Monthly Archives: May 2013

NBN Rollout update 29th May 2013

For a change of pace, I note that NBNco have updated their rollout map today and the following brownfield (established areas) fibre activations have occurred:

  • Aspley QLD
  • Townsville QLD
  • Toowoomba QLD

Also a number of Greenfields (new estates) have gone live in the following locations:

  • Campsie NSW
  • Beresfield NSW
  • Holmesville NSW
  • Pitt Town NSW
  • Port Macquarie NSW
  • Buderim QLD
  • Leichardt QLD
  • Pimpama QLD
  • Epsom VIC
  • Pakenham VIC
  • Baldivis WA
  • Piara Waters WA
  • Southern River WA

In the next five weeks, we are due for around 80,000 premises to be made active which will be a massive effort. I am sure that some will miss the cut due to issues with the network not meeting testing and quality verification, but even if half of the areas go live then we will see a doubling of the premises nationally which can now access a fibre NBN connection.

The June areas to be activated are as follows:

FSAM Locality Name State Approx Premises Construction Commenced Expected Activation
3SMR-04 Mill Park VIC 2100 Apr-2012 18-May-2013
7HOB-02 Sandy Bay, Dynnyrne TAS 2300 Feb-2012 18-May-2013
3SMR-01 Mill Park VIC 2700 Mar-2012 25-May-2013
4APL-03 Aspley QLD 1400 Jun-2012 25-May-2013
7LAU-01 Launceston TAS 2000 Jan-2012 31-May-2013
4APL-04 Bridgeman Downs, Aspley QLD 2400 Jun-2012 01-Jun-2013
9CRC-02 Ngunnawal ACT 2800 Sep-2011 01-Jun-2013
2KIA-03 Kiama Heights, Kiama NSW 2200 Aug-2011 08-Jun-2013
4TOB-02 Mount Lofty, Prince Henry Heights, Redwood, East Toowoomba QLD 2600 Sep-2011 08-Jun-2013
2CFS-05 Coffs Harbour NSW 2200 Apr-2012 11-Jun-2013
9CRC-04 Palmerston ACT 2400 Mar-2012 12-Jun-2013
7STH-02 Binalong Bay TAS 400 Apr-2012 14-Jun-2013
2GOS-01 Gosford, Point Frederick, East Gosford NSW 2600 Apr-2012 15-Jun-2013
3BAC-03 Darley VIC 2300 Mar-2012 15-Jun-2013
3BRU-02 Parkville, Brunswick VIC 2500 Mar-2012 15-Jun-2013
3BRU-03 Brunswick East, Brunswick VIC 2700 Mar-2012 15-Jun-2013
4APL-02 Zillmere QLD 1400 May-2012 15-Jun-2013
2SAW-01 Toormina NSW 2700 Feb-2012 18-Jun-2013
2PTH-01 Penrith NSW 1600 Nov-2011 20-Jun-2013
2PTH-02 Penrith, Kingswood NSW 2200 Apr-2012 21-Jun-2013
8DRW-01 Darwin City NT 900 Dec-2011 21-Jun-2013
8DRW-04 Darwin City NT 900 Jan-2012 21-Jun-2013
2CFS-03 Coffs Harbour NSW 2500 Mar-2012 22-Jun-2013
2HOM-01 Strathfield NSW 2200 Jun-2012 22-Jun-2013
2HOM-02 Rookwood, Strathfield, Homebush NSW 3000 Jul-2012 22-Jun-2013
2LID-01 Rookwood, Lidcombe NSW 2200 Dec-2011 22-Jun-2013
2SAW-02 Sawtell NSW 1800 Mar-2012 22-Jun-2013
4TOB-03 South Toowoomba, Toowoomba City, East Toowoomba QLD 2600 Jan-2012 22-Jun-2013
7HOB-04 Dynnyrne, Hobart, Battery Point TAS 2600 Mar-2012 22-Jun-2013
7LAU-03 Newstead, South Launceston, East Launceston TAS 2700 Mar-2012 22-Jun-2013
2BLK-03 Lalor Park, Blacktown NSW 3200 Mar-2012 26-Jun-2013
2RCH-02 Windsor, South Windsor NSW 2200 Oct-2011 28-Jun-2013
2ARM-06 Armidale NSW 2600 Jul-2011 29-Jun-2013
2SAW-03 Bonville, Toormina, Boambee East NSW 1800 Mar-2012 29-Jun-2013
4TNS-01 Townsville City QLD 1200 Mar-2012 29-Jun-2013
4TNS-03 North Ward, Castle Hill QLD 2200 Apr-2012 29-Jun-2013
2GOS-03 Springfield, East Gosford NSW 2400 May-2012 30-Jun-2013
2RCH-04 Bligh Park NSW 2300 Dec-2011 30-Jun-2013
7KIN-03 Kingston, Blackmans Bay TAS 2500 May-2012 30-Jun-2013

