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How Do I Put Unused Servers To Work? 302

olyar writes "I worked for an internet start-up last year and during the 'we have plenty of money' phase, a lot of server hardware was purchased. Eight months later, there is very little money, but we're still plugging along — using only a fraction of the hardware. We just cleared out a co-lo and I now have a stack of 17, 1U servers in my garage. Each of those has 2 servers, each of which is a 2-processor, dual-core box with 8 GB of RAM. Add that up and I have 136 processors and 272 GB of RAM with nothing to do. The IT guy in me thinks that's a waste of FLOPS. The wanna-be businessman in me thinks its probably a waste of money as well. So I've been brainstorming ways to put all of that power to good use. Any ideas?"
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How Do I Put Unused Servers To Work?

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:03AM (#26886485) Journal

    The IT guy in me thinks that's a waste of FLOPS.

    The wanna-be businessman in me thinks its probably a waste of money as well.

    You look like you're in a position to use virtualization to create X application servers over Y machine servers ... but you'd need all the IT staff and customer support, etc. to get that going. It's too bad you can't sell your CPUs to Amazon for their cloud computing since it's all pretty much anonymous but I guess either way I think about it you would need a pretty hefty internet connection.

    Have you thought about just selling the servers?

    • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:05AM (#26886515)

      Yeah was thinking the same, smartest thing to do is sell it, way too much hassle to try and compete with existing services.

      • by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ytinulatigid}> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:42AM (#26887163) Homepage

        I wouldn't sell the equipment. If you have a colo you already do business with and a lot of extra server hardware, try subleasing it to someone you think might need some extra server capacity.

        Sure, it's a lot of work to find customers, but with that much hardware sitting around you have a lot to offer.

        • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:30PM (#26889331) Journal

          Regardless of what you do as far as utilizing the servers, call your insurance agent straightaway and make sure that equipment is insured! Business property is very unlikely to be covered by your homeowner's policy so theft/fire/whatever could leave you financially exposed (or even liable, should the investors choose to come after you for reparations).

        • Seconded on the colo idea - set up 20 of your boxes in a leased rack and try to offer them as xen virt servers, then add in more hardware as you fill up the existing capacity.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Only then you have to find the time to set up management and billing systems etc, and then offer on-going decent end-user support. It sounds like that's not related to the original business plan in any way, and so the staff skillset is likely to have a few gaps.

            For a business that's low on money, it seems absurd to spend even more money to get into a market that's already saturated with well-established competitors who are better at what they do than you will be.

            Frankly the only thing that makes sense is to

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

          Set up an account at Seti or Folding with your companies name and start cranking stuff out. Move up the list and the team gets free advertising.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by darkpixel2k ( 623900 )

          I wouldn't sell the equipment. If you have a colo you already do business with and a lot of extra server hardware, try subleasing it to someone you think might need some extra server capacity.

          Sure, it's a lot of work to find customers, but with that much hardware sitting around you have a lot to offer.

          I was going to suggest the same thing. I rent a few servers from my favorite colo provider. I just keep paying them $60 per server until the end of time and they make sure the hardware works and I have connectivity. You could probably make a decent amount off renting them--or at least a better amount than the $0 you'd be earning with them in your garage. The downside is if you suddenly need them back. You'd have to give the customers fair warning to get their stuff moved to a new machine.

    • by David E. Smith ( 4570 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:08AM (#26886569)

      It takes a decent amount of electricity to run that much hardware. That may not be the kind of "donation" the OP had in mind - donating to the local power utility.

