Low-power router/file server. Need advice.

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raz0
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Low-power router/file server. Need advice.

Post by raz0 » Thu May 19, 2005 5:54 am

Hi,

I have been wanting to build a router with QOS to solve problems with bandwidth distribution among the 4 PCs in our household for a while now. I was planning on running either Debian or FreeBSD and having it on at all times.

Problem is that power is quite expense where I live - about $0.27 per kWh. This might not sound like much, but if you have a 40 watt lightbulb lit all the time that actually translates to over $95 a year in power only. This leads me to the main goal of this project - to build a low-power server.

My goals are to build a server that consumes maximum 50 watts in idle state, preferably lower. I was hoping for <= 40 watts. I have been looking at EPIA motherboards, but these perform a little too poor for my taste. I am also going to use the server as a file- and web server, and later on probably also as a PVR. I know some of the EPIA motherboards can handle this, but they cannot handle live encoding of MPEG-2 (TV recording).

Low maximum power consumption is not as important as idle power consumption, since the server is probably going to idle most of the time anyway. It will, however, also be a plus if this is as low as possible too. Quietness, like low maximum power consumption, is a bonus too, though I guess low power consumption leads to quietness either way. A small form factor would be nice as well, though not necessarily required.

Now I need your advice. Which hardware should I get if I want the lowest possible idle power consumption, but still want more horsepower than EPIA boards? The server will have just one 3,5" (preferable SATA) HDD and no CD/DVD or floppy drive. It will probably not have video to begin with, though I might expand with this later on. Which CPU and motherboard?

Thanks in advance,
Morten Bojsen-Hansen

rtsai
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Post by rtsai » Thu May 19, 2005 6:19 am

I think you need to rethink the allocation of tasks among your computers. Combining a router with fileserver/PVR functionality is not a common combination, probably for good reason. You can build/buy a very low-power router/firewall very easily (Linksys + Sveasoft, or build your own monowall or smoothwall or something), and I'm pretty sure at least one of those will provide QoS mechanisms.

Then you can concentrate on your PVR/fileserver as a full-blown PC with lots of cpufreq and other idle-power hacks to minimize idle power consumption.

raz0
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Post by raz0 » Thu May 19, 2005 6:49 am

Don't you think it's possible to get reasonable low power consumption with a mobile processor? I am not to keen on building multiple machines, since I guess that will push costs even higher.

A file server is going to be on most of the time anyway, so why not combine it with a router too? And if it, at a later time, can be expanded to cover PVR functionality too that's a lot of dollars saved - right? I have I completely missed your point? ^^

lm
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Post by lm » Thu May 19, 2005 8:04 am

My server pulls 42W on idle and 60W under load.
Specs:

P3 733MHz slot1
512MB 133MHz sdram
intel mobo, integrated sound
matrox millennium 1 (from 1997)
seagate barracuda iv 80GB
4* papst 80mm fan @5V
no floppy, no cd, no nothing

Ways to take it further:
- more efficient PSU
- swap 3.5" hdd with a 2.5" hdd
- drop some of the fans
- drop gfx card

If I could be bothered to implement these additional improvements, it would probably eat less than 30W on idle, or maybe even 20W.

mongobilly
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Post by mongobilly » Thu May 19, 2005 8:17 am

For fileserving/routing (probably not ideal to combine tho from a security point of view) a low end EPIA is more than enough and FreeBSD supports them well (aside of the MPEG chip which I couldn't get to run under any Unix). Also, 5400RPM drives will save some power (on that scale of power usage, HDs become important).

raz0
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Post by raz0 » Thu May 19, 2005 9:10 am

lm: That's an interesting setup, though I am aiming for something a bit faster still. How do you measure power consumption by the way?

mongobilly: It might not be ideal from a security point of view, though it should be reasonably secure if I block all incoming connections to Samba.
Still I am aiming for something a bit faster than EPIAs, since I am probably going to use this box as a PVR down the line.