 

Some extra info regarding Microserver beta units

There’s been some extra leaks of info from some beta testers:

  • CPU: One person with access to a beta testing unit says it has an i3-3220T CPU with standard HP Heatsink screwed to the motherboard. This bodes well for user-upgradable CPU’s!
  • SATA PORTS: The beta unit only has one internal SATA port, contradicting earlier reports and HP documents that it will have two. Beta units are not necessarily the same as final shipping units. In fact, they just about never are.
  • NEW BOOT DEVICE? Apart from the known USB2 port on the motherboard that many of us use a USB stick to boot ESXi or FreeNAS from, there is also now a micro-SD card slot on the motherboard. Again, this may not make the final product, but I like the idea!
  • RAID5 CAPABILITY FIRMER: There is provision for mounting a Flash-Backed Write Cache (FBWC) on a bracket near the Optical Drive bay. The FBWC is the newer version of the cache & battery for the Smart Array cards. This is required for RAID5 operation on the b120i Smart Array controller, however the connector for this is yet to be found in the unit.

There is also a whisper that with iLO4 features comes the normal Gen8 stuff – Smart Update manager (SUM), Intelligent Provisioning, Insight Manager/Insight Online, Active Health, ProLiant ‘Sea of Sensors’ and other features that are found on the higher end Gen8 ProLiants. It seems that HP are really taking the Microserver to the enterprise.

Oh, and I found this in my email box tonight:

Microserver_ML310e_Matrix

It’s not a Microserver, it’s a Micro-Ecosystem for IT

The beta program for the upcoming HP Microserver G8 is in full swing. At least two beta units are out in the field within my sphere of contacts, however I refused the offer to take part in any beta after the removal by the HP Microsevers page on Facebook.

Some of the details I have been leaked by internal HP contacts is only now becoming clear. I was given the follow images last week from someone inside HP.

Microserver_G8_Side Microserver_G8_Stacked

These show a very modular unit, indeed stackable with other Microserver-like chassis units. This feature was considered to be a part of the external storage unit, however with that also confirmed as no longer happening, the modular design seemed to have been a hangover of the previous product development and design.

That is until today. A source familiar with the beta program has passed on the information of a

“stackable unit, smaller in height than the Microserver unit itself, for backup purposes”.

This highly curious information could mean any of the following devices could be on the way:

  • A single high capacity hard disk of 3TB or 4TB;
  • An RDX unit that uses a hard drive in a removable cartridge format; or
  • An LTO4/5 tape backup unit.

Considering the four USB ports on the back, all quite possible scenarios. Of these, I think the RDX unit most likely as this unit is being targeted at the smaller remote offices where a simple backup solution is often lacking.

Another beta tester has raised the possibility of another component that they have actually received and are testing. While I cannot divulge this information yet as it may be traceable back to the end user due to forums I frequent. That said, I was surprised that this sort of module is available and currently testing with customers, but is a brilliant move by HP.

Finally, we found this on a slide from an internal HP source… I wonder what this could be?

Microserver_G8_OrangeVariant

The plot thickens!

Gen8 Microserver features dual Broadcom Network ports, teamable!

