Past the First Hurdle, but In a New Camp

Since my last post about the new Home Server project, I’ve received financial backing in the form of overtime at work to start the purchasing, and I’ve also received WAF (Wife Approval Factor) in that the new server will be near silent, give us much greater storage capacity while cutting the overall power consumption significantly.

Late last week, I ordered the case for the project and the motherboard with a twist.

Since my last post on all things Home Server back in March, I have discovered a new product, recently released by AMD square in the playing field of the Intel Atom. The processor is the AMD E-350 Zacate, based on the AMD Fusion platform. The platform is designed for high performance, yet low power consumption, while integrating HD video capabilities and other top end features into the chipset.

So moving away from the Asus AT3IONT-I board with the Intel Atom 330 processor, I have instead gone for the Asus E35M-1-M PRO motherboard, being an AMD fanboy in a previous life.

This motherboard is microATX by contrast to the Intel board, which was miniITX. This shift in form factor gives me more flexibility due to the increased number of PCI Express slots and also means there is room for more powerful chipset on the motherboard. The net result, is a motherboard, which, for a little over £100 gives you a 18W TDP processor which can be passively cooled, or actively cooled with the optional CPU fan included, support for up to 8GB DDR3 memory, 2x PCI, 1x PCIe 1x and 1x PCIe 16x, 5 SATA-II 6Gbps ports supporting JBOD, RAID0 and RAID1, Gigabit LAN, USB 3.0, HDMI, DVI-D and VGA video output, along with SPIDIF optical out for audio.

The new motherboard sees the power consumption up from 12W to 18W, however this extra 6W, based on the performance benchmarks and a recent review from TheWindowsBlog on Twitter which you can read at the Windows Team Blog site really seems worth it. The motherboard they reviewed is actually the miniITX version of the board, which lacks a couple of the features I have, but the processor and chipset is identical.

Forum topics on sites like The Green Button and AVForums are all suggesting that this processor and video card combo, in a HTPC scenario are more than capable of handling two simultaneous HD streams, something the Atom can’t manage on it’s own.

With the motherboard in hand, I have to say it’s a really nice looking board, and the features still blow me away for such a small and tightly integrated package.

The case is another ball game. The pictures over on the X-Case website really don’t do it justice. The 4U chassis has large slots in it’s front to allow for decent airflow. Unlocking the front panel allows you to lower the flap to reveal the internal air filter and two 80mm fans, with the air filter mounted in front to stop the case inhaling the dust. Inside the case, you have ample room for even a Full ATX board, so my microATX board is going to be swamped inside, but at least it will have six of the ten 3.5” drive bays full with 2TB Western Digital Green disks to keep it company.

I’ll be assembling the motherboard in the case later today, and will grab a picture. Next month, I will hopefully be ordering the memory and the power supply which will give me enough to get the machine powered on and to configure the EFI BIOS settings how I want them before ordering the RAID controller and the disks last.

In light of the additional PCI slots, I am currently thinking about adding an Intel Dual Port Server NIC to the machine so that I can setup a team to give me more throughput and redundancy on the network, as this is what I currently have setup in my existing Dell PowerEdge SC1425 box.


Richard works as a Cloud Consultant for Fordway Solution where his primary focus is to help customers understand, adopt and develop with Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and System Center. Richard Green is an IT Pro with over 15 years' of experience in all things Microsoft including System Center and Office 365. He has previously worked as a System Center consultant and as an internal solutions architect across many verticals. Outside of work, he loves motorbikes and is part of the orange army, marshaling for NGRRC, British Superbikes and MotoGP. He is also an Assistant Cub Scout Leader.