Posts Tagged ‘Hardware’

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Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

The ice storm the other day not only knocked out my servers but also caused one of my raid arrays to die and temporarily take this blog down.  I decided to pull forward my migration plans for the blog.  I had planned to migrate my blog to SharePoint 2010 in the spring, but Icepocalypse 2011 forced me to bring those plans forward.

My blog used to run on an old server (physical hardware) that was 4 years old.  I had actually gone through the process of virtualizing it 2 years ago and I had it running on Virtual PC on top of a Window Server 2008 R2 machine at the time.  When the raid array died, I was forced to revert to the previous night’s backup of the VM.

Since the 4 year old server died, I had to temporarily host the blog on the next server in the Datacenter.  Unfortunately, that was only a single core (Oh my gosh!!! Surprised smile) Pentium 4 CPU at 2.8 GHz with a mere 2 GB of RAM that was (gasp!) 9 years old!!!  Since the blog was a VM, I was able to simply move the VHD over to the server and install Virtual PC and point it to the VHD and we were in business again.  I was only able to give the blog 1 GB of RAM so performance was a little slow.

I’ve since upgraded my datacenter and got a brand spanking new server.  The 8 core Intel i7 950 CPU running at 3.7 GHz with 24 GB of RAM and several TB of hard drive space over multiple disks, was humming along nicely.  I gave the new blog server 2 dedicated cores and 4 GB of RAM and now the blog is humming along like a top. Open-mouthed smile

Have I mentioned how much I love virtualization lately?  



Want some cores with that?

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

OK, so I’ve been starting to look at new hardware… new iron to run my life on.  I recently acquired a new Intel i7 Quad Core laptop for my mobile VM needs and am currently writing this article on my Asus Eee 1005HAB Netbook in flight to Boston, MA.  Unfortunately, my servers at home, including the one hosting this article, are aging fast and will be in need of upgrade within the next 12 months.

imageI have therefore started looking at hardware, specifically, server type hardware.  I’ve only just begun this process, but I ran across something so sweet, I just had to share.  Now I know it’s not in production yet and I know even if it was, I would certainly NOT be able to afford it, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t put it on my Dream Hardware Wishlist!    Just imagine what you could do with a 100-core processor!  That’s right!  100-cores baby! 

A new upstart called Tilera has unveiled a series of 4 processors of which the Tile-Gx100 is the flagship.  There’s also the Tile-Gx64Tile-Gx36 (No, it’s not a typo.  I can’t quite figure out why 36 and not 32 cores either.  ) and Tile-Gx16.  Hey, maybe I’d be able to afford the baby in the family. 

The CPUs are built on 40nm technology and top out at 1.5 GHz, which may be a little low unless your OS and apps were specifically designed and written to take advantage of multiple cores, which is mostly not the case today. 


Nevertheless, it’s nice to dream.  And don’t worry, with mainstream octa-cores on our doorstop, mainstream centu-cores should only be about 6 years away from reality, according to Moore’s Law. 



Inline hardware disk encryption

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

If you’re like me, you’ve probably not given data encryption on your home PC a second thought. Sure, most employers use some form of data encryption or another for our corporate laptops, but at home it’s a totally different story. I’m in the process of evaluating my server hardware at home, the topic of encryption came back up.

The problem with encryption is that it’s a pain to implement and use. If you’re doing file level encryption, you have to remember to encrypt your files or you have to remember to save your files in an encrypted folder. That sounds too much like work, so most of us just won’t even bother.

The other alternative is to have whole disk encryption. The down side to that is that it adds a software abstraction layer between the hardware and operating system which takes CPU cycles to process thus taking away from your system horsepower… i.e. it slows the computer down. Now if it’s implemented in conjunction with a hardware upgrade, you may not notice it and it might be OK. Mostly though, it’s not. Nobody wants to give up CPU cycles.


The only true solution is actual hardware based encryption. Something that can encrypt the data on the fly as it’s being written to the disk, but without taking any of your CPU cycles for it. It must read, write, cache and encrypt completely self sufficient.

Enter Addonics with their new Dual CipherChain (CCM35MK2). This little beauty lives in one of your 5.25” drive bays and configuration is dead simple. Connect your SATA drives (it supports two), to the card. Connect the output port of the card to the motherboard. Insert the encryption keys and you’re good to go! The device provides real time 256-bit AES encryption and at just over $150, it’s a small price to pay for the safety of your data.

I’ll report back in the future on my experience with this device.



Finally a NAS for the masses

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

I touted my love for my DROBO NAS device about 40 months ago.  I love the device’s simplicity in upgrading drives and space over time.  Though it’s an awesome little gadget, it certainly isn’t perfect.  I found that the ventilation system built in wasn’t nearly sufficient for the three stacked (closely together) 7,200 RPM Western Digital RE2 HDDs that was occupying it’s bays.  I solved it by literally cutting a hole in the front faceplate and mounting a push fan to it to help force airflow over the drives.

I’ve always been looking for a true NAS device that I can just plug into my network and map on my computers.  I’ve also been wondering why all NAS devices use 3.5” HDDs when the laptop 2.5” HDDs have come down in price so much recently.  Additionally, the smaller drives are also designed for smaller spaces with less ventilation… i.e. they’re designed for minimal residual heat production.  So why not use those kind of drives instead?

OK, OK, I hear the choir already… but, but, but… PERFORMANCE!!!    Yes, it is true that the 3.5” HDDs has better performance than the 2.5” HDDs so if I was going to put the drive into my server or a desktop, then I’d certainly opt for the bigger form factor, but let’s be serious… this is going inside a NAS device.  A device that is being read from via a common ethernet NIC port which, even with Gigabit speeds, is certainly NOT going to be waiting on the drive to read the data.

Well, Thecus just released their N0503 ComboNAS.


This little beauty, priced at $400 ( that’s Apple prices!) it’s a little expensive, but here’s what makes it stand out for me is the fact that it can hold 5 (that’s right FIVE!) HDDs, 2.5” laptop HDDs!  Given 1 TB sizes for these drives now, that’s up to 5 TB of storage.  Of course, if you insist, you can always go the 3.5” HDD route and plug 3 of those monsters in.  With 2 TB sizes there, that’ll give you up to 6 GB of space!

Add the two gigabit ethernet NICs and you have the ability to connect it to two distinct networks.  At my house, I run an internal and a guest network.  All my computers run on the internal network and all my friends and family that visit, gets to use my guest network.  Both completely separated with unique IP ranges and all.  This baby can plug into both and be used from either network.  Sweet!

Throw in the device’s support for RAID 5 with Auto Rebuild, Hot Swap and Hot Spare and it becomes something special.  With RAID 5 and hot spare (only available on the 2.5” option), it truly becomes self sustaining.  All you’d ever have to do is change a dead drive when it fails every so often.

2.5” HDDs 3.5” HDDs
Drives 5 3
RAID 5 Yes Yes
Hot Swap Yes Yes
Auto Rebuild Yes Yes
Hot Spare Yes No
Space 1 TB/drive 2 TB/drive
Total Space 5 TB 6 TB
Total RAID 5 Space 4 TB 4 TB
Total RAID 5 Hot Spare Space 3 TB NA