      • by KibibyteBrain ( 1455987 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:16AM (#26886693)
        Even if he tried to do something profitable using them, between paying for power and bandwidth to operate them, it would have to be a real business model to even expect to break even in the modern economy of cheap professional server hosts. If there is a local university by you, I'd advertise trying to donate it to a local college or University with engineering/computer science programs. Often students just need academic clusters for the experience of parallel programming problems, and of course it could even help in minor actually useful research. And I'm sure they could help you work out a way to get some sort of tax recognition for the donation.
        • I collect older server hardware, and use it to play with at home. I've got a sunfire 280R awhile back, for like $70 shipped. I ordered some used harddrives for it,and after finding the dvd drive didn't work, I learned how to jumpstart it from a linux box to install Solaris. I'm currently about to figure how to get it running with a T3 raid array I got for about $80. I have a home business cox cable isp account...and figure why not play with doing some local hosting for people. I don't figure I'll make a ton
          • by Limecron ( 206141 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:41PM (#26895019)

            Not to burst your bubble on this, but the chances that you'll even come close to breaking even are highly unlikely.

            First off, even if you're only running 500watts in servers, which is not more than 2 decent ones under moderate load, you are paying about $450/yr to keep them on 24/7. Assuming you're lucky enough to get power as cheap as $0.10/kWhr.

            Unless you have some source of customers, i.e. you are a web-developer, or have lot of friends who want a sub-par web host, you'll need to advertise. The hosting market is incredibly saturated and Adwords on hosting keywords is very expensive. Expect to spend a few thousand per month for a few months to recruit your initial 100 users.

            Once you've got 100, you can probably turn it down to a few hundred per month to keep to user count flat to make up for those you lose in turn over.

            This also assumes that with that advertising you are actually able to sucker some users to pay $10/mo for static hosting on your cable modem, while they can get it for free from a number of providers like Google, or pay what amounts to a few bucks a month for hosting with an SLA, a real support staff and some level of redundancy and backup. There are a lot of suckers in the world, so we'll assume this is possible.

            Now, after you factor in the time you spend answering inane support e-mails from your customers, you'll see it's probably more profitable to get a second job at McDonald's. If only flipping burgers was as much fun as playing with servers. ;)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        So, donate them to a charitable organization that can use them. My wife and I sit on the board of directors of two such organizations that would use them as webservers in a co-lo. Contact me for full details.

        • On that note I've got an IBM eServer 325 which I bought and will probably never use. I guess I could just donate it, since nobody seems to want to buy it. I don't want to ship it though, so if anyone could find me a charity in Lake County, California which could use it, I'll likely just go drop it off. Barring that, if someone in the area wants to pay me to implement it for them, they can have it for free. It's got 2GB RAM and an AMI MegaRAID Elite 1500, plus a 120GB EIDE disk.

          • Freecycle (Score:3, Informative)

            by falconwolf ( 725481 )

            On that note I've got an IBM eServer 325 which I bought and will probably never use. I guess I could just donate it, since nobody seems to want to buy it.

            Have you tried Freecycle []?


      • Heating? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Mr2cents ( 323101 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @02:16PM (#26890207)

        It takes a decent amount of electricity to run that much hardware.

        A 2KW setup of machines (all crunching numbers) could heat up a room as efficiently as a 2KW electric heater, so why not use it in this way? You could even make a climate control that starts/stops @Home-processes to get a constant room temperature. Sounds fun (and a bit nerdish).

        • Sure, if you're heating your house with electricity anyway, might as well have the stuff doing some computation for you, at least in the winter. Obviously it's different in the summer...

          With all the churn of the last few years of oil prices, I don't know how electric heat compares to oil or gas heat (my last data point was 15 years ago, when heating my all-electric high-ceilinged condo in Silicon Valley at California's "regulated" electricity prices cost more than oil heat for my moderately-well-insulated

    • by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:10AM (#26886611) Homepage Journal

      Have you thought about just selling the servers?

      Just leave the garage door open for a few hours one night, and the problem will probably take care of itself. :)

    • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:39AM (#26887079) Homepage

      Have you thought about just selling the servers?

      Let's say the 17 U1 servers cost 2,500 each. And let's say that selling them now would gain 1,250 each. That's 21,250 dollars available there.

      Now let's say that Moore's Law continues to hold. And that you need the additional capacity when the economy makes a miraculous turnaround in 2 years. By that time, it should cost you less than 21,250 to get the same capacity back. And you would be doing it in half of the number of servers, which implies a space and power savings.

