My Mini Project, even more do nothing VMs (WIP)

aletab

New Member
Jun 12, 2020
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Build’s Name: vhostx
Operating System: Debian Stable
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 2400GE
Motherboard: HP?
Chassis: HP EliteDesk Mini
Drives: 256GB M.2 + 500GB Crucial MX500 2.5" SSD (extended with LVM)
RAM: 16 GB DDR4 2666 MHz

Usage Profile: Individual student access to a system supporting virtualization. Learning platform for virtualization (VirtualBox, virt-manager), networking (within the virtualized environment) and general Linux experience.

Goals: Enough logical cores and RAM to support our VM lab work. Typical projects use 2-5+ virtualized desktop OSs and a router or 2 (Endian or pfSense). We've been using a machine with 4t/8GB and we can just barely run what we need. We give each VMs 1 core and routers 500MB, Linux 1-2GB, Windows 3GB i.e. 8 logical cores and 16 GB RAM seems like the right specs for a bit more flexibility. Also, affordable, physically lightweight (it's just me moving these systems and I aint that young!), low power consumption and I really, really wanted IPMI, AMT or Dash. I wanted to run Debian but could maybe, possibly accept Ubuntu.

Background: Along with the Proxmox servers I recently built in this thread, I also needed to provide each student with a stand-alone platform to access. Also as previously mentioned, my organization is a small nonprofit which provides workforce development services for people with disabilities aka we help people with disability get jobs. We provide training, one program is a Computer Technician Training. Due to COVID we have had to rapidly and in real-time convert to a remote format which includes remote access to our lab for students. It has been a massive challenge but I love that. But anyway, point being I needed to develop a remote access lab as quickly and as cheaply with my limited operational constraints.

Before I realized that STH was doing the Mini series, I purchased a HP 705 G4 Mini, since it seemed to fit the bill and in parallel I self-built an AMD system, AMD Ryzen 5 3400G 4c/8t + Gigabyte B450, 16GB RAM 500GB SSD to test both.

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G experience: I had a bear of a time getting Debian installed on the Ryzen 5 3400G system (drivers I believe) and eventually gave in and used Xubuntu. Based on my previous experience with (X)Ubuntu in our lab I was really unhappy with that. I use Kubnuntu on my desktop, love it, but Ubuntu had been problematic in student's hands with all sorts of odd and inconsistent problems leaving with me regular IT tasks to handle. On the other hand, Debian Stable has proven to be, well, yeah, stable. Some real revelations here :) This Ryzen is much like my home computer and its a very nice, smooth system to use. The fans in the Node 304 case I used hove no speed control so they are louder than I would prefer. The power supply was a salvage unit and non-modular. Not great for this case layout. The idea of tucking the power supply inside in front of the MB is interesting but I did not end up like it very much overall. The power button is also right next to the USB on teh side and easy to press accidentally when inserting/removing a USB drive. The case looks nice but I don't like working inside of it. Total cost was around $550. Not 100% used some pre-existing parts.

HP 705 G4 experience: Weird bios. I have never liked HP bios and this is no exception. People, please just give me a plain text bios! I don't need fonts, colors, charts... that said, it works just fine and after wrestling a bit with it, it's simple enough. Installing Debian requires the non-graphical installer and when done it boots to a black screen. From console or SSH, drivers need to be installed, reboot and smooth sailing. I extended the disk with LVM. It took me a while to refine my setup procedure but it's easy and fast now. Under load, this mini is surprisingly loud. I'm not sure I'd really want to use it as my desktop ironically but I am pretty picky about noise. If I would have paid $1500 for the new price on these I'd be pretty mad. It also gets really warm. I got the base unit for $400 with a 256GB m.2, 8GB. Added in $34 +8GB RAM and a $65 Crucial MX500 500GB SSD for a total of $500.

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G vs HP 705 G4? The better CPU is not that noticeable but it is slightly smoother to work with. I need to stick with Debian , so not really anything else to compare. The miniITX Node 304 case I used seems absolutely gigantic compared to the HP Mini...

Lenovo m92 3rd gen i5 vs HP 705 G4? The performance improvement of the HP is pretty noticeable in casual usage testing. Besides the performance different obviously the reliability of the HP should be better than the 7-year-old machines. The m92 actually has AMT which has been somewhat helpful at times. To be honest I have not yet looked at Dash yet.

Power Consumption
Idle power (W)Power loaded (W)
HP 705 G41665
Lenovo m922270
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G4090

I did not test power consumption totally consistently, so it's entirely possible these numbers loaded are not super accurate. Should be reasonably close as a comparison and not absolute numbers.

I think if I was using these as actual desktops I would go with the AMD Ryzen 5 3400G with a better case and speed control fans. It makes for a really nice system However, since the system will be remote access only, the HP is pretty ideal for my use. I bought 4 more which is just what I need for the moment. I will add more as needed and probably end up with around 12-14.
 
Last edited:

aletab

New Member
Jun 12, 2020
5
5
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Bay Area
Revised the loaded power consumption for the HP 705 G4. I originally reported 44W but its actually 65W. I knew I was off but not by that much. In any case still better than the others.

One of the problems I was having was system instability with Ubuntu Desktop which is why I went to Debian stable. I really need these machines to be as low maintenance as possible. It only just occurred to be that Ubuntu server would better as far as that is concerned. Since the problems I was seeing were so varied it's hard to know what the root cause was, and if the issue was with applications/desktop environment then I will assume that Ubuntu server won't be any better. In any case, I reinstalled the 3400G system and I guess I'll find out the hard way :)

Finally, the HP 705 G4 is working well for us. I don't have the chart but with the m92 we were hitting 80-100% CPU constantly and temporarily seeing unresponsiveness. None of that with these new machines even when pushing them a bit harder.
vhost CPU usage.png
 
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