Portrait of Martijn

A Supermicro Mini-ITX lab

19 Feb 2015

Here's my current take on a low-power home lab.

Overview Stack Ports Power Router Ports Router Screen

The computers are:

Chassis Supermicro SC101i Mini-ITX Chassis, with 80w External PSU (MCP-250-10110-0)
Motherboard Supermicro X10 A1SAi-2750F
Intel® Atom processor C2750, SoC, FCBGA 1283, 20W 8-Core
Up to 64GB DDR3 1600MHz ECC SO-DIMM in 4 DIMM sockets
Quad GbE LAN ports
IPMI with dedicated LAN
2x SATA3 and 4x SATA2 ports
1x PCI-E 2.0 x8 slot 4x USB 3.0 (2 rear, 1 via header, 1 Type A), 2x USB 2.0 ports (rear)
12V DC or ATX power input
Operating Temperature: 0°C - 60°C
RAM Crucial CT102464BF160B 16GB(2*8192)DDR3 1600 ECC SODIMM
Storage 240GB Crucial M500 SSD
Supplier Dave Mason at Sentral Systems

Why this selection? The A1SAi-2750F is low power (the CPU has just a heatsink, no fan) but has 8 cores, which will be good for virtualisation loads and clusters. It has a quad gigabit ethernet, which allows for lots of networking experiments, and possible future re-purposing as network firewall or NAS (there ar 2 SATA III ports and 4 SATA II). It has 4 RAM slots, until recently unusal for the form-factor, so I can have cheap 8G sticks, start with 16G per node, and go up to 32G later if the virtualisation loads need it. The board will take a 12V supply, which keeps heat out of the box, and opens up some options for possible PSU combination. And, again unusual for the form factor, this board includes IPMI, so you can get a remote console. See the STH review for more.

The 240G SSD is a reasonable tradeoff between space and cost. I chose the chassis because it was small and a path of least resistance to a working system, with Sentral doing the assembly; plus the badge matches the contents. I've since dis-assembled/re-assembled one, and it is well put together, if somewhat fidly and snug.

One issue with this combination is that the front ports on the enclosures are USB2, but the motherboard headers are USB3, and no conversion cables are readily available. So as a result, the front USB ports do not work.

The chassis is metal, with slots in the sides for air-flow, and a small fan. The three fans together make a lot more noise than I like. The three power bricks take up a bit much space. I have vague plans for making some custom enclosure so I can just have better airflow and a single large quiet fan, and fewer PSUs, but that's for another time.

The router is a MikroTik Cloud Router Switch 109-8G-1S-2HnD-IN, (obtained from LinITX) whih has 8 GigE ports, does WiFi, has a serial console, and will also run on 12V. It runs RouterOS Level 5, which I use elsewhere on my LAN too, and has a new UI and lots of features; I use its DHCP/DNS services.

With the machines are powered up but idle, it sips 42W and saw a high of 72W (according to my Watts Clever plug-in monitor) during boot and installation. It will be interesting to see how high that gets under load.

Cost: The three servers came to £1,843.20 delivered, the router was £114.

So far, I've configured it with a few subnets, and a CloudStack setup, and it works fine.