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Rugged Linux Server For Rural, Tropical Environment?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the crate-of-netbooks-and-solar-panels dept.

Data Storage 236

travalas writes "Last year I moved to Rural Bangladesh. My work is pretty diverse, everything from hacking web apps to designing building materials. Increasingly a Linux VM on my MacBook Pro is insufficient due to storage speed/processing constraints and the desire to interface more easily with some sensor packages. There are a few issues that make that make a standard server less than desirable. This server will generally not be running with any sort of climate control and it may need to move to different locations so would also be helpful if it was somewhat portable. The environment here is hot, humid and dusty and brutal on technology and power is very inconsistent so it will often be on a combination of Interruptible Power Supply and solar power. So a UPS is a must and low power consumption desirable, so it strikes me that an Integrated UPS a la Google's servers would be handy. Spec wise it needs to be it needs to be able to handle several VM's and some other processor storage intensive tasks. So 4 cores, 8GB of ram and 3-4 TB of SATA storage seems like a place to start for processing specs. What sort of hardware would you recommend without breaking the bank?"

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236 comments

All that and ruggedized? (5, Insightful)

Viv (54519) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638529)

Yeah, not breaking the bank isn't going to be an option here, I'm afraid.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (4, Insightful)

TJamieson (218336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638557)

What would you suggest? Lesser hardware? Surely there must be a solution somewhere in the middle of "I want this" and "I can use this".

To me, this situation screams 'require redundancy'. I understand this was not given as an option originally, but with the environment described I would certainly not want to rely on one single server.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639147)

Basically, he needs to relax the requirements -- pricing, power, or ruggedization required. Probably pricing and power at least.

I think one of the things that's really going to kill this guy is power consumption. Powering this thing by solar power is going to be plenty expensive.

In Bangladesh, every watt of power draw is going to cost about $22 in solar paneling, not including power conversion, batteries, install, taxes, etc. This is just the raw cost of the panel.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (4, Interesting)

Viv (54519) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638561)

To give you some sense of what I'm getting at:

I pay about $1500 for a ruggedized setup like you're talking about -- except it's a pentium class processor with 128MB of RAM and 256MB of flash.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

amclay (1356377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638583)

Someone obviously ripped someone off...I hear you can get a rugged laptop for cheaper than that.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (4, Funny)

Viv (54519) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638713)

If you can show me a laptop that can handle -40C to 85C, high levels of humidity, draws no more than 5W of power, needs no fans for cooling, and reasonably gracefully handles transients associated with lightning strikes for less than $1500, I'll gladly buy it.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638743)

The EMAC Server-in-a-box is around $800 USD. Linux is free however configuring a linux server involves contracting a rather nasty case of liver cirrhosis. ;-) You fool

-Dan East

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

Viv (54519) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638811)

Doesn't meet the temperature or power requirements.

Close, but not quite.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

amclay (1356377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638903)

The OP wasn't looking for those power requirements, or fan requirements, or lightning requirements. The temp. requirements are also, not what he was asking about. Your situation didn't match his, so I don't think it would be classified as "like you're talking about." Although I've never had real problems with laptop fans even after 9-10 years.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (3, Interesting)

Viv (54519) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639353)

Read his environmental description.

Maximum historical temperature in Bangladesh is >40C; what kind of place is this server going to be stored? Move to different locations? No climate control? I can easily see requiring >85C handling.

Rainy season means high humidity.

The 5W power requirement is flexible, but remember that adding 1W of power increases your solar power costs -- to the tune of $22 or so in panelling (in Bangladesh), not including any secondary costs.

Dusty? Okay, use fans if you really want to. Be prepared for frequent failures, or a regular routine of cleaning and replacing filters.

Unreliable power and using solar? Yeah, you're going to want to gracefully handle some really nasty transients.

No, my requirements are not exactly the same as his. But the point is that he's running in a really hostile environment, like I am, and it's going to cost him.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (2, Insightful)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638745)

I don't know of a laptop like that, but I've seen PDAs and micro-tablets that meet those criteria.

Less than 5W of power? (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638917)

That's going to be a performance limiter at any price, especially if you need x86-compatibility.

At least for now.

There are some nice low-power architectures out there if you don't mind having to use a free operating system. For them, the degree ruggedization will be a driving cost factor. -40C-+85C costs more than 0C-50C, but it costs less than -70C-+120C.

Re:Less than 5W of power? (2, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639509)

-40C-+85C costs more than 0C-50C, but it costs less than -70C-+120C.

Um, forget about the computer, but at +120C, isn't the user of the computer going to have a bit of a problem? Or does Dell also sell "Rugged Users" along with its "Rugged Laptops? http://www.dell.com/xfr [dell.com] "

"Thank you for ordering a Dell Rugged Laptop, would you also like to order a Dell 'Hard Guy' Rugged User along with that? Ballistic Armor for the laptop, user or both?"

