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Power Data Storage Technology

Low Powered SOHO Server? 71

meroo asks: "I am building a new home that is completely solar/wind powered. I need to conserve power wherever I can, but I don't want to leave all my tech toys behind. I need advice about building a low power, Linux based, file and print server. It should be scalable to more than a terabyte of storage (we are video artists) with at least four HDD bays for flexibility and data redundancy. I would like advice on processor/mainboard combos, low power HDDs and a distro with the best power management to bring this thing down to idle when we are not using it. The server will be accessed via our laptops (Mac OSX and Ubuntu), a future home theatre PC and visitors assorted laptops. I've been looking at using laptop components, miniITX and professional server solutions, but now I'm thoroughly confused. Has anyone on Slashdot been faced with this problem before?"
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Low Powered SOHO Server?

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  • Low power video? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gambit3 ( 463693 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:14PM (#13984715) Homepage Journal
    Those two things don't seem to go together. I'm interested what advice people come up with since video rendering is just about the most processor-intensive thing you can do on a computer.
    • by ( 311067 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:21PM (#13984741) Homepage Journal
      I agree, this doesn't seem too thought out. If you are video artists you will need to run good lcds, fast cpus, lots of ram, and fast hard drives. That is the opposite of low power. Suck it up, you can't have your green house and work in it too ;)

      If you are dead set on low power then I suggest you invest in some fun ways to occupy your time, and a good stress ball, because you'll be doing a lot of waiting...

      good luck though.
      • by Jose ( 15075 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:23PM (#13985274) Homepage
        If you are dead set on low power then I suggest you invest in some fun ways to occupy your time, and a good stress ball, because you'll be doing a lot of waiting...

        pffft! screw that, hook a stationary bike up to a generator! then make sure to get those SpeedStep person can pedal, the other edits videos.

        "common, pedal faster! I gotta render this scene before next week!"
    • Read the post.. I want this as file server... not a video encoding machine.
      • So what? Your storage needs alone preclude a low-power solution, at least on the level you're talking about.

        FWIW, I spent 3 years at Thomson Grass Valley repairing video servers, and I've also spent roughly half my life living off-grid. I feel pretty confident that I have experience relevant to your problem, but what I dont have is the solution you're looking for.

        I suggest you invest in some serious power filtering, and be prepared to use your generator a lot. Do as much of your work as possible on sunny da
        • Agreed - he sounds like Gladys Skinner, when she's in the supermarket, and is picking on the bagboy..

          Gladys Skinner: "I've changed my mind - I want it all in one bag, but I don't want that bag to be heavy!"
          Squeaky-voiced teen: "I don't think that's possible."
          Gladys Skinner: "What are you? The 'possible' police?"
      • Use a ULV (Ultra Low voltage) Pentium M processor and as much onboard (video, audio, network, IDE, etc) the motherboard as possible. Use as small a motherboard as possible. For hard drives, get larger and slower.

        Alternatively, get a used thin & light laptop and four 3.5" IDE hard drive enclosures.

        I'm not sure what uses less power per gig: large (400GB+?) 5400RPM desktop drives, or 120GB 5400RPM notebook drives. The notebook drives can be powered right off USB, so they use less power PER drive, but per g
    • This chap is asking about the server, not the desktop.

      What he wants from a server is:
      • low power requirements
      • honkingly big disks
      • a very fast LAN
      • great IO bandwidth

      Mini-ITX based systems are probably a good choice (I use one for my PVR - the MII 12000 []). Here are my comments on the MII as a server.

      • It uses less than 20W at idle, 72 at start (max).
      • Its cool/quiet.
      • It only has 2 IDE channels and a max of two PCI cards (using a splitter that permits two PCI cards into the Mini-ITX's single PCI slot). Depending on wha
      • Mini ITX, yes.
        BUT! for the data security and redundancy I suggest a dedicated RAID controller. Overall you will draw less power (the CPU on the controller is optimized for XOR operations, thus faster and more efficent than the VIA CPU).

        Also, 4 400 GB disks will provide the highest density of storage/watt and yeild 1.2TB on a raid5.

        That said, I think you're screwed because that setup, even when idle and spinning down the disks, is going to draw about 100-150 watts and that is a lot of power for an off-grid
        • (the CPU on the controller is optimized for XOR operations, thus faster and more efficient than the VIA CPU)

          Maybe. Most of the RAID cards I have seen have standard x86 CPUs though. If you do your research and buy a RAID controller based on how much power it uses (I have no clue where to get these numbers) you would be correct. Otherwise the VIA CPU is efficient, and may be better.