      In that case, it is downright advantageous to sell now, buy back later. It all depends upon when you think you will need the capacity again. Too soon, and you will pay through the nose for selling. Too far away, and not selling now saddles you with old hardware.

      Other options ---

      If you're set on keeping them, I see only a few other options. One would be to see if any established small-to-medium sized businesses would like to lease the capacity of your servers. Perhaps those companies who sell time on private servers on video games could use them when the next one releases. Web hosting is probably a bust, but I wouldn't be surprised if a local university would be interested in leasing the iron for better rates than your garage pays. There is also and other cloud computing projects, but it doesn't seem like they're paying out at all.

      • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

        Not only that, but while physical hardware depreciates in value, money can appreciate in value.

        Assuming values are in Canadian dollars (I know they're not, but just assume), and you stick them into a 2-year GIC (3% interest, ING Direct).

        That nets you $22,544 after those two years, a $1,294 earnings. And with the current recession, that's almost certainly going to be way higher than inflation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hedwards ( 940851 )

          That's not true. Well, it would be if the inflation rate were really that low. The problem is that what you're referring to as inflation is really an increase in the price of a section of commodities.

          The real inflation rate is based entirely upon the rate at which the local country prints money. Right now that rate is way, way over 3%, nobody really knows what it is because the US stopped keeping track of the money supply, but it's going to be quite high.

  • Torrents (Score:3, Funny)

    by neoform ( 551705 ) <> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:04AM (#26886507) Homepage

    Lots and lots of torrents from the empornium.

  • Self-employment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by David E. Smith ( 4570 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:06AM (#26886539)

    Start competing with your employer. If they can afford to do whatever it is they do, and still just give away thousands of dollars in gear, there's obviously room for improvement.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I heard a similar story at one company I worked at. An IT manager ran an ISP off the spare capacity of the server farm and bandwidth for years before someone in higher management ordered an audit. Needless to say, he ran south to the border (no, it wasn't Taco Bell).
    • Re:Self-employment (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @02:19PM (#26890281) Journal

      Twenty thousand dollars investment in a startup on overpurchased server equipment isn't all that bad. You should figure that a company with a dozen people should be pulling about a $million/year gross, against which $20,000 to ensure sufficient delivery capacity is a pretty wise investment.

      I figure that having at least 100%-200% additional capacity on-hand at all times is a good idea - computing power is relatively cheap, while the cost of downtime can be astonishingly high. Personally, I start upgrades when load averages approach 50% at the highest usage part of the day. (For me, about 10:00 AM)

      That said, if the servers really aren't needed, every day they lose value. Put 'em up on Ebay and get what you can for them before they depreciate any further. Space them a few hours apart over a week or so, so that you don't depress their sale price.

  • Donate them. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:08AM (#26886571) Homepage Journal

    Donate them to Pirate Bay. If nothing else, it will help them with the streaming video for their trial. :)
    Or, you could run Crysis in software rendering mode.
    Or rent it out to spammers, crackers, etc.

    Seriously, could probably rent out time on it to researchers for less than most supercomputer time costs. Especially since the hardware costs you nothing. All you have to pay for is power. Figure out how much it uses running full tilt, double or triple that cost, install Linux on the thing, and rent out CPU time.

    Maybe you could even be part of the next big breakthrough in security research.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by allenofmn ( 1480127 )
      Or better yet donate them to someone who really needs them. I am a sys admin at a university chapter of the association of computing machinery. We recently suffered a tragic loss of several of our servers. Being an NPO, a donation would be tax deductible.
  • Liquidate... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ghostis ( 165022 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:08AM (#26886581) Homepage

    If you don't have an immediate use, liquidate them while they still have value. IME, they will cost you hundreds to recycle later :-/... OTOH, they are a sunk cost to the business, so hanging on to them could be useful - if you think the business will need to scale up again at some point.