Re:All that and ruggedized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638947)

The OLPC XO-1 is close. It isn't quite rated for the low end of that temperature range. Of course, you can buy 4 for that price for if/when they do fail.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639193)

The problem is this: you need something ultra rugged, basically a tank. Servers aren't really designed for that as 99.999% of them are going to nice, clean, air filtered and AC temped server rooms. That said the closet thing i think you are going to find that will meet those specs(tough as hell, wild temp and humidity conditions, as well as low power) are going to be Geode based like this [mydigitallife.info] .

Have you thought about going the DIY route? You can pick up an "all in one" mobo like this [newegg.com] Nano based one, which since it is the Nano and has built in crypto it would be great for a server and there are plenty of car enthusiast websites that sell ultra rugged PC cases for mounting in off road vehicles. This would give you the ruggedness you require as the off road PC cases are well sealed to keep the dirt out as well as use the case itself as a heatsink which should cut down on the risk of heat death, and by going DIY you get the power you need for a server with the rugged design. Just add a marine or military LCD and you are good to go. Certainly faster than a $1500 Pentium, and by going DIY you can add a SSD and 2GB of RAM which will help with typical server jobs. I would check it out if you ain't made of money, as that will most likely be the cheapest way to go and still meet your requirements. Good Luck.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639341)

Try this:
http://www.accesio.com/go.cgi?p=../systems/nanoserver.html

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639567)

I'm pretty sure that in Bangladesh there's no need to go down to -40C. Hot, humid, and dusty are the problems, not cold.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (4, Informative)

HBI (604924) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638717)

Sure, get a Dell XFRD630. Which is a 630 with a hardened rubber cover and latch doors for the ports. What that does for heat or ruggedizing, I have no idea. It dies if you dump any water on it. It dies if you press too hard on the keyboard even. Total POS.

I've played with most ruggedized systems available on the market in humid, hot, desert, cold, snowy - you name it - climates. They all are pretty much useless. I prefer using just a regular laptop. If it breaks, it breaks. The ruggedization has $$$ cost and inconvenience associated with it, and the first thing that suffers is human interface. Since I brought the computer to DO things, that is not negotiable. If you just want something pretty and expensive that you don't use, get a ruggedized system.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (2, Informative)

Viv (54519) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638895)

The ideal human interface for my needs is console to an RS-232, so annoying rubberized keypads don't matter to me.

What are you protecting against? (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638939)

Are you protecting against heat and cold or rapid temperature changes? Shock? Humidity and liquid spillage? For each, how much ruggedness are you willing to pay for?

You can build a computer that can handle -40-85C and both high and low humidity that won't survive a 5-foot drop onto concrete, and you can build a device that will survive a 10-story fall while operating, but that has no extra protection against humidity and temperature extremes.

State your requirements, and for a price, someone will build it, or at least try.

Try this: EMAC Server-In-a-Box (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638661)

The EMAC Server-In-a-Box (SIB) runs Linux as its Operating System and as such retains all of the networking and communications capabilities one would expect of such an operating system. Right out of the box, the SIB is configured for Ethernet, serial IP, serial terminal, and raw serial connections. Other devices, including PPP modem links, may be added and configured by the user.

Configuring network devices for a minimal GNU/Linux system can be difficult. As such, EMAC has created a menu-driven configuration utility, which greatly simplifies configuration of SIB services, network interfaces, and communications ports.

The Rugged SIB is specially designed to live in harsh environments. No Fans, no Hard Drive, and a completely sealed case (with exception of Compact Flash access) allows the Rugged SIB to survive where other computers can't. The Rugged SIB is just as comfortable in a basement wiring closet as it is on a desktop.

EMAC, has been manufacturing SBCs since 1985 and has been installing our own distribution of Linux in our Embedded Servers since 1998. We know Linux and we know the problems customers have in utilizing Linux. To address this, EMAC has put together a rock solid Embedded Linux distribution and a Robust Eclipse Integrated Development (IDE) package. This IDE provides GCC Cross compiler, Libraries, GDB debugger, Editor, and Project Manager all integrated into the Eclipse framework which includes sample projects. With EMAC's IDE library linking is made easy even when compiling against older libraries. Purchase a EMAC SBC with Linux or uClinux and you should be up, running and building applications the first day.

So, I guess what I'm saying at the end of the day is, kind Sir: FUCK YOU ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK YOU GODLESS MOTHRAFUCKER!

Mothra? (2, Funny)

happymellon (927696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639223)

I don't think I really want to know how you can accomplish that...

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638719)

It really depends how rugged he needs it. Some of those laptops can be driven over by tanks or be used to diffuse land mines, but I really think he's looking for something inbetween.

Unfortunately, low power doesn't go very well with 4-core, 8GB RAM, 2-4 HDD system.

And in a laptop formfactor? Easily $10k!

