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Which Motherboards for Headless Unix Servers? 33

Posted by Cliff
from the ichabod-loses-horse-goes-digital dept.
nettdata asks: "So I'm a 'Sun' guy who's looking to build a Linux server. I've got everything picked out except the motherboard, and I need help. I've gone through some hardware sites (Tom's, etc.) but I can't seem to find a 'top 10' list for what I need, so I was hoping some experienced people in the Slashdot forum can help me cut to the chase. This will be my home server, so I want it to be as inexpensive as possible while still being something that will perform well. (Champagne taste on a beer budget). It will be a headless box, so more than anything I want the ability to do command line boot/BIOS control via the serial port to a VT100 session like I can with my Sun boxes. (This will be done via my handy dandy PortMaster). Lights Out Management (LOM) would be an added bonus. Google, Slashdot, and ExtremeTech searches haven't turned up anything usefull. Any thoughts or sites?"
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Which Motherboards for Headless Unix Servers?

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  • Supermicro (Score:3, Informative)

    by legend (26856) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:30PM (#2488626) Homepage
    I use Supermicro servers, and along with great linux support, they are able to be run headless. You can purchase motherboards only, or, a barebones server from them. I have seen some Intel based designs (Dells, Compaqs) that support serial console as well.

    SuperServer 6010 [supermicro.com]
    • They look like what I'm looking for.

      :)

      Just to confirm, though... is the entire boot process redirected to the serial port should a keyboard/mouse/monitor not be attached?

      • Re:Supermicro (Score:3, Informative)

        by legend (26856)
        Yup, you set COM1 in the bios to whatever baud rate you want, connect a terminal server, or a modem, and EVERYTHING is redirected out the serial port. The bios can be accessed, and you can watch the boot process.
    • Im going to agree whole heartidly with this ... I own a supermicro p6dls motherboard (dual P2, LX chipset, onboard scsi) and the thing is an absoulte trooper. Its run 24/7 since late 97 (been turned on, not uptime:) ... Its never thrown a kernel panic, and only once a blue screen.

      I wish supermicro would bite the bullet and make AMD boards...
  • Get what I have (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by PD (9577)
    I have a Pentium-133 motherboard. I have no idea what kind it is, just picked it up for $10 at Goodwill Computerworks here in Austin.

    It works sweet.

    BTW, any Linux box with a serial port will allow you to connect a VT-100. The Linux Kernel can handle that no problem. I've got a 486-33 Thinkpad running OS/2 and a term program set up as the console on the above described server.

    • The issue isn't whether or not Linux can handle it... I'm looking for the ENTIRE boot process (as in the BIOS, etc.) to be accessible. Your answer assumes that Linux boots successfully. What happens if Linux won't boot due to a disk issue? On my Sun box, I can deal with it and reboot the machine, and change any BIOS settings... all through the serial port.

      That's the kind of functionality I'm looking for in the non-Sun world.

    • by PD (9577)
      Offtopic? The moderator who did this must not have finished first grade.

      Fucking idiot.
      • Now see? THAT'S how to moderate. The post above was a flamebait, and it was moderated properly.

        GOOD JOB! Here's a gold star for you.

  • I've found the Linux forum as well as the CPU/Motherboard one to be full of valuable info about building your own inexpensive Linux/x86 machine.

  • PC weasel (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ghostis (165022)
    try out PC weasel with any motherboard. I just got mine so I can't say too much about it.

    http://www.realweasel.com/
  • Intel ISP1100 [intel.com] - a nice 1U chassis+motherboard, designed to run headless (with serial-console support). I don't remember exactly how much you can control over the serial port (e.g. I don't remember if you can power it on/off or reset it, like you can on some of the HP kit), but it does give you access to the BIOS.

    Note that it's a bit noisy, so if it's going to be a "home server" you probably want to put it in the basement.

    Or you could just slap a "PC Weasel" [realweasel.com] card into a regular server, and get console redirection over RS-232. [Note: despite the name, this is a real company and product AFAIK. No relation to www.realhamster.com.]
    • Some of our servers have an ISA PC Weasel card. They're not cheap, but work very well. They completely emulate the videocard/keyboard and you can also reset (and maybe powercycle, not sure about that one) your server with it.
  • by shrike (1090) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @03:50AM (#2489155)
    We've got several servers sporting a dual CPU Thunder LE mobo at work and they work marvelously, including serial console. Available with or without dual channel U160 SCSI. We're running FreeBSD on them, btw. The biggest downside is the price.
  • by Faldgan (13738) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @02:26PM (#2490129) Homepage Journal
    I've use some boards that have it (Intel G440LX series) and it's great.
    The problem is (of course) finding a board that has that feature. I'm afraid that most boards in the 'budget' range will not do this.

    If you have a bunch of them at a colo, you can daisy-chain the serial ports, (So the console from A is going into B, the console from B is going into C, and so on until the console from X is going into A) The only way to totally lose a machine is to lose ALL of them.
  • . . . because it isn't out there.

    Someone else mentioned the weasel, it does exactly what you want, but they aren't cheap.

    PC MBs aren't going to give you LOM or BIOS via serial.

    Either get a second-hand Sun, or learn to live without this stuff (or fork out the $$ for the weasel).

    Living without it isn't that bad. How often do you really need to mess with the BIOS? You can get arount boot options with "lilo -R [label]" (change the default boot image for the next boot only) and if it never comes up just pop in your boot floppy, get it up and try again. Worst case you have to schlep a monitor over to the system.

    Welcome to the world of cheap hardware!

    -Peter
    • Errr... I think we have found fround seperate motherboards so far, the Supermicro, the Intel ISP, some Dell Poweredges, and the TYAN. PC hardware _is_ cheap, but some motherboard manufacturers actually to put some usefull features into their products. (and _NO_, IDE "RAID" does not count)
      • Acutally, I used to be a Dell server support tech, so am am very familiar with the DRAC.

        But we're talking beer budget, remember. Sure, you could buy a PowerEdge with a DRAC, or a high-end SuperO setup, but that isn't really on topic is it?

        I mean, I know I said you can't find it. Like every infatic statemnet (including this one) it is fundamentally false. If you are going to point out "answers" to questions that don't meet the original premise of the question you have a never-ending task ahead of you. And if I try to preemtively point out every possible situation like this my posts would never end.

        To summarize, I stand behind my statements within the given problem domain.

        Anyway, if this guy really "needs" all these features I really think he is best off with a used Sun box.

        -Peter
  • I would definitely recommend Ars Technica as a good source for hardware reviews and recommendations

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