    • Good advice. Few things depreciate in value faster than computers, and eventually their value will be negative - using them for anything won't be cost-effective and disposing of them or storing them will cost money. Sell them now and buy equivalent ones back in six months if you need them and you will make a profit.

      If they are sitting in your garage, they probably can't easily be turned into a profitable service. The only market would be organisations that want a big chunk of computing power periodical

      • Re:Liquidate... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @12:04PM (#26887631)

        I'd argue he should sell 16 and keep one for himself. While computers do rapidly depreciate in value, having a high-end server for home use can be nifty (so long as you keep it someplace where the noise won't bother you).

        • (so long as you keep it someplace where the noise won't bother you).

          Or modify it to run quieter.

          Dynamic fan speed controls, fitting better fans (i.e. quieter but similar air-flow), better cpu / north-bridge coolers (that can cool the cpu sufficiently at its full load while still being quieter than the originals), etc.

          It did wonders for my old twin Athlon-MP file-server. A few years ago I was short on space and so I kept it in my bedroom, and I got it quiet enough to sleep with it still on. Now it's under my desk (opposite side to my actual pc), and I'm still glad I quietene

    • "If you don't have an immediate use, liquidate them while they still have value. IME, they will cost you hundreds to recycle later :-/.."

      Recycle? Where do you live? We just throw them in the trash and let the garbage men haul them away, like anything else....

      • uhm, whut? It's somewhat trivial to recycle PC equipment. Following your first port of call [], there are a number [] of [] schemes [] that will take those PC's for you. For components that are entirely defunct, the local council will take them off your hands and safely recycle the materials for you.

        Throwing IT junk in the trash is not the best solution....
        • "uhm, whut? It's somewhat trivial to recycle PC equipment. Following your first port of call, there are a number of schemes that will take those PC's for you. For components that are entirely defunct, the local council will take them off your hands and safely recycle the materials for you."

          Well, with big isn't worth it on eBay. Shipping ends up costing more than the product. The Freecycle thing looked interesting, but, when I went to the page for my area (NOLA) I had to go to some yahoo page an

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Chelloveck ( 14643 )

            When I throw out gear like that tho...It rarely makes it into the garbage truck. I put it out at night....usually on top of the trash pile...during the night, most of the time..someone comes by and takes it themselves.

            That's just raccoons. Nasty things, always getting into garbage cans...

  • Leaving them outside Home Depot at 7 a.m. with a hungry look on their face?

    Imagine a Beowulf cluster of 1U servers.....

    Can you donate them to schools?

    The @home projects are quite worthy

  • Sell them. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eevee ( 535658 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:09AM (#26886585)
    Somebody gets cheap hardware, your company gets more cash, the servers get used for something worthwhile...everyone wins.
  • Eucalyptus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by trveler ( 214816 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:10AM (#26886613)
    Set up a Eucalyptus [] installation and compete with Amazon. OK, not really, but you can have an EC2 workalike without the usage charges. Use this setup as a sandbox to test migrating your current IT infrastructure to AWS. When it all works, hit the switch and actually make the move to EC2. Then, sell your no-longer-used hardware. You just converted Capital Expenses into Operational Expenses.
  • Sell 'em .... really. You have no impending use for 'em, in a few years they won't be worth as much. Sell 'em and take the wife/girlfriend on a vacation, go on a vacation by yourself, pay extra towards your mortgage, credit card bills, etc.

  • by nightowl03d ( 882197 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:12AM (#26886645)
    Just install XP without any patches on them and hook them up to the internet without a firewall. I can assure you they will be fully utilized in short order.
  • I guess the first thing you should do is study Just In Time Inventory so you wouldn't be in that situation.

    However I would suggest that you use them to calculate business statistics for your company. Where are your costumers coming from and when are they leaving. What price ranges do they seem to like and dislike. BI is often better then intuition when solving business problems and some of that requires a lot of crunching.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:13AM (#26886659) Homepage

    I know I could probably make use of one of these boxes. It's a little stronger than the server I use now.

