NAS Server Build – ASRock C2750D4I & Silverstone DS380

The other day I got a little frustrated with my Gen 8 Microserver, I was trying to upgrade ESXi to 5.5 but the virtual media feature kept disconnecting in the middle of the install due to not having an ILO4 license–I actually bought an ILO4 enterprise license but I have no idea where I put it!  What’s the point of IPMI when you get stopped by licensing?  I hate having to physically plug in a USB key to upgrade VMware so much that I decided I’d just build a new server–which I honestly think is faster than messing around with getting an ISO image on a USB stick.

Build List

ASRock C2750D4I Motherboard / CPU

C2750D4I-1(L)

 

12 SATA ports!  This motherboard is perfect for ZFS which loves having direct access to JBOD disks.  The Marvell SATA controllers did not show up in VMware initially,  however Andreas Peetz provides a package for adding unsupported drivers in VMware, and this worked perfectly.  It took me a couple minutes to realize all you need to do is run these three commands:

asrock_kvm_over_ipIPMI (allows for KVM over IP).  After being spoiled by this on a Supermicro board IPMI with KVM over IP is a must have feature for me, I’ll never plug a keyboard and monitor into a server again.

Avoton Octa-Core processor.  Normally I don’t even look at Atom processors, but this is not your grandfather’s Atom.  The Avoton processor supports VT-x, ECC memory,  AES instructions, and is a lot more powerful and at only 20 W TDP.  This CPU Boss benchmark says it will probably perform similarly to the Xeon E3-1220L.  The Avoton can also go up to 64GB memory where the E3 series is limited to 32GB making it a good option for VMware or for a high performance ZFS NAS.  The Avoton does not support VT-d so there is no passing devices directly to VMs.

My only two disappointments are no internal USB header on the board (I always install VMware on a USB stick so right now there’s a USB stick hanging on the back) and I wish they had used SFF-8087 mini-SAS connectors instead of individual SATA ports on the board to cut down on the number of SATA cables.

Overall I am very impressed with this board and it’s server-grade features like IPMI.

Instead of going into more detail here, I’ll just reference Patrick’s review of the ASRock C2750D4I

Alternative Avoton Boards

There are a few other options worth looking at.  The ASRock C2550D4I is the same board but Quad core instead of Octa Core.  I actually almost bought this one except I got the 2750 at a good price on SuperBiiz.

Also the SuperMicro A1SAi-2750F (Octa core) and A1SAi-2550F (Quad core) are good options if you don’t need as many SATA ports or you’re going to use a PCI-E SATA/SAS controller.  Supermicro’s motherboards have the advantage of Quad GbE ports, an internal USB header (not to mention USB 3.0), while sacrificing the number of SATA ports–only 2 SATA3 ports and 4 SATA2 ports.  These Supermicro boards use the smaller SO-DIMM memory.

 Silverstone DS-380: 8 hot-swap bay chassis

ds-380-and-asrock

 

The DS-380 has 8 hot-swap bays, plus room for four fixed 2.5″ drives for up to 12 drives.  As I started building this server I found the design was very well thought out.  Power button lockout (a necessity if you have kids), locking door, dust screens on fan intakes, etc.  The case is practical in that the designers cut costs where they could (like not painting the inside) but didn’t sacrifice anything of importance.

gen8_microserver_and_ds380_silverstone

HP Gen 8 Microserver (Left) next to Silverstone DS-380 (right)

A little larger than the HP Gen8 Microserver, but it can hold more than twice as many drives.  Also the Gen8 Microserver is a bit noisier.

ds-380-open

ds-380-tray-with-ssdYou’ll notice above from the top there is a set of two drives, then one drive by itself, and a set of five drives.  This struck me as odd at first, but this is actually that way by design.  If you have a tall PCI card plugged into your motherboard  (such as a video card) you can forfeit the 3rd drive from the top to make room for it.

The drive trays are plastic, obviously not as nice as a metal tray but not too bad either.  One nice feature is screw holes on the bottom allow for mounting a 2.5″ drive such as an SSD!  That’s well thought out!  Also there’s a clear plastic piece that runs alongside the left of each tray that carries the hard drive activity LED light to the front of the case (see video below).

Here’s the official Silverstone DS-380 site, and here’s a very detailed review of the DS-380 with lots of pictures by Lawrence Lee.

Storage

Using 4TB drives 8 bays would get you to 24TB using RAID-Z2 or RAID-6.  Plus have 4 2.5″ fixed bays left for SSDs.

