New Homeserver (Second Try)

Well, the first article in english raised my hitrate by factor 5, and more comments and emails from my readers reached me. So here’s the second one. German translation available on request.

Already mentioned in my article about the Sun Ray Server on Open Solaris, I’m building a new homeserver. BTW, this will free an Intel Atom 330 board that was planed to power „Blackböxchen 2“ (The two dots above the „o“ are mandatory and will not be removed in the english translation. It’s german and means „little blackbox 2“). The Atom is a very good platform to do fileserver services, DNS, MySQL and other services for my home network. But starting with desktop virtualisation and Sun Ray server, I led this little chip to its limits.

Of course, the requirements for the homeserver are now a bit more challanging than only „do the fileserver“:

  • Sun Ray Server for 2-3 Sun Rays
  • Virtualisation Server for several containers running webservers and other test environments
  • Virtualisation Server for several virtual boxes running Desktop OSes delivered to the Sun Rays
  • Fileserver (well, of course)

Open Solaris with ZFS for data protection, and ECC for even more data protection (to cite my colleague Constantin Gonzales: „I want the data protected before the ZFS checksum is calculated“).

Quite fast was the decision to take a AMD processor. Since Opteron and the Athlon/Phenom series share quite a lot of core design, all Athlon/Phenom memory controllers are ECC capable. First I was considering an AMD Phenom II X4 architecture, but these processors are still quite expensive and even the energy efficient variants are consuming up to 65 Watts. And – 4 cores are not necessarly needed for my environment. So I had a look at the (older) Athlon X2 4850e, an 2.5 GHz dual core processor. On the first view, this processor has sufficient power for my purposes, and there are quite a few more AMD Athlon  AM2+ processors in their pipeline, if more power is needed. On the second view, AMD announced the Athlon II X2 240e a few days ago, so there will be a CPU update soon.

The second important part to use ECC memory is the mainboard. Most boards are not capable because of BIOS restrictions of the manufactrures.  As said the memory controller in the CPU itself is capable! So the search for an ECC capable board became the most challenging part of the hole projects: Thanks to highly educated translators often the ECC capability of a mainboard disappears somewhere between the original version and the English or german translation of the spec-sheet. Unfortunately, I can’t speak chinese, so I had to look for those boards whose spec-sheets had at least survived the translation into English. One of these boards was the Asus M3A78-CM. On top, this board uses the long term supportet AMD 780V chipset and has more than enough SATA and USB ports.

The board is nothing spectacular, it’s quite particular in terms of memory compatibility, and not all of it’s USB ports are willing to boot – and they don’t like every USB stick. But after a firmware upgrade I was able to use the USB port direct under the ethernet port to boot.

(Well, up to this point my home server looks quite similar to Constantins server.)

To house my servers (I’ve got more than one!), I have a small selfmade sound-damping 19“ rack. So the new server also needed a 19“ case. I decided to take a 3HE case, having enough space for a silent CPU cooler and 4 hard disk frames:

  • The case is a Genesys Rack E301B+E with a build in thermometer – it’s nice to see the temperature in the case .
  • The CPU cooler is a Scythe Shruiken – a only 64mm high cooler with a 120mm fan. It’s rotating very slow and you can’t hear it.
  • The disk frames are ICY BOX IB 168-SK-B, I like this trayless frames to replace disks without tools.

Now, the new server is online since last weekend. It’s providing everything we need, and the VM for the Sun Ray is now fast enough.

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