I'm sure someone knows of a company that makes computers like this.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638945)

Buy 2 laptops? It means if one dies you can still keep things moving if poorly. Run all of the drives externally through USB makes for easy plug and play (HDD speeds usually aren't needed to be TOO fast on server applications depending what it is needed for. This allows for cheap compartmentalized replaceable parts and very flexible. You could probably build a case for the whole thing to make it easier to carry around. It also has the advantage of having batteries already in case of power outages. Run a power cord to the whole box so your laptops don't explode during a lightning storm and allow for solar panels. Seems pretty easy. Also laptops use more efficient processing than server cpus anyways. If you design a nice case to store the bits you could make it sturdy enough to roll down a flight of stairs. You could even build the walls with hepa filters (in a rigid frame).

Damn T_T with all this talk I want to build one now and I have no idea wtf I'd use it for.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638859)

I pay about $1500 for a ruggedized setup like you're talking about -- except it's a pentium class processor with 128MB of RAM and 256MB of flash.

Sounds reasonable. I'm not sure if what the poster is asking is reasonable or necessary. The guy goes from a VM on a laptop, to wanting 100x+ of storage and 2x+ the CPU power with the ability to run on little power and no climate control and quasi portable? Like the tag says, goodluckwiththat.

The closest thing I could think of would be a laptop with external harddrives. Good cost point (COTS), built in UPS, quadcore capable, mobile, low power, disks I guess firewire bus powered??? If not, bus powered, then more power will be needed with UPS. The asker said that they are already using a laptop, so they must work in the environment.

I would think that any "server" class machine will use too much power and the fans would either destroy the thing or self destruct in a short period of time in a dusty environment. The fans would almost be useless if they are pulling in air that is not cooler than the exhaust.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639303)

You might try lowering some of your requirements; the OLPC XO-1 is built to withstand those conditions, but is low-powered computationally (and has almost no storage capacity). Putting a few of those together for different purposes, or see what hardware the OLPC folks are putting together for their "school server" . You might also contact the folks at Inveneo for some ideas, but at the end of the day it's probably easier and more cost-effective to buy a good power-conditioning UPS and an AC unit with a good filter.

Re:All that and ruggedized? (1)

OttoErotic (934909) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638999)

Build one:
Rackmount UPS [tigerdirect.com]
Shallow musician-style rack case [musiciansfriend.com]
Shallow rackmount server case [newegg.com]
Rackmount AC [eicsolutionsinc.com]
Plus server components.

These are all just random 1st finds in each category so I have no idea if they're compatible, but assuming compatible variants of each part work, it seems feasible:
- Server is to whatever specs you want
- Assuming the A/C technology is decent (never heard of the company before) it should be enough for at least a single server & UPS
- Might need some kind of de-humidifier?
- Reasonably portable. By vehicle at least, since I'm assuming you're not lugging this thing by hand through the jungle

Re:All that and ruggedized? (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639349)

A beowulf cluster of laptops should do it.

Silicon (2, Funny)

amclay (1356377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638573)

You might try (if it's too humid) putting some silicon packets in the box. They should help absorb the moisture.

Re:Silicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638657)

This isn't a sealed box we are talking about. Those wont do anything.

Re:Silicon (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638691)

If they're big enough there's the potential of changing the entire climate of Bangladesh.

Re:Silicon (3, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639067)

I would actually go for a sealed box with cooling fins and then some water cooling with an external radiator and fans.

Sealed box - mostly to keep any kind of bugs out of the box and also to try to keep the humidity down. Add some silica gel inside to keep it dry.

Remember that silica gel can be re-used, you just have to dry it in some way.

I'm assuming that the box doesn't have to be deluge-proof, so just make it reasonably sealed. Add thermometers and possibly a small radiator/fan inside for general cooling of the PSU air.

With water cooling you will get a stable temperature and be able to get rid of a lot of heat - and be able to vent the heat outdoors.

Also select the most power-efficient PSU you can get your hands on to avoid unnecessary heat.

And for UPS - that shall be located in a separate compartment to avoid catastrophic problems in case you get a battery leak.

Mounting the whole box on inflatable rubber wheels would be a good idea - not only for moving it, but the rubber wheels can also provide vibration dampening when transporting.

Rugged things get heavy.

And don't forget - mount the hard drives using extra shock-proofing in some way. Mirrored drives is also a good idea since it may save you from some agony.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. (4, Insightful)

PyroMosh (287149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638599)

Ever heard the expression "Fast, reliable, cheap (pick two)"?

It applies here.

Of course, you were fairly specific with the processing specs you need, but not your budget. So it's hard to say what "breaking the bank" is for you. also, you called it a UPS, but you also called it an "Interruptible Power Supply". I'm assuming a brain-fart, but the "U" stands for Uninterruptible.

Just picking nits.

Re:You can't have your cake and eat it too. (1)

glennpratt (1230636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638651)

I think he is saying the power is inconsistent with solar backup.

