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Ask Slashdot: Little Boxes Around the Edge of the Data Center?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the gee-look-at-all-the-little-black-dots dept.

Hardware 320

First time accepted submitter spaceyhackerlady writes "We're looking at some new development, and a big question mark is the little boxes around the edge of the data center — the NTP servers, the monitoring boxes, the stuff that supports and interfaces with the Big Iron that does the real work. The last time I visited a hosting farm I saw shelves of Mac Minis, but that was five years ago. What do people like now for their little support boxes?"

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Little boxes (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41847787)

I make them with ticky tack.

Re:Little boxes (1, Flamebait)

don.g (6394) | about 2 years ago | (#41847795)

You do realise no one outside of New Zealand will get that joke...

Re:Little boxes (5, Informative)

SDrag0n (532175) | about 2 years ago | (#41847835)

You do realize that everyone who watched weeds will be humming along right?

Re:Little boxes (5, Informative)

msauve (701917) | about 2 years ago | (#41847853)

Are you sure about that [] ?

Re:Little boxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847859)

or watchers of Weeds on Showtime

Re:Little boxes (2)

JazzHarper (745403) | about 2 years ago | (#41848003)

or old farts who remember Pete Seeger.

Re:Little boxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848059)

Only 32 and got the reference!

Re:Little boxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848175)

Or old farts who remember Malvina Reynolds.

Re:Little boxes (1)

don.g (6394) | about 2 years ago | (#41848015)

Looks like I'm wrong -- see what happens when you trust your own memory over Google/Wikipedia? Someone clearly lied to me in my youth when they told me it was referring to our town :-(

Re:Little boxes (4, Funny)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about 2 years ago | (#41848023)

Iv'e seen Windows 8, I know what ticky tack little boxes look like.

Re:Little boxes (2)

connor4312 (2608277) | about 2 years ago | (#41848107)

As an American school student, I can say that it has often been shown as part of middle-school-level history class. Maybe there's some note about it in the Teacher's Edition of the textbook or something.

Re:Little boxes (5, Funny)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#41847903)

network boxes,
made in china,
network boxes that go sparky-spark
network boxes
exploding boxes
dangerous boxes, all the same.

ARM'd n Dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848071)

ARM boxes, running many chips with a fraction of the power consumption

taking over a data center near you

Re:ARM'd n Dangerous (2)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 2 years ago | (#41848267)

That's true. My company uses IBM BladeCenter servers bundled into a VM cluster. The bang-for-buck at the Time were the 4-core Opterons... That easily scaled to 4-cPUS for 16-cores.. (That could probably be higher now). The beauty of AMD. Moving into this space is that the blades could be swappable with the current hardware.

But rather than rowed of boxes, VM is the better way to go.

Re:Little boxes (5, Funny)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#41848123)

There are white ones
And more white ones
And they all have those blinky lights
and they're all made out of ticky tacky
and they all fail just the same.

Re:Little boxes (1)

renfrow (232180) | about 2 years ago | (#41848215)

Hehehe, why is I don't have mod points today?

Re:Little boxes (2)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | about 2 years ago | (#41848125)

Little boxes?
"The little boxes will make you angry!"

VMs (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847789)

put them in VMs!

Re:VMs (2, Funny)

Art Challenor (2621733) | about 2 years ago | (#41847829)

put them in VMs!

Great Plan! If all your servers are virtual then you don't have to worry about diesel fuel when there's a hurricane!

Re:VMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848213)

put them in VMs!

Great Plan! If all your servers are virtual then you don't have to worry about diesel fuel when there's a hurricane!

Unless you run out of virtual Diesel.

Re:VMs (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848521)

Uhhh. because the "little boxes" and individual servers run on unicorn farts and angel tears?

Re:VMs (4, Insightful)

Nutria (679911) | about 2 years ago | (#41847927)

Call me old school, but Unix/Linux are multi-tasking. Why not just run multiple services on one OS directly on the metal?

Re:VMs (0)

TwineLogic (1679802) | about 2 years ago | (#41847951)

Indeed. For example, does it not seem dumb to virtualize an NTP server?

