Haswell vs Avoton for Mini-ITX NAS?

matt_garman

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Feb 7, 2011
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I'm downsizing and rebuilding my NAS using the U-NAS NSC-800 chassis. My current system is Socket 1155 Micro-ATX (E3-1230 v1), so I need to get a new Mini-ITX motherboard. I'm going back and forth in my mind between waiting for the ASRock Avoton board, or getting a full-fledged C2xx Socket 115x system.

The quickest and cheapest route would be to re-use my E3-1230v1 CPU on a Mini-ITX board. It seems that the Intel S1200KP(R) is the only socket 1155 board that supports ECC memory. But, unless I'm missing something, it doesn't appear to have IPMI or IP-KVM... I don't really need that, but it's so handy when I want it. Plus, it only has two DIMM slots. I currently have four DIMMs: 2x2GB and 2x4GB. I'd like to reuse all the memory if possible.

If I just bite it and buy a new CPU, I can get something like the ASRock E3C224D2I. The Xeon is overkill, and I think I could get by with an i3-4130. But that board also limits me to only two DIMM slots.

These 115x boards also don't have enough onboard SATA ports. I do have an extra IBM M1050, but it would be nice to keep power consumption lower and have an overall simpler build.

The 115x boards also require me to buy a low-profile heatsink. I already have one NSC-800 chassis for my backup server, and my very imprecise measurement suggests a maximum clearance of about 45mm. IOW, I don't think a stock Intel cooler would fit (54mm IIRC, excepting the "T" model low-power parts, which I think are 37mm).

On the other hand, the ASRock C2750D4I (Avoton) solves all those problems: four DIMM slots, passive heatsink (presumably [hopefully!] short enough to fit in the NSC-800), ample SATA ports... but the downsides are:
  • Still not available
  • Unclear what price will be
  • Is the CPU strong enough for my needs?

This server does a little more than just file serving. In particular, it acts as a master backend for MythTV. Generally, that's an IO-dominated process, excepting "mythcommflag" which scans for and automatically cuts out commercials from recorded broadcast TV. Last I checked, that process was mostly single-threaded, so is unlikely to run quickly on Avoton. But maybe I don't care? We usually wait at least a day before watching any show that Myth recorded.

I also use the server for some lightweight hobby-level programming/development.

FWIW, right now the RAID subsystem is Linux software raid-6. I've been flirting with the idea of moving to ZFS raid-z3.

Anyone have any thoughts on why I might go one way or the other?
 

modernist

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Aug 28, 2013
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I am/was in a similar situation and decided to go with the ASRock E3C226D2I. For pure low-power home NAS usage, the ASRock C2750D4I (Avoton) looks perfect. However, for my purposes I also use this box to run a Windows 8 instance that I use from various thin clients, plus a general VM sandbox for development & testing purposes, so the extra horsepower is useful.
 

Patrick

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Matt - by end of month we should have better availability. I am getting my first Rangeley board (Intel Atom C2758) on Monday.

From what I have heard, Intel is the constraint.
 

matt_garman

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Feb 7, 2011
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What would be reasonable approximations for idle power consumption for a Haswell Xeon versus Avoton?

The site reviews suggest 21 watts for the Xeon and 17ish for Avoton. Does that sound right?

I'd have to add my m1050 to the Xeon, so that would probably add another 5 to 10 watts? But I also have a cheap 2-port sata card which certainly will have lower power consumption.

Hmmm...
 

Patrick

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That sounds about right. The cheap SATA cards use little power.

Under load though, the Avoton is going to suck much less power.
 

matt_garman

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Feb 7, 2011
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For anyone who's interested, I took some power measurements with my Kill-a-Watt.

These measurements were with a Seasonic ss-300m1u power supply, Biostar nm70i-847 motherboard, two 2GB ecc dimms (not sure of make or voltage), booting into centos 6.4. I let the system sit idle until the power usage stayed stable (within one watt) for at least two minutes. Boot drive was a cheap no-name usb thumb drive I got free at a conference.

Config 1: nothing but what I described above. 14-15 watts.

Config 2: add m1050. 22 watts.

Config 3: replace m1050 with cheap two port sata pcie card. 15 watts.

Config 4: no hba, 7 5400 rpm drives (various makes and models). 49-50 watts.