  • Some ideas; (Score:3, Interesting)

    by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:14AM (#26886671)

    For the IT guy:

    Start building clusters (great practice and fun). You can use the cluster many ways like a distcc 'box' (now you can compile Gentoo in less then a month!), or build a 'faster then real-time' video encoder/decoder.

    For the Business guy:

    Sell pre-made servers to local businesses. Using virtualization, create one image for 'basic domain/workgroup' that allows file & print sharing + email, and then it's simple to tweak the few config files per site.

    • I know you were being facetious, but I regularly set up new gentoo boxes (without X) in two or three hours. If you want $WindowManager, flip a few flags in USE, start up emerge, and leave it overnight. It will probably be done in the morning.

      There are some programs you're better off not compiling from source, however:

      heron@heron6400 ~ $ genlop -t openoffice
      * app-office/openoffice

      Sun Aug 31 19:48:13 2008 >>> app-office/openoffice-2.4.1

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      A MOSIX or Kerrighed cluster might very well be a worthwhile thing to set up. And one that size could look good on a resume. (If you regard each CPU as a node, you'd be responsible for configuring and administrating a 68-node high-performance system.)

      What would you run on such a cluster? Well, once you determine how fast it is, you can split the cluster into N virtual clusters, and rent out the compute cycles to smaller colleges, clubs and societies that need CPU power, and so on.

      Ok, you can only handle abo

  • If you're virtualizing, you can prepare your extra hardware to host more virtual machines. Even if they're turned off, you can have your infrastructure prepared for rapid expansion.

    You are virtualizing, right?

    Another thought, eBay.

  • by subreality ( 157447 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:19AM (#26886745)

    The IT guy in me thinks that's a waste of FLOPS

    It's not a waste of FLOPS. There are plenty of spare MIPS and FLOPS in the world - witness the amount that get donated to folding@home, seti@home, various cipher cracking contests, etc. While you too could donate to those causes, I'd suggest against it - it's one thing to donate niced cycles of a machine that otherwise has to be running, but it's a tremendous waste of power to spin up that many boxes just to hand out cycles.

    Recognize those servers for what they are - a waste of *money*. You sunk too much cash into a resource (and that's fine, no business has perfect foresight, and you had to anticipate potential needs). Now liquidate them and get your money out so you can spend it on something better than depreciation. If it turns out you need them in a year, I assure you you can buy servers for less $/FLOP from the liquidators at that time.

  • University (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jmknsd ( 1184359 )

    Donate it to a local university.
    Or failing that, donate it to my university.
    who knows, the tax writeoff might leave you better off then the cost of electricity to do something with it?

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

      Would the tax writeoff really be more than simply selling the hardware outright?

      • As long as the write-off isn't less, I don't see the problem here.
        • Usually tax write-offs for donations of physical goods are in the amount of the value of the goods (in this case, probably the amount that you could sell them for). Might be a little hard with rapidly depreciating stuff like computer hardware, though... but IANATA (I Am Not A Tax Accountant) so ask yours.

          • Usually tax write-offs for donations of physical goods are in the amount of the value of the goods (in this case, probably the amount that you could sell them for).

            That is my impression as well, although donating could turn out to be the better option.
            Car analogy: You might not be able to sell a car at the Kelly Blue Book value, but you might be able to get away with donating it and writing it off for that much.

  • ...and then email the login information to me.
  • One question... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aphrika ( 756248 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:24AM (#26886807)

    I now have a stack of 17, 1U servers in my garage

    Sorry, where do you live again? Seriously though, think of the power and cooling you're saving. In all honesty, sell them off to someone who can use the horsepower, and in return you get some hard to come by money. Simple.

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:24AM (#26886817)

    Ive worked in non-profit IT and servers is one thing they always needed. They dont really need more hands at soup kitchens, they need equipment and expertise. I bet your local food bank would love that stuff. I also bet their existing servers are a couple of old non-raid desktops moved to a closet. You can probably just call someone at Feeding America and they would dole out the servers to deserving foodbanks via their grants system.

