Setting up a miniature server farm with LUDICROUS SPEED network connections.

The joys of home networking, done the right way from the ground up

For many weeks now (and in the case of some components, more than a year), I have slowly amassed a variety of components and interests to put together once I had a place where I had free reign (or close) to modify and do projects.  Having befriended and worked extensively on this house with Whitney, the owner, I am pleased to report I got an email response along the lines of “no, go ahead and do that networking project Mike, I trust you’ll do a great job!”  The cause behind wanting to run network cable through the walls is manifold: 1) much faster connection speed (I ended up opting for Category 6 cable, which is ~double the speed of traditional networking cable); 2) much more stable connection (electrical storms of any sort combined with walls and bookshelves between my desktop and the router on a different floor means the signal is shaky at times); 3) it is FAR more secure to do networking across a physical connection; and 4) I have many planned upcoming projects, and costs are lower for wired products (as compared to wireless), so this is a wise investment.  With those four motivations and about 18 months of slow component-gathering and project-planning in hand, I took a trip up to Home Depot on Saturday, to grab network cable and the attendant gizmos.

The server farm, on its shelf

The fifth reason, unlisted above, is so I can establish a wired connection to a small scratch-built shelf of low-power, simple server computers in the basement.  First you shall see it, below, and then I have some short explanations:

Explanatory diagram (click for BIGGER)

Board components, labeled

So, above you can see how the components are laid out on the board.  As a brief reminder of previous allusions and posts (and in some cases, conversations with individual folks directly), you might want to know what the hell all of that is meant for!  Going from left to right in the photo, a brief explanation of each:

1) 5-port network switch – this little guy takes the Cat6 LUDICROUS SPEED network connectivity from the living room-to-hallway bridge on the first floor, and expands it to 4 other ports: one each for the three servers, detailed below, and then the fifth will provide connectivity over to the projector table area of the basement after a future weekend workday on this project.

2) Raspberry Pi #1 – the basic central monitor for my upcoming planned home security system (based on some of the wisdom from this fellow’s project); this build is pretty much the highest on my list, and will be documented in a future post here on this blog.

3) Raspberry Pi #2 – the swap-server, this RasPi will be intended for several different projects in the same emplacement.  One of the delightful things about the RasPi is that it functions a little bit like a Nintendo – you can take the SD card out like a game cartridge, swap in another one, and its an entirely different machine.  The first project is already planned as a private branch exchange (PBX, as they say), and I have found an excellent guide to getting that up and running.  Watch for this post in a month or two, if my timing estimate is correct.

4) Pogoplug v2 – I have a much older version (their current line is here), and will be using it as a very low-power webserver for the simple website I am going to set up and run (from a private wiki for class notes with my study friends, to being able to check home automation data online, and more, it will all be run through there, so I can keep it in-house, so to speak).

5) Finally, the 2×6 shelf has an attached surge protector to provide power to each of the machines, and then for organizational calm, I zip tied the cables to screws evenly spaced along the back of the shelf.  The damned thing is mounted in between ceiling rafters in the basement, so it isn’t like anyone can even  SEE a cable mess, but on principle, it needed to be done.

So although there will be more network cable-running in the near future (to the reptile enclosure, the projector table, my second floor bedroom, and possibly even the third floor), this was an initial installment to the project, but complex enough to be a project on its own – “installing and networking the server farm.”  Watch for future updates to the individual projects that live on the shelf pictured above.

Lots of projects already listed here, and a bunch more are in the works.  As someone who is a big proponent of the open source outlook, I am more than willing to share any/all of the code, designs/plans, and wisdom I can offer (if anyone is interested).  Thomas Jefferson put it in a pleasing and accurate way, I think: “He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me.”


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A quick walking tour of where the cable travels (easier than trying to draw a 3 dimensional diagram of how the cable goes through the house, I realized pretty quickly):


One response to “Setting up a miniature server farm with LUDICROUS SPEED network connections.

  1. Pingback: Networking, Round 2 – Finishing wiring, and hosting my own web server! | A Jaunt Around the World – New Haven, CT

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