Config 5: same 7 hdd plus m1050. 54 watts.

What I think is interesting is that you can see the effects of the PSU efficiency curve. With no hdd, the m1050 add seven watts, but with all the drives, it only adds four or five watts.

If we knew the specifics of this PSU's efficiency curve, we could back out the actual DC power consumption of the various components.

These numbers suggest I could almost use my 150 watt Pico PSU I have laying around... not sure about the spin-up power draw of all those drives though, and I don't know if the m1050 can do staggered spin up in IT mode.

-Matt
 

matt_garman

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Feb 7, 2011
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Under load though, the Avoton is going to suck much less power.
At least with the pre-Avoton Atoms, I thought the general conclusion was as follows: While the Atom has much lower power draw than a Xeon, it's computational power is dis-proportionally lower. Therefore, given the same computational workload, Xeon actually uses less power than Atom because it's so much more efficient. I.e., dramatically higher "performance per watt".

I don't know if this rule of thumb still holds with Avoton though.

Another angle to this: Avoton seems to lack VT-d. I haven't used VMs at home in a long time, but we started using them at work, and it's inspired some thoughts that I might be able to do some further consolidation/downsizing at home with virtualization. In particular, consolidate my pfSense firewall/router and NAS/mythbackend systems.

If I want to do this, it would push me to the Xeon route... but, as I want to use the U-NAS NSC-800, I'm forced to go with Micro-ITX and a low-profile heatsink. I emailed U-NAS and asked what the maximum HSF clearance is, and they said 47mm. I was looking at the Noctua NH-L9i cooler. It's only 37mm tall, but their TDP guidelines kind of scare me a bit with an 80 Watt Xeon. So to not worry about frying the chip, I'll probably need to do some combination of underclocking, core disabling, turbo boost disable, etc... obviously that will cost performance.

What do most people around here do? Have separate devices for everything, or virtualize and consolidate as much as possible? I've always been very "hands on" often deliberately choosing the harder way to do things; but these days, with work and kids, I now want things as easy, reliable and fuss/maintenance free as possible. For example, my firewall/router used to run OpenBSD; now I'm running pfSense and for my simple needs (basic home Internet connection), it's so much simpler and easier. Now I'm thinking, I currently maintain my NAS by hand, but maybe one of the "NAS distros" would be the way to go here... <shrug>

Are there any other Mini-ITX Xeon boards besides the ASRock? I'm not terribly comfortable with the two DIMM slot limitation. 16 GB DIMMs are out of my price range for now. (Although maybe it's not even possible to build such a board with four DIMM slots, given space limitations... maybe with SO-DIMM?)
 

Mike

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May 29, 2012
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Steer away from vt-d if you can. There isn't really a need for it unless you use some cache heavy FS/NAS system, since you might want to isolate that with hard resource limits.
Power is not a problem with either as both CPU's will idle lower than most if not all HBAs or even NICs.
 

matt_garman

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Feb 7, 2011
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Steer away from vt-d if you can. There isn't really a need for it unless you use some cache heavy FS/NAS system, since you might want to isolate that with hard resource limits.
Can you elaborate on that?

I'm not terribly concerned about performance. But what I am concerned about is having my data store be somewhat independent of hardware or even virtual hardware. For example, right now, my data store is Linux MD raid-6. I can move the drives to another Linux system and re-assemble the array. In fact, I've actually done this many times, as I've rebuilt my system and re-installed the OS multiple times without having to re-create the big array store. I know zfs also supports similar functionality.

Do I lose this if I expose individual hard drives to virtualized OSes without VT-d? In other words, let's say I went with the Avoton board, therefore, no VT-d. Can I rebuild my OS within a virtual Linux instance, and still assemble the existing array?

Another related question: what if I build a new array under a virtualized Linux instance. And then I later decide I want to go bare metal: can I just move those raid drives to a non-virtualized system and still assemble my array?
 

dba

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Feb 20, 2012
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I'm downsizing and rebuilding my NAS using the U-NAS NSC-800 chassis. My current system is Socket 1155 Micro-ATX (E3-1230 v1), so I need to get a new Mini-ITX motherboard. I'm going back and forth in my mind between waiting for the ASRock Avoton board, or getting a full-fledged C2xx Socket 115x system.

