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budget fileserver, low power usage

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July 7, 2008 1:02:33 PM

I'm trying to build a small home server, "as green" and efficient as possible.

I want to use it as a file server (samba/sftp), media server (streaming mp3/family pictures), java application server (Apache tomcat for personal use only). The OS will be a Linux variant (probably Ubuntu server or Centos).

System specs:

Motherboard Asus P5K SE/EPU
2x 1gb DDR2
Intel Celeron E1400
NVidia PCIe 6200LE
1x Maxtor 320GB (system disc)
3x Western Digital 500GB (RE2-GP) (linux full software raid 5)
Be-Quiet 500W PSU


I have 3 questions:

1. will the Celeron cpu work in combination with the Asus motherboard?

2. is the cpu fast enough to handle the raid 5 parity calculations when the system is connected to a 1gb Ethernet?

3. instead of a 500W, will a 400W PSU also be good enough running the system under full load?
Keep in mind here that in the future:
- I'll add a hardware raid controller (Adaptec 5405) with 3x 1TB discs attached (replacing the 3x 500gb's)
- possibly upgrade the cpu to an E8200 for example


Thanks a lot for the help!
July 8, 2008 1:45:39 PM

1. Why not? Make sure the cpu is supported.

3. Quantity doesn't equal quality. Go with a quality psu like Corsair. If it were me, I'd spend more on the psu. A Seasonic or even PCP&C.
July 8, 2008 2:40:20 PM

1. Check if the proc is on the supported proc list.
2. I have never built a server using celeron before. I have built only 5 servers but with low end Xeons and Opterons. I can't help you there mate.
3. Invest a better PSU mate! especially if you are planning to put your server 24 Hrs online. Get Corsair, Tagan, Enermax, Antec, or Silverstone.
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July 8, 2008 8:29:47 PM

1827944,1,337679 said:
I'm trying to build a small home server, "as green" and efficient as possible.

I want to use it as a file server (samba/sftp), media server (streaming mp3/family pictures), java application server (Apache tomcat for personal use only). The OS will be a Linux variant (probably Ubuntu server or Centos).

System specs:

Motherboard Asus P5K SE/EPU
2x 1gb DDR2
Intel Celeron E1400
NVidia PCIe 6200LE
1x Maxtor 320GB (system disc)
3x Western Digital 500GB (RE2-GP) (linux full software raid 5)
Be-Quiet 500W PSU


I have 3 questions:

1. will the Celeron cpu work in combination with the Asus motherboard?

Most likely, although you will need to check the compatibility pages on ASUS's site.

Quote:
2. is the cpu fast enough to handle the raid 5 parity calculations when the system is connected to a 1gb Ethernet?


An original Pentium is more than fast enough to calculate 125 MB/sec worth of RAID 5 parity calculations. My 3-year-old X2 4200+ system can handle ~7100 MB/sec of xor calculations/second and md_raid5 is only a single-threaded process. Your Celeron is more than sufficient.

Quote:
3. instead of a 500W, will a 400W PSU also be good enough running the system under full load?


A 300 W power supply is more than enough. A Celeron E1400, a small GPU, and a few hard drives wouldn't even tax that 300 W PSU but you generally cannot buy anything smaller than 300 W.

Quote:
Keep in mind here that in the future:
- I'll add a hardware raid controller (Adaptec 5405) with 3x 1TB discs attached (replacing the 3x 500gb's)
- possibly upgrade the cpu to an E8200 for example


Thanks a lot for the help!


Why would you need to upgrade the CPU to an E8200? A file server needs very, very little processing power and I'd recommend a Celeron 400-series single-core over the E1400 as it consumes about half of the energy and is more than enough power for a file server. I'd also dump the GPU if possible as an IGP is more than enough for a file server, if you don't straight off run it headless. Also, Linux md runs faster than hardware RAID cards in most cases, so just get some inexpensive "software" RAID cards with good SATA controller chips such as HighPoint's RR2300 series to use in md RAID. You don't really want to use the motherboard's onboard SATA ports for RAID 5 as the onboard disk controllers tend to bottleneck under relatively little I/O.
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July 9, 2008 9:08:43 PM

Thanks for the replies, they are of great value to me!

I have 1 more question regarding the Highpoint RocketRaid 2300 (or any other software raid card).

What happens if the Highpoint card dies?

- Must I replace it with the exact same card,
- or can I use any other software raid card with md raid,
- or can I even connect the raid 5 sata drives to the motherboard's sata connectors and use md raid?

Thanks!
July 10, 2008 12:41:49 AM

Good PSU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You could easily buy a motherboard with RAID 5

Intel Motherboards:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

AMD Motherboard:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

I'd think the AMD better as there are integrated graphics which are more power efficient... (I recommend Geforce 8200 based motherboards)

If your going AMD look at this too:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...
July 10, 2008 12:39:46 PM

Repost your last question in storage forum.
July 10, 2008 2:49:01 PM

joklaps said:
Thanks for the replies, they are of great value to me!

I have 1 more question regarding the Highpoint RocketRaid 2300 (or any other software raid card).

What happens if the Highpoint card dies?


That depends on how you have the array set up.

Quote:
- Must I replace it with the exact same card,


If you have used HighPoint's pre-OS-boot BIOS hook setup utility, you will have to use another 23xx card to recover your data, just like any other RAID controller card (hardware RAID controller cards included.)

If you did NOT use HighPoint's setup tools and used md to set up the RAID while *in* Linux, you can replace a dead card with any other card. The point of getting a software RAID card and then running md RAID is to use the card's fast disk controller on a high-bandwidth PCIe bus to get around southbridge (onboard) SATA controller bottlenecks without paying any more than you have to (as opposed to using a hardware RAID card in this manner.)

