[rescue] The State of SunHELP (new server build, etc)

Bill Bradford mrbill at mrbill.net
Thu Jun 6 15:06:56 CDT 2019

Long email - but it should give you an idea of the state of SunHELP and
related properties.  

Also, on the health front - I'm not ded yet!  Still doing monthly IV chemo and
having to take unpaid days every month, but it's not getting any worse OR any
bettery.  I'm lucky that for the most part nothing actively hurts most of the
time, and my ruined left shoulder still permits me to live independently and
type and do desk work for a living.  I wheeze and have to use a cane to get
around, but I'm mobile!

I'm in the process of building the new SunHELP master server.  I'd thought
about building a Ryzen 5-based system, but recently stumbled upon a great
deal on an older Dell box via ebay and I'm going with that.

here's the plan:

- Dell T410 (got for $125 *shipped*!), currently has an E5620 Xeon single
  CPU (4 cores/8 threads), 4G of RAM, and two 250G HDs.  Also has iDRAC
  Enterprise, a PERC 6i RAID card, and the 6-drive hot swap backplane up  
  front.  Dual Broadcom Gigabit NICs.  

- Planned upgrades (I already have most of these parts) - CPU going to be
  upgrade to a Xeon X5670 (6 cores/12 threads), 16G of RAM, a LSI 9211-8i
  HBA (in IT mode as I'm going to use ZFS) instead of the limited PERC, 
  and a dual-2.5" hotswap bay in the empty 5.25" bay for a pair of 250G
  Intel 545s SSDs in RAID-1 for the OS.  Not sure if I should buy an Intel
  dual-gigabit-NIC PCIe card to use instead of the Broadcom onboards.

So far I've got about $250 invested in the box but it should be fairly
decent and better compared to the current server (a PC tower I built about
nine years ago with a Phenom II X4 960T, 16G of RAM, and a pair of 1T drives
in RAID-1).  Having properly hot-swappable drives will be a great help;
I never like having to take down the entire system just to swap out a bad

If you've ever wanted to see what the current system looks like:


(and a pile of failed disks from the past couple of years:
 http://mrbill.net/badhd.jpg - and you can see the UPS and 
 BrickWall power conditioner behind them)

Phenom II X4 960T, Gigabyte GA-880GM-UD2H motherboard, 4 x 4G DDR3 sticks,
 Corsair 450W power supply, three 1TB SATA drives (RAID-1 plus a
 hotspare).  Broadcom PCIe NIC (instead of the onboard Realtek).
 External eSATA bay holding another RAID-1 pair + hotspare, plus 
 a "standalone" drive.  I had to move two VMs to external drives,
 because the amount of disk I/O that everything was doing on a single
 RAID-1 was thrashing the drives heavily and causing premature disk
 failure.  I've had to replace every fan in the system at least twice,
 so for the last round I went all Noctua fans where possible.

In addition to being my primary personal server, I also run / host sites
for my Masonic lodge, mailing lists and web for a local boy scout troop,
and a few other charitable organizations.  

(Thanks a bunch to the folks at RSYNC.NET for giving me their F/OSS 
 discount pricing - I recently moved away from CrashPlan and switched
 to rsync.net for off-site backups, and I'm SO much happier now!)

Thoughts on the proposed Dell config?  I technically only need about 1.5-2TB
of usable space so I'll be doing RAID-Z2.  Giving it five 1TB drives will
result in 2.6T of usable space.  I'm not sure if I should use RAID-Z3, (adding
one parity disk) or use that 6th drive as a hotspare.

I definitely don't want to go back to using Linux software RAID (mdadm,
etc) now that ZFS-on-Linux is pretty mature.

Things I would love to have donated if people have them sitting around in 

- 32G of DDR3 ECC RAM (4 x 8G sticks).  I've only got one CPU installed in
  the machine so I can only use four of the RAM slots.  

- I might look into adding a second CPU if I order the L5640 60W low-power
  6-core Xeons off eBay and can find the right Dell heatsink; this runs at
  home so I gotta worry about power consumption and cost.  Unfortunately it
  looks like Dell F847J heatsinks run $60 (!) each, so yeah, I'll have to stick
  with a single CPU.

- DRIVES.  A year or two ago, a couple of you donated a bunch of 1T SATA
  HDs (mostly Sun-branded); I ended up with about 15 usable drives out of
  the bunch.  I've gone through at least half of those due to failures and
  such (I tend to have to replace a drive in the current RAID-1 every 3-6
  months), and if I fill the six hotswap bays in the T410, that leaves me 
  with only one or two spares.  So, I need 1TB or bigger 3.5" SATA drives.
  I would love to be able to fill those bays with cheap $100 1T SSDs, but 
  with all of my current chemo copays and such I just don't have that kind 
  of money to drop on storage.

- Good thoughts and "hopes and prayers" etc.  If you'd like to contribute to
  my medical fund for cancer copays and treatments, see
  https://www.gofundme.com/misterbill.  Thank you so much to those of you who
  have contributed over the past couple of years and made it so that I can
  worry a tiny bit less about getting bills paid.

As always, I welcome questions / comments / complaints / insults /
whatever you'd want to say in my general direction.  It's sort of hard
to believe that I've been keeping SUNHELP up and running for about 22
years now.  

I've never made any decent amount of money off the site - never intended to -
but occasionally made enough off of ads (when I ran them) to take my very
understanding wife out to dinner once or twice a month to keep her placated.

It's really weird when people tell me that the site helped start or further
their career, or that people who I've looked up to for 20+ years refer to 
me as their peer, etc.  I just try to help people whenever I can.


Bill Bradford
Houston, Texas USA

More information about the rescue mailing list