HP_Microserver_G8_Network

Here’s the image that many people have been wanting to see.

Straight out of HP’s system diagram for the Microserver G8, we can see that it will feature the Broadcom BCM5717 chip, which is a part of the BCM5718 family. It sports two Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) RJ45 ports with the following new features over the preceding model:

  • Teaming (via Broadcom driver under Windows)
  • Jumbo Frame support
  • IP Checksum offload
  • TCP Checksum offload
  • UDP Checksum offload

Unfortunately the checksum offloads will be of limited use to such a low-powered server, and having these enabled may have an impact on network performance at high CPU utilisation. This particular chip also does not support the extra Virtualisation features like VMware NetQueue for vSphere, or Microsoft Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) but that probably is not required for something like a Microserver.

Compared to the single network port of the G7 Microserver, the new model gains quite a bit of functionality. The BCM5723-provided networking in the G7 did not support Jumbo frames, and also did not play nicely with FreeNAS, with quite a few users complaining of slow network speeds. Generally, the fix was to install a low-profile Intel PRO based network card in the PCIe x1 slot and use that instead.

Teaming is nice, and will be appreciated out of the box, however most serious ESXi users with G7’s installed a low-profile HP NC360T dual-port Gigabit Ethernet NIC which uses the Intel PRO chipset. This was available via many Server OEMS including Dell and Sun, and can be found on eBay in various guises for about $USD75-USD$80. All work the same.

Having two built-in NIC’s may also mean that the Microserver might become a viable platform for routing/firewalling 4+ GigE interfaces under a Linux solution like Vyatta or pfSense. The option of a NC360T/Intel-based Dual-Port NIC gives a cheap and easy 4-port solution.

Granted that even the Intel Dual-core CPU’s might not be up to the task of Routing and firewalling six GigE ports, if the user so desires to source one, a quad-port Gigabit NIC like the HP NC364T could be added to the x16 PCIe slot and give a total of six copper GigE interfaces.

Even with the advent of cheap hardware Router/Firewalls such as the 3-port Ubiquiti EdgeMax Lite priced around $100, it still may mean that some users may elect to use the Microserver as a home Router/Firewall.

EXCLUSIVE: What the Gen8 Microservers missed out on

More information has been leaked to me from a source inside the HP corporate machine regarding the features that were actually ruled out of appearing from the upcoming G8 Microserver models. The list appears to have a couple of items on it which at first glance seems out of place on what really is HP’s most basic server.

From what we could ascertain from our source, at the original product planning stage of the new model, the team basically throws all possible features and functionality that could possibly be put into the product onto the table, then rules each one out. Some features went further into the product planning process than others, but items taken out of the product specification is said to be ‘outscoped’.

Some of the outscoped features supplied to me were:

  • 12Gb/sec SAS support
  • Small Form Factor HDD cage (2.5″ Drives), either as an option or standard
  • External ‘SCSI’ interface (we assume SAS port)
  • Storage Expansion Unit (via SAS connector?)

There’s also something removed from the new Microserver too. So far we have ruled out any eSATA port, which the G7 did have. We think that the USB 3.0 ports will more than make up for the lack of eSATA, which could be difficult for some people to use.

SAS 12G

This one seems a bit out of place in such a low-powered ecosystem. 12G SAS is usually reserved for the high-end SSD drives, or multi-port HDD drives. Even then, if you need more storage speed, usually it would be cached to a PCIe-based SSD which has data transfer speeds well in excess of 12Gbps.

The target market for the Microserver G8 is for either SOHO storage, or for Branch offices that need a little storage but the ability to run remote Active Directory, DNS & DHCP plus maybe a print queue or two. SAS 12G just isn’t required!

Small Form Factor drive cage

The idea of an SFF cage in a device like this is not new – plenty of Microsavants have installed a 4 x 2.5″ drive cage into the 5.25″ ODD bay of the G7 Microservers. HP themselves started moving to SFF Drives in a number of the Proliant G5 range, notably the DL360 and DL380. Due to this, the DL380 G8 can now take up to 16 spindles with its SFF cages in a 2RU Chassis, whereas the DL380 G4 could only take six spindles with 3.5″ Drives in its 2RU Chassis.