Re:VMs (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#41848019)

Not in the least is it dumb. If you manage your systems properly and their boot order, its a non issue.

performance? (5, Insightful)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#41848113)

NTP server is all about consistency. If it's running in a VM and can be delayed at the whim of the host, do you think it's going to be a very good source of time?

Re:performance? (2)

profplump (309017) | about 2 years ago | (#41848223)

I think it will be fine, so long as it's not using the CPU for a timing source.

Re:performance? (4, Informative)

TwineLogic (1679802) | about 2 years ago | (#41848405)

Exactly. The latency of response in an NTP server must be consistent in order for the algorithm to converge. It doesn't matter what timing source is used for a reference, if the network communication has variable latency, the NTP precision must degrade. It's revealing that VM proponents don't seem to understand this.

Re:VMs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848355)

Yes. It is a stupid idea to virtualize an ntp server or any host that needs to keep accurate time. Once the vm server host gets bogged down, you will see time go way off, very quickly.

You can use containers for such things, and gain much of the isolation without the drawbacks of full virtualization.

At work we use containers for this sort of thing, running on a two node cluster for redundancy.

At home, I'm using a single very low power arm board to run everything that is always-on (ntpd (board has an rtc), dns, webserver, nfs, kdc, AP (usb radio), iptables for fw, etc.). My work would never go for it, but a few arm boards could run all the small stuff and consume just a few watts of power.

Re:VMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848363)

There are issues with running NTP inside of a VM, but nothing that's impossible to overcome. The NTP page lists gotchas and other info about each virtualization option. The flexibility you get from a VM strategy could very well be worth the minimal amount of adapting to running the services as a guest.

OTOH, it would really suck to have an NTP vulnerability combined with a privilege escalation compromise some other part of your infrastructure. Running it in a VM makes that a lot less likely and allows you to run, say, an SSH gateway on the same physical hardware.

Also, for most applications, having an extremely accurate time isn't that important. It's much more important to have a extremely consistent time so that all the servers are synchronized.

Re:VMs (2, Informative)

jrmiller (780103) | about 2 years ago | (#41848423)

Not really. NTP's such a lightweight service that it runs fine on a vm. As other posters have mentioned, you certainly don't want to use the system clock as your time source, but you shouldn't do that anyway. Hopefully you're syncing with an upstream provider that syncs from a non-computer-based source. See [] for a good sync source (among many others). We've successfully virtualized NTP servers serving a 6000-person university.

Re:VMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847975)

There are some tasks that you want to run on separate servers. If for no other reason than that you want the services to be up even while the main server is rebooting.

Re:VMs (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#41847983)

Then you dont fully understand how a vmware farm works.

Re:VMs (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 2 years ago | (#41848079)

VMWare (and, I understand, all of their competitors) have this notion of clustering where one "main server" can be rebooting without causing any of their guests to suffer interruption.

You can stuff those services onto a separate guest, but as long as things are laid out properly and you dont have some dependency for your virtual infrastructure on that guest, you can virtualize it just fine. You can even virtualize the vCenter server, though it makes bringing the virtual infrastructure back up from scratch a little bit more painful (you have to manage the servers individually until vCenter is back up).

Re:VMs (3, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 2 years ago | (#41848389)

There are good reasons to separate functions. Mainly security. That way, if someone hacks the NTP server, they don't get control of DNS, nor do they get control of the corporate NNTP server, or other functions.

The ideal would be to run those functions as VMs on a host filesystem that uses deduplication. That way, the overhead of multiple operating systems is minimized.

What would be nice would be an ARM server platform, combined with ZFS for storing the VM disk images, and a well thought out (and hardened) hypervisor. The result would be a server that can take one rack unit, but can handle all the small stuff (DNS caching, NTP, etc.)

Re:VMs (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#41848575)

It comes down to an issue of scalability.
With the multiple services, on one OS. Means if some of the services gets popular, and needs more power then the server can handle. You will need to decommission and reinstall and configure the service onto an other server... And in the mean time your other services are often getting performance hindered. Virtualizing means if you need to move it from one box to an other it is a file copy away. vs. reconfiguring and testing.