Virtual NAS

I run a virtualized ZFS server on OmniOS following Gea’s Napp-in-one guide.  I deviate from his design slightly because I run on top of VMDKs instead of Passing the controllers to the guest VM (because I don’t have VT-d on the Avoton).

ZIL – Seagate SSD Pro

120GB Seagate Pro SSD.  The ZIL (ZFS Intent Log) is the real trick to high performance random writes, by being able to cache writes on capacitor backed cache the SSD can guarantee a write to the requesting application before it is transferred out of RAM and onto spindles.

So far…

I’m pretty happy with the custom build.  I think the Gen 8 HP Microserver looks more professional compared to the DS-380 which looks more like a DIY server.  But what matters is on the inside, and having access to IPMI when I need it without having to worry about licensing is worth something in my book.

My Verizon 4G LTE Rural Internet Setup

I’ve had a few people ask for more details on my rural internet setup with Verizon, so here it is…

Wilson 4G LTE Antenna

I use a CradlePoint MBR95 3G/4G Router ($130, it’s expensive but I have tried several cheaper 3G/4G routers–CradlePoint is the one to get.  It’s well worth the extra money).  Since switching to this router a few months ago I have not had a single connection drop.  

cradlepoint_router

I bought a 4G Novatel 551L USB Modem ($25) which is plugged into the CradlePoint, and just recently I installed a Wilson 4G LTE Antenna kit ($80–the antenna adapter fits the external antenna port on Millenicom’s Novatel MiFi, the Novatel USB modem above, and my Samsung S3 / S4) to see if it would increase performance on my Verizon Wireless connection… and it did!  Signal went from -81 to -63 dBm (I think that’s quadrupling the signal strength?) and internet speed went from 12Mbps/3Mbps to 20Mbps/15Mbps!

signal_strength

Signal strength from -81 to -63 dBm after installing antenna

3276998117

12 down 3 up with no antenna

 

3277005073

20 down 15 up after installing Antenna

Verizon WIreless Data Options

1. Millenicom

Millenicom uses Verizon’s network and has a great data plan at $70 for 20GB/month (the same amount of data from Verizon would run $185/month).  One thing I really like about Millenicom is you can get a static IP for an extra $10/month.  Unfortunately I was getting my internet cut off because my family goes way over 20GB/month so that didn’t work for me–especially when I couldn’t access online accounts to pay bills. But if you won’t go over 20GB in a month I’ll say I had nothing but a good experience with them.  The best feature is if you go over they cut you off instead of charging overage fees—Verizon currently charges overages at a rate of $15/GB.

2. Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plan

Verizon doesn’t offer unlimited data plans anymore, but if you had one you’re grandfathered into it.  And it’s possible to transfer someone else’s grandfathered plan into your name.  So I bought a Verizon Wireless grandfathered unlimited 4G data plan from someone on Howard Forums Take over my plan forum (you can also buy them from eBay, they’re a little pricier there but the transaction will be safer).

The process went like this:  Ahead of time I bought a Verizon Samsung S3 phone with a clean ESN off eBay (you need an Android phone, you can’t activate the plan on a USB modem) and a Verizon SIM card off ebay.  After the seller and I agreed on $175 I sent the money to him via PayPal and gave him my name, he called Verizon’s Assumption of Liability (AOL) department to tell them I’d be taking over the line, then he gave me the number I would be taking over.  I called Verizon’s AOL department and told the rep the number, she verified the details on the plan and then transferred the line into my name…I didn’t have a Verizon account so I had to set one up over the phone and they will run a credit check–and Verizon does a hard pull so don’t do this before buying a house or taking out a loan.  During this process it’s very important not to switch to one of Verizon’s newer plan’s that will drop unlimited data.  I made sure the rep knew I wanted to keep unlimited data.  After it was switched into my name I gave the rep my phone’s MEID number and SIM card number and activated the phone… it took awhile, maybe 5 minutes.  I made a test call and tested data with the rep still on the line.  It all worked!  Once it was activated I moved the SIM card over to my USB modem (which Verizon allows).

The plan I got is the NationWide 450 (there’s no way to drop the voice part of the plan even if you don’t need voice) with unlimited data.  I was able to have the rep disable texting.  This runs me about $65/month including taxes with my 18% corporate discount.