Not gonna happen (5, Insightful)

AnonGCB (1398517) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638611)

Low power consumption, quad core, 8 gigs of ram, a UPS and a few TB of storage? 1. Not gonna be cheap, though I'm not sure what your budget is, this will be somewhat pricey. 2. You might want to get a few UPS's, because I doubt, unless you get a very large solar array, that you will be able to run it on that. Expect power loss, disable write caching on the disks, etc. Also, a UPS isn't meant to be used as a constant power source, just as a way to keep you from losing work if power goes out, and if you're lucky, hold you over till it flickers back on. 3. This will NOT be portable, those UPS's will be a pain to move. Good luck, I certainly don't mean to be so negative, but this is a somewhat unreasonable thing to look for.

Re:Not gonna happen (1)

AnonGCB (1398517) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638693)

Oh god, why is the formatting so broken? Ah well, you can see what it should have been, hopefully.

Re:Not gonna happen (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639111)

Click Options and switch your posting mode to "Plain Old Text"

That'll convert newlines to br HTML tags and stuff.

Laptop (4, Informative)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638623)

Get a laptop or 3.
Portable - check
UPS - check
Able to handle no climate control - check
4 cores & 8GB - check
4TB of storage - Get an external drive bay. (Do you really need that much storage? really?)

Some of the XPS line from Dell or other 'Gaming' laptops should do the trick.

Re:Laptop (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638695)

You are not really in Bangladesh are you?

What color is the boathouse at Hereford?

Thanks for jerking us all off douchebag.

Re:Laptop (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638701)

travalas: will there be any vibrations of any kind going on? (e.g. construction site with jackhammers, traveling on rough roads, deployment by the roadside)

Will you be able to get new supplies (computer parts and peripherals) at short notice?

Re:Laptop (3, Informative)

glennpratt (1230636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638739)

I agree, this is probably the best suggestion without knowing more of your budget.

Laptops are the closest thing you will get without breaking the bank - you could probably buy a few + storage with for what a truly ruggedized server system would cost. They will be infinitely more portable and easy to run on DC; plus they will run for years on DC while most UPSs wont.

If it must be real servers - I'd build them in something like this:

http://www.racksolutions.com/transport-case.shtml [racksolutions.com]

Heck, you could fit a pretty powerful network, including a large battery inside one - but it will cost lots of money.

Not enough info (2, Interesting)

Rix (54095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638639)

What exactly are you doing, and why does your server need to be on site?

If you really need to be lugging all that around the wilderness, it's not going to be cheap.

I do espy a kind of hope: (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638665)

While, unfortunately, any "real" solution to dealing with hot, dusty, humid, and otherwise unpleasant environments is going to cost a bloody fortune; the relatively modest specs that you are looking for should help.

4 cores, 8GB of RAM, and 3-4 TB of HDD is, these days, a slightly nicer than average; but hardly exotic, desktop computer. The nice thing about desktops is that, unlike servers, they are designed to deal with human environments, rather than datacenter ones. No AC, cat hair, cigarette smoke, that sort of thing. Plus, they are cheap and almost exactly the shape of a small rolling suitcase.

Since the environment is nasty, you'll want to make sure that the system has enough fans to keep things cool even if one conks out when you aren't there, and you'll want to have at least one spare drive in your RAID.

There is a good solution to your problem, probably manufactured to mil-spec by General Dynamics, that costs 50 times as much as you can afford; but, in this case, you might well be able to get away with doing it the cheap way, since your computational requirements are actually fairly modest.

Re:I do espy a kind of hope: (1)

L7_ (645377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638755)

Exaclty.

Just purchase a top of the line desktop workstation and run your linux flavor of choice on it. You can get a dell workstation to fit those exact specs for $4000. Then get yourself a UPS and call it a day.

People always try to overthink their server setup.

Re:I do espy a kind of hope: (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638915)

Build your own.

Like the post I'm replying to said, those specs are int he realm of 'nice desktop PC' rather than 'server-grade PC' but don't let that fool you. A nice desktop PC can double as an effective Linux server quite easily.

There are many case mods made for dusty/dirty/gritty places. You can build your own (or buy) a long-term battery power system..but it might have to involve fuel cells and/or gas/diesel motors. It will take a LOT of solar panels with decent efficiency and immaculate setup to ensure that you have enough power to run the machine and charge the batteries.

If you had a nuclear license, I'd suggest a decently-sized RTG and chunk of something radioactive. Russia used those pretty extensively for their remote weather stations that had no other access to power. Granted most of them got broken into and looted, you might have some luck if you have a few hundred thousand and good references.

IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638667)

I thought that they supplied you with a company computer when you "volunteered" to move to a third world country.

toughbook + satellite internet (4, Interesting)

fwice (841569) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638683)

get a toughbook, a satellite uplink, and colo a server somewhere controlled.

seriously. finding the computational strength you want with the power restrictions is not going to happen.

my company just shipped some units to a desert in the middle east (can't mention where). we bought an entire trailer and powering units (generators, solar, etc) to provide the juice to run the servers and air conditioning. it was _not_ cheap. you can do that or you can remote to a controlled area.

No Servers for what you describe (2, Informative)

Britz (170620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638715)

I don't think there are any servers for those requirements:
portable, rugged, low power (incl. UPS)

But those are the exact specs of the rugged laptop. Laptops have built-in UPS units (called batteries) and are low in power consumption.