Re:VMs (1)

msauve (701917) | about 2 years ago | (#41848077)

Good luck putting ntp on a VM (a host, maybe, but interrupt latency will kill you).

bunch of VMs on a box or two (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847823)

Not using a huge collection of physical boxes any more. Just set up a bunch of VM's and leave them to it.

virtualization is the game now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847839)

I see lots of virtualized servers used for "little tasks". A couple of older servers with XEN or VMWare ESXi are split into a dozen "little virtual boxes" for tasks like NTP servers, Nagios Servers and so on.

Re:virtualization is the game now (5, Insightful)

Zaelath (2588189) | about 2 years ago | (#41847941)

Virtualized NTP is about the dumbest thing I've read on /.

Yes, worse than various conspiracy theories and fanboi wars.

Re:virtualization is the game now (5, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#41848005)

To be fair, if someone cares enough about time accuracy to understand why that's a dumb idea, they should probably be using a GPS receiver instead of a PC.

If you care about time... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 2 years ago | (#41848557)

To be fair, if someone cares enough about time accuracy to understand why that's a dumb idea, they should probably be using a GPS receiver instead of a PC.

Or using both GPS and atomic clocks [] .

Re:virtualization is the game now (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41848403)

NTP is not real-time, so a few ms here or there of delay is not a problem. A stand-alone server is overkill. Why wouldn't you set a low-priority service on a VM? Though it is stupid to dedicate a whole VM for it, as it can run as a service on just about anything (routers, and such, though having your authentication server as NTP helps keep down time mismatch errors that can cause authentication issues.

Re:virtualization is the game now (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 2 years ago | (#41848639)

It can be done.

Ultimately if you need time more accurate than within a few seconds, you should be using a GPS fed stand alone time server anyway. If you are just running NTP so everyones desktop clock is the same and the log files match up.. VM will work fine.

VMs? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847843)

Why not make one box a VM host and have your various support boxes VMs (except for the ones that NEED to be physical).

Virtual machines. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847845)

'nuff said.

cheapest atom board (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847851)

take the cheapest intel atom board, add ram and the cheapest mass storage you can get (stick), done.
yeah yeah, your supplier might not have a 24con-atx 12v-adapter, but that's your problem.

VIrtual little boxes (1, Offtopic)

kurthill4 (996389) | about 2 years ago | (#41847857)

I use virtual machines; very easy to schlep around if needed, very easy to launch/create a new one, etc. Linux vm's for anything needing scripting.

little "virtual" boxes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847863)

I guess it depends on the specifics, but sounds like jobs for VMs to me.

Virtual Machines for Small Workloads (1, Offtopic)

ndrw (205863) | about 2 years ago | (#41847885)

For those "little boxes" that you know won't be fully utilized or need extreme resources, I suggest getting a couple of decently sized servers, running some virtualization platform (vmware, xen, windows (lol), and using virtual machines.

VM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847899)

The trend today seems to be a couple of fuck-you-powerful machines running a lot of virtual machines. (Kind of part of the reason Microsoft has been shitting their pants over VM ware, their licensing forces you to constrain your network design by artificial licensing)

Anything, really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847925)

Any low power box will do, really, if all you plan to do is run NTP or other minor services. Or, as others have pointed out, get one mid-range server and load it up with VMs for the various minor tasks you need to perform.

HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (4, Informative)

steveha (103154) | about 2 years ago | (#41847937)

I don't work in a data center. But I think you might want to look at an HP Proliant MicroServer.

Basically it is an AMD laptop chipset on a tiny motherboard in a cunningly designed compact enclosure. The SATA drives go into carriers that are easily swapped (but not hot-swappable). It's quiet and power-efficient. It supports ECC memory (max 8GB) and supports virtualization. []

Silent PC Review did a complete review of an older model (with a 1.3 GHz Turion instead of 1.5 GHz). []

SRP is $350, but Newegg has it for $320 (limit 5 per customer). []

Newegg also has 8GB of ECC RAM for about $55, so you can get one of these and max its RAM for under $400.

