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Data Storage Hardware

Data Center In a Shoe Box 146

eldavojohn writes "How would you like to have a data center that uses just 14.5 watts and weighs 255g? It's also only as big as a shoe box! The Register looks at a few solutions to network area storage that make buying a dedicated data server on a rack look like a relic of the past. Yes, it runs Linux."
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Data Center In a Shoe Box

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  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:06PM (#23226526)
    Yes, it runs Linux.

    yeah but I doubt it can play Ogg files.

    I for one welcome our shoebox dwelling data overlords.
    • by eebra82 ( 907996 )

      yeah but I doubt it can play Ogg files.
      It runs on a 400 MHz AMD/Raza MIPS chip. You can certainly play ogg files, but the lack of a sound card is probably going to make it into a pointless mission.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by raddan ( 519638 )
      Just as a point of reference, I have a Soekris net4801-60 [soekris.com] connected to a USB-audio adapter, PCI USB2 card and external USB hard disk, and this machine plays MP3s just fine. It was a little bit of a gamble when I purchased the hardware, since I did not know if it was fast enough, but I did some tests using mpg123 on a similar machine (AMD K6) and it handled MP3 playback just fine. I briefly thought I was in trouble when I discovered that the USB-audio device could only playback audio at 48KHz, but surprisi
    • yeah but I doubt it can play Ogg files.
      Well, it can certainly stream them to a computer that can.
  • AppleTV (Score:3, Informative)

    by clare-ents ( 153285 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:06PM (#23226542) Homepage
    http://www.mythic-beasts.com/appletvdedicated.html [mythic-beasts.com]

    15-20W, 1Ghz Core Solo, 256MB RAM, 40GB disk, already plugged in, masterswitched and ready to go.

    disclaimer: I'm one of the company founders.
    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )
      40GB disc? So 10 shows is about it, that seems like a real problem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by clare-ents ( 153285 )
        If you watch TV shows when you're sat in the data centre I guess is might be. If you're after a cheap dedicated linux server (and *lots* of people are) good luck finding something cheaper.
        • hmmm, cheaper is relative. I don't see where I can order one very easily. Seems like we would almost need to 'apply' to order 1 (or 20)?
        • by radish ( 98371 )
          Seriously? OK, how about this [ultrahosting.com], or this [server4you.com] or this [wsservers.com]. Most of these deals are for considerably better hardware/bandwidth too - as well as being cheaper.
      • 1) It's in a data centre. 2) The AppleTV just caches shows on it's disk, it can stream from iTunes on your computer too.
    • No wireless. Less space than an iPod. Lame.
    • For comparison, I am paying $50/month to these guys [macminicolo.net] for a colocated Mac Mini with 100GB of transfer per month 2 IPs, and great support. Mine is the PowerPC model and runs OpenBSD.
      • Sure, we're £400/year inc VAT for Mac Mini colo with 100GB of traffic, which ex VAT and in dollars is about $670 / year. It's slightly higher but not much.

        The AppleTV is about the same speed as a PowerPC Mini, comes in at ~ $580 with 100GB which includes the hardware.

        I don't think there's a cheaper UK based dedicated server, but I could be wrong. US servers are cheaper because the dollar is 'competitively' priced. The 200ms ping time makes them less desirable to those of us in Europe though.
        • The AppleTV is about the same speed as a PowerPC Mini, comes in at ~ $580 with 100GB which includes the hardware.

          Your price for the AppleTV on the site you link to is £35/month, which is $70 at the current exchange rate - 40% more. Including the hardware is a good point, however my Mini is now three years old and so works out at about $15/month for the price I paid for it (it has an 80GB disk and 512MB of RAM - not sure how much you charge for a similarly upgraded AppleTV), and they will ship it to me when I stop hosting it with them. Looking at your co-lo prices for a Mac Mini, it seems you charge arou

  • by iamhigh ( 1252742 ) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:07PM (#23226558)
    Right, just what I want... a data center full of laptop hard drives running at 5400 RPM.

    I wouldn't even want that bottleneck at home.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Yeah, but could you imagine a Beowulf cluster of these things?
    • a datacentre with a 5400rpm HDD would be a bad thing, but .. a 20-drive RAID5 array would not be so bad.

      I'm not 100% sure about this, but I know more spindles = better performance, and you could fit a lot more little drives into an enclosure than the relatively large 3.5" drives, so perhaps the overall performance would be better.

      I guess, in the end, you don't get 2.5" drives in SCSI flavour so its a bit pointless. the only good thing about 2.5" drives is that you can put them in an USB caddy without needin
    • by JayAEU ( 33022 )
      I'm not so sure about that. These 2.5" drives have a lot going for them, they need less power and thus produce less heat, not to mention that they're a lot smaller and take up less space.

      I put eight 250GB drives in 2 of these babies http://www.snt.com.tw/product.php?mode=show&pid=82 [snt.com.tw] and hooked them up with 2 Promise TX4-SATA300 controllers in a headless AMD BE2350 powered PC as a RAID6/LVM config using Ubuntu Server 8.04 LTS.

      This way I get around 1.5TB of *fast* and *quiet* fully networked storage. If
      • HP has started to move that way with their servers. Currently you can get hotplug 2.5" SAS drives in 36GB and 72GB sizes at 15,000 RPM, and larger at 10,000 RPM.
  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:07PM (#23226560)
    Heck, not even close to a server or a SAN/NAS. 1TB of storage and a 266Mhz cpu mean that you would need a real data center full of these shoeboxes to get any real work done.
    • One of the devices they mentioned was 400 MHz, one was 266. They're definitely servers, at least in the sense that they have no video (and unlike audio, which you can add with USB, there's no obvious way to add it.)


      So it's basically something you'd use for a small home web server, or applications like DNS.


      Another alternative is to take an old laptop and add a bigger disk.

  • Smart boxes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I have been thinking of setting up such shoe box server. It would be nice to have ftp, and maybe bittorrent, running without too much noise or heat. And saving the planet too, since it would cut down my carbon footprint.
    • Re:Smart boxes (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:10PM (#23227466)
      Funny mod? Oh well.

      May I recommend a Linksys NSLU2?

      266 MHz Arm chip. Not the fastest thing in the world, but you can install a full debian system onto it. I have one running torrentflux-b4rt over lighttpd. It also runs ushare so that the Xbox 360 (or other UPnP device) can stream the media. It also runs samba, which I expose via SSH so I can listen to my music from work.

      Downsides -
      It's slow. Real slow. Install and update of packages through the debian system, takes AGES.
      If you're unlucky you'll get one that runs at 133 MHz and have to de-solder or cut through a resistor to get it up to full speed (quite easy really)

      Upsides -
      The only noise is the hard disk caddy and disk you choose.
      You can leave it on all the time and it won't bump up your electricity bill by much.
      • Allow me to second that. =10W (even including a laptop drive in external enclosure), silent, for any application that needs less than about 3MB/s, 1MB/s over sshfs. Brilliant.

        Whatever you do, don't use the stock Linksys OS. nslu2-linux.org has everything you need.
    • I found a cheap 1.7GHz Pentium-M Dell laptop with a broken screen on eBay. I put in a larger drive (5400 RPM, since I didn't need the extra noise or heat), and now I have a nice Linux box that draws 13-14 watts at idle, cranks up to 1.7GHz when needed, and has a built-in 2 hour UPS. It runs a completely stock x86 version of CentOS, so no worries about recompiling anything. Since it only actually does work for 4-5 hours a day, I set noatime so the drive would spin down when not in use, leaving the machine
  • the cost of one of these things? It says that they are onsale, but I didn't see any pricing information anywhere...
    • by Monkey ( 16966 )
      If the 1 TB storage device intended to be used with this thing at $699 is any indication of cost , it's probably not cheap. At that price, cost savings on power consumption are insignificant compared to the savings that would be gained through simply purchasing commodity hardware.
  • Even smaller servers (Score:5, Informative)

    by miller60 ( 554835 ) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:09PM (#23226592) Homepage
    Those are pretty compact. A little while ago the Tzywen blog featured a number of novelty micro-servers [tzywen.com] that make the Plat'Home servers look like heavyweights.


    Then there's an oldie but goodie: the World's Lowest Power Web Server [d116.com], running on a single AAA battery and a bank of potatoes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Great. Now the World's Lowest Power Web Server has been slashdotted. They might even have to change the battery.
    • by jd ( 1658 )
      Some time back, Slashdot ran a story on a server that was the size of a Russian matchbox, although storage space was somewhat limited and it was Slashdotted even quicker than most. As for the server the Register is talking about, the speed is deceptive as the MIPS is a RISC architecture and runs faster than the pure clock rating would imply. I'm guessing it's a 32-bit MIPS, though. (I could look up the specs, but it was painful enough reading the article.)
      • Some time back, Slashdot ran a story on a server that was the size of a Russian matchbox


        "Russian matchbox"? Do Russians use matches of unusal size or something?
        • by bhima ( 46039 ) *
          Yes, but they are a DIN norm. Unfortunately American & British matchboxes are entirely different sizes and are not standards... which is why they keeping using the old standards of bread boxes, Rhode Islands, and Libraries of Congress. Why the hell The Register is using the non standard size of a "shoe box" is beyond me... I guess it just goes to show their shoddy journalism.
        • by jsiren ( 886858 )
          print "It's a matchbox"; while(true) { print " that contains a matchbox"; }
        • Do Russians use matches of unusal size or something?

          The third terror of the Fire Swamp.

          "Matches Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist. [imdb.com]"
  • At 700 dollars and only 1 TB of storage? Pffffft. I'll pass.
  • This seems kind of gimmicky. The price point makes it unlikely that any home users will purchase it when it is cheaper to buy a usb harddrive, but the form factor and hardware make it impractical for an enterprise setting where it doesn't make any real sense in a large distributed network.

    Though I suppose it could be good for a small office setting with file sharing needs...

    So theres that..

    • Yep. they tried to please all, and will likely sell next to none of these. the only thing I can think of is in a industrial setting. But there are already a few strong contenders in this market (little pc, for one). And it is a small market.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This seems kind of gimmicky. The price point makes it unlikely that any home users will purchase it when it is cheaper to buy a usb harddrive, but the form factor and hardware make it impractical for an enterprise setting where it doesn't make any real sense in a large distributed network.

      Though I suppose it could be good for a small office setting with file sharing needs...

      So theres that..

      This product in particular is weak and I am not sure why this review in particular made the front page, but I do have a NAS box of a different sort that works quite well, at least for my purposes. I live in NYC, and so my apartment is not much larger than a shoebox, and I got rid of my desktop awhile back in favor of just keeping a much smaller laptop. Laptops have small drives though, and I wanted more storage. A small NAS box fit the need perfectly- I got one by Synology that is a BYOD (Bring Your Own D

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gfxguy ( 98788 )
      Since I use my laptop for most of my work (it's quieter, uses less energy, and there's no performance penalty for practically everything I do, which is mainly just editing files), I'd been thinking of what a good desktop replacement system would be.

      First, the reason I still keep my desktop is for higher end video... games and occasionally video editing. So I was thinking along the lines of a replacement system that was as generic as possible...

      A small system with a brick power supply... it would only have
      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Because the basic system would just be CPU/Memory/PCI, it could be powered with a brick (no PS Fan),
        Yeah uh huh because the basic system would just be a 100W+ Quad-CPU, Memory 10W/stick and a 300W PCIe 2.0 16x slot. You do realize that your "basic" system is maybe 20% the complexity but 80% of the power draw of a typical system, right?
        • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
          Put it this way; a "desktop replacement" powerhouse laptop has all these things and still runs off a brick or limited battery power, and it's driving a screen, HDD, and optical drive, too.
  • by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:12PM (#23226634) Journal

    So, why not ignore the chip and embrace a box that reflects an entire cultural ethos?
    Because I was promised a data centre in a shoebox not an over hyped home file server bottleneck machine!
    While we're at it, I want my flying car!
  • From TFA:

    The LinkStation Mini uses a pair of 5,400RPM 2.5 inch notebook drives to perform its magic, making it the only Buffalo storage unit not to run on SATA drives. You can configure the device in RAID 0 or RAID 1.

    Sorry, but while this sounds neat for the SOHO or hobbyist user, this isn't a corporate solution. Until you set up one of these little boxes with at least 5 drives in a RAID 5 array, it will remain nothing more than a curiosity.
    • Exactly! I can easily see one of my friends asking if I'd like to see their new data centre then opening a modded old style coke machine reviling one of these set ups with beer next to it.
      But, I cannot for the life of me can not see any serious professional considering this as an enterprise solution.
    • by WK2 ( 1072560 )

      Sorry, but while this sounds neat for the SOHO or hobbyist user...

      It's too expensive for 99% of SOHO users. Not that they can't afford it, but most would rather just get a USB HDD, or something like the WD myBook. A hobbyist would probably rather make something like it himself.

    • by JayAEU ( 33022 )
      No problem, it can be done.
      http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=536838&cid=23234846 [slashdot.org]

      Just buy a well built PC (FSC are really nice) and put in a bunch of 2.5" disks in a RAID6 on an enterprise grade OS like Ubuntu Server 8.04 LTS.
    • If you can't move the drives to an identical unit and have them recognized and working immediately, it will remain nothing more than a curiosity. Drives are not the only things that can fail.
  • The server units don't seem any more radical than a Mac Mini and there are many small NAS units that have been around for a long time.
  • The first one with it's ability to run via poe was nice but otherwise they look a like like the old lynksys nslug by the specs.

    Running a pair of notebook hard drives as a mirror set might cut it for a very modest office or a home user. But it seems a bit nicer to put it all into one package like the asus and linksys AP's with USB ports for drives and printers.
  • by EriktheGreen ( 660160 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:17PM (#23226710) Journal
    This article is about a nifty little NAS server that's turn-key, runs linux, and runs on an embedded MIPS chip. It's neat, but it's not a replacement for a data center. Or most workgroup file servers. It's about on a par with the network attached hard drives that are pretty common in most computer stores now. Kinda neat, but unless you're into "japanese-ness" of technology that's all it is. This stuff doesn't matter....
    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      Well, sure, but I also remember when Japanese cars were called "rice cookers". I can recall marveling at this tiny Datsun sedan with its almost toylike 1.2l, 69 hp engine that one of the neighbors bought. I thought it was cool, although that was a decidedly non-cool idea of "cool".

      The other neighbors had cool cars like the Plymouth Duster, which boasted 225hp and nearly five times the displacement of the Datsun. Another neighbor had a Buick Wildcat with a 401 inch (6.6l) V8 that generated an astonishing 3
      • >That doesn't necessarily mean you can pull your boat trailer with a 69 hp engine, of course.

        Sure you can, if it's geared correctly. Check out the HP ratings on the US Army 2 1/2 ton trucks that were used in world war II... you'll be surprised :)

        • by hey! ( 33014 )
          Sure, but I'm assuming that you (a) want to arrive at the boat ramp in one piece and (b) you want to actually spend time with the boat in the water this weekend...
          • I engineer a 150hp locomotive. I can pull your boat, your car, and maybe even your house.
            • by hey! ( 33014 )

              I engineer a 150hp locomotive. I can pull your boat, your car, and maybe even your house.

              Not on route I95, you can't. In any case, a 150hp locomotive? What is that, a kiddy ride? I thought locomotives were in the 2000 - 6000 hp range, with self-propelled railcars being in the 500-1000 range. You must be measuring horsepower by some different method. I know that steam engines can be rated by boiler horsepower but be capable of delivering much higher net horsepower over short distances, by a factor of f

              • Saying locomotives are in the 2000-6000hp range is like saying that that cars are in the 250-750 hp range. Yard locomotives tend to top out at 2000hp (Union Pacific's newest switcher models have 3x700hp engines).

                The train I work on is 2ft gauge, and the 50 year old diesel locomotive puts out something on the order of 1,000ft-lb of torque. The best writeup I've seen is at http://gold.mylargescale.com/Scottychaos/MNGRR_diesel1.html [mylargescale.com]. It looks like it's basically half of a GE "44 Tonner" [wikipedia.org]. I think it's a cust

      • by jsiren ( 886858 )

        That doesn't necessarily mean you can pull your boat trailer with a 69 hp engine, of course.
        For small values of "boat" you can.
    • Data center folks... You know you can sell them 72GB SCSI drives all day. They have no clue about reliability, performance, capacity or redundancy. All they know is what they learned 10 years ago when they got their certs, and what their rep has told them since. They have no desire to read Google's published data.

      SAS is the latest fad if they're not buying into iSCSI or whatever else they've been told is the latest trend in reliability and performance.

      My vote for reliability, redundancy, bandwidth, vol

      • I had a nice reply to this typed out, but Slashdot's beta on-screen editor ate it.

        But basically what you're describing is a non-redundant commodity hardware version of a NAS or SAN array. It has lots of single points of failure and most importantly is missing the software that manages all that data.

        EMC and Hitachi sell large versions of it, based on much the same hardware, and get probably a lot more cash for it than they should given their costs, but those old time data center folks aren't all that fa

  • For a real datacenter you will need a Beowulf cluster of these.
  • by nguy ( 1207026 )
    The unit runs the SSD Linux operating system, which straps NetBSD userland functions onto the Linux kernel

    I'm sorry, but that just seems completely wrong... or, rather, backwards.
  • by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:33PM (#23226896) Journal
    Just how many of these "data centers" would it take to fill Imelda Marcos' closet?
  • It's not as big as a shoebox, it (OpenMicoServer) is as big as a shoebox _lid_.
  • When she realizes there's no shoes in the thing.

    Belated April fool's joke here I come...
  • According to all the informative SPAM I get, bigger is better so this just can't be right.
  • These devices look like they do basically the same thing as the NSLU2, by linksys, which you can hack to run debian. I have one running in my living room right now. Or am I missing something?
  • No way it's going to do anything to real data centers.. And just targeting this slashdvertisment as "data center for geeks in you mom basement" is just stupid. For real geeks is laughable - kind of child play, for all of us who seen real DC hardware.
    For general consumer which wants his routing and data back up it's not going work too. Sounds too complex (marketed for geeks), too hard to configure.
    These are just glorified routers for very limited community to write software for and hack various devices with
  • The devices are designed to monitor other devices like surveillance cameras, vending machines, data collectors, VPN servers, simple NIDS appliances, even firewalls and whatnot.

    It's very similar to industrial SBC computers, onboard car computers and the devices that are stuck on telephone poles, cell phone towers for remote C.O. management. SBC's, PC104s, pico-ILX form factor devices that use boot from flash with memory card storage are pretty common. What they've done here is bolted that spec on to common P
  • by e2d2 ( 115622 )
    255g? That's only .04 stone!
  • YOU CAN'T BUY THEM. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Caspian ( 99221 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:05PM (#23227408)
    I'm sick of people Slashvertising these devices. You cannot buy them. [plathome.com] Quoted from their own goddamned page: "We do not sell the MicroServer series directly to consumers.". Period, full stop, end of sentence. You can't buy them. Maybe the company you work for can buy them... presumably, if they want to buy many of them. But you, the consumer, the individual geek hobbyist, can't buy one to mess around with.
  • This really feels like a neat piece of tech just LOOKING for a market. The linked website doesn't say anything about fitting a laptop hardrive or anything inside of it. It just says "flash card". So it can't store much, but it DOES have ethernet ports.

    So is this thing pointing itself at the Soekris [soekris.com] or W.R.A.P [pcengines.ch] boards then (these devices are both aimed at embedded firewalls, and wireless access points)? It really doesn't look that way.

    So you've basically got yourself a little box, with a flash card slot i
  • www.soekris.com

    I have a 5501. It works like a champ. Fedora 8 runs great on it. 500 MHz Geode, 512 MB RAM, 4 x 100 Mb Ethernet, USB, CF, PATA, SATA. The computer uses 5 watts and the SATA drive uses another 2 watts.
  • Mini-ITX and Blades (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bradgoodman ( 964302 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:42PM (#23227914) Homepage
    It's not quite a "shoebox" - but same principal. I made a 40-node Mini-ITX datacenter a few years back. Very cheap, low-power, cool (temperature), etc.

    I still use one as my main server at home.

    Picts at:

    http://www.bradgoodman.com/pictures/itxblade.jpg [bradgoodman.com]

    http://www.bradgoodman.com/pictures/itxbladex40.jpg [bradgoodman.com]

    • by dwater ( 72834 )
      I had similar thoughts when I read tfa.

      I buy all my mini-itx stuff from here :

      http://www.mini-itx.com/ [mini-itx.com]

      I recently wanted to do RAID1 in a case that only fitted one 3.5" HDD - and it was the space for a low profile 3.5" HDD too.
      I used their adapter to fit in two 2.5" drives into the space of a single 3.5" drive. Works really well :)

      I really recommend that site..
  • From their website [plathome.com], "We do not sell the MicroServer series directly to consumers."
    • Does that preclude just forming a company in order to purchase them? Or are they insisting on large amounts of lost sales(that would be too large to ignore)?
  • They seem to be not able to get the idea of selling them to more than just companies, but to end users.

    Plathome can try again when they've fixed that problem. Otherwise, it's just vaporware.
    • They rent evaluation units for free to companies, and offer a discounted method to buy the evaluation unit if that is preferred. It is on their website under the evaluation section.
  • Someday, hopefully floating point will become popular for networking. Then they'll start putting the FPUs on these ARM chips.

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @04:50PM (#23230306) Homepage Journal
    I don't see any redundancy for starters.

    Also, a 'data center' is more then just lots of storage, people also run applications and 'services' ( like SQL ) in the "data center".

    For something to carry around in your bag or to stick in your garage or the trunk of your car, it might be nice, but please don't misrepresent it.
    • Redundancy? Buy two. Use OpenBSD and CARP. Dedicate the 10/100 link to the pair. Use the 10/100/1000 ports on each as required by the application. This is 1/2 the effect rack space at about 1/3 the effective CPU horsepower as some of our network appliances we custom configure. It might make sense at the very low end for some of our customers. We also host on Mac Mini systems were I lament the lack of a second ethernet port. But OS X supports 1394 w/TCP/IP just fine so not a total train-wreck to set up ver

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