Panasonic Toughbooks, or Toshiba Tecra ruggedized come to mind. Dell also has some new offerings in that segment:
http://www.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/latit_xfr_d630?c=us&cs=04&l=en&s=bsd [dell.com]

You Want It All to Run On Nothing (3, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638733)

You sound like you want a high power server (multiple VM's) with significant storage (multiple TB's) to run on no power in an unconditioned environment. And you want it affordable. Those are rather contradictory requirements, rather like having cake and eating it too.

Rugged Laptops? (4, Informative)

jaker29902 (926208) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638741)

http://www.dell.com/xfr [dell.com] Apparently this is dells solution to your problem, has ballistic armor and is apparently able to be drop kicked into a pool with rabid sharks who have chainsaws for teeth.

You could get an external drive and possible cluster them together for the enhanced processor power? Dont know but this taptop seems to be able to handle the enviroment you want it to. Also UPS plus Solar Panels = headache so be prepared!

Re:Rugged Laptops? (1)

GordonCopestake (941689) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638985)

What if the sharks had laser beams?

Two Options (2, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638749)

I can think of two options.

Option one:

  1. Buy a really beefy server
  2. Stick it in a hosting service
  3. SSH into it from a Dell Mini 9, possibly connected to a sat-phone type thing

That would do most of what you want. No graphics, but it would work well. You can have all the storage and CPU power you can use. You could even set it up like a batch processing cluster.

Option two:

  1. Buy 5 Dell Mini 9s
  2. Buy/make some charger circuits
  3. Get some lead-acid batteries, maybe solar panels, and a ton of SD cards
  4. Thank your lucky stars computers as cheap, rugged, and powerful as the Mini 9 are so easily available

You will not get what you want for a reasonable price, you want too much. High powered computers can't be put everywhere on Earth regardless of infrastructure. They really need some basic environment controls and good power.

Option 3 ... wait (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639009)

Option 3: Wait for prices to come down. In 15 years he should be able to get everything he's asking for at less than 10% of today's prices, not counting the ruggedization premium.

In other words, name the cheapest computer, smart phone, or PDA that meets his ruggedization requirements and by 2024 he'll be able to get what he wants today for the 2009 price of the low-end stuff.

Cabinet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638751)

One way to go would probably to get a rugged rack cabinet, like this one: http://www.nor-tech.com/clusters/sealed.cfm

It probably won't be cheap but at least you can use normal servers and get some flexibility.

Dehumidifier (3, Interesting)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638783)

Wouldn't it be easier to just hook up a dehumidifier and use normal (non-rugged) parts?

Re:Dehumidifier (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638975)

Humidity isn't going to be the problem. With as much heat as wll be generated, you won't get to much condensation. The internal temperature of whatever enclosure you have will be way above the dew point. My advice would be a large tower case inside a bigger encluser witha lot of surface area to disappate heat. If you keep it sealed aganst dirt the humidty will take care of itself. Look at industrial controls housings for clues.

The real problem will be power. What you are talking about takes at least a couple of hudred watts, and a solar array that can come close to supportig that is NOT going to be portable. To combine solar and line power and sof heafty batteries is going to require some sophistocated controls too.

Re:Dehumidifier (1)

abundance (888783) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639191)

Humidity isn't going to be the problem.

it's gonna be when he turns it off

What could you possibly be doing ... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638785)

... in rural Bangladesh that requires 4 cores, 8GB Ram, and 4 TB of storage? I can understand if you're in the city and involved in some company, but you make it sound like you want some serious number crunching to occur in the middle of the jungle.

How about offloading all of your processing requirements to a co-located server and just getting a cheap rugged laptop to access and control the processing.

Re:What could you possibly be doing ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639001)

In other news, The Pirate Bay have resorted to a mobile server operation running from the Bangladeshi Jungle...

Re:What could you possibly be doing ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639037)

I four one am welcomming ou're new datas freeing overloads

Re:What could you possibly be doing ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639273)

This just proves that the global economic crisis has even hit super-villainy. Dude can't get the financing for his own lair -- in Bangladesh! Sharks with lasers? How about one sickly goldfish with a strap-on LED! The legitimate face of his evil operation? A roll of paper towels and a squeegee!

Re:What could you possibly be doing ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639459)

And you assume there's fast, reliable internet access in rural Bangladesh? Sorry, there isn't.

I'd suggest building a decent-spec desktop -- spend some time in Dhaka at IDB Bhaban (aka 'Computer City'). They can help you out with powerful UPSes too, and may be able to suggest alternative power supplies in general. Just make sure to shop around, otherwise you'll get ripped off... but if you've spent any time in the Desh you'll know that.

- R from Dhaka

A good desktop and a van for storage (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638827)

At the worst case, you can run use the van to move, cool and power the machine... cover the roof with solar panels and use gas when you have to...

Your answer: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638833)

What sort of hardware would you recommend without breaking the bank?