I just got one and haven't had time to really wring it out, but I did do the RAM upgrade. Despite the tiny enclosure, it wasn't too painful to work on it, and I was impressed by the design. The Turion dual-core processor has a passive heat sink on it, and the single large fan on the back pulls air through to cool everything. (There is also a tiny high-speed fan on the power supply.)

I'm going to use this as my personal mail server. It's cheap enough and small enough that I plan to have at least one put away as a hot spare; if the server dies, I'll power it down, move the hard drives to the spare, and I'll have the mail server back up within 5 minutes. Not bad for a cheap little box.

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848139)


why don't you look at something like this?

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848291)


why don't you look at something like this?

Not sure if you are joking.

The Turion 1.5 GHz is more powerful than an Atom D525 1.8 GHz. [] []

The Atom also won't support ECC or virtualization instructions. That tiny box only allows a single drive, so forget about RAID. If the tiny box dies, you will need a screwdriver to move the hard drive to a spare tiny box and it will be a slow process; if the hard drive dies, the server is down (no RAID).

The HP MicroServer has a card slot that can take a system management card. Also, if a data center is already buying HP kit, maybe they will want to buy an HP MicroServer instead of an "E-Box" from a Yahoo store.

But other than that, yeah I guess one is as good as the other.

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848157)

work with 4TB drives?

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848193)

answered my own question :

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (1)

ALeader71 (687693) | about 2 years ago | (#41848179)

I tried esxi on my NL40, but it doesn't see the mothebaord RAID and I didn't want to shell out $$$ for an add-in RAID card that costs nearly as much as the server. So I'm running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and I'm running KVM to my virtualized boxes.

1 - Windows XP instance for iTunes 2. ??? Not sure yet.

The rest of my services: samba, ssh, DNS, DHCP, Plex, are running on the host OS and I'm not seeing a need to run them within a VM. I'm using "fake" RAID for my four 1TB drives backed up to a USB 3.0 (via add-in card) external HD and I couldn't be happier.

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848271)

I tried esxi on my NL40, but it doesn't see the mothebaord RAID and I didn't want to shell out $$$ for an add-in RAID card that costs nearly as much as the server. So I'm running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and I'm running KVM to my virtualized boxes.

1 - Windows XP instance for iTunes
2. ??? Not sure yet.

The rest of my services: samba, ssh, DNS, DHCP, Plex, are running on the host OS and I'm not seeing a need to run them within a VM. I'm using "fake" RAID for my four 1TB drives backed up to a USB 3.0 (via add-in card) external HD and I couldn't be happier.

look into a perc 5 or perc 6 on ebay?

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848219)

About that 8GB memory limit, the community has already validated that the published limit is not the actual limit. There are a few of us around running 16GB RAM in these boxes. It works, no problem.

As it turns out, illumos runs really well on this hardware. Pick your distribution. Mine is running SmartOS from a thumb drive, so all four of my 2TB hard disks are dedicated to virtual machines. I've got several virtual machines (zones) running on mine, and planning to pick up a couple more to expand my little "dollar store cloud".

Even though these HP Microservers are inexpensive, don't write them off as cheap.

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (3, Interesting)

Mark of the North (19760) | about 2 years ago | (#41848465)

It's not rack-mountable. No IPMI either. That should be a deal-breaker for anyplace serious enough to have a rack.

We try to virtualize anything that can be virtualized. But for those few tasks that really need to run on bare metal, we've had good luck with little Atom D525 Supermicro rackmountable boxes. We bought a few complete boxes (minus ram and storage) that Newegg billed as fanless (which was a lie). Those ran hot enough to develope problems after a few months. Ever since we've built ours up from parts (SUPERMICRO CSE-510-200B 1U rackmount server case, SUPERMICRO MBD-X7SPE-HF-D525-O server motherboard, SUPERMICRO MCP-220-00051-0N single 2.5" fixed HDD mounting bracket, GELID Solutions Model CA-PWM 350 mm PWM Y Cable, RAM and storage). About $400 and have been really reliable. Only thing I don't like is that they don't have IPMI on a dedicated port.