An all-in-one box with low power consumption at idle will probably be the best solution. What about mobile processors?

Bluefront
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Post by Bluefront » Thu May 19, 2005 10:15 am

Have you ever considered a Net Disk?
As far as I'm concerned, my 160gb version is a server. It draws 1.2A. Mine has a Samsung 7200rpm drive...reasonably quiet. Plus you could put it in a closet if you wanted=total silence.

The newest driver is much better than previous versions. All computers on the network can read/write to it at the same time. It's been running without incident almost two years. :D

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Post by nick705 » Thu May 19, 2005 10:40 am

Still I am aiming for something a bit faster than EPIAs, since I am probably going to use this box as a PVR down the line.

An all-in-one box with low power consumption at idle will probably be the best solution. What about mobile processors?
Maybe a Pentium M would suit your needs, but if you're on a budget they're not the cheapest solution.

Sorry to keep harping back to the EPIAs, but are you absolutely sure they won't do? AFAIK the onboard video supports MPEG2 hardware decoding, so they're not limited by the processor in this respect. If you later wanted to convert it into a fullblown PVR with all the bells and whistles, you could add something like a Hauppauge PVR350 which also encodes and decodes in hardware.

I think you'll struggle to meet your power consumption requirements with anything beyond a mini-ITX to be honest...

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Re: Low-power router/file server. Need advice.

Post by flyingsherpa » Thu May 19, 2005 2:59 pm

raz0 wrote: Now I need your advice. Which hardware should I get if I want the lowest possible idle power consumption, but still want more horsepower than EPIA boards? The server will have just one 3,5" (preferable SATA) HDD and no CD/DVD or floppy drive. It will probably not have video to begin with, though I might expand with this later on. Which CPU and motherboard?
lowest idle power + more horsepower than EPIA = pentium M. it's probably the best choice for this, but it will be somewhat costly. alternatively, you could try a mobile athlon with an undervolt/clock friendly mobo and maybe get it down to 40W. i have such a setup though i don't really underclock/volt. my system (see sig) draws around 65W at idle, and that is with pretty stock settings and a pretty low power video card. without going the pentium M route i think you'll have a hard time hitting both your power consumption and horsepower goals.

mongobilly
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Post by mongobilly » Thu May 19, 2005 9:58 pm

raz0 wrote:lm: That's an interesting setup, though I am aiming for something a bit faster still. How do you measure power consumption by the way?

mongobilly: It might not be ideal from a security point of view, though it should be reasonably secure if I block all incoming connections to Samba.
Still I am aiming for something a bit faster than EPIAs, since I am probably going to use this box as a PVR down the line.
The EPIA are fine as PVR boxes as long as you give em hardware assisted MPEG 2 encoder cards which you should do in the interest of power consumption anyway (it takes quite some general purpose computing juice to get MPEG2 encoded). If you want to encode to MPEG4 however, go directly to a mobile CPU or AMD Venice (which idles at 8.4W with cool&quiet which is only barely more than what the C3 needs at load but at which point it will still run circles around the C3 I guess).

silent_partner
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Post by silent_partner » Sun May 22, 2005 9:38 am

lm wrote:My server pulls 42W on idle and 60W under load.
Specs:

P3 733MHz slot1
512MB 133MHz sdram
intel mobo, integrated sound
matrox millennium 1 (from 1997)
seagate barracuda iv 80GB
4* papst 80mm fan @5V
no floppy, no cd, no nothing

Ways to take it further:
- more efficient PSU
- swap 3.5" hdd with a 2.5" hdd
- drop some of the fans
- drop gfx card

If I could be bothered to implement these additional improvements, it would probably eat less than 30W on idle, or maybe even 20W.
how do you measure wattage?