I've got it! World class hardware, and service to match. Buy yourself some space on one of these [yimg.com] . It's your cheapest option.

Servers are not designed for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638845)

I worked for IBM and ran into several clients that did this. Failures were usually due to debris being sucked into the server from small gnats and flies to sand. This usually caused system board failures rather quickly. Humidity is also a big killer as well as any condensation inside the unit can cause numerous failures. Even server that did "combat duty" in restraunts and other places suffered premature failure. Imagine a server under the front counter of a chicken joint with greasy chicken and sticky cola being sucked into the front all day.

You already have your solution. If you need more power I would suggest a second dedicated Macbook running linux directly or other laptop with external Firewire or SATA storage. You could replace the internal drive with a larger volume and daisy chain firewire drives. The newer Macbooks chipset supports 8gb ram and with some minor modifications could be setup to cool correctly. The Macbook also is ultra portable which even a 1u server is not.

You could also look at tuning your VM's better. If you have not already stripped out everything in your VM there is probably a ton of CPU thats getting wasted running X and other software that is not being used for your application.

If you need more than a couple of Macbooks in CPU power and resources you should probably rethink your methods of data collection. The only real way to do "mobile servers" is in gigantic black trucks with filtered air and air conditioning and usually a bunch of guys in camo gear with big guns.

Re:Servers are not designed for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638981)

Macbooks. Funny. He said he needed it to be cheap.

Is that a gun on your server rack? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639025)

Is that a gun on your server rack or are you just happy to see me?

Cluster of laptops ? (1)

geekymachoman (1261484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638871)

Maybe something like linking three-four laptops and configuring them so they 'share' cpu power (openmosix or something that is maintained), disks with drbd/GFS2 |& NFS ?
External USB/Firewire disks for a lot of capacity ..

You can even hook them up to a small motorcycle baterry, I guess it won't last much longer but there you go.

I mean, this is not a very 'professional' solution, obviously, but I think something like this is your best bet.

Good luck.

Cluster of laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638873)

I don't know if you'd be up for the task of setting this up, but...

A cluster of rugged laptops should satisfy your needs, no?

Individually battery powered
As much (distributed) performance/RAM as you'd like
Low power
Portable
And also upgradable.

How about a remote-controlled server? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638875)

If communication are reliable and cheap, or even just reliable, you could put your server in the nearest town that has adequate facilities and use a low-performance-but-ruggedized desktop or laptop to access it.

I realize that's not what you said you need, but it is a viable option in many environments.

In the rural 3rd world this might be viable over satellite phone, cell phone, or a radio connection. If you only need access a few hours a day and can stand dialup-speed or slower for those VNC or other remote-control applications, this may work for you.

You mentioned sensors. I assume these are environmental, medical, or other sensors that connect to the computer by serial, USB, or other means. You may want to talk to the vendors to see if they have sofware that can collect data on a low-performance laptop then process it on a remote server, either in real-time or at a later date.

Re:How about a remote-controlled server? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639095)

If communication are reliable and cheap, or even just reliable, you could put your server in the nearest town that has adequate facilities

...and wait three and a half minutes until it's stolen.

Do you know anything about Bangladesh? It's the country that Pakistan regards as backward and lawless.

Re:How about a remote-controlled server? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639279)

Hire guards. They are cheaper than what he wants.

"the nearest adequate facilities" might be in the US Embassy.

Low Power, High Performance, Inexpensive (3, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638897)

Choose two

Re:Low Power, High Performance, Inexpensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639195)

High performance and inexpensive.

Low power and high performance.

Wait! Your post makes no fucking sense!

What's the work load? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638899)

Hi - You dont really explain what the work load is. Can any of it run on a server sitting in a data center rather than out in the wilds? And then use a low power box, appliance like box for the remote stuff (eg sensor reading). Do you really need 4 cores, 8GB of ram and 3-4 TB to process sensor data?

Google UPS (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638907)

I've long thought that in general we putting the UPS on wrong side of the power supply... So I was intrigued by Google's solution.

Re:Google UPS (1)

rcw-home (122017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639431)

I've long thought that in general we putting the UPS on wrong side of the power supply... So I was intrigued by Google's solution.

FWIW, Google's solution puts power supplies on both sides of the UPS.

Hard Drives and Motherboard Suggestion (2, Informative)

amcchord (1334469) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638913)

In looking at your specs I think your storage is going to be the hardest to deal with. Todays 1TB drives are quite fragile. Drop them from a table and 90% of the time they are goners. In addition without serious cooling they can get very hot (I am looking at you segate) and once you get upwards of 55 Celsius they start to break down fast. Even worse would the temperature cycling due to the fact the server is not online 24/7. Seeing as you are power constrained its probably not going to feasible to go with a ton of 250GB drives ect...

To build something like this in a ruggedized form is going to be expensive (5k + for the basics) Is there a way you could reduce your data requirments? 4TB is a tremendous amount of data.