But honestly, if there is any virtualization going on, there shouldn't be much need for these.

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (1)

Mark of the North (19760) | about 2 years ago | (#41848611)

I forgot the PC Engines boxes that we have in a few spots. We use them as the box that monitors the UPS and controlls what gets shut-down when the power goes out and looks like it will be down for a while. Since the box draws about 10 watts, the UPS can run it for days before running out of juice. When the power comes back, the PC Engines box coordinates bringing everything else back up. We haven't found anything else that compares for a low-power box that doesn't have to do much of anything other than run reliably.

Re:HP Proliant MicroServer N40L (1)

PrimaryConsult (1546585) | about 2 years ago | (#41848633)

And in some places that get a little *too* serious, you end up with some stupid proprietary appliance that can't be rack mounted but the PHB swore was needed. And for that, you will have one of these [] . And in the extra space next to said proprietary POS, you can put something like the abovementioned HP server.

ESXi (2, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#41847959)

No little unsupportable boxes here.

Re:ESXi (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 2 years ago | (#41848181)

ESXi rocks.
It has made it easy to spin up a test server or six as needed. Makes my work life just a little bit easier.

Re:ESXi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848323)

Yeah, the free version of esx.
Spend a little more on decent hardware, load it with lots of cheap ram. Four core cpus are dirt cheap today too.

Have all the project/test/whatever servers you ever wanted, whenever you want.

Re:ESXi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848425)

How well does that work for you with respect to NTP?

Previous gen hardware (5, Insightful)

trandles (135223) | about 2 years ago | (#41847971)

Last generation's compute nodes. We keep some around for utility functions after decommissioning a large cluster.

Re:Previous gen hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848411)

Exactly. Most of the people commenting here obviously have never worked in a data center. You use the cheapest thing possible for non-critical servers like this - not overpriced macs or HP-whatever that some guy mentioned.

Re:Previous gen hardware (2)

pboyd2004 (860767) | about 2 years ago | (#41848587)

We tend to keep all of this type of stuff on a couple of smaller/older servers running as VMs. This way it's simple to move them to newer hardware when we retire them and they can be moved so that we don't suffer downtime if we need to service the physical machine.

Get a real time server. (5, Interesting)

attemptedgoalie (634133) | about 2 years ago | (#41847973)

Go get a GPS satellite receiver/time server. Actually, get two. Don't screw with time.

THEN, virtualize the rest of the stuff. Monitoring, syslogging, management, patchers, etc.

We've virtualized everything except for
- a Windows DC so that it stays up if the vmware datastores or SAN eats itself in a horrible way.
- The NIS server we have to use on our UX environment due to an ancient regulation. I'm not willing to put up HP-UX VMs for this right now, otherwise it'd be safe in a VM as well.
- Anything we can't virtualize due to licensing/contract/support issues. So our VOIP environments, phone call recording, access control systems for the doors,

My datacenter is getting a lot nicer to look at, and a lot easier to upgrade. I can shift servers or volumes all over the room so I can do live maintenance during the day.

Re:Get a real time server. (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848511)

Note: GPS timeservers can vary widely in quality. Don't assume that the most elegant package, slickest website or cheapest price equates to a solid box (remember, realtime OS's can crash too ;).

Some of the most reliable and precise timeservers I've seen have been home-built PC based boxes.. YMMV.

"Obsolete" hardware (5, Interesting)

beegle (9689) | about 2 years ago | (#41847993)

Those support tasks don't exactly push hardware to its limit, and most of those tasks are the kind of thing that demands a bunch of redundant servers anyway.

