We have got net-books, net-tops and now I am wondering if we will ever see the net-servs. Personally, I like the idea of having a small, low-powered server sitting in the corner. I have a number of VIA machines like that at home but they are more than 6 years old and showing their age. I would love to get my hands on a small server. Let us speculate on the technical specifications of just such a machine.
CPU: Dual-core Intel Atom or Via Nano.
RAM: 2Gb minimum and 8Gb maximum.
VGA: None or just minimal graphics.
HDD: Minimum of two SATA drives with a maximum of four.
ETH: 1000/100/10 Ethernet only.
USB: A couple of ports.
Such a machine would be low powered enough to sit in the corner. If it had up to four SATA slots, it could become a very good file-server system. Otherwise, it would also serve as a very good basic server that would be useful for both home and small-business use. It would be more than sufficient to cater for up to 10 people using it as a file server and also as a application server. It should be sold for under RM1,000. There is no reason why it should cost much more than that since you can get net-books with similar specs with an LCD screen and keyboard for just RM1,200.
I would buy a whole shelf full of these machines. They would be infinitely expandable. I could always start by buying one and using it as a file-server. Then, I could get another one to use as a virtual machine host. Then, I can continue to add more units as computational demands increase. There would be a massive market for just such a device as long as it is kept low-power and low-cost.
Unfortunately, it is a pain trying to buy such a machine. Apple comes close with its Mac mini Server but that costs a whopping RM3,600. At that price, you can already get a full featured 1U rack-mount Xeon server. There is no reason why a home or small-business server should cost this much.
Come to think of it, a D945GCLF2 (under RM300) should do fine. Add in 2Gb of RAM (RM100) and two harddisks (RM400). That leaves RM200 for a suitable power supply and casing. Unfortunately, small and low-powered casings are difficult to find. Most people who self-assemble machines are interested in flashy high-powered casings and power supplies. However, this is definitely something that I can consider building on my own. The only draw-back is that it only has 2 SATA slots but this can be fixed by adding an additional PCI-SATA card.
Let’s do that one of these days. I need to assemble a new server at some point anyway.
Update@2010-01-07 I forgot that the Compaq CQ line of net-tops would also do the trick and they come under RM1,000 with a DVD-RW and 6-in-1 card reader. All it needs is more RAM.