The main benefit of more spindles is a higher aggregated IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) over the entire array. This means more reads and writes can be performed, and applications need to wait shorter amounts of time for the data to be written to/read from storage.

There is a downside to the 2.5″ disk format. Basically the highest density drives in a 2.5″ format is currently 1TB. There are 2TB drives available from Western Digital but they either sport a Micro-USB3 interface and come as a external storage drive, or they are the ‘Green’ models and these do not play nicely with Hardware RAID controllers.

In the case of something like the Microserver, a 3.5″ bay means that 4TB can be stored with a 4TB Hard Drive. You cannot fit 4x 1TB 2.5″ drives into the space of a single 3.5″ drive, so by doing so you would actually lose density of storage by doing this. I also cannot see how this unit would require the sorts of performance required by more than spindles UNLESS it was being used as a highly storage-contended Virtualised Host, and even then your biggest problem is going to be CPU cycles. It’s not like there would be four Database VM’s fighting over disk as your CPU will not have the capacity for that.

What the SFF drives would do for the Microserver will make it easier to design, mainly as the drive bays are smaller and the HP Designers could orientate them differently in order to gain space and reduce the physical size of the unit. They could even or even fit more disks in without sacrificing space. On my quick estimate, I think you could fit 12 SFF drives where the current 4 LFF reside, and maybe still have some space left over. Still not going to have the maximum storage capacity of the current 3.5″ setup, but would get close. If decent 2TB drive were available, it would be a different outcome.

External ‘SCSI’ interface

I personally think this is the most interesting of the outscoped features. It would mean that you would get an External SAS port that you could use to hook up to external disk arrays. I have used a Promise VessRAID unit with Dual SAS interfaces at a client site to act as a shared ESXi Datastore. There are other 3rd Party RAID or JBOD enclosures that you can plug a workstation into. This storage is then presented to the machine through a Host Bus Adapter (HBA) card.

I have used a few SAS HBA’s with ESXi hosts, and they work well. The bandwidth available is very good, in most cases 600MB/sec transfers are very possible. It all depends on the array itself and how it is configured. It would have turned the little Microserver into a unit that could store some serious amounts of data and probably would have eaten into other HP product sales, so it was taken out of scope.

Storage Expansion Unit

This External Storage Array is the other half of the External SCSI Interface. This was mooted to be a modular box that looked exactly like the upcoming Microserver, however would only contain storage bays for drives, and a small SAS interface to manage them and connect it back to the Microserver, along with a power supply.

In this case, it was very much like the units you can get from NAS vendors which you can add/stack to your NAS to increase the storage capacity. One I can think off immediately is the Synology DS-513 which you connect to a ‘host’ NAS via an eSATA port, but gives you an additional 5x 3.5″ drives for storage.

Again, probably meant that the Microserver could store too much and take sales away from more powerful enterprise level storage.

Conclusion

There is really no surprise that these features were rejected by HP. Personally I find it rather exciting that they ever considered putting these sorts of technologies and features into the Microserver in the first place. To my mind, the idea of SAS 12G being baked into a sub-$500 server is equal parts terrifying, confusing and inspiring. For this, I applaud HP’s open thinking regarding the possibilities of their products.

It is quite a shame that the Storage Expansion Unit did not make the cut. This would have been very interesting and kept the Microserver look. But on the other side of that argument there is nothing stopping us buying a SAS HBA card and running that in our Microserver and connecting something like a 8-bay external disk unit to it.

The fact is that generally, HP has heard the cries of the community and acted upon them. 16GB Memory capacity, USB 3.0 ports, Dual NICs with teaming capability, and proper iLO Management have all been added to the product along with a very reasonable CPU upgrade. I think we can all be thankful that we got what we wanted.

HP Employee removes tweet with G8 Server range photo

Looks like the employee who leaked an image of the new Generation 8 HP Microserver deleted his tweet over the furore.