Throw a bunch of "last generation" hardware at the task -- stuff from the "asset reclamation" pile. Leave a few more around as spares. Less disposal paperwork. Works just fine. By the time your last spare fails, you'll have a new generation of obsolete hardware.

mini clusters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41847995)

I use several groups of paired 1 U pizza boxes, or as small a server class machine as I can get and still be neat and tidy in the rack. I give each host a primary IP address, then an IP address used for the services that box delivers. I feel free to stick a few services on each one if they can handle it, then stick those cluster IPs in a round robin DNS entry. So each host has a cluster IP that's active all the time, and in the event of an outage on one, the partner takes the cluster IP. In the cluster config, I give each IP a preference, so in normal conditions the cluster is active/active with both hosts working, and in a failure situation, one host takes both sets of IPs and chuggs on like nothing happened.

Sometimes this requires a little IP tables ruleset if your don't want to restart your services to reconnect to every listening IP if that service doesn't support adding listeners on the fly. Sometimes this requires two sets of configuration files for the service.

Most of the time, it just works, you set it up, and forget it. Write a short script that helps you quickly configure the cluster IPs and preferences, so you don't have to go back to offsite memory to build the next set of hosts. It works really well with services that are agnostic and just provide a stateless service. If the service requires some sort of state memory, well, just work it out.

amazon (1, Interesting)

mveloso (325617) | about 2 years ago | (#41848021)

For little boxes that deal with DNS, time, etc - put them in amazon. They're critical servers, but don't really need to be at your site. Put the primaries outside, and slaves on the inside. That way if you have an outage you can always repoint DNS to somewhere else...something you can't do if your primary DNS is on a dead network.

virtualizing NTP is dumb (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#41848161)

You want consistently fast behaviour from your time servers. Don't mess with virtualizing them.

Re:virtualizing NTP is dumb (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41848447)

If an NTP request is served a little slow, what's the problem?

Re:virtualizing NTP is dumb (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848561)

I think the important part of the GP is 'consistent'. Having your NTP coming over the internet will introduce known unknowns and unknown unknowns.. Also, if your onsite slave/backup unit gets its feed from a GPS, but your primary NTP comes from a lab somewhere, you might have a nasty surprise wrt. leap seconds or something. I don't know and I don't care to think too much at this time of night. But I know that moving what is essentially an off-board RTC replacement offsite is a recipe for new and interesting failure modes :)

Re:amazon (1)

sdguero (1112795) | about 2 years ago | (#41848537)

Virtualize NTP?

Good luck with that...

Crash Cart (1)

Jonah Hex (651948) | about 2 years ago | (#41848025)

You have a crash cart with a KVM (for the rare occasions you need to locally access two or more machines simultaneously) and that attaches to all the specialized cables for interfacing with your blades or full size servers, make sure it has a shelf for holding drives/ram/batteries and a bin for more specialized PS2/USB to Server convertors. Otherwise you sit at your desk and remote into EVERYTHING: VMs, Linux, Windows, iLO/etc. - HEX

VMs (1)

wiedzmin (1269816) | about 2 years ago | (#41848115)


Virtual Machines I suppose (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41848149)

I think its apalling that we do that. Its a horribly expensive way to work in hardware but we do it because we can't be stuffed to deal with operating systems. Most likely a single box and OS instance could do it for you if it was set up correctly.

If you (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#41848173)

If you can't run it on your iPad, it's probably not worth running.


Personally at work for small things... (2) (760528) | about 2 years ago | (#41848195)

I personally hate and despise people who put non-rackmount kit in racks...

We use various devices.. mostly all 1ru servers of various configs... for eg there are a couple of mini-itx 1ru servers we have that have e350 based mini-itx boards (i really love the e350/e450 boards)... not quite as cheap as the hp n40 microserver, but at least its a rack format.

Then we have a few that run virtualisation here and there for some tasks using kvm (some of those too have e350's in them as the e350's do have the virt'n extensions unlike the intel atoms)... we also have a few that run intel based i3/i5/i7 mini-itx boards... they're quite nice when you need some extra grunt...

some others are based on super micro boards as well though (which are quite cheap and run core i3/i5/i7 cpus rather the xeons). Then some others are old 1ru xeons we no longer need for server tasks...

