Monthly Archives: May 2013

HP Proliant G8 Microservers leaked

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Respected home networking blog ServeTheHome has leaked the upcoming specs of the new HP Microservers, of which the G7 Models (N36L, N40L, N54L) have all been wildly successful amongst the tech crowd for their low price, high flexibility and miserly power usage. Many people used them as a home-built NAS when loaded with FreeNAS, others like myself use them as a home ESXi lab for learning. They also made a good XMBC box for media playing, streaming and recording.

When they could be picked up at some points well under AUD$200, it’s no wonder the tech community embraced them. There was even a HP Microservers Facebook page set up for them! Online forums like OCAU, HardOCP and others have threads on the G7’s stretching into multiple thousands of posts.

The G8 Microservers differ from the G7 models in many respects, firstly the aging AMD Turion dual-core CPUs have been replaced with newer Intel chips along with the Intel C204 ‘Cougar Point’ chipset. You have a choice of the Celeron G530T or the Pentium G630T. The Celeron clocks two cores at 2.0Ghz with 2MB cache to get an average CPU Passmark of 1604, while the G630T also sports two cores at 2.3Ghz, but increases the cache to 3MB. This boost takes the G630T to an average CPU Passmark of 2154 which is well over double the N40L’s 979 Passmark.

One of the biggest issues with the G7 Microserver was memory support. While it sported ECC non-Registered RAM and could also take standard DDR3 memory, officially it only supported 8GB. While some in the Microserver Community were able to get them running with 16GB of RAM, DIMM compatibility was crucial to the success of booting the hardware with 16GB. The G8’s will support ECC memory again, but at this stage we do not have any information on the maximum memory support. We expect 16GB at a minimum, but 32GB may be possible. Any of the ECC memory that G7 owners used in their older hardware should be transferable to the new hardware – great news!

Another major boost is the inclusion of HP’s iLO4 hardware management which is usually included on their higher-end Proliant Servers. The G7 lacked this feature, although had a proprietary slot for a RAC (Remote Access Card) which gave similar functionality. The NIC’s have also been upgraded to Dual Broadcom-based ports and the iLO port is a separate, dedicated port unlike the ML310e G8 which requires a optional mezzanine card for a separate port.

HP’s B120i RAID solution also features in the G8 Microserver, a far cry from the AMD RAIDXpert chip on the G7. This is also fitted to the higher end Proliant offerings like the ML310e G8 and gives ESXi support out of the box, something the AMD solution did not. There is no real information what RAID levels this will support for now, but we know it can do RAID levels 0, 1 and 10 out of the box, and if fitted with 512MB of cache it can do RAID5 also however that may require a HP SmartArray Advanced software key. Until we get more information, we cannot really tell what the hardware will support.

There’s also 2x SATA3 (6Gbps) ports on the Microserver, perfect for a couple of SSD’s to be added. The pictures we have found of it also show a slim optical drive, although it is likely that the internals will be much tighter so finding a place to put them or other mechanical drives may be a problem. I have a feeling you will not be able to stuff an extra 3x 3.5″ drives into it like some people were able to do with the G7 chassis. Hopefully there will be a couple of mounts for 2.5″ drives in there somewhere.

USB ports have been a major talking point in the community, and USB3 ports have been high on the wishlist of many. The Intel C204 chipset supports 6x USB2 ports, although the leaked specs say 7. There is a possibility of a USB3 controller chip but I would not hold my breath for it.

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HP has also given us the new G8 styling, bringing the look of the unit into what many would call style. The G7’s flat black look was sufficient and was able to be hidden away reasonably well, but the G8’s look so good that you will want to show them off!

I am really looking forward to these being released. My ESXi boxes are really struggling with disk writes as the CPU is reasonably slow. A 4-spindle RAID5 array off a P410 card simply does not see the performance it would in a reasonable desktop CPU.  RAM being capped at 8GB is another issue, it really limits the amount of VM’s you can have, especially if you cannot get 16GB to work on your G7 Microserver. They should also be compatible out of the box with HP’s ESXi Custom Image which already has all the drivers for the G8 Broadcom NICs and B120i controllers.

Of course price will be the issue and I think we will see the retail price on these to be $499 for the G530T and $599 for the G630T to begin with. The N54L’s will be run out with rebates in the near future, You should be able to pick them up for about $180 very soon, even though the current price hovers at about $269. Keep an eye on StaticIce for the special deals.

