrafaxOfWug

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Feb 12, 2015
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Isn't the i7-9700k a ~$300 chip all by itself...?

Sever chips tend to optimise for throughput and efficiency which means more PCIe and memory and lower clock speeds, so a workstation chip (higher clocks) would be best suited; one in the same clock domain as the 9700k would get you almost all the way there, but the 9700k is one of the highest clocked chips in existence with basically a 4.9GHz boost speed which pretty much no other chip is going to be able to match. About the closest I can see in the Xeon world is the W-2125 which peaks at 4.5GHz and will cost you substantially more than a 9700k, since Intel reaps the profit margins from the server-oriented chips even if they're practically identical to the desktop ones.

If you're only going to be using this as a minecraft server, I'd say to hell with making it server-ey and just go with the desktop-pretending-to-be-a-server build. As MiniKnight says, if you're running it at home you won't need fancy stuff like IPMI and other remote access gizmometers and you can likely live without five nines reliability. If you do end up running other services from it though I'd still recommend using ECC unless you can find a very good reason not to.

Have you actually done testing to see whether speed in the region of the 9700k is necessary though, rather than just a nice to have? At the 4-5GHz end of the scale you're usually well into the range of heavily diminishing returns (lots of people spending £500 extra for an 300MHz extra to jump from 132 to 136 increase in their e-penis fps), especially with a not-really-that-well-optimised game like minecraft.

If I was building it myself I'd likely look at building it with a high-clocked Ryzen like the 2600X and some ECC UDIMMs on a half-decent desktop motherboard and call it quits, but I don't know your feeling on the AMD ecosystem; as it happens I'm almost certainly going to be doing a home server build with a Ryzen 3000 when they come out, but not on a server-lite mobo rather than a desktop motherboard.
 

JiPtheChip

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Jun 5, 2019
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Isn't the i7-9700k a ~$300 chip all by itself...?

Sever chips tend to optimise for throughput and efficiency which means more PCIe and memory and lower clock speeds, so a workstation chip (higher clocks) would be best suited; one in the same clock domain as the 9700k would get you almost all the way there, but the 9700k is one of the highest clocked chips in existence with basically a 4.9GHz boost speed which pretty much no other chip is going to be able to match. About the closest I can see in the Xeon world is the W-2125 which peaks at 4.5GHz and will cost you substantially more than a 9700k, since Intel reaps the profit margins from the server-oriented chips even if they're practically identical to the desktop ones.

If you're only going to be using this as a minecraft server, I'd say to hell with making it server-ey and just go with the desktop-pretending-to-be-a-server build. As MiniKnight says, if you're running it at home you won't need fancy stuff like IPMI and other remote access gizmometers and you can likely live without five nines reliability. If you do end up running other services from it though I'd still recommend using ECC unless you can find a very good reason not to.

Have you actually done testing to see whether speed in the region of the 9700k is necessary though, rather than just a nice to have? At the 4-5GHz end of the scale you're usually well into the range of heavily diminishing returns (lots of people spending £500 extra for an 300MHz extra to jump from 132 to 136 increase in their e-penis fps), especially with a not-really-that-well-optimised game like minecraft.

If I was building it myself I'd likely look at building it with a high-clocked Ryzen like the 2600X and some ECC UDIMMs on a half-decent desktop motherboard and call it quits, but I don't know your feeling on the AMD ecosystem; as it happens I'm almost certainly going to be doing a home server build with a Ryzen 3000 when they come out, but not on a server-lite mobo rather than a desktop motherboard.
I want a powerful chip because I want the server to be able to support around 100 player at once, maybe more, and I want it to stay online as much as possible. ECC would be nice, but don't only server-grade boards support it? If that's the case, I wouldn't even be able to use an i7.
 

EffrafaxOfWug

Radioactive Member
Feb 12, 2015
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The Ryzen chips all support unbuffered ECC (aka UDIMMs for "unbuffered DIMMs") and most of the motherboards also enable ECC support - so yes, ECC support with desktop Ryzen chips is quite obtainable. You just can't go for huge amounts of memory, as Ryzen only supports four DIMMs at a max of 16GB each (so 64GB total); you'll typically need registered memory (aka ECC RDIMMs) to go past that, and that almost always means server platforms. But in terms of getting a lot of clock speed as well as cores the Ryzen chips seem very good value to me; single-threaded performance with the upcoming Ryzen 3000 series is meant to be ever better still, so that's something else to keep an eye on if you can be tempted towards the green side.

Support is much more spotty on the Intel side but there are some non-Xeon chips that support ECC UDIMMs as well; however they tend to be the low-end jobs like this G4900. They're forever chopping and changing this so you pretty much have to check ark specs for each chip.

I've never run a minecraft server with more than five people on it so I've no idea on scaling to 100 users I'm afraid and how much of a role clock speed plays in that equation. Is it something you've been able to test at all? And I don't know whether it makes a difference to performance or not but I've only ever run minecraft under linux.
 

JiPtheChip

New Member
Jun 5, 2019
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Are you looking to charge people for using the server?

If you get a server CPU, finding RAM is easy. If you see a board, we can help find the RAM. If you get a Xeon E5 or something and want a lot of RAM, then ECC RDIMMs are great. Let's find a board or barebones for you then we'll see the RAM.

iDRAC and iLO cost a lot. Supermicro there is a $20 BIOS update key if you want to do it from the web management interface, but you can do it from a USB drive without the key.

  • What are you looking for needing cores, frequencies, storage, RAM capacity?
  • Are there power constraints?
  • Size constraints?
So I decided to go with a Xeon E-2186G processor, and found a board: a Supermicro X11SCL-F-O, and this RAM to go with it:

2x For Hynix 16GB PC4-17000 (DDR4-2133) 2133Mhz ECC Server Memory RAM 288pin @RS | eBay

Should these parts suffice? Would a higher frequency RAM improve performance?
 

EffrafaxOfWug

Radioactive Member
Feb 12, 2015
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Under most workloads, speedier memory usually only provides a negligible improvement; but it's usually heavily dependant on the software being used; I've not seen any benches showing how minecraft responds to memory speeds but at a guess I don't think you'd notice any significant difference with 2666MHz memory.

(One notable exception are the Ryzen CPUs which typically deliver significantly better performance with faster RAM)