Re:Personally at work for small things... (1)

jrmiller (780103) | about 2 years ago | (#41848501)

I personally hate and despise people who put non-rackmount kit in racks...

Hear, hear! We have a rack that's a big rat's nest of cable boxes and IPTV gear. Most of the devices are single-powered, which means we can't take down a UPS for maintenance without taking them down (not a huge deal), plus they're just a rat's nest of cables. We also have a Mac mini in one of our racks that's attached into some sort of purpose-built chassis. Still's single-psu, though--not ideal for a datacenter unless it's part of a larger cluster.

Re:Personally at work for small things... (1)

neonmonk (467567) | about 2 years ago | (#41848649)

Sounds like you need an ATS.

Rat bait stations (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 2 years ago | (#41848205)

These little boxes are very common around data centers.

What scale data center? (2)

sxltrex (198448) | about 2 years ago | (#41848225)

I can't imagine trying to perform network management with a few mac minis so I'm assuming you're referring to a very small facility? Our new data center was built on 10-gig infrastructure and our NM is appropriately scaled--NetScout Infinistreams connected to Gigamon matrix switches. While the Gigamons were quite expensive they allowed us to utilize fewer Infinistreams while also providing some very cool functionality.

It look a long time for our upper management (those with the dollars) to come around to the notion that, in order to realize the full investment made in the data center, true network management needed to be baked in from the start.

Some things must be physical (1)

ALeader71 (687693) | about 2 years ago | (#41848229)

Mac Minis are a good option. For me, it would depend on my environment. If it's Windows, then a few business-class workstations for administrative access and monitoring tools. If it's Unix or Linux, use the same class hardware (or even less for display-only devices) running whatever enterprise OS we're using. For OSX (are there any?) I'd go with Mac Minis or iMacs, but realize I could go the *nix route of my tools aren't OSX specific. I've read a few postings saying "just toss 'em all into a few VMs" and I agree, but for the administrator level access. When the proverbial stuff hits the fan, you need a few good standalone devices to remote or console in to these virtualized towers and figure out what the heck is going on.

Re:Some things must be physical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848489)

Who the hell would purchase a mac mini for a server room? You want to make a use case for a consumer fine, but as servers? Bollocks.

Fucking shills/fanbois

old and arm (1)

dtdmrr (1136777) | about 2 years ago | (#41848237)

At work (actual machine room), I've just been using old machines (obviously not running critical infrastructure there). At home, I got a raspberry pi to run bind, dhcpd, login, home automation and to wake up my home machines. But I haven't actually moved my dns services to it just yet.

Soekris (2)

Xipher (868293) | about 2 years ago | (#41848277)

We are using a couple Soekris [] boxes for some basic monitoring. They are lightweight atom processors with no active cooling and it's designed with networking in min. 4 Gig-E ports on the 6501, and you can get up to 8 more thanks to 2 PCI-E slots available in the rackmount version. Since we are using an mSATA SSD on the board we have no moving parts, so nothing mechanic to fail.

And I shall call him, mini-server. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848285)

Depending on the number of systems being monitored, or what the task was, we would use one of three methods.

1. If the device required it's own hardware, a Supermicro 1U Atom system.
2. If the device could be a VM (such as a DNS or DHCP server in this case) it would be.
3. If the device could be a VM, but monitored other VM's, we would use a clustered install of the netmon software.

I think Supermicro makes a 1U twin system, and a 2U quad system. I believe these are available single socket, and should serve well. Given power budgets, usually re-using old hardware, depending on the age, can be a bad idea.

~Another anonymous coward

Forget the "Little Boxes" (1)

FuegoFuerte (247200) | about 2 years ago | (#41848287)

There aren't many good uses for "little boxes" in a datacenter. For the things you mention, there are dedicated devices, there are big boxes, and there are VMs hosted on big boxes.

1) Time - If you care enough to have your own time server, you don't want this on a generic "little box." If you actually care about accurate time, you'll want a CDMA/GPS/WWVB time device (assuming US, if outside the US use whatever is available for your locale). The easiest setup will be CDMA or WWVB, as long as you get a decent signal where the device sits. I've had good luck with End-Run Technology's gear. GPS works great for time, but won't typically get signal inside a datacenter so you have to run a lot of coax and mount and antenna on the roof, which your datacenter may or may not be OK with. CDMA relies on accurate time, and is usually synchronized directly to GPS, so you can consider it nearly as accurate while being a whole lot easier to set up.

If you don't care enough to buy a dedicated NTP device and are just looking for something to keep all your local gear in sync, a VM will work OK, though it's better to put it on a physical box with a real RTC. If you do host it virtual, make sure you disable any virtual time sync providers your virtualization platform may normally use, or else bad things happen (your NTP server syncs with the RTC on the host, the host syncs with the NTP server, they both drift).

For monitoring, if you have any real number of servers, you'll want it on its own beefy box. Decent monitoring is surprisingly resource-intensive. Any other "little boxes" (dhcp, administrative, etc) are a perfect use for VMs.

What do I like... (1)

Shoten (260439) | about 2 years ago | (#41848289)

I like the same big boxes as are used for everything else. NTP server, running on a Mac Mini...really? Get a GPS-driven device that serves the purpose. They run an embedded OS, so they're very low-maintenance and straightforward, and they perform extremely well. As far as uptime/network/performance monitoring functions, these need to be at least as reliable as everything else. And the mainframe interfaces are awfully important...imagine how much good you'd be if you maintained you intellect but became paralyzed, deaf, mute, and blind all at the same time? If those fail, your big iron is a big anchor.

Don't skimp on the support infrastructure of a data center. Those systems impact everything.

Synertron micro boxes (1)

mike.rimov (1148959) | about 2 years ago | (#41848313) []

Some are fanless that I use for linux boxes, some are rackmount with multiple motherboards per 1U case, and their prices are add-ons are cheaper than newegg.

Nope, don't work for 'em, just used their products for about 8 years now.

Those? We virtualized them. (1)

slacklinejoe (1784298) | about 2 years ago | (#41848325)

No idea about others here, but nearly all of our peripheral boxes got pulled into virtualization projects and the "private cloud" thing management bought into. Seems to increase reliability in our systems since they get "free" piggy back rides on high availability systems so one DC failure doesn't take down our even our semi-important systems. To access them we just fire up the VPN with two factor auth over wireless at Starbucks from our laptop/tablet/phone if we need to log in. Beats the hell out of sitting in the chill, roar or heat of the DC.

little support boxes (aka infrastructure) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41848375)

Not being smarmy, mind you (especially not to a first time submitter), but you are talking about infrastructure (DNS, NTP, kickstart and jumpstart servers, internal web servers, etc.). Except for the SPARC jumpstart server, all infrastructure is Linux based and runs on old Sun (Intel) boxes in sufficient quantities for redundancy. This stuff predates the wide acceptance of VMs; if we were to redo it, most of it would move to VMs. There have been NTP issues on VMs, so NTP would likely survive as two boxes also running something else to consume the spare cycles.

We run them in-switch (1)

Tugrik (158279) | about 2 years ago | (#41848475)

My datacenter uses Arista gear for top-of-rack and core switching. It's a large cloud-style environment with each rack acting as its own "pod" with self-contained services, so any one pod can be moved to any zone of any of our datacenters with minimal fuss.

Small services like NTP, in-pod DNS, sFlow relay, monitoring, puppet (some of it anyways) and small unixy management tools we just run in the Aristas themselves. They're Fedora-core linux based switches that will run those things happily and do a great job feeding those services to their pods.

As far as NTP, the core pair on the main backbone gets their own GPS inputs, then all the top-of-racks sync to the core pair. Works out quite nicely.

We don't have anything. (1)

pointyhat (2649443) | about 2 years ago | (#41848495)

We don't have any management or service boxes. Everything is appliances (cisco/HP) or off site (exchange, CRM). Our AD servers act as the time servers for the hosting environment. We don't want to manage anything else as it all takes away from the bottom line and eats fairly expensive rack space.
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