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Statement by James Brotchie, creator of howfastisthenbn.com.au

The following is a statement from James Brotchie, creator of howfastisthenbn.com.au – it is republished here as the original article is behind a paywall at Crikey. I disagree with this as any supplied ‘right of reply’ style story should be able to be viewed by all. No Crikey reporter did any work on this apart from asking James for his story.

My involvement with How Fast is the NBN, a website which compares the speed of everyday internet usage such as uploading Facebook albums and downloading Game of Thrones using either Labor’s National Broadband Network or the Coalition’s broadband policy, has been a wild ride.

I felt that the ALP was doing a poor job of selling the benefits of their enormously more capable and future-proof Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) National Broadband Network. Neither party, nor the media, had been able to succinctly demonstrate, to the non tech-savy audience, the difference between Labor and the Coalition’s NBN policies.

The average person has never experienced speeds greater than a few tens of megabits. When connected to my university’s network, my downloads will regularly hit 800-900 megabits per second and uploads 300-400Mbit to severs around Australia. Going home to my poorly syncing 4Mbit down 0.5Mbit up ADSL2+ is always depressing. I wanted people to be able to “feel” the speed and appreciate the wide performance differential between FTTP and FTTN (Fibre to the Node).

The site launched at 3pm on Tuesday May 7 and just exploded on social networks. The website has since been liked by over 50,000 people on Facebook and tweeted over 6000 times on Twitter.

Personally, I was perplexed by the Coalition’s response to the site. It’s clear on the website bio that I had always been a Liberal supporter—I simply happen to disagree with the Coalition’s broadband policy. I expected the Coalition’s response to be gentlemanly: an email, a phone call … some correspondence! Instead I was labelled Conroy’s “new online BFF” by shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull.

I expect such banter between politicians. Directed towards a member of the public who votes for your party on the other hand; I didn’t think politics had reached that level.

Yesterday in Crikey, Stilgherrian raised questions about the speeds used on How Fast is the NBN. The rationale is that the NBN FTTP, as envisaged by Labor, can well handle 1000/400 (which will be available from December http://www.nbnco.com.au/blog/nbn-gigabit-available-december.html). It’s unlikely that you’d be able to pull the full 1000 down or 400 at the present time due to a multitude of factors (perhaps you’d achieve 80-90% of the speed). However, my goal was to present a simple, mathematically ideal-case scenario of what will be possible such that the average person could understand.

I chose the 25 Mbps download on the Coalition’s side because:

– By 2016 that’s their guaranteed minimum down speed as found in their policy document; and
– Tony Abbott expressed that 25 megs would be “more than enough for the average household”. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yL7bHtr3-eU&t=3m40s)

After someone has gone onto the website and experienced the “more than enough, for the average household”, will they agree with this statement, given the FTTP alternative?

I chose the 5Mbps upload on the Coalition’s site because xDSL technology tends to have an upload speed varying between 1-3 Mbps when a download of 25 Mbps is achievable. I was optimistic and chose 5 Mbps, making the Coalition’s technology seem more capable that it really is.

Three out of the four examples I presented on the site involve file uploads, rather than downloads. The Coalition has refused to provide any guarantee on upload speeds. Speak to anybody that’s currently working from home and has to handle big files (engineers, graphic designers, software developers) and you’ll hear curses of frustration at their slow-as-molasses xDSL and HFC upload speeds. I feel the discussion to date has overlooked upload speed; they should be the primary line of questioning until we get a statement from the Coalition regarding an upload speed guarantee.

One final point: the biggest misconception I’ve seen broadcast by the mainstream media and the Coalition is cost. I explicitly didn’t want to get into the financial aspects of the plans on the site; I wanted to purely focus on the competing technologies. People need to realise that that NBN Corporation is set up as a government-owned corporation. The government holds an equity stake with the remainder of costs being financed using privately placed debt.

The money isn’t being “spent”, it’s being invested. It’s the distinction between buying a carton of beer and consuming it versus buying a share in a brewing company. Over the life of the project, NBN Co is expected to generate a return of investment of 6-7%. The NBN will be valuable asset, generating steady, stable, cash flows into the future.

I personally agree with James’ stance – the comparison is valid as it is compares the two guaranteed speeds of the policies on offer at the election for the next term of Federal Government. If Malcolm is pissed off that it isn’t representative, then guarantee a higher speed.

NBN Fibre is guaranteed to achieve 1000Mbps download and 400 Mbps upload, and the plans will be available by December. The network and their components are designed to perform at this level to start with.

* I republish here as James was not paid for his submission, copyright subsists with the author of a work unless paid for it.

