I recently built the biggest, clunkiest iPad mini case ever, transforming my old Macintosh SE case into an iPad stand. But what to do with that empty case? Why, it’s the perfect size for a custom Mini-ITX PC! Introducing my liquid-cooled Core i7 monster Mac SE!
Today I’m going to dive into the hardware I selected for FreeNAS, starting with the motherboard, CPU, and memory. FreeNAS runs on any PC hardware, but building a reliable and scalable storage solution means picking higher-end components. I selected a Supermicro X10SL7 server-class motherboard with 14 (!) SAS/SATA ports paired with an Intel Xeon E3-1231v3 (Haswell) CPU and ECC memory from Crucial.
I’m really excited about the prospects of memory-addressable flash. Moving flash closer to the CPU and addressing it as memory rather than block storage brings tremendous performance benefits, and is a once-in-a-generation radical change to system architecture. But questions remain as to how it can be integrated with today’s applications. Now Plexistor is here with a promising solution: Their “Software-Defined Memory” concept is a generic filesystem for storage, from NVDIMM to NVMe to SSD.
I’ve been a MacBook Pro user since the last decade, switching for better hardware but staying for the better OS. I happily bought a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display the day they were announced, but I’ve been using that same machine since 2012. Now I’m impatiently waiting to upgrade, holding out for Intel’s new Skylake CPUs and the late-2015 or early-2016 MacBook Pro.
After some frustration with stability and latency connecting my virtual pfSense router to my cable and DSL modems, I decided to switch to a physical box. I selected the Netgate RCC-VE 2440 as my hardware platform, since it’s the same box that pfSense themselves use as their OEM bundle. It also checks all the boxes with a dual-core Atom CPU, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and low-power fanless design. Here’s my first impression and installation notes!
“One size fits all” doesn’t work for Ethernet, but this proliferation of speed options sounds like trouble without automatic capability negotiation. It’s nice to have options, but the IEEE must remain focused on interoperability and rein in the interests of the various companies proposing next-generation Ethernet technologies.
As I mentioned in my previous post about Raspberry Pi power monitoring, I recently built a VMware vSphere “datacenter” from three Intel NUC mini PC’s. One limit of the NUC is that it has just one Ethernet port. But there’s a Mini PCIe slot inside the fourth-generation NUC that can be used to add a second Ethernet NIC!
Greg “EtherealMind” Ferro recently “mused” that it might be a good idea to replace PCI Express (PCIe) inside servers or rack-scale infrastructure with Ethernet. But this seems to be the exact opposite of the direction the industry is headed. Rather than replacing PCIe with Ethernet, companies like Intel seem set on replacing short-range Ethernet (in rack-scale systems) with PCIe!
On reading my thoughts about the evolution of enterprise storage, many pointed out that this looks an awful lot like the Facebook-led Open Compute Project (OCP). This is entirely intentional. But OCP is simply one expression of this new architecture, and perhaps not the best one for the enterprise.
Every day, I’m briefed by another company with a range of products from entry-level to high-end. And every day I try to figure out their naming scheme: It seems most IT vendors follow the naming schemes of car companies, but few use the same naming system!