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Post by Ralf Hutter » Mon May 23, 2005 5:45 am

silent_partner wrote:
lm wrote:My server pulls 42W on idle and 60W under load.
Specs:

P3 733MHz slot1
512MB 133MHz sdram
intel mobo, integrated sound
matrox millennium 1 (from 1997)
seagate barracuda iv 80GB
4* papst 80mm fan @5V
no floppy, no cd, no nothing

Ways to take it further:
- more efficient PSU
- swap 3.5" hdd with a 2.5" hdd
- drop some of the fans
- drop gfx card

If I could be bothered to implement these additional improvements, it would probably eat less than 30W on idle, or maybe even 20W.
how do you measure wattage?
Seasonic Power Angel, or Kill-a-watt would be a few ways.

Irianta
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Post by Irianta » Mon May 23, 2005 6:01 am

If you are wanting to combine router/firewall/file server/web server and PVR all in one, maybe you should look at some low-power dual-processor setups? Combining all the above functionality into one box can mean a lot of concurrent activity, and that could slow things down (critically). Those old 600MHz Coppermine-core Pentium III processors are actually pretty good when it comes to pure power consumption. I have two dually servers powered by 600MHz and 667MHz Coppermines myself, and they're performing quite admirably as router/servers -- albeit I have not measured their power consumption.

lm
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Post by lm » Mon May 23, 2005 6:47 am

Ralf Hutter wrote: Seasonic Power Angel, or Kill-a-watt would be a few ways.
Yeah, I used such a device. Not the same brand but anyway.

And I forgot to mention that server has 2*100Mbps pci nics too.

And yet another thing, this machine works as a firewall/router/fileserver/ircing terminal. I couldn't be bothered to run multiple machines for these purposes.

t0mb0
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Post by t0mb0 » Mon May 23, 2005 7:49 am

A mac mini may make a great file server, the only problem maybe if you want to run linux on it with airport as airport extreme is unsupported under linux.

However, it's small quiet and, according to this, draws only 20 watts and only 28 whilst playing a dvd!!!

http://www.tomshardware.com/howto/20050 ... er-06.html

raz0
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Post by raz0 » Mon May 23, 2005 9:02 am

t0mb0: Hmm. The Mac Mini would definitely make as an interesting server, though it costs around $670. Still cheap, I know.

Irianta: Not a bad idea, though dual processor (DP) boards are rather expensive. It will also be rather difficult to find a DP board for such an old processor, let alone a reasonable good board. I am not so keen on this idea, sorry.
mongobilly wrote:go directly to a mobile CPU or AMD Venice (which idles at 8.4W with cool&quiet which is only barely more than what the C3 needs at load but at which point it will still run circles around the C3 I guess).
Do you mean mobile Athlon 64 here, or just Venice? My brother has a 3000+ Winchester and a GF6600GT. Using C'n'Q at 1000MHz with 1.1V this still results in a total power consumption of 84W when idle. The graphics card only uses 17W idle, and the only other hardware he has connected is a DVD-burner. I don't think an Athlon64 Venice will ever reach acceptable power consumption levels.

I have, however, been looking at the Athlon64 mobile 35W. This processor will only consume _maximum_ 35W at full load, right? I wonder what it will consume when idle.

flyingsherpa, nick705: A Pentium M is indeed interesting too, however, I can't seem to find the power consumption for the individual processors. The Pentium-M 730 Dothan 1600MHz is quite interesting and reasonably prices as well, but without knowing the power consumption, I am not going to buy it.

Bluefront: As far as I can tell the Net Disk requires you to install a driver on each of the client machines. This is not really feasible, especially since I am running Linux on my own workstation.

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Post by frostedflakes » Mon May 23, 2005 9:37 am

Mobile Athlon64s do offer good bang for the buck. I'm assuming you live outside the U.S.? If you do live in the U.S., memoryexpousa.com has 2800+ 35w mobile for $120 w/free DHL shipping. These are based on an 0.09µ process and run extremely cool. At 1.8GHz 1.35v, TDP should be ~31.5w. Most can undervolt to 1.1-1.2v at default clock, which would equate to ~20.9-24.9w.

But what you also have to keep in mind is that AMD TDP figures are measured under worst-case conditions (in the case of the mobile Athlon64s, this is at a die temp of 95*C!). In a desktop environment, where the processor likely won't breach 40*C w/active cooling, power consumption should be significantly lower.

With CnQ enabled and the right components, you shouldn't have any problem keeping power consumption at or slightly under 50w during idle.

raz0
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Post by raz0 » Mon May 23, 2005 10:30 am

frostedflakes: Ouch. That's cheap compared to the 130nm version I found. Do you (are anyone else for that matter) know a good retailer inside Europe? It has to be inside Europe, or I'll have to pay Danish customs and VAT. How do you calculate those dby the way?

Another important matter is the motherboard. How much power does the chipset of a motherboard consume? Most motherboard manufactures do not disclose power consumption.

Irianta
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Post by Irianta » Mon May 23, 2005 10:31 am

Not a bad idea, though dual processor (DP) boards are rather expensive. It will also be rather difficult to find a DP board for such an old processor, let alone a reasonable good board. I am not so keen on this idea, sorry.
Just tossing some ideas your way in case something catches your fancy :)

I see where you are coming from, especially if you live outside the US. If you are in the U.S., though, in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live you can find used server boxes in prime condition -- with dual processors and 2GB ECC memory -- for $100 each. These things have server-quality motherboards, so even though they're used they still have quite a bit of life left. Just cannibalize away ;)

Edit: restructuring and typo-squashing
Last edited by Irianta on Mon May 23, 2005 10:42 am, edited 2 times in total.

raz0
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Post by raz0 » Mon May 23, 2005 10:41 am

Irianta: Sadly I live in Denmark thousands of miles from the coast of the U.S. I wish I lived their with all the cheap hardware you seem to have though. :) It takes *ages* for new hardware to arrive at Danish retailers it seems, so a good retailer in Europe would be nice.

Irianta
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Post by Irianta » Mon May 23, 2005 10:43 am

Yeah, I know what you mean. I used to live in Finland until five years ago, and I remember how expensive and hard to get the good stuff was.

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Post by frostedflakes » Mon May 23, 2005 11:09 am

I can't think of any European vendors off the top of my head that carry these, but I'm sure there are a few. I doubt you'd be able to find them as cheap as MemoryExpoUSA is selling them, though.

OPN for the 0.09µ 35w chips are AMDxxxxBKX4LB. Replace the lower-case "x"s with the model number (these are available in 2700, 2800, and 3000, clocked at 1.6GHz, 1.8GHz, and 2.0GHz, respectively).

For a motherboard, ideally you'd want integrated video. I believe Via makes an AGP chipset with integrated video. ATi also recently released their RS480 PCI-E chipset, which is available with integrated X300 video. TuL/Powercolor has S754 ATX motherboards based on this chipset, but it's only been available in the U.S. for a few days, so I doubt it's in Europe yet.

I don't have any power consumption figures, but generally Via-based Athlon64 chipsets seem to run cooler than those based on nVidia nForce3/4, so one could assume that Via consumes less power (although it also depends on many other factors, as chipset is not the only part of the board that uses power). I'm not sure how hot the ATi RS480 runs, but the TuL board ships with a passive solution, unlike most nForce4 boards, so I'd assume it runs relatively cool (probably on par with K8T890, Via's PCI-E chipset).

