Sat Jul 14 03:50:43 CEST 2012

Ivy Covered Bridge to Fast

Been a very long time since there's been an entry. In fact, none in California. BTW, we're in California ;) ! Anyways, once again I am back with a post about shiny newness. This time, it's an attempt to replace three servers, that for one reason or another, all currently needed to exist, and be turned on most or all of the time. Electricity ain't as cheap is it could be, so I decided that there must be a way to combine all three servers into one more powerful.

First, the current line-up (and yes all my computers have female names, most ending in "a")

  1. eliza: Mac mini running lots of little services - backuppc, DNS, DHCP, VPN, Nagios.
  2. acacia: Beige box P4 running NAS and Media share. Includes a 3ware RAID card.
  3. eva: Old Dell SC1425 Dual Xeon spun up solely for running MythTV MySQL database after eliza started having trouble keeping up recently, which caused problems with Myth, which is not allowed to keep happening.
The NAS system is under light load most of the time, but it's not beefy enough to do all the things that needed doing. The Mac Mini could've absorbed the NAS and Media sharing stuff, but had no way to accept a full-length PCI-X (yes PCI-X not PCIe) 8-port 3ware card and the 4 disks. The Dell also couldn't accept extra disks, and probably would've struggled with the entire workload. So, I decided it was time to get up to speed on what was out in there--I've not been building computers for awhile (though I have bought a board+CPU or two to replace some failures, but that was always lowest end I could do). I needed something up away from the bottom end this time. Something with a can-do and will do and right now attitude. After days of forum reading, benchmark-site reading, and price look-ups, I found that I could get either an AMD F1 "Bulldozer" based system or an Intel Core i5 or i7 system at almost the same price point. At first glance, it would seem that an octo-core AMD would be no contest to a quad-core. But you'd need to wipe your eyes, because Intel has been working on packing efficiency and work-per-clock into their cores more than AMD has, apparently. Although there were mixed opinions and lots of fanboyism, in general, most people were recommending the last generation (i5-2500k) Intel over the current AMD octo (F1-8120), including some with actual benchmarks.

The final decision came to two things. First, power consumption on the Core i5-3570k was 77 Watts while the F1-8120 was 125W. Second, some of the benchmarks that the i5 beat the F1 on were specific apps I knew I had in mind for this server, like x264 transcoding. So, I went with an Intel Core i5-3570k system. Bonus was that an SSD came on sale, as well as some other optional things. In the end this is what I got:

  • Intel® Core™ i5 3570k (the K means unlocked in case I want to overclock, which I actually will try to do with benchmarks).
  • BioStar TZ77A motherboard. Cheapest Ivy Bridge motherboard that I got for $50 off with the i5 purchase.
  • Crucial Ballistix 8G (2x4 GB) DDR3-1600.
  • OCZ 60 GB SATA 3 SSD. Just came on sale the day I was gonna buy.
  • Antec Three Hundred Two. Very solid case for the price.
  • Coolermaster Hyper 212+ CPU fan. Very highly touted on the interwebs by those overclockers (at least the ones doing it on "air"). This thing is HUGE, so that's why I went ahead for the new case.
  • The rest of the parts (a 2TB SATA 2 drive, PSU, etc) I already had. I also opted for the integrated video that the Ivy Bridge (and to a lesser degree Sandy Bridge) chips have. I wasn't used to this CPU+GPU thing. That is something that AMD is way ahead in, since they bought ATI and got the Radeon stuff. It's a server, though I will put a desktop on it for some of the multimedia apps.

Once all the fun of assembly was done, after an agonizingly long wait due to needing to down the NAS server to swap power supplies and remove a hard drive, I got to the business of installing Linux. I actually opted for funtoo as one of the benchmarks I saw along the way indicated there is a performance boost depending on how the software was compiled. GCC can take advantage of the newer chips (versus x86_64 generically). Every clock cycle counts, right? Funtoo actually has a stage built to "corei7". First off, I actually had not entered either the SATA3 or SSD or SATA3+SSD arena. I am now on the lookout so that I can get at least a SATA2+SSD going on for my Nehalem system because they help, I'll follow up with full on benchmarks, including some against my Core 2 Quad and Nehalem, but here is what this thing is working with:

  • Boot from grub to login: 5-10 seconds. I spent 20 minutes compiling a kernel and getting Plymouth to display a pretty animated boot screen. It displays about 3-7 seconds before it goes away for login.
  • Oh that kernel I said took 20 minutes. That was all me--going through the config screens and configuring the bootloader. The system compiled the kernel in 1:49 and the modules in 5:41 (and I picked a LOT of things as modules, knowing it wouldn't matter much to the Ivy). Those familiar with configuring their own kernel "If in doubt, pick Y or M" ended up in lots of M's on things I had no idea what they were.
  • This one resulted in a celebratory fists in the air. The whole road that lead to this was Myth latency causing issues, mostly on extremely long rescheduling of shows. I was getting 120-180 seconds when the Mini was still in charge, sometimes longer if it was doing backups. I lowered that to 60-120 on the Dell. And when I threw it at Cindy: 12-15 seconds SOLID. I was even transcoding and it kept it to that. Probably because of all the RAM. MySQL loves RAM. So after those tables get loaded up in memory, its up to the client basically.
  • I have done a transcode, but it was nice solid 1080i -> 1080p HDTV. I kept time figures, and will convert the exact same vid on my other rigs, using stock Ubuntu 12.04 versions of the same tools (my own conversion script, which spawns mencoder and MP4Box and tsMuxeR with all the right switches to take pretty much anything and turn it into a PS3, iPhone, Roku, XBox and ANdroid compliant H.264 file.) I have a feeling the core differences may let my Nehalem stay in the game for this.

Come back for part 2 soon---NOW WITH GRAPHS!!!!

Posted by james | Permanent link | File under: News, Geekdom