Rethinking the server

So I’ve been thinking about servers a lot recently.  Mainly because I’ve since pulled out my bulky power hungry Dell Poweredge 1950 from my friend’s colocation.  I have to admit I’m slightly sad to see it go, but into the world of VPS’s it is for me.  At least for now.

Or is it?  So I’ve found other colocations that are cheaper than what I was paying but most have fairly restrictive rules.  Mainly around bandwidth and power.  I get these datacenters make their money on charging extra for those things, but what if I did constrain myself on bandwidth and power.  There is a deal I’m considering that is a 10mbit connection, 120 Watt maximum power for $25.50 a month.  It’s a great deal, no doubt.  However, there is no way I can get my Poweredge 1950 to run that efficiently (I checked).  The best I could muster by gong down to 1 power supply, 1 CPU, and a minimal amount of RAM is 175 watts at idle.  So clearly the 1950 is out.

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So why exactly is the 1950 so power hungry?  In short it’s all high end components (for the time it was built) with a fair amount of redundancy.  And you can of course still buy servers today that are basically the same but with newer faster parts.  Think about my 1950 pictured above,  I have two hard drives, a RAID card, two CPU’s and a bunch of RAM, and to top that off two power supplies.  The CPU’s themselves are 95W processors to boot.  So trying to make this thing sip power is pretty futile, because it was designed to be redundant, and always on.  And for some applications they need to be on all the time, but if your pinning all your hopes to one physical server you are stuck in the past.

Software and networks have gotten a lot smarter. So if I have an intelligent application that is load balanced or fault tolerant I can hedge my bets on multiple servers with single points of failure instead of just one.  Not only that I can use power efficient technologies that are available to me today.  So for 120 Watts of power I could have…

Twenty Raspberry Pi’s!

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Yes I could have 20 Raspberry Pi’s!  There are a handful of ARM based server solutions out there.  But alas they are ‘quote’ only pricing (cough).  So if you have to ask how much generally it is quite a lot.  However, I could buy 20 Raspberry pi’s and run that for 120 watts.  I will say the application needs to be well tailored to run on such small low end systems but the idea is very compelling there are a few people trying it out.  Instead of VPS systems for low usage customers, what if I had my own whole ARM based server. By the way if someone could please make a 1U server case with a power supply, and distribution for a bunch of Raspberry Pi’s that would be great.  I’d gladly pay a hundred bucks for some steel in the shape of a 1U server and some plastic clips to mount a bunch of Raspberry Pi’s.  And I guarantee you others would too.

Three Intel Next Generation (of) Computing Units

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With the Sandy Bridge and newer Intel microarchitectures there have been ‘desktop’ class CPU’s that are in the 35W TDP range.  This low amount of power isn’t really unheard of in the notebook family.  However, such a low TDP brings in some cool form factors.  Which Intel decided to sell something like this with their Next Generation of Computing (NUC) units.  These sip power at around 40 watts at load.  Not only that the performance of these units is impressive, at 2200 passmark or better range.  It’s also worth nothing that Gigabyte has their Brix which is basically the same idea but with a few more options.

Three Lenovo ThinkCenter M72E Tiny’s

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Before the NUC was sold to consumers Lenovo had their own spin on the ultra compact computer, with their ThinkCenter M72E Tiny and M92p Tiny computers.  These are basically the same hardware as the Intel NUC.  However, they do not rely upon SSD storage.  And there is a 2.5″ laptop hard drive inside this one.

All of these solutions I could run multiples of them inside of a 1U space for under 120 watts.  I know somebody is going to grip at me, that I’m classing ‘consumer’ level geral to run inside of a datacenter.  And my response is your absolutely right I do want consumer grade gear.  It’s not exactly unheard of, after all the Dell Poweredge R210 II I can configure with a ‘consumer’ grade Celeron processor.  If I can run more instances for the same power I’ll gladly take more systems and resources to make up for possible hardware failures.  As well as I can hear the dissenters that will bring up blade solutions.  But in the end blade solutions won’t work for me when I rent out 1U of space.  I’m not going to spend $20,000 on a blade enclosure, power supply, and a bunch of blades.  But I will spend $1500 on 3x computers, or even $1000 on 20 Raspberry Pi’s.  I really think the future is low power for small to medium sized datacenter consumers.

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 6th, 2013 at 11:37 pm and is filed under biz, Blogging. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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