If you were willing to compromise

One other suggestion. Go with a MiniITX board and a DC-DC power supply This one is cheap and you could put an AMD CPU in it http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813500021 [newegg.com] Then add a 45 Watt AMD CPU and maybe RAID 5 with 500GB laptop HD's
In theory you could build a decent dual core 2.6 Ghz system with 1.5 TB of storage, 4GB of ram and all powered by 12Volt DC (negating the UPS need.. just use 12volt Batteries) for a reasonable price. A system like this would be small and portable. If you needed more horsepower I would suggest building multiples.

It would likely be much more cost effective to build multiple moderately powerful systems than one massive one.

Processor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638927)

An AMD Opteron 1354 2.2 gig quad core is 79.99 on Newegg (OEM). That is not breaking the bank, but you will have to get a HSF. It is not the most efficient processor though.

Computers in the tropics (2)

cwarner7_11 (1457483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638949)

I work in a tropical humid environment, a good deal of my work taking me away from "civilization" out into the jungle where the only power available may be that which I carry with me. I carry a very cheap Acer throw-away laptop into the jungle with me. It runs Xubuntu and Windows XP, dual boot. Pretty much handles everything I need in the jungle. Includes WiFi, but where am I going to find a WiFi hotspot 120 miles from the nearest road? In fact, I can not always count on a sattelite connection, so often I am without Internet. Back in civilization, I have a couple of conventional desktops, running various operating systems, and this is where I back up everything when I return from the jungle. These, too, survive well without air conditioning. The power supply is much more reliable in the city, but still occassionally flakey. Every 5 years or so, I have to replace a hard drive or a power supply (or both). I find the most cost-effective approach is to buy "throw away" hardware, and have spares and a good backup strategy...

Re:Computers in the tropics (1)

Kugrian (886993) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639481)

iNdinia Jones?

I'm so sorry, but it sounded hilarious in my head.

start with your voltage and build your server farm (1)

dominux (731134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638953)

don't go for one big system running VMs that is expensive, hot and power hungry and you can't vary the power to it. Pick a nice mini-ITX case with good fans and stick an Atom based board in it that takes a 12V DC input. Count the number of VMs you think you need, multiply by 2 and build that many. Stick half in a cupboard and fire up all the others. If you don't have enough power, don't turn them all on. I can't quite see what you need that much CPU for anyhow. How many clients will these servers be supporting?

Pff, that's easy (5, Funny)

arrenlex (994824) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638987)

Let me summarize your requirements
-> Runs cool and quiet
-> Heat, humidity, dust resistant
-> Portable
-> Low power requirements
-> Integrated UPS
-> Very beefy server
-> Cheap

If you find one drop me an email, I want to install Duke Nukem Forever on it.

RV? (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638991)

Sounds like you want plain ole standard commercial grade server hardware mounted in a tiny RV.
Extensively shock mount a relay rack, put in somewhat bigger AC/batteries/genset than usual, and you're good to go.
You can use the living quarters to house the armed guard, which will be required for expensive equipment in that corner of the world.

Trying to buy super tough server hardware will simply be more expensive than a RV and much harder to replace / maintain when it breaks.

Admittedly I'm mystified what you'd do with such immense computing power in a rural area without electricity. Maybe a really nice mythtv backend? Educate the locals using SimTractor?

You do realize that Bangladesh is like 1 foot above sea level, so no need to engineer this to last forever when its going to get washed into the sea every couple years by storms etc. Using a RV could help in the evac, assuming there is any place safe to evac to...

Alternately, split your workload transparently across maybe 50 smaller machines, and start purchasing replacements when attrition nears 75%.

Here's one, but not quite that big (1, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639003)

That's a big ruggedized server.

Take a look at the Logic Controls 8600. [logiccontrols.com] That's a server for fast-food restaurants and similar harsh environments. 1.6GHZ, 2GB, 40GB hard drive. Will run Linux. Fanless and ventless. Temp range 5C to 40C. Relative humidity 8 to 80%, non-condensing.

What do you need 4 terabytes of storage for? Unless you're running a movie piracy service?

Dunk it in oil. (4, Informative)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639011)

I know some guys who were running some wi-fi gear on a roof with a small linux server etc andto beat the elements (many days a year of driving horizontal rain and gale force windows) they submerged some low power components in a metal tool chest filled with mineral oil. Their set up had 4gb CF and USB keyfobs for storage. There was a 12VDC input power car-PC-style supply that handles variable input (goes as low as 6v) and they ran long wires down to a small 240v/12v transformer in the building. This meant that even if moisture got in, the components were very well protected as water would sit at the bottom of the oil, and there was utterly no dangerous voltage exposed to the outdoors. They later they went with a smaller o-ring sealed aluminum box filled with proper transformer oil, but the original hack was working fine after 1 year.

From my own experience with dunking rigs in oil, you only need to watch out for a few things, one being the mineral oil leaching plasticizers out of wire insulation - they eventually become brittle. You also need to seal your electrolytic caps with a little epoxy so the rubber seal doesn't get eaten alive. Interestingly most caps seem to survive a long time like this, but personally I'd recommend motherboards with solid aluminum caps.