BKejcZdCUAANhzO

James Henry, listed as “Business Development Manager for CloudSystem – Hewlett Packard EMEA” tweeted the above photo and labelled it as “the new Microserver and Project Moonshot server with the rest of the G8 range”.

As of lunchtime today, the tweet is no longer available:

jhenry_irl_DeletedTweet

EXCLUSIVE: New Microserver model limited to 16GB ECC RAM, adds 1600Mhz support

Based on events of the last 36 hours, I have been leaked a few very interesting pieces of information regarding the upcoming HP Microserver G8 which is due for release very soon. It seems that not everyone within HP and their contractors are happy with the way that HP has handled the leak on specifications yesterday.

Within the community, possibly the second most asked question by Microsavants is “Will the new G8 support more than 8GB of RAM?”

This question has been asked relentlessly in fora all over the intertubes. While the G7 range of Microservers officially supported a maximum 8Gb of 1333Mz DDR3 unbuffered ECC RAM, there was certain RAM modules which were compatible ‘enough’ so that 16GB of RAM was detected on boot, and a fantastic database of working modules was maintained on the Microserver Wikia page. While most of the Microserver units seemed to work okay, there were just some that would never see 16GB and would only detect and use 8GB of RAM.

For most ESXi users, the difference between having 8GB or 16GB usable was around 4-5 Virtual machines per box on 8GB, or 10-12 virtual machines if you could get 16GB working. In a virtualisation sense, the difference is huge.

So in the last 24 hours, we have been lucky enough to receive the Microserver G8 System Diagram from an internal HP source. While there is more to this diagram, we are only publishing a small amount of it in case of traceability and to protect our source.

G8_Microserver_16GB_Support

As you can see, there will be two memory channels off the integrated Intel CPU memory controller each running a single DDR3 slot on the motherboard for a total of two RAM slots. The G8 Microserver maintains the G7 support of 1300Mhz DDR3 in either normal desktop SDRAM or unbuffered ECC. The G8 increases the memory speeds to 1600Mhz, and takes official memory capacity to 16GB.

This is excellent news, those upgrading will be able to transfer their previous 16GB kits into the new G8 units, on the proviso that they have enough physical clearance between other components in the new model. Those that purchased the 16GB 1333Mhz ECC kits from Kingston or Crucial should see a straight swap with zero issues.

Of course, until we get the new units in our hands we cannot test and see if 32GB of memory in the unit would work. That said, remembering that since this is a relatively cheap machine to purchase, the idea of buying 16GB DDR3 ECC DIMMs seems rather expensive as these are most definitely a enterprise server part and commands a premium price.

In any case 16GB is supported, which for some will be comforting and a bonus if their G7 never quite got to 16GB. For others it will be a disappointment as it is no real improvement on their G7. Put your comments below!

HP takes down Microserver facebook page

If you noticed the flurry of activity on my blog yesterday, you might have noted that there was some new info posted regarding the Microserver G8. This was also posted to a page on Facebook called HP Microservers. But don’t click the link. Why? Facebook have removed the page, so you will be greeted by this:

facebook-page-removed

This morning at just before 6am AEST, I was sent the following email with the ominous sounding title ‘Facebook Warning’:

Hello,

Facebook Pages may only be administered by authorized representatives of their subject matter. As a result, your Page has been removed for violating our Terms.

Learn more about our Terms:

https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php

The Facebook team

I then checked Facebook and sure enough – the page is gone. Somewhere over 900 likes, an engaged community of Microserver users, posts and information going back nearly 2 years, lots of goodwill…. all gone. Hell, there was more than one HP employee that had liked the page, including the former Product Manager for the Microserver G7 who was promoted to the DL385 range after a very successful initial model.

 

The section of the Facebook Terms of Service for pages I believe that it was removed user states:

I. General
A. Only authorized representatives may administer a Page for a brand, entity (place or organization), or public figure.

