What is a Server

In the IT World you hear the word SERVER but what does it mean and what does it do?

In the old days of Computing a Server was a Computer System that had all of the aspects of a typical Computer of today. It ran a Operating System, had RAM and Storage. A user would log in with a Terminal or Client to interact with the Server either by Serial or Parallel.

Much of the technology has changed over the years but the aspects are the same. A Server doesn’t have to be a huge cluster group of systems on a Rack and it doesn’t have to be a Commercial/Industrial System. A propose of a Server is a System that has it’s main system resources dedicated for a Task/Service or two. A lot of Systems are a Server but called different things such as a Router, it’s Task is to handle DHCP requests, Firewall, Traffic Shaping and such. A Server can be a power house of a System that has 12 Cores, 128GB of RAM and 10TB of Storage but at the same time a System with a ARM CPU with 512MB of RAM and 32GB of Storage can be a Server as well. It just depends on what you want/need for the Task.

You can’t use a Raspberry Pi as a VM Server but you can use it for HTTPd, SQL, Printing, E-Mail, NAS and much more. Some people for some silly reason has put together a Beowulf Cluster Server with a pile of Raspberry Pis.
Back in 1999 I had found a pile of IBM PC-330s on the curb side and brought them home. They all had Pentium CPUs running at 133MHz and 16MB of RAM. Sadly the hard drives were pulled but they all had Floppy Drives, 10/100 Ethernet Cards and I had a couple of random Hard Drives laying around and CD-ROM drives. I ended up using one of the Systems as a PXE server to load up a bare minimal Linux distro that took up 4MB of RAM for a RAM-Disk and had another System as a NAS like setup for all of the Nodes to connect to for the The Master Node was a system I slapped together with a 166MHz CPU, 64MB RAM and a 6.4GB Hard Drive. The whole thing was buggy as hell and slow because it required the Network for just about everything. I was using a 16port Switch that was only 10Base-T. Now this was back when PCs were just hitting the 500MHz/600MHz mark but single core. I had eight Nodes so it was eight cores. Maybe sometime I’ll toss a mini Cluster together for fun.
Now in 2020 I have a old Dell PowerEdge that dwarfs that Cluster Server I built back in 1999.

Anyway, went off track there.

A Server can also run from a Client. As in a typical System can do hosting of a Service such as FTP, Printing, DHCP, and so on. Something that doesn’t consume a lot of resources and can run in the background. In most ways a Server is pointless on a lot of Services since a typical modern Computer has the resources to handle Server/Client tasks just fine.


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