The only thing I’ve been disappointed in is they give me an IP address behind a NAT so I can’t host this blog from my house any more.  Verizon does offer a static IP for a one time fee of $500.  If I knew that Verizon would allow me to keep unlimited data for at least 3-years or give me a refund on the static if they canceled my plan I’d do it…but without a guarantee I don’t want to take the risk.  I run a SoftEther VPN server in a VM on my Microserver which uses a UDP hole punching technique to get around the NAT so I can still get into my home network to access files on my ZFS server and such.

verizon_unlimited_data_bar

I’m grateful that Verizon is still allowing grandfathered plans on their network so while I’m no longer careful about internet usage I try not to abuse it.  I have all my data intensive processes like CrashPlan backups run only between 1am-4am when I figure Verizon has plenty of bandwidth and spectrum available.

Of course, Verizon may discontinue grandfathered unlimited plans in the future… but I hope it lasts until someone brings DSL, cable, or fiber to my house.

SHA256 Hash Stored Procedure for SQL Server 2008

The other day I was writing an ETL where I expected duplicate data to be accidentally sent over quite often so I needed an SHA-256 function to guarantee that a set of incoming rows were unique (notice I said the set of rows, not individual rows so that rules out using an index to prevent duplicates).  SQL Server 2012 has it but for this project I was stuck on SQL Server 2008 R2 which only has an SHA-1 function (obviously not good enough).

So here’s an SHA-256 stored procedure I wrote for SQL Server 2008…

 

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Update 2013-12-23: Using the internet access on my phone I’ve moved the website to another server (thanks Jeff!)  So the website is back up.  

My internet is going down until Jan 1st.

Looks like I forgot to disable my CrashPlan backup again (unfortunately CrashPlan doesn’t offer a way to stop backing up to CrashPlan online while still performing local backups… I can manually pause CrashPlan but if I don’t do it every 24 hours it starts back up again).

—–

Hi Benjamin Bryan,

We have been alerted by the upstream carrier that you have exceeded usage on your 20GB Plan.   Please note that your account has a monthly usage cap of 20GB.   Your usage is 46.88GB as of 12/22/13.   In order for us to continue service this month you will need to purchase an additional account or choose to have your service temporarily suspended until 01/01/14.    To move forward with maintaining your account for this month you will need to purchase an additional plan. The cost for today would be:   $99.99 Device Purchase $19.99 Reduced Activation Fee $15.00 Shipping + Prorated Monthly Service   Service will be suspended at the end of today. If you would like to purchase an additional Hotspot plan, please let us know. Below, we have provided some ways to track your data usage. This information can be found on our website as well. We look forward to hearing from you soon.   -Millenicom

——

Phil Robertson Suspended for His Faith

 

drudge report duck dynasty

 

I saw the above headline on the Drudge Report last night.  I just discovered the show a few months ago and have been enjoying it, it’s a great clean humorous show with good American and Christian values.  Normally I just read the headlines, but in this case I had to see what all the fuss was about.

Excerpts from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/duck-dynastys-phil-robertson-indefinite-666808, cited December 19, 2013.  (my emphasis noted in bold):

 

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” A&E said in a statement. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

GLAAD on Wednesday condemned his remarks as “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication” and said “his quote was littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation.”

“Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,” GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans — and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who now need to re-examine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”

GLAAD responded to A&E’s suspension, commending the network for its swift decision. “What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike,” GLAAD’s Cruz said late Wednesday. “By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value.”   <– I don’t think I’m the only one that sees the irony in this!

The Human Rights Campaign also slammed Robertson for his statements.

“Phil Robertson’s remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations,” president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule — treating others with the respect and dignity you’d wish to be treated with. As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans — not shame and ridicule them because of who they are. The A+E Network should take immediate action to condemn Phil Robertson’s remarks and make clear they don’t support his views.

I’ve only watched the first season, but a positive example is exactly what Phil sets.  What did Phil say that was so “vile and extreme”?  I decided to read the actual interview here http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson and what they’re so offended by is something Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Phil is paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. 

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV)

There is nothing hateful or vile in Phil’s remarks.  A&E didn’t suspend Phil Robertson for vile or extreme remarks against homosexuals.  They didn’t suspend him for discriminating.  A&E suspended him for his belief, or rather, talking about his belief in the the Bible.  This sounds like discrimination against Phil’s beliefs to me.

It will be interested to see how this plays out.  As far as I can tell there are a lot of fans outraged by the decision all over Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc.  I even read a comment from a gay fan saying that even though he disagrees with Phil he thinks Phil should have the right to free speech.  The governor of Louisiana has also criticized A&E over their decision.  http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/12/jindal_criticizes_television_n.html

Related headlines from Drudge: