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Ask HN: Cheap Physical servers?
42 points by jameshk on Apr 26, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments
Trying to find a cheap physical server for a project, any ideas? Here's what I want:

- (EDIT) $700-1000 price -1-2 U rackmount or desktop form factor - No nodes or anything fancy like 2 PSU's -Reliable, fairly powerful components -Able to run linux

EDIT: I'm trying to start a hosting startup, and want my own servers.

EDIT: Thanks everyone so far, still have not found anything perfect yet, though.

Your best bet is to hit up one of the various resellers. These guys, like Northbay Netoworks in the Bay Area, buy up unused and distressed assets from companies and then resell them on the open market. They will hit up someone like me when we have 100 - 150 "old" servers we want to get rid of, and someone like you when you want to buy a "couple of racks worth" of servers to try something out. Servers that are 4 - 5 years old can be had for $400 - $500 per server caveat they may or may not have memory in them. (which is a problem if they take DDR2 memory which is no hard to find).

Conversely there are places like auctionbdi.com which liquidate old buildings and will sell a pallet worth of old servers for $50 - $500 but you really need to go there first to look at them to get a good estimate of how many are recoverable out of the stack. Often times you'll be able to create maybe a dozen "good" servers out of a stack of 50 "liquidated" servers of identical or nearly identical type.

The post liquidator market is a place like "Weird Stuff Warehouse" (sunnyvale) which buys pallets of stuff and pulls out the resalable stuff into their shops.

If you want exactly 1 machine then a card on the bulletin board of a hacker space saying what your minimum requirements are is a good investment, you can often get one machine for free from someone who is trying to get rid of an old machine (I've "donated" several machines that way)

And of course you can create a virtual machine on an existing desktop and just play around with concepts before you get physical hardware.

Useful info, thanks.

Find a supermicro reseller and build your own.

Back in the days when I ran my own servers (before virtual machines were so easy and cheap -- and I'm talking 10 years ago) all my servers were supermicro cases (and sometimes motherboards), and bought all the other components individually.

Definitely cheaper than a HP or whatever server.

I've had really good experiences with Amadi Systems as a Supermicro reseller. http://amadisystems.com/

I've stopped buying Dell/HP entirely now, because the price of Supermicro's stuff is so much better and you don't get into warranty arguments like you do with HP about running non-approved OSes.

I'll check them out, thanks.

Supermicro systems are certainly cheaper. Their IPMI is terrible, but I've done remote installs of OSes over it, it's mostly just laggy and sucky to use. We haven't had much trouble with the actual hardware (about a one percent failure rate out of the box, and very few failures after that).

Dells certainly have nicer management.

I have tried to configure a server on newegg, but the price with the lowest end AMD Opteron or Intel Xeon was too high, and if I go consumer-grade the mobo's quality goes down allot.

Do you mean dedicated servers? Hetzner, which is based in Germany, has some very inexpensive dedicated server plans:


If I were you, I'd take a moment to reconsider just how crucial it is at this stage to have your own servers. I've been in a similar position before, and as appealing as the notion may seem, it's going to create a lot of work that while immediately fulfilling, isn't going to be really moving your product forward.

I'm creating a hosting company, like Heroku and can't be hosting my customers stuff on another company's servers, thanks for the advice though. Also there are some cheap $99 servers that might get the job done.

Heroku doesn't use their own servers. Even if you eventually plan on using your servers, you often can start by using ec2, etc.

FWIW, Heroku uses AWS.

Also, would it not be inefficient to virtualize a virtual machine on a virtual machine?

If you're planning on using virtual machines, then potentially yes.

As far as I know, AWS doesn't allow running a hypervisor inside another hypervisor.

Ravello [1] seems to do this with with VMWare and xen-blanket[2] claims to allow running Xen on AWS.

[1] http://www.ravellosystems.com/ [2] https://code.google.com/p/xen-blanket/

I am planning on hosting VPS's, so should I get my own server(s)?

Given the initial investment of capital, probably not right away. Unless you're really confident that your own servers will perform better AND that the performance difference actually matters to your target market.

If neither of those things is true, then you're probably better off waiting until you can afford to make the investment purely out of your profits.

Of course an alternative is to just get dedicated servers without having to worry quite as much about managing your own hardware.

Disclaimer: I probably don't really know what I'm talking about :)

To host user's sites?

Yes. Although I can't seem to find a reference right now. If you check the IP of a running Heroku instance however, you'll see it's an AWS IP.

I mean real physical hardware, like an HP server you buy and setup yourself.

At your pricepoint, you're looking a white-label reseller; There's no margin at a full-sized server for 600$, so there's not a lot of interest in selling them.

I'd go back to why you believe you need a physical server and re-evaluate.

I'm ok with used, and the current suggestions have been more than helpful, although I took your advice and changed the price range to $700-1000.

You can get a Dell PowerEdge starting at $299 (no HDD). I have an older PowerEdge running Ubuntu and it's still humming along nicely.


Saw this over at slickdeals... http://slickdeals.net/f/6883520-dell-poweredge-t20-intel-has...? ...Add some more RAM and it might work for you and save some $ to boot.

Perhaps try an HP N54L, less than $300 (with no drives, but can hold 4). It's a little boxy 'tower' with good build quality.


I have a few Dell servers from a previous startup that were racked for about a year, and been in storage since. I'm in San Francisco. Let me know if you're interested in anything, and we can figure out prices.

    Dell PowerEdge R415
      16GB memory
      (2x) Processor, 4180, 2.6, 6MB, Opteron *16 cores total*
      250GB 7200rpm Western Digital Drive

    Dell PowerEdge R210
      8GB memory
      Processor, X3450, 2.66/4.8, 8MB, Xeon Unitary Lynnfield, B1
      (2x) 250GB 7200rpm Western Digital Drives

    (2x) Dell rack rapid rails (slide out). Super nice.
I also have a Dell 24 port PowerConnect 2824 switch as well, specs at http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/powerconnect-2800/pd

What you need is white label hardware suppliers. In US, look at Supermicro, Silicon Mechanics, etc. I believe there a few others, a google search on white label server providers should yield you a few hits.

Also consider looking up on Alibaba and see if you can find a server manufacturer in China or Taiwan.

Given your lack of experience with hardware, I am not sure this is the business for you.

I have experience with more high-end systems, but my budget is small.

I'm using a Dell C6100, on recommendation from http://www.servethehome.com/ :


Serve The Home forums are going to be the right place to look for specific deals. http://forums.servethehome.com/index.php

The price of those servers have gone up unfortunately. I got one for dirt cheap when they first hit ebay. Also, those puppies are loud.

We used to OEM HP ProLiant DLs at my last gig. Great hardware. The new DL320e starts at $579 list, so will definitely fit within your price point:


If you plan to buy a few of these, definitely give their OEM / enterprise sales guys a call - they give very good discounts off list (based on volume, of course).

So - it depends a bit on your purpose - if you just need a linux box, with no particular performance constraing, a Raspberry Pi might do. For a bit more performance, ODroid is nice - see http://www.hardkernel.com/main/main.php. ~$200 at the high end. You can of course add some storage via USB. For a serious server machine - the above recommendations may be plausible.

At first i would suggest you buy a VPS ( http://virpus.com/ ) Begin with a VPS and not with your own physical servers. The competition is large and your investment might not pay off. With just one server you can handle 100 costumers at ease so start with a VPS and see how business will go and then buy your own servers.

Hope that helps. Let me know

I'll be host VPS's so it would be inefficient, thanks though.

You don't need your own hardware. There are literally thousands of colo server providers that will rent bare metal machines, you can put any virtualization tech you want on these. Lots of VPS providers run on say hertzner or similar.

Try Great Lakes Computers. they sell HP/Dell Blades and Rackmount. I have bought from them couple of times for 20-40% of the price of the new Server.


Some collocation facilities have their own servers you can pay a little more for usually around $100 to 120 a month with everything you need and root access to completely control the server.

I like dedicated servers even though the world is going to the cloud, a dedicated server gives you control over your costs.