      • This chap is asking about the server, not the desktop.

        But presumably the video-editing desktop will also be plugged into outlets in the same house that the server is in, thus drawing electricity from the same limited supply of electricity.

        Hopefully the desktop CPU is an Athlon64, a Pentium M or a PowerPC.
  • is to accept that what you want to do probably does not fit into where you want to do it. then have a plan to turn the fridge and everything else off when you need to work...
  • Purchase a little dongle to test how much power your utilities consume while you plan this project. I'd much rather have empirical knowledge about power consumption on a given system rather than trying to piece together information from shottily written technical documents on the internet. My family owns one of these devices from [], and I recommend purchasing something from their S-12 power supply line. Supposedly they have the highest ratio of power drawn to power consumed by the
    • Excellent.. thanks for the link, these guys seem to be serious about saving power.



    • im doing the same thing but just not on the same schedual you are i just ordered one of these to better understand the power draw on various componants the pro model is a data logger the cheap and dirty method can be found at.. [] A $5 DIY Power Meter
    • Great idea on testing your current current draw. I picked up an inline watt-meter [] at Radio Shack. I think I only paid $20. I was surprised to see it in the store, and since it was nicely priced, I picked one up. I was surprised at the wattage of different devices in my house. My PCs used quite a bit less than I would have expected.
  • Some Ideas (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bios_Hakr ( 68586 ) <[xptical] [at] []> on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:28PM (#13984777)
    Look at the Soekris boxes. They are low-power and quite powerful. THey are also tiny.

    Use laptop hard drives (5400 rpm) in USB enclosures. They will run off of USB power.

    Maybe use some of the Maxtor external Network Attached Storage devices. I belive these will allow additional USB devices to be attached and shared.

    The only place you will need power is in the computer attached to the TV/entertainment center. You don't want video skipping during playback. With the newer codecs, the CPU is heavily taxed. My 800mhz laptop can play AVIs and MPEGs, but if I open a browser while watching vids, the video will skip really bad.

    As far as desktops, look at a powerful central server with smaller VIA-powered clients.

    Look at cross-wiring your fans for 5v vice 12v. That'll reduce the power draw.

    Get the smallest power supply that will feed that box. No need for a 400w supply with only 150w worth of devices.
    • > Use laptop hard drives (5400 rpm) in USB enclosures

      Only 1 of the Soekris boards has USB support, USB 1.1 at that.

      Not my idea of video editing bliss.

      • 2 of the soekris boards have cardbus slots. I have a net4511 with a PCMCIA USB 2.0 adapter. So USB 2 is easily done on the soekris. Even so, I would recommend a soekris board for handling a terrabyte of storage.
    • what ru smokin???? he wants a terrabyte, are 12 laptop drives on a raid controller going to consume less than four 500gig 3.5 drives on a controller? and that little embebded you mention is cool but how is he hooking a raid array into it? on the otherhand i agree about the power supply. shop around
    • Re:Some Ideas (Score:2, Informative)

      by CyBlue ( 701644 )
      Just because a power supply is rated for 400W doesn't mean it's going to draw that much. A good 400W power supply will be more efficient (AKA draw less power) than a cheap 200W one on the same load.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you only need streaming video, laptop HDs should work for you. If one does not have enough throughput, then set up each two drives as a RAID-0.

    If you care about ever last bit of power, don't set up a RAID-1, and make sure you do your backups.

    Also, to keep power consumption down, segment your storage, so power management can spin down drives that contain data you aren't using.

    In general, the laptop HDs I use in my various projects very between .5 A and 1.0 A power draw. Performance varies dramatically,
    • I don't really want to use laptop drives because of their expense per meg. I like the idea of conserving power by segmenting my storage and using very good powermanagement to spin down the drives that don't need to be running.
      • That goes counter to your data security. In a RAID all drives are running. Either spin down the whole RAID, or not.
        Also, While notebook drives look good from a power standpoint, they will fail your capacity requirements.
        As I stated earlier 4x400GB yeilds 1.2TB on a RAID5 and you really should get a RAID controller with an on-board XOR processor (3Ware for example), as it will be more efficent that using the system processor for the calculation.
      • I hear you on the cost-per-meg of laptop drives. Consider using ONE laptop drive, it need not be huge, to keep the machine's "every-day" stuff on. OS, logs, swap, and all your personal "junk", like your notes-file, your schedule, your central bookmark store, et cetera.

        You're going to fall victim to feature creep just like the rest of us. That machine will end up as your personal web server, VoIP gateway, weather station, power system monitor, and more. It'll be running that little drive when you least expec
  • Low power!?! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Chayak ( 925733 )
    I work with US Navy AUVs so power efficiency it a good part of my work. You are going to run into problems as your storage batteries only have so many amp/hrs of capacity and depending on the type you use deep cycling may not be an option. The best options for power efficiency use embedded processors (yes running linux. I even have a tux sticker on the side of it) and solid state hard drives (expensive) that don't draw hardly any power until you read or write to them. Then again you don't exactly get vi
  • Power Saving (Score:5, Informative)

    by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:53PM (#13984997) Homepage Journal
    It sounds like you are going to be doing the majority of your work on you laptops and what you are looking for is a large file server.

    VIA has some great micro/nano-ITX boards with power saving in mind. Many of which can run with out a fan. Combine that with a few 120g notebook hard drives (Toshiba has a 120g 4200rpm drive for under $200 on []

    Last I heard Ubuntu was still the king of powersave mode in Linux. Most of the people I know who have set up fileshares have used Samba.

    Get a 1000mbps ethernet card for it and hook it up the the router. The low hard drive speed and power save functionality will likely give you a bit of latency, but once it starts pulling sequencial data, it should be fine. There was a great article about low power solutions, I think I saw a link to it on [] and they had some storage arrays running under 30watts IIRC)

    And let me commend you for your excellent drive. Energy conservation is a great field for both professional and financial improvement. With new integrated home systems like Solar Shingles and improved energy efficiency designs we can greatly reduce the growth demand on grid power.

    • Thanks for the useful info Rick.

      I want to avoid laptop drives, because the cost per meg is just too high. I'd really like a system that just powered down the drives it was not using.

      I use Ubuntu on my laptop, but the power saving setup hasn't been working exactly flawlessy. Do you have any more info on powersaving linux distros?

      • As for your hard drives, you might want to look into some sort of SATA array. The drives are about the same as standard IDE, but you're not limited to 4 channels. You could theoreticly run like 10 100g drives and keep the inactive drives in standby. -Rick
  • Scale (Score:5, Informative)

    by zogger ( 617870 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:07PM (#13985129) Homepage Journal
    You didn't mention scale of your alternative energy. The last place we lived was totally solar powered,IIRC it was 2.6 kw in full sun, plus days worth of battery bank storage, and if that went out there was a big diesel genny but we hardly ever used it. For the owners of the estate, "them", and us,"the caretakers", we ran everything we wanted to run from freezers to fridges to multiple normal full tower computers to large screen TVs and dishwashers and vacuums get the picture. The only way you could tell this wasn't a normal grid-only place (besides the solar arrays in the backyard) was when the grid power went down in the 'hood and we still had all usual power. Very, very *nice* then. You really appreciate it then, you can see that having onsite power production is just slick. It just depends on how much wattage you are installing with the PV and wind genny that determines your needs and wants with various gadgetry. If you have two panels and the smallest wind genny, well, a modest laptop or mini-itx system would have to suffice. 20-40 panels large with equivalent battery bank and a few thousand watt wind genny, you can go quite "normal" and run about whatever you might want within reason.

    I did learn some tricks though, the primary one is timing for heavy loads. If you schedule your most demanding electrical loads for mid-day, between 11 AM and 1 PM, that is when you have peak power usually. Like, then is when you run the washing machines or water well for showers and watering the garden, etc. Stuf like that, common sense. You do learn to turn off excess lights or use compact fluorescents. In fact, the on/off switch is your friend, you can save an amazing amount by just being consistent in use and developing "muscle memory" for hitting OFF when you really don't need to run some gadget. "Idling" adds up quick! Arrange chairs so when you are reading you can get natural sunlight from a window. And have enough storage batteries! Nothing worse than be having a nice sunny day and be producing *too much* power and no place to put the excess. And those extra batteries will get your through cloudy days, plus they will last longer if you aren't "deep" cycling them. Shallow cycles make your batts last much longer, that and be sure to install a "desulphator" on the batteries.

    With that said, have you been to Off-grid puter experts of the low-watt kind.
    • Re:Scale (Score:2, Interesting)

      by meroo ( 929366 )
      I didn't mention the scale of our system because we haven't built it yet. We have a budget of around $AU40,000 ($US30,00) for power generation and storage. At this stage a combination of solar, wind and a diesel generator as backup.

      This should provide plenty of power, but I still want to reduce power consumption wherever I can.

      Thanks for the link to SolarPC, excellent resource Cheers Nick

  • I know this will take care of the file server and possibly the print server. A friend of mine turned me on to this recently. It has now replaced my previous designs for a file server.
  • Use a laptop for the server, with USB 2.0 / Firewire external drives. Your limiting factor os going to be network bandwidth - the laptop is more than adequate. Using software RAID, you can mirror the external drives. When idle, the laptop (assuming you setup power management correctly) will be in a low power state. The external drives will spin down when idle. It's a very energy efficient configuration, but still able to provide full bandwidth on demand.
    • A laptop has a lot of components a file server doesn't need, it encloses everything in a very small case and uses a powerful fan to cool things down. I'd rather take all the components out and move them into a larger case with passive cooling.

      You are correct to point out that the important thing is quality power management.



    • Here is how to do this cheap:

      Buy a used laptop off ebay with a broken LCD. They work great and are cheap because no one wants them.


  • Can't a Mac Mini be used for this? with a few external HD on firewire?
  • My own server is a machine from work that dies on the HLT instruction. So it cant run Windows.

    It only has a cdrom drive (no hdd) and I use knoppix (knoppix 2 no-hlt). I download the script (from my site) that has all the config and there I have a firewall, dhcp server, webserver, print server and a couple o other things. My actual file server is another machine that runs windows xp and P2P software accessible by RDP so I dont need harddrives in my firewall.

    Both machines have no fans on the CPU, and the powe
  • by cjsnell ( 5825 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @02:43AM (#13986584) Journal
    Sun has a new 1U server out that is pretty slick. It uses 2.5" Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drives that "offers IOPS performance increase and 58% power savings compared to today's 3.5 inch drive."

    Additionally, this server uses up to two dual-core AMD Opteron CPUs which offer 1.9 times the performance of 2-way Intel Xeon servers at up to a 56% power and cooling savings.

    The power supply is fairly forgiving: 90-264V AC (47-63 Hz).

    I would also advise you to look at some of the telco-targeted servers that run off of DC.

  • Rainbow Power Company has some stuff that may be of interest. []
    They're Australian, too.
  • Recipe (Score:3, Informative)

    by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <> on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @03:23AM (#13986794) Homepage Journal
    Get a big-ass generic tower case with a good PSU.

    Get a Socket 478 ATX motherboard and find a Northwood Mobile Pentium on eBay for it. Some mobos support down-volting. I have one of these in an ASUS Pundit for home theater PC, it runs on 1.2V and is cool to the touch without fans. OR, get a supported ASUS mobo, the Socket 478-479 adapter and a Dothan Pentium-M. Get a mobo with built-in graphics or run headless. Clock it down, the fileserver won't need much CPU anyway - but it will be on and draw power 247 so any savings here will be helpful in the long run.

    2.5" laptop drives won't get you to the terabyte range so get three 500 gig 3.5" drives and RAID-5 them. Linux software RAID won't expand easily so either invest in real RAID hardware, build the array large enough to not need expansion in the foreseeable future or use another scheme, like LVM + RAID. Keep copies of current and recent projects on your client computers - that's cheap and easy backup.

    Network Filesystem
    Samba. Only thing that will work fine with both Wintel and Mac laptops and other clients. For server-server communications I use NFS but in your case it would just be an extra thing to setup with no benefits.

    OR, just get a big-ass NAS box with enough room in it. More money and less flexibility but much less hassle setting it up and less power consumption compared to the home-made linux server box.

    BUT, if you also need mailserver, webserver, ftpserver, whateverserver down the line you might as well go with the full server or you'll need both the NAS and the server side-by-side.

    • How about just get a Pentium M motherboard? Newegg has one [], it's a little pricey as $250, but that's not super unreasonable. Power usage for the slowest Pentium M that Newegg carries is 21W nominal []. The biggest problem you are going to have is the HDD's. It seems no one makes 5400RPM desktop HDD's anymore. So spinup power requirements are 16-30W per drive []! A RAID 5 array with 3 more expensive drives is obviously superior to the 4 smaller, cheaper drives I normally advocate.
      • How about just get a Pentium M motherboard?

        I forgot about that one, good call. There are a few other 479 mobos too, another AOpen and a MSI AFAIK.