    Also, if the businessman in you doesnt have a business plan then theyre just going to waste and will probably end up in a landfill. You might as well give them away to someone who needs them.

  • one crazy idea would be to set up a compile farm for Linux, BSD, etc. Only make them do ads on them.
  • Not a single "Finally run vista and play crysis" post to be found.
  • Suggestions :

    Porn Site (plenty of space/processor for video rendering) ( helps get some income for the company)
    Render Farm
    Torrent Server

    Use them for some hosting of local businesses and/or charities - again, helps get some income...

  • Sell them ASAP (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Evro ( 18923 ) *

    They don't appreciate in value. Virtualize the rest of your servers and sell the ones you free up from doing that too.

  • Scaling soon? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tod8688 ( 720002 )
    If you have the spare hardware, racks to mount it in, and the juice to run it, why not build a test environment? Just replicate work and scale it out. Do the things you wish you could do at work. Then when the time comes you already have the future expansion plan ready to go. It may suck to even think about "work" after you get home from your day job. But if you like taking on big projects, why not?
  • by OglinTatas ( 710589 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:42AM (#26887161)

    Fire the busboys and have the unused servers bus tables. The bottom line is that you ultimately have to increase patron traffic if you want your business to thrive. Have you considered businessman's lunch specials? Really hot hostesses? Maybe your cook sucks? Change your menu.

  • Don't sell... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cdpage ( 1172729 )
    Don't Sell. Unless you don't think you'll get the workload back for a very long time. You have a serious investment here... Have fun with it, and make it useful for the time being. Set it up to run any of the @home projects for now. Sell it all and loose your investment. Keep it, and you'll be set to keep your business flowing. I suggest Folding@home... seems to be the most worth while
    • I'm surprised it took this long for anybody to mention it. It depends how many the OP has over all, but you definitely want to have some excess capacity that can be brought online for those sudden unpredictable spikes in activity. Regular spikes should already be factored in.

      I suspect though that if the OP has enough servers to max out the bandwidth that some of the extras should be sold and use the money for bandwidth and related costs.

  • You sure that one didn't get up and walk from your garage into your computer room? :)
  • Do you have any large, heavy doors that need to be propped open?

  • Rainbow tables (Score:4, Interesting)

    by richrumble ( 988398 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:46AM (#26887253)
    Create rainbow tables and charge a small fee for access. If you target M$ Office passwords, specifically the password to open, 40-bit RC4, target the possible keys because there are less possible keys than are possible passwords. See Ophcrack office, Rainbow crack office and Elcomsoft AOPB.
  • to utilize these servers to make you money is opening up a spamming business, but you aren't that evil, right?

    • Spamming isn't evil, it's a triumph of free market enterprise in it's war against the standard of living and common American values.

  • Beowulf those servers.

    Sell the CPU time. You'd be able to afford the electricity and heat your home from the servers alone. Then you'd also be making extra money to cool it in the summer and probably go buy yourself some space in a datacenter after a few weeks ;-)

  • by tibman ( 623933 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:54AM (#26887413) Homepage

    It's the perfect time to adopt a mad scientist. Seriously, how cool would this be to a Neural Net researcher? I honestly think you should put an advert out saying "looking for researcher to utilize private cluster with 272gb ram and 136 procs".

  • Some of my servers that don't have much to do contribute to GIMPS []
  • It could possibly be the most lucrative income for your start-up for a little while, and it's way easier to implement then some of the other ideas presented here. All you need to purchase is a small block of IP addresses and a domain name. Assuming that you already have fast network hardware.

    Just don't recycle them. People in china are dying because of the hazardous materials in electronic devices.
  • Investigate viability of a 3D Render Farm business.

    People doing 3D work don't need this kind of iron to design and animate; they only need it for final render. Makes sense to rent time on it.

    There are business out there doing this now - don't know if anyone's made a success of it.

  • Sell ASAP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @12:22PM (#26888041) Journal

    Buying computers is a cost sink. You buy computers and amortize the cost of them over a few years. You ONLY buy computers because you need to do computing work.