I'm trying to start a hosting startup, and feel it would be out of the question to use a provider for my use-case.

For a hosting start up I would suggest getting a massive server and paying for it by an equipment lease. Personally I manage two racks full of servers and if I had a magic wand it would be awesome just to have one or two big servers. (64 gigs of ram, lots of 2.5 drives, 4 or 6 processors)

Right now co-location providers are desperate because Amazon and others are taking away a lot of their business so you can get a good price.

I have a friend (manages his own servers) who has a hosting business and he brings in enough to be happy, about $10k a month. He hosts ASP and .NET sites with no marketing budget he just posts to various forums and website hosting comparison sites.

I really like Supermicro servers and Dell Servers.... Supermicro makes some really big servers that you can add your own components to and I find them very reliable. For a friend some years ago I put together a $24k server and they paid for it with a business lease through Bank of America.

I used to own the domain ehosting.com and tried doing hosting but it just isn't my thing. Getting everything to work for a people was far more work then I expected. If I were to try again I would just offer virtualized servers and not have any hand in customers setups.

Having a specialty in hosting I believe is important. For example for $14.95 a month from GoDaddy I have an account with unlimited space and unlimited domains. I have hosted about 30 domains and 24 gigs of files all for $14.95. I also have a virtualized server from GoDaddy for $39.95 a month which I use a coupon code and save about 20% off a month.

Thanks, but I prefer small, cheap 1U's because this first server is just a test run/demo, and also because it's easier to scale.

"A hosting company" is a vague thing to want to setup, at the low-end you can have a single rack with random boxes in it.

But to scale you need to consider running an AS, peering, redundant feeds, PSUs, having remote access to reimage machines, etc, etc.

So rather than saying you want to be a host you'd get better response0s if you said what kind of hosting person you want to be? Random wordpress? Giving remote root on virtual machines? (Whats your antispam policy? How will you monitor incoming/outgoing bandwidth? What kind of routers will you use? What network topology to increase uptime? How many geographical locations?)

Lots of people started hosting companies back in the day by filling racks with servers, before power costs made it hard, and these days reselling AWS, etc, is the simplest way to start - no need to worry about infrastructure, and still reasonably reliable.

It's great if you want to start out with an inexpensive server but it is harder to scale with 1u servers. You can't fill a whole rack with them because of the electricity requirements, there are more servers to fail, more servers to keep updated, just a real pain in the hind end.

A nice option, thanks!

Welcome. Never had any issues with their gear.

Can you also post at http://www.webhostingtalk.com/, almost every major host and independent resellers/hosts are there and few years back I was able to find excellent server for just $90


It is a French company. I worked with them when I was in France and it was awesome.

They recently opened a datacenter in canada and they are the cheapest hosting company I've ever seen.

I currently have 10 physical servers there and I have had no problems so far, except maybe their crappy user interface...

I've got (2) 1U Tyan B2881G28U4H servers with Dual Opteron 270 processors, ram, and 15k scsi drives.

I shot you an email to see if you're interested. Bought these a while back and they've been sitting in a closet ;(


This depends completely on what you're trying to do. Does it need to be rackmountable? How many sockets? How many drive bays? For under-a-desk usage (eg, somewhat quiet)?

Sub-question for everyone: on some of the links people posted there were great deals, but the server's had DDR2 RAM, would performance be decreased significantly?

This benchmark [1] shows little difference between DDR2 and DDR3 running on enthusiast hardware. DDR3 runs at a lower voltage which is supposed to result in some power savings, especially critical in most server applications, but their benchmark showed little difference in power consumption as well. Multiply the difference out by typical server memory configurations and it might be more significant.


I mean absolutely no offense but I would seriously recnsider your plans and do a LOT more market research before you start buying hardware. I've been in the hosting industry for nearly a decade and have seen hundreds of hosts fail because they went down the same path you're walking.

ebay. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p2047675.m570.l2632.R... look for sunfire x4600 stuff. Very standard with lots of upgradability and headroom.

Hmm...This post just disappeared from the front page and the ask section, any ideas why?


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