 

So it appears that I am not an authorised HP representative. And that’s fair enough, however there were plenty of places mentioning it was not a HP affiliated page, it was run by fans. The Facebook Terms of Service keeps going

I. General
B. Any user may create a Page to express support for or interest in a brand, entity (place or organization), or public figure, provided that it is not likely to be confused with an official Page or violate someone’s rights.

Well, maybe it was because it was only called HP Microservers rather than HP Microservers Users Group or Fans of HP Microservers.

Nobody really knows why, but since the page had been up and running for up to two years, with multiple HP Employees on the page and contributing, one has to wonder what took them so long to request Facebook remove it. You only need to look at the content posted yesterday, including my posts about HP Proliant G8 Microservers leaked and EXCLUSIVE: USB3 is confirmed on Microserver G8, notwithstanding other information on the Facebook page itself.

Added to the leak by yesterday, where they stated it was going to be styled in the same design as the other HP Gen 8 servers, we decided to go looking and found that a HP Employee had posted a photo of the new Microserver G8 on Twitter with it’s other Gen 8 relatives. That’s right, it was freely posted by a HP employee. We of course grabbed it and used it – because if an HP employee puts it out there, it’s public knowledge and any ‘posts are my own view and not of my employer’ disclaimer be damned.

BKejcZdCUAANhzO

The really puzzling thing is that we previously removed information about the G8 model back in April when some eagle-eyed Microsavants (that’s a Microserver nut to the average person) found details of accessories for the upcoming G8 models on HP’s website itself! All this info went onto various forums around the world and is still available, however I was asked to remove it from the Facebook page. I elected to comply with that request at the time as a gesture of good faith to HP, and try to forge some sort of partnership with them.

There is of course more to this story, and as it plays out I will be posting more details. However there is a time and place for everything, and now is not the time to be discussing those points.

It is such a shame to see the wealth of information and links to cool Microserver implementations like putting one in the back of a Dodge Viper is now lost. The membership I am sure will be upset by this as well. Most of them really like the G8 model information, and most were talking about buying one, two or even more. It would seem that once again, a big corporate has literally stomped on the head of an social community that loves its products. Seems counter-intuitive to me.

Hopefully HP will see some sense in the next 24 hours and ask Facebook to reinstate the page, if that is even possible. Stay tuned people, a Microserver community on Facebook will be back.

EXCLUSIVE: USB3 is confirmed on Microserver G8

USB3-Logo

After today’s earlier leak regarding the specifications of of the upcoming HP Microserver G8 range, one question was asked.

“Does it have any USB 3.0 ports?”

The leaked specs only confirmed 7 USB ports, but did not specify if they were USB2 or USB3, or a mix of the two.

Now USB3 is very important in the Microserver realm. Many organisations would use these as a backup host, and then copy a backup off it to a USB disk. Home users can also use USB3 disks for relatively quick expansion of software RAID, or push USB disks through a hypervisor and present them to a VM, possibly for running a torrent storage drive rather than on the Machine-local RAID array.

The issue with USB 2.0 is transfer speed, namely that it lacks enough of it. To copy 3TB of backup archives to an external drive over USB2 can take 8-10 hours or more as you can only maintain around a 20-25MB/sec transfer rate. USB3 takes that to under 3 hours and can maintain well over 65MB/sec copy speeds.

So yes, after poking around the interwebs and receiving information from a trusted source familiar with the upcoming Microserver models, I can indeed confirm the following USB port configuration.

  • FRONT: Two USB 2.0 ports.
  • REAR: Four USB 3.0 ports.
  • INTERNAL: One USB 2.0 port.

The USB 3.0 ports will be provided by an NEC/Renesas chip, widely known for it’s compatibility with USB 3.0 devices. The Intel ‘Cougar Point’ C204 chipset in the Microserver G8 does not support USB 3.0, so it requires an add-on chip on the motherboard.

I can also confirm that the units will not be bootable from the USB 3.0 ports either. But we think when most people were only hoping for 2 USB 3.0 ports, to be getting four is a massive bonus. I’m sure lots of people out in the Microserver universe will be happy to know that USB 3.0 is definitely in.

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