...

Anyone have any thoughts on why I might go one way or the other?
To me, the Avotom platform looks like a killer high-end NAS foundation. The Synology DS1813+, for example, is a solid small to medium sized business NAS using only an Atom D2700. With four times the number of cores and four times the L2 cache, an Avoton-based NAS would be overflowing with horsepower by comparison. In fact, it's too much horsepower for most NAS scenarios, unless of course you are running piles of apps on the NAS.
 

matt_garman

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Feb 7, 2011
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To me, the Avotom platform looks like a killer high-end NAS foundation. The Synology DS1813+, for example, is a solid small to medium sized business NAS using only an Atom D2700. With four times the number of cores and four times the L2 cache, an Avoton-based NAS would be overflowing with horsepower by comparison. In fact, it's too much horsepower for most NAS scenarios, unless of course you are running piles of apps on the NAS.
Good point, if I was doing pure NAS, then a Centernon board might be the way to go: lowest power, ECC memory, good enough CPU. But in my case I'm doing more than just NAS. At a minimum, my NAS is also a mythbackend server, and login box for lightweight/hobby development. I don't think any of that counts as a "pile of apps", not to mention, I could move the mythbackend to my always-on mythfrontend.

modernist's reply just got my thoughts going... with a Xeon and VT-d, I could do all these things---things I really don't have any immediate need for, but as with so many purchases, there's a constant temptation to overbuy for imagined future needs (like buying a cargo van when a little hatchback would do).
 

matt_garman

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Feb 7, 2011
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Matt - by end of month we should have better availability. I am getting my first Rangeley board (Intel Atom C2758) on Monday.

From what I have heard, Intel is the constraint.
Have you heard any more news or rumors as to the C2750D4I's general USA availability?
 

_Arthur

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Nov 23, 2013
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Have you heard any more news or rumors as to the C2750D4I's general USA availability?
My AsRock Account Manager in Taiwan said they would ship a batch of C2750D4I's to their Netherlands (Europe) hub on friday. Arriving tomorrow/tuesday. And then the reseller needs to ship the board to me. So I hope to have my hands on a C2750D4I by the end of next week.
 

_Arthur

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Nov 23, 2013
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My AsRock Account Manager in Taiwan said they would ship a batch of C2750D4I's to their Netherlands (Europe) hub on friday. Arriving tomorrow/tuesday. And then the reseller needs to ship the board to me. So I hope to have my hands on a C2750D4I by the end of next week.
Just to quote myself: the C2750D4I boards have arrived at the AsRock distribution center in the Netherlands. So I guess they are shipped worldwide and we will see them generally available soon.
 

matt_garman

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Feb 7, 2011
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Well, I just pulled the trigger on components for the Xeon-based system. Partially due to the fact that I'm getting impatient. But today I ran across this: Marvell 88SE9230: Freaks out and drops all disks if sent SMART command during RAID rebuild on Linux. Presumably this will be fixed at some point, but when, and more importantly, are there other "gotchas" laying in wait for the unsuspecting early adopter? That bug would almost certainly hit me, as it's exactly my application: Linux software RAID with SMART monitoring.

I decided playing it safe trumps most other concerns. In this build, my data drives will hang off my tried-and-true M1050 HBA, and the two system drives (RAID-1/mirror) off the C224's SATA ports.

Now the question is, how to run the CPU? All cores enabled plus turbo boost is probably gets to be a little questionable given Noctua's LH-L9i TDP guidelines. I'm thinking either one core disabled or simply disabling turbo boost. The "L" version of the 1230 has a 1.8/2.8 GHz clock, but a TDP of only 25 Watts... dunno how much cherry-picking they do of the silicon to get the L-series, but given it's only $10 more, I don't imagine it's all that special. If this board supports underclocking, I ought to be able to get pretty close to the L series with a conventional 1230v3.
 

ghostfish

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Dec 6, 2013
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Finally listed on newegg, but out of stock. Presumably they expect to receive some soon.
I actually managed to order one of these on Tuesday night when they were first listed, but my order has been stuck in "packaging" for 3 business days now. I'm not sure if they're backed up from Black Friday and Cyber Monday at the warehouse or when they let me order the stock status was wrong. We shall see.