However these things don't become a problem for months, so you'd likely get away with just dunking your rig and leaving it. You also cannot dunk a HDD, as the oil will get inside it and foul things up. I haven't tried it, but it would be possible to seal up in a box or 'pot' a mechanical HDD in epoxy, but best to stick with SSD / Compactflash.

Rugged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639015)

http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughbook/laptop-computers.asp

I believe these are customizable to your specs. I'm not sure about your power needs, but others here seem to have had a lot to say on that end.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639083)

Don't. Buy some server space in say Russia or a bit closer to you and get proper internet connection. Bring a laptop...

Cases (2, Informative)

WTF Chuck (1369665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639093)

You might accidentally break the bank. You may want to try putting the server and a rackmount UPS into something like the cases you can find here [hardigg.com] . Take along a back-up generator. And lots of fans and filters. Spare parts for the server would also be helpful.

What about.. (1)

Sait-kun (922599) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639099)

They often move music/mixing equipment in special cases those can take a beating. This will require some relatively simple modding to be done such as add openings for fans and such. You might still need two people to carry it but should fit into a truck easily or what not. Not to mention that you can just put a lock on it as well to avoid unauthorized access to the hardware. Little googling and the first page gave me the cases I was talking about: http://www.skbcases.com/ [skbcases.com]

Location, location, location (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639121)

I assume this is a wish list not a must list. Make sure you can operate in your environment first. Back off on your power crunching fantasties. Fans will break on dust; go fanless and use lower power processors. Get enclosed units that are designed for operation without fans. Look at Fanless Mini PCs at stealthcomputer.com. 12V operation. SSDs available. Or boot from USB.

Ask for sponsorships! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639163)

If you are spending time in the jungle in Bangladesh hacking web apps and designing building materials, it sounds like you are doing something Good(tm).

If you do identify some suitable products or components, you might want to ask the suppliers to sponsor you or work with you to develop a solution.

Redundancy (3, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639187)

Buy a used 1U rack Dell server with redundant power supplies, Pentiums, ethernets and HDs on a RAID. Then replace the HDs with Flash SSD. Then put the whole thing in a plywood box with an air conditioner mounted on top, tubes blowing cold air in and three .00 grade nylon layers over the out vents, the upper layer removable. Seal all cracks, especially around cable slots, with silicone caulk. Run the whole thing as a unit, cleaning the air conditioner filters and out vent screens twice a day (so get two sets of those filters).

Keep spares of each redundant part. Buy two of those whole units (including air conditioners), because one unit will die anyway.

Run them on an ethernet switch, one powered down except once a day or so to sync their RAIDs.

Or rent a server at some global datacenter, and get WiFi/pringles antenna to an ISP somewhere.

DecTop is a good choice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639257)

As long as you don't have super heavy processor tasks. It is sealed, no fans or vents to keep dust out. It is super low power, running on less than 6 watts from a 12 volt power supply. This make it easy to run off a small battery and a small solar panel.

Build it Yourself (1)

RunzWithScissors (567704) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639275)

So if you're willing to forgo support options, I'd build a server yourself from components. You'll be able to get the mix of horse power you want and power consumption that it seems you need. fuzzyfuzzyfungus suggested using a desktop given your modest specs, I'd concur with this, but the cases used by large PC vendors don't really lend themselves for operating in a really harsh environment. I'd start with a case like this:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129021 [newegg.com]

While the window is flashy, it's got a ton of fans, and good airflow, so while there will be dust and whatnot, you shouldn't see a lot of cake up, plus with the window, you can see when it needs any cleaning.

Depending on the size of your UPS, you can put the whole kit and kaboodle into a rolling rack:
http://www.racksolutions.com/portable-racks-guide.shtml [racksolutions.com]

Or you could go with the google approach, instead of buying a case, just slap down a piece of corkboard on a shelf in the rack and place your components. You'll have to do a bit of jerry rigging with fans if you go that route, but it would save you $100. With a can of compressed air, you can keep it as clean as you need.

-Runz

Nvidia Ion with an Intel Atom (2, Informative)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639327)

Tiny, portable, low power, and no moving parts.

This a joke? (0)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639439)

You cant really be serious if you are on a shoestring budget.

overclocking hardware (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639485)

You could use an overclocking board and then underclock and undervolt everything permananently as well as use large heatinks on electrical components. This goes a very long way to reducing power and heat as well as ensuring life of the hardware. I live in south florida and we have humidity over 80% quite often. I never use any air conditioning here and it gets pretty hot in the summer. That was my solution and it has worked just fine. I can't speak to the solar aspect of it. It takes alot of solar panel area to eek out even 100W of power, can't say solar power would be very mobile unless its going in a vehicle of some kind and not in a backpack.

I'd look at some Sun hardware (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639521)

All Sun servers are certified for Linux (RHAS and maybe Suse, currently) and you will find the server with the specs you require. You won't easily find sturdier hardware than what Sun makes.

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