    If you don't need the computing power, sell off 90% of them at a great price (maybe 20% below market value), RIGHT NOW. Holding onto depreciating assets with no return on them is no better than tossing money into a furnace.

    Keep a couple of 'em around for growth, spares, and new projects. Sell the rest, and when you need the computing power, buy something 'x' times faster for the same amount of money.

  • at least at my company, compiling things always takes forever. if you take a few of those systems (some to all) and cluster them together, you can construct a powerhouse cluster capable of compiling things significantly faster than anybody's laptop. give your engineering team (and your power users) shell access to the cluster and set it up to (cross-)compile for whatever laptops and servers you have and watch everybody become more productive.

    this can also be worked into good extra-curricular skill build

  • Host porn (Score:4, Funny)

    by chord.wav ( 599850 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:03PM (#26888825) Journal

    Porn ALWAYS pays.

  • You can probably get a tax break along with some good publicity (not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling that philanthropy gives you). ...

    "if only I had a beowulf cluster of those" will suddenly become more than a FP catchphrase.

  • Your local High School or college film/media/art department would love to have access to your render farm. Some programs which can take advantage of it include Blender, Art of Illusion, Hash, Bryce, Carrara etc

  • by nfsilkey ( 652484 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:16PM (#26889051) Homepage

    If you dont have a pressing need, why bother powering them up? Theres a reason $job pulled them from the colo. Im sure they are hungry heat-factories. Keep that green in your wallet when its time to pay the monthly power utility bill and just dont power them up.

    And if youre not going to spin them up, punt them to someone who needs/wants them while they still have some value before Moore renders them useless ...

  • Idle Servers? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Zerth ( 26112 )

    Make them wash dishes.

  • give them to me

  • I thought of this b/c wikileaks ( seems to be in dire need of money or servers right now. I am sure you can think of other non-profits that could use that kind of hardware (open source projects, maybe?). You don't seem to *need* the cash if you're asking this question on /., so maybe now is the time to do some good ;)

  • Although I like some of the previous answers, another option would be to provide your own virtual world (Ã la' Second Life) or join with one of those starting up: []

  • Either sell them, or donate them for a helluva tax deduction. In this economic climate, I doubt you'd be able to cobble together an effective business that would use the hardware (no offence), and having them sit in storage is an utter waste.
  • ... why not give them to somebody else who can use them? Why not sell them on Craigslist or eBay or, if you're in a really giving mood, give them away on a local freecycle group []? You could also donate them to some charitable cause that needs some computing power, then take the donation as a tax write-off... which it sounds like you might be needing down the road a bit.

  • Sell most off em off, but please donate a few to your favorite distro (Debian will gladly take some of those off your hands, the BSD's would love them too)
  • by Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <perry.matt54@[ ] ['yah' in gap]> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:18PM (#26892615)

    The MusicBrainz project [] could use them, and you get a tax write-off.

  • by chrysalis ( 50680 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:19PM (#26892635) Homepage

    Free operating systems like OpenBSD and DragonflyBSD continously need to compile their ports tree in order to make snapshots available for download and testing.
    Compiling the whole tree takes quite a long time, especially with piece of software like The currently can't build snapshots as often as they (and user) would like to.

    Some other projects like Drizzle and GCC are also looking for remote build machines for regression testing.

    Your unused servers can really help the open source community.

  • by HW_Hack ( 1031622 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:57AM (#26899275)

    Many school districts / schools are dying for any type of fairly recent technology - not some Pentium II or III crap or your old 20" CRT.

    Tech classes can use PCs or servers. Get this --- we are in a large (38000 students) district that is fairly well connected etc. --- yet the district only provides our entire high school (2000 students) with 20GB of server space. Of course we have 37 schools + offices so they are pushing a terabye of data.

    I'm building Linux servers out of clapped-out Pentium IV's and 160gb hard drives to augment student storage of large digital projects.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.