NBNco Marketing guy is watching me

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It seems I have been noticed over at NBNco, not surprising granted that I have lodged a couple of Freedom of Information requests to them regarding the Rollout Progress of the network. It is not as if I am completely unknown to NBNco, I am sure there is a few people there that know of me, especially their social media team as I do participate in the Whirlpool community and publish a Consolidated ‘Ready For Service’ Plan each month which tracks the changes month to month as various sections of the fibre rollout get delayed, brought forward or otherwise changed.

Imagine my surprise this morning to get an email from LinkedIn saying that Kieren Cooney – Chief Marketing Officer at NBNco no less – had checked out my LinkedIn profile.

Talk about know thy enemy! Makes me wonder if I am now deemed an enemy combatant, or someone that the NBNco Stasi need to keep an eye on and make disappear at some point. It’s not every day you get a C-level taking a look at your LinkedIn.

Kieren, if you do read this – you can say hi via Twitter, Facebook, Whirlpool, OCAU, or drop me an email. No need to LinkStalk me. That said, if you are looking to headhunt me then LinkedIn message is the way to go.

NBN Rollout stats FoI request ‘delayed’

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In April, I lodged a Freedom of Information request to NBNco via the Right To Know website, which is an online tool that makes all FoI requests, communications and information released visible to the public. I had requested the details of the progress of the rollout over all three of the connection methods – Fibre, Fixed Wireless (LTE) and Satellite.

If you want to view my request, you can because it is public! Check it out here.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, authorities that are requested to provide information have 30 days to respond to the request, and either provide the information, or deny it along with the determination why the request was denied. There is also provisions to delay the release of the information.

NBNco were due to respond to my request by the 8th of May. I left work at 5.30pm and headed home, pretty sure that NBNco would not respond to me request in the allotted time. Imagine my surprise when the response came through – at 5.59pm! Like the rollout itself, NBNco has a habit of cutting everything it does a little fine.

You can read the entire determination on my request at the link, but the short version is that my request for information was denied on the basis of the fact that NBNco want to release this information publicly at the Budget Estimates hearings later this month. But rather than let me take NBNco’s thunder, they denied release now stating they will release later under the ‘defer’ provisions of the Act.

“As permitted by section 21(1)(b) of the FOI Act, I have determined to defer access to the requested information….. As outlined above, NBN Co plans to table the relevant information during budget Estimates hearings, with the intention to make the information public on or around the end of May 2013. At roughly the same time this information should be made publicly available on NBN Co’s website”

So basically, they have this information but they will not release it because it is politically sensitive? Now normally I would request a review of this, however because Parliament goes back next week for Budget sittings I doubt I would get a ruling to release the information inside another 30 days, buy which time it would be released anyway.

Well, the response from NBNco not to release this information (which they produce normally for end-of-quarter reports in any case) got me a little upset, so I have launched a new FoI request for the same rollout figures for as at 30th April, 2013. Hopefully this means that the Whirlpool community which is very active on the NBN, gets the monthly rollout reports as many members have requested.

Trying to show the difference between broadband policies of the two major parties

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Today a new website was launched by developer and blogger James Brotchie who has been able to show the public the raw speed of the NBN (on a 1000/400 plan) versus the approximate 25/5 speeds promised by the Coalition. The speeds are based on what the technology of the Fibre NBN achievable today without any upgrades to the hardware, versus the promised speeds of the Coalition in their first term of office (minimum 25Mbps down, no ‘specified’ upload speed*).

* Malcolm Turnbull yesterday claimed that “there is no technical barrier to having very high upload speeds,” and pointed to the BT rollout in the UK (again) that they offer a 76/19 service, or approximately a 4:1 Download to upload ratio. That said, we will expect a 5:1 ratio is achievable so matching the 25/5 plans on the current NBN delivery methods of Fibre, Fixed Wireless or Satellite.

As you go down the page you can press a button which gives a visual representation of the progress bars in the apps you use every day, with given usage scenarios like

You have just picked up the dog you’ve always wanted! You’ve recorded picking him up, his first arrival home, and him playing with his new toys. You’ve then edited these scenes into a video and want to upload it to YouTube. How long is it going to take before the world sees your bouncy baby?

This brilliant piece of programming and easy to understand differences has already seen a Reddit post go mad, Twitter link sharing going mental from about 4pm, and multiple shares of posts about it on Facebook. The Facebook page of Senator Stephen Conroy had 268 shares on his posting of the link at the time of writing this post.

Well done James, I am sure your app development may have to wait, Labor might be hiring you for the next few months!

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