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Fastest £1,000 Server – back from supplier July 23, 2011

Posted by mwidlake in One Grand Server.
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6 comments

At the risk of turning my Blog into some sort of half-way-house tweet update thing (correct, I’ve never logged into twitter), as a couple of people asked about the outcome with the broken £1,000 server, I’m happy to report it came back this week. The motherboard had died. I’d convinced myself it was the PSU when I trawled the net as it seems to be one of those things that is most likely to die having fired up in the first place, but no, the motherboard. I guess some solder “dried” or the pc pixies just don’t like me. One month turnaround is not very impressive…

They had another motherboard exactly the same in stock so I got a like-for-like swap. I was kind of hoping for a different one with more SATA3 and USB3 headers :-)

Now I’m trying to download the latest oracle 11 for 64 bit windows. I live out in the wilds of North Essex (for non-UK people, this is all of 62 Kilometers North-Northeast of London as the crow flies, so not exactly in an obscure and remote part of the UK! For those who DO know the UK, it is nothing like “the only way is Essex” out here. We have trees, fields, wildlife and a lack of youth culture.) As such, my broadband connect is sloooow. The connection keeps breaking and I lose the download. *tsch*. I’m sure I had a download manager somewhere which got around these issues…

Fastest £1,000 server – what happened? July 12, 2011

Posted by mwidlake in One Grand Server, performance.
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7 comments

A couple of people have asked me recently what happened to that “fastest Oracle server for a grand” idea I had last year, after all I did announce I had bought the machine.

{Update – it came back.}
Well, a couple of things happened. Firstly, what was a small job for a client turned into a much more demanding job for a client – not so much mentally harder as time-consuming harder and very time consuming it was. So the playing had to go on hold, the client comes first. The server sat in the corner of the study, nagging me to play with it, but it remained powered down.
Secondly, when the work life quietened down last month and I decided to spend a weekend getting that server set up I hit an issue. I turned on the server and it turned itself straight off. It than rested for 5 seconds and turned itself back on for half a second – and then straight off. It would cycle like that for as long as I was willing to let it.

OK, duff power switch, mother board fault, something not plugged in right, PSU not reaching stable voltage… I opened the case and checked everything was plugged in OK and found the manufacturer had covered everything with that soft resin to hold things in place. I pressed on all the cards etc in hope but no, it was probably going to have to go back. It is still in warranty, the manufacturer can fix it.

So I rang the manufacturer and had the conversation. They were not willing to try and diagnose over the phone so I had to agree to ship it back to them to be fixed {I did not go for on-site support as the only time I did, with Evesham Micros, they utterly refused to come out to fix the problem. Mind you, it turns out they were counting down the last week or two before going bust and, I suspect, knew this}. I shipped it back and the waiting began. Emails ignored, hard to get on touch over the phone. Over three weeks on and they only started looking at the machine last Friday (they claim).

On the positive side, this delay means that solid state storage is becoming very affordable and I might be able to do some more interesting things within my budget.
On the bad side the technology has moved on and I could get a better server for the same money now, but that is always the case. Mine does not have the latest Sandy Bridge Intel processor for example. Also, I have time now to work on it, I hope not to have time next month as I’d like to find some clients to employ me for a bit!

I better go chase the manufacturer. If it is not fixed and on its way back very, very soon then they will be off my list of suppliers and I’ll be letting everyone know how good their support isn’t.

Server Bought for the 1 Grand Challenge December 6, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Architecture, One Grand Server, performance.
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3 comments

What seems like a couple of months ago I suggested the idea of The Fastest Oracle Server for a Grand. It turns out this was actually over 1/3 of a year ago! {such is the rapid passing of normal time}. Anyway, I’ve decided to give this a go.

The intention is that I am going to build a server based on PC technology which costs less than £1,000 and see how fast I can make it go. Of course “how fast” is a “piece of string” question – it depends on what you put into the Oracle database, how you want to use or manipulate the data and how business-ready the system is. I’m intending to build something that looks very, very un-business ready. That is, not a lot of redundancy. Before anyone wants to shoot me down for that (a) I am not running a bank or anything to do with finance (b) why are banks systems that only deal with cash so much more regulated and goverend than medical systems that are only relied on to keep you alive? (c) some of the biggest systems I know of are actually running on something close to PC kit.

I’m quietly confident I can build something that out-performs systems consisting 100 times as much. Now, that is a massive claim and I won’t be too sad if I fall short, but you can do a lot with modest kit. I worked for a charity for 6 years and boy did I see some clever stuff done on the sort of budget many organisation spend on office stationary.

So, what have I got so far? I confess I held off until I saw some new technology appear in a price band I could squeeze in. Namely USB3 and SATA3. There is always something just around the corner but I wanted those as I want to maximise the impact of solid state storage. So, my base server is:

  • Asus P7P55D-E motherboard supporting DDR3, USB3 and SATA3
  • Intel i5 760 2.8HHz chip
  • 8GB memory
  • 1TB samsung 7200rpm SATAII disk
  • AZCool Infinity 800W PSU
  • Coolmaster Elite RC-335 case

I chose the motherboard as it was getting good reviews and had the SATA3 and USB3 ports. I chose the case as it was large enough to take many hard drives, small enough to lug about and was a nice case. I stuck to 8GB RAM as RAM is expensive at the moment, but as it is in 2GB chunks I might regret that choice as all my slots are full. Many people forget the PSU but it’s like the tyers on your car. Those tyers keep you stuck to the road, a PSU keeps you powered. It might be utilitarian but they are vital and often overlooked. The hard disc is pretty good, but very likely to be swapped out (I don’t mind sticking it in another system). The CPU is a proper quad core CPU. I had plenty of scope to go bigger and better on the CPU but for grunt for cash, it seems presently to be the sweet spot.

The basic unit is not overclocked. I will increase the cooling and overclocking will be an option. It comes with 64 bit windows but linux is almost certainly going to be the faster option. No monitor is included but hey, it’s a database server, you don’t need fancy graphics. That old CRT in the corner will do! The server does have a rather nice nVidia GeForce GTX 460 in it but I am cutting out the cost of that. The server is currently the best gaming machine I have but that will end when I get time to start working on the Oracle side.

Total cost, £615 or so. That is like $615 seeing as we get so ripped off in the UK for IT kit. I can now go spend money on more fast hard discs, SSDs, even fast USB memory sticks. Any suggestions, I am happy to listen.

The biggest question is – When am I going to get time to work on this damn thing?

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