Quote:
- or can I use any other software raid card with md raid,


Yes, as long as you do not initialize the RAID with that card's setup tools and just let md take care of it. Any card or device that lets you see disks as /dev/sd* or /dev/hd* devices will work with md.

Quote:
- or can I even connect the raid 5 sata drives to the motherboard's sata connectors and use md raid?


You can as long as you have at least 4 onboard SATA ports. However, many onboard SATA controllers cannot handle very much I/O and you will get very crappy RAID 5 performance in most cases. Intel's ICH-R southbridges are the best of the bunch here but you'll see bottlenecking with any more than 3 HDDs. Forget about running RAID 5 on an AMD SB600 or any NVIDIA southbridge (not sure about AMD SB700) if performance is any matter to you as they top out at about 100 MB/sec reads and 20-50 MB/sec writes.
July 12, 2008 3:52:27 PM

I've a few comments on your plan, based on my own experience of building a similar system (low power, file server, mp3 server (slimserver), ubuntu). You can see we're on the same wavelength. In my case, I wanted to reuse as much of what I had lying around as possible (processor, motherboard, 60GB HDD, PSU). The resulting system is:

AMD Duron 700MHz processor, on the cheapest board I could find to house it, a PCChips M811 Skt A.
Maxtor 60GB ATA (system disk)
2 x Samsung 320GB SATA, housed in an IcyDock MB235SPF RAID enclosure, connected via an unbranded PCI SATA card.
Nexus "Real Silent" 350W PSU

I give you this is so you can put my comments into perspective:

Low power?
Your 500W PSU doesn't suggest a low power solution - I suggest you do some calculations to estimate the running costs. My system draws a steady 160W, which I'm not happy with. For me the cost of electricty makes this unacceptable - around 100 UK pounds, 200 USD per year to run, and it's only going to get more expensive. So I'm having a rethink. The desire to save money by reusing stuff I already had may not in the long run be the best idea. I would like to cut the power used by 1/2 or even more. I've seen claims of systems that use just 10W (check out the NSLU2 for interest).

Use power management to the full
The vast majority of the time the data HDDs will be idle, so ACPI should be allowed to power them down or you're wasting energy and money. My choice of SATA drives was a deliberate future-proofing decision even though the motherboard does not support them. It meant that I had to buy a PCI SATA card (the data transfer rate is limited by PCI, but good enough for this application). The problem is that it doesn't seem to be any power management for the HDDs, so the they are always on. Again, what seemed a saving with the old motherboard now doesn't seem such a good idea. But a new motherboard also means a new processor, memory...

RAID - do you need it?
I originally thought that RAID was what I wanted, hence the RAID enclosure (although you don't have to use it in a RAID configuration, it's just a convenient way to house multiple HDDs that you want easy access to). When I thought about it some more, I realized that RAID really wasn't necessary. RAID simply guards against HDD failure, which in reality is rare. I've worked in the computer industry for decades - I had my first IBM PC in 1981 and have countless computers since then - and have never suffered an HDD failure. RAID is useful if your data is critical and you can't afford to lose anything between backups. And that's the point, RAID is not a backup solution. RAID will faithfully record the mistaken file modification or deletion just as any other disk will. You still need a backup strategy for RAID disks. The good thing is that a backup *does* provide a lot of protection against an HDD failure.

So now I just use one of my SATA HDDs as shared data. The other is just a backup drive. The data drive is replicated to it using RSYNC driven by a cron task. Frequency of backup depends on how static the data is - mine is relatively static, so I have it set to once a week. But this could be changed to daily if needed. Since the backup process is automatic, it's easy.

To complete the backup strategy, I intend to get another backup HDD so I can have an offsite backup (you never know when that 747 will strike..). It's easy to replace the drives in the IcyDock enclosure, so I can alternate the backup HDD. RSYNC will always bring the current backup HDD up-to-date.

Also, don't forget that all the drives in your RAID array will need power when in use - obvious, but it's all cost. My approach only has the one data HDD active, the backup drive is almost never used (assuming power management of course!!).

I hope this is useful.

Chris


October 30, 2008 11:51:14 AM

First of all, thanks for all the reponses. The information was very helpful to me. I will now give feedback on the actual system that I have running.

I've bought the components a month ago and configured everything the last couple of weeks. The system is running Ubuntu 8.04 server.

Asus P5QL-EM iG43, SATA2, HDMI, GLAN
Intel Pentium Dual E5200 2.50GHz 800 2MB Box
Kingston 2x1GB DDR2 SDRAM PC6400 CL5.0
Seasonic Powersupply S12II-380 380W
Western Digital Caviar GP 1TB WD10EACS
Western Digital Caviar RE WD3200YS (spare drive I already had)

3Com Switch OfficeConnect 8 Port Gbit

I first wanted a raid system, but eventually ceperman opened my eyes. Thinking of it, I don't need RAID. It only adds to the power usage of the system. RAID would be faster when done right, but for my family needs, a single drive easily keeps up. I get around 30 MByte/s over the Gbit network.

The system draws more or less 50W from the socket while idle or serving files. 65W when booting or under load.

The 1 TB drive is used as data disc, the 320GB drive is used for the OS and "data mirror".

I run a CRON job and use the BIOS wake up alarm of the motherboard to shut the server down between 1am and 7am. Right before shutdown the same CRON job initiates a RSYNC (data synchronization) from the TB drive to the 320 GB drive. Once a week I attach an external USB drive to do an extra backup.

When someday my data exceeds 300 GB, I'll buy a second 1TB drive to mirror the data and throw out the 320 GB for a small SSD (32GB?) to run the OS from.

The system is running a Samba server (pictures, home movies, documents, email), music streaming daemon (MPD), java application server (Tomcat), source code control system (Subversion).

kind regards,
Jo
!