[SATLUG] AustinLUG - Presentation April 24 7:30pm: experience with custom 1U Xen Linux servers

Stephen Gutknecht (RoundSparrow) stephen at roundsparrow.com
Tue Apr 22 13:37:44 CDT 2008

I sometimes forget that you don't have to show the latest and greatest to be
a useful and productive presentation!   Presentations can be about "how did
it work out 18 months later?"  So, in the spirit of 'more organized'
presentations for the Austin LUG, I'm doing a presentation myself!

Sitting behind me collecting dust is a spare server I have on hand to cover
3 remote co-location sites I run in different states for geographic and ISP
diversity.  I'm a believer in commodity level inexpensive hardware with
total redundancy.  I also value the experience and learning - sometimes I
consider 'doing it yourself' as strategic R&D to see what the state of the
industry is - not just to get the quickest and simplest solution.

This is the 4th style of server I've used for remote co-location since
2001.  Prior generation I went with pre-assembled Tyan servers, but in late
2006 I decided to built our own again.  That is the topic of the
presentation, the late-2006 servers that have I have now had in service for
18 months.

"experience with custom budget 1u Xen Linux servers - 18 months later"

-- Inexpensive.  SATA over SCSI, commodity DDR2 RAM (not FB), desktop CPU
-- our first experience with remote motherboard management and IPMI solution
-- Small size and weight.  Our goal was to have a server we could ship via
UPS or Fedex overnight to a co-location center for under $120.
-- We used a 14" case, crammed 2 desktop hard drives, 8gb of RAM, quadcore
-- The "RAM sweet point" - 8GB of RAM at the time in late-2006 / early
2006.  We wanted to be able to take advantage of Xen and we often run
databases where more RAM is preference over fast hard drives.
-- Have a total of 7 of these systems in production, some have been in
service for 18 months, some only 6 months.
-- Wounds, mistakes, bad experiences, compromises
-- Ideals that give a piece of mind that don't really get used (the
inexpensive shipping).
-- The time factor, we had software jobs to do and often the partially
assembled servers sat for months - but gave us piece of mind that if
existing servers were there - we could finish them out and ship them in a
-- We used Supermicro motherboards built around an Intel chipset.  Most had
2 on-board gigabit network adapters (model PDSMI+) and we also had one with
quad onboard gigabit network adapters (model PDSMI-LN4+).  We run both Xen
Linux (Gentoo) and OpenBSD on these systems.  FYI, Dell often uses
Supermicro as an OEM provider, but did not provide a model that fit our
physical desires.

I will bring one of the 14" 1u servers to the presentation and show the
inside and basic assembly issues.  I considered the whole assembly and
testing experience to similar to trying to do 'modest overclocking' - as the
temps of these systems and the confined case presented a number of testing
and assembly challenges.

Can someone please update the Austin LUG website?

  Stephen Gutknecht

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