By dougm on Aug 28, 2009
For my own systems at home, I have gone from wanting multiple small servers to one big honking server. With the current generation of small, embedded style systems, I'm moving back into the small systems camp. While there are some system administration advantages of using a bigger system with multiple zones to do the work, multiple small systems provide the added redundancy that I want for the websites I run. The selection of such small systems has gotten to be quite good and a lot of them adequately support OpenSolaris.
A short digression. These low power systems aren't just for small applications. Dell has announced the XS11-VX8 aka "Fortuna" server. It will provide up to 12 Via Nano based servers per 2U rack unit or 142 servers in a standard 42U rack. More information can be found at Fortuna. Depending on what the price is when released, this could be an interesting approach for ISPs as well as the HPC market it is aimed at.
Back to "why small". Small systems can be very low power, quiet (especially fanless systems), and not take up very much space while providing more than adequate performance for a very large audience. Customized with specific applications, these small systems can be used more as appliances than general computers.
OpenSolaris can be used for a number of appliance type applications already.
- For the home or small office, an OpenSolaris based NAS (Network Attached Storage) server can provide the required functionality while not using large amounts of power or generating excess heat. The ZFS file system allows for very easy storage expansion without having to re-layout file systems as you grow.
- A network router based on OpenSolaris would provide a lot of functionality and reliability while fitting into a relatively small form factor box. Perhaps not as inexpensive as some of the ARM based systems,. but still viable. The OpenSolaris ARM port may someday make it viable to use OpenSolaris appliances on a wider range of small systems.
- Using the Asterisk Open Source PBX software, OpenSolaris makes a nice Voice-Over-IP solution. You don't need a very big system to support most home or small office uses.
Over time, I'll review some appliance type software packages that can run nicely on OpenSolaris running on a small system. This has been just an introduction to why I think small systems are interesting and may make sense for a lot of people. Besides being really small, some of these systems are just plain cute.