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Post by elec999 » Mon May 23, 2005 5:50 pm

Why not just get a amd 64 venice core, or anything any other core for amd64. Set in the bios to 200x5, and 1.1v volts. And you are set, the cpu will usa 21watts at that speed.
Thanks

raz0
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Post by raz0 » Thu May 26, 2005 2:39 am

elec999: Where do you get those numbers? I have a hard time believing them, really. My brother has a Winchester 3000+, a GF6600GT and 512MB DDR400 RAM. The entire system, at idle, consumes 92W when C'n'Q is disabled. When I enable C'n'Q it drops to 85W at 1000MHz@1.1V. That's merely a 7W delta. And why would AMD produce mobile processors of the same chip that consume 35W then?

frostedflakes: I haven't been able to find a vendor in Europe that sells these yet. Maybe I'll just have to wait another month or so before they start to show up.

Another thing. RAM power consumption. I've read this thread, but there is a lot of different oppinions on this it seems. Do they only use 10W per stick, and is it possible to get low-power RAM as well? 10W is a lot when we're talking sub-50W levels. :)

lm
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Post by lm » Thu May 26, 2005 3:34 am

raz0 wrote:elec999: Where do you get those numbers? I have a hard time believing them, really. My brother has a Winchester 3000+, a GF6600GT and 512MB DDR400 RAM. The entire system, at idle, consumes 92W when C'n'Q is disabled. When I enable C'n'Q it drops to 85W at 1000MHz@1.1V. That's merely a 7W delta.
Please list all components of that system?

raz0
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Post by raz0 » Thu May 26, 2005 4:00 am

lm: Okay. Here they are.

Athlon 64 (Winchester) 3000+ (1.8GHz)
Asus A8N-SLI
512 MB DDR PC3500 Kingston HyperX 434MHz CL2
MSI NX6600GT-TD128E, GF6600GT, PCI-E
NEC ND-3520 (black) 16x Dual Double Layer DVD-Burner
Miditower Antec Solution SLK2650BQE
Logitech UltraX Keyboard USB
Logitech MX510 Mouse USB

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Post by StarfishChris » Thu May 26, 2005 4:01 am

raz0 wrote:elec999: Where do you get those numbers? I have a hard time believing them, really. My brother has a Winchester 3000+, a GF6600GT and 512MB DDR400 RAM. The entire system, at idle, consumes 92W when C'n'Q is disabled. When I enable C'n'Q it drops to 85W at 1000MHz@1.1V. That's merely a 7W delta. And why would AMD produce mobile processors of the same chip that consume 35W then?
Undervolting and underclocking reduces power consumption (clock linearly, and the square of the voltage). I can't remember the formula but there's a program called CPU Power that does it. In reality you can go much lower than 1.1v using software, around 0.8v which would give you 10W at idle.
As for mobile processors, the default voltage is lower and they may use different transistors.

Re: your system. How many drives, or does it network boot?

raz0
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Post by raz0 » Thu May 26, 2005 6:33 am

Oups. Forgot the HDD. It's a Seagate Barracuda 120GB regular ATA. Just one.

I tried undervolting it from 1.1V to 0.9V at 1000MHz, and there was only 2-3W in difference. I couldn't go any lower than 0.9V, since the computer would freeze up, though I doubt 0.8V would change much. Somehow I don't believe these numbers (10W or even 25W idle). :/

lm
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Post by lm » Thu May 26, 2005 6:51 am

raz0 wrote:I tried undervolting it from 1.1V to 0.9V at 1000MHz, and there was only 2-3W in difference.
If the cpu was drawing more, then you'd experience a bigger drop in power usage from undervolting. So it seems your machines other components must be drawing the most part of it.

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Post by elec999 » Thu May 26, 2005 8:00 am

Then I guess my power metter is broken
It shows on my system 62-80watts on full load.
Amd 64+ 5x200 at 1.100v
Dfi 250gb ut lp
2x512 DDRAM pc3200
Asus geforce 2 mx
Wd 40gig 7200rpm
1 extra 3com network card pci
Pioneer 107 dvdrw
A claim from another person ive seen for Turion64 MT-34 passive cooled
1.8GHz, 1.2v (default) - 20.5w
1.8GHz, 1.1v - 17.2w
0.8GHz, 0.8v - 4.0w
Thanks

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