        A RAID 5 array with 3 more expensive drives is obviously superior to the 4 smaller, cheaper drives I normally advocate.

        Exactly. The sweet spot for most space per buck seems to be around 200 gigs right now, but that would mean at least six drives for his terabyte (assuming a RAID-5 configuration) and when power drain is the limiting factor, that's not an

  • SOHO []'s servers are a mix of xServes, Suns (B1600, v100, v240), and I think there's an intel system in there.

    Most of the power consumption comes from disks (many terabytes of solar physics observations), and there's a fair amount of CPU power needed for processing the data.

    Now, if you're looking for recommendations for servers in London [] or>New York, I can't help you.

    Oh ... on the low power requirements, we've got a bunch of Mac Minis lying about, but they're mostly used
  • Sorry, couldn't resist the Speedy Gonsalez reference.

    I very much like the Via Epia platform. It is a basic Intel-clone platform. It's not screaming fast (1.2GHz last I checked), but it can run Linux and runs it well, and it doesn't need a lot of power.

    I would suggest combining it with a 12V power supply from Mini Box [] and a battery equalizer so that you can run it off of the DC side of your RE system (so as to eliminate both the DC->AC and AC->DC overheads).

    The board is a mini-ITX form factor,

  • by Frodo420024 ( 557006 ) <henrik&fangorn,dk> on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @09:52AM (#13988298) Homepage Journal
    Hi Rather than building a complete computer to do it, how about getting a couple of the Linksys NSLU2 [] units (each can run RAID, IIRC) for file servers, connected by USB to 2½" laptop drives. The NSLU2 is highly hackable [], for instance to set up streaming servers. Then a similar unit (OvisLink has several, like the P-103N [] I have) for print server.

    These are all very low power, no noise, takes minutes to set up (except if hacking them, of course :), Just Work.

    Good luck!


    • Forgot one thing: the terabytes. That rules out 2½" drives, and in turn increases power consumption quite a bit. Then each drive would have its own 'brick' for power, heating the room significantly.

      Getting low-speed 3½" drives (5400 RPM) can be difficult. All manufacturers (and reviewers, dammit!) seem to focus on maximum data transfer speed, not the frequently relevant issues of noise and power consumption.

      The LinkSys NSLU2 will do equally fine with 3½" drives, of course. They just can't s

  • by rthille ( 8526 )
    Well, it doesn't have 4 drive bays (only two), but you could still put two 500GB drives in it. It only has 100-BaseT (two ports), and a 250MHz MIPS processor. So, depending on your preference for CPU power vs. electrical power, it might be worth looking at.
  • I use a Linksys NSLU2 with OpenSlug firmware... low power, and a great file server, uses USB2 disks. It has USB ports and can run a hub, so you could easily plug in a printer
  • "I am building a home that is completely solar/wind powered"

    Whether or not this is feasible depends largely on your location. Wanna give us a heads-up as to where you are?
    • In the mountains about 45 minutes drive south of Mudgee [], New South Wales, Australia... Minimum temperature it ever gets to is around -10 degrees celcius, maximum around 43 degrees celcius. Annual rainfall of around 800mm. Altitude around 1500m. Lots of sunshine ans wind.
  • low power soho server do not use a laptop as a server. do not use 2.5 inch drives unleess your going to buy one of those fancy new sun servers with 2.5" Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drives. whatever nas/raid solution you do decide on you want to use as few drives as possible to conserve power. so think carefully about weather you want to stripe two 500gig drives or mirror or move to one of the raids that requires more than 2 disks. you need a router right? so now what do you need this server to do? does th
  • Why not colocate a server (or rent one) off-site? With a decent connection at home, you could back your laptops up over the network a few times a week (maybe use an external USB drive for dailies) and bang, you're done, and someone else can foot the power bill.
  • I think that most posters missed the point. meroo wants to build an energy saving house that has hightech components. For warm water, for the heating in general, for electricity he has to find intelligent hightech solutions! And if his computing needs are big he just increases the electricity generation in the house. Be it solar or wind power, what he needs is a general concept I think. And I am sure he knows that.

    So saying that he can't install powerful computing gear misses the point. Of course you can, m
  • My wife and I are in the early stages of designing an off grid home that will be built on a mountain top in NE Tenneessee. We picked out the 47 acre location keeping the options for power generation in mind.

    I believe planning for power generation will be much easier if the amount of power required to run the new home is calculated first, considering all options for heating, cooling, lighting, and your various household toys and then determine what power generation set up would be appropriate and or availa

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