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home computers
the Servers' Quarters

- or -

"the basement storage area"

descending the back staircase
the main web servers
(in case you were wondering, the Linkwatcher blogsearch function and Chick.Net run out of the server on the bottom right; MFW, Go-Go Magazine, the Bug Theatre, and several others run out of the server on the bottom left)

Past the kitchen and the music room lies the back staircase; upstairs leads to the guest room and game room, but heading downwards takes you to the section of the basement that houses the main servers and network equipment.

These are some of the main web servers, all which are built using Intel Dual-Pentium II server motherboards and AMI 3-channel MegaRAID ultra-SCSI controllers. While you can get faster processors, the Intel Server boards and AMI MegaRAIDs have proven extremely stable and reliable and are well-supported with few compatibility problems.

I also have a thing for having spares and replacements--and minimizing the number of hardware quirks I have to deal with)--and I have around twenty of each of these particular motherboards and controllers.

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Stats:
Servers: 28
Disk Space: 8.6tb
Domains: 464
Duct tape: none




One of the other advantages of having the hardware and software match on most of the machines is that they're already configured to be able to take over for one of the others in case it goes down or were to get overloaded.

  • Helpful hint: a lot of the newer ATX-style cases have pull-out mounting drawers like you see here. If your cases (or at least the drawers) match, you can have a pre-mounted and ready-for-action motherboard on a spare drawer and be able to swap out a misbehaving mainboard in minutes.

There may be a magical power exerted just by keeping spares lying around and ready to go, because as long as I'm ready to replace something that goes down ... it doesn't. The only semi-exception has been a few of the older Sun servers which began exhibiting sporadic memory errors after several years of continuous duty. It may just be that, by seeing those spares all ready to go, the components in question realize that they can't get any extra attention by misbehaving, they'll only get a "time out."

Intel dk440lk dakota board, ready for service
ami megaraid 428 aka enterprise 1200
  • Helpful hint #2: the Intel i960 risc processor used on the AMI MegaRaid and many other high-end SCSI and network adapters just happens to be exactly the same size as an 80486. The i960 does run a little hot, but it's not usually shipped with a fan or even a heatsink. So, I just grab a heatsink and/or fan off a surplus 486 machine (you never know what useful bits might lurk in some of the old servers that companies are sending off to be recycled--one such system was even chock-full of the 64-meg, true parity, single-sided, fast-page, 72-pin memory that the MegaRaids need--so now several machines have been bumped up to 128 Meg of cache on the controller, besides whatever's installed on the mainboard.
routers, switches, gateways, mail, DNS, and ftp

The same basic layout and partitioning scheme is needed for mail servers, ftp servers, web servers, etc., and the functions which are not active on one machine (usually that's all but one of the above) are simply turned off. Copies of the individual websites, etc., can be maintained on the other machines where they would be used if that server were performing that function, serving both as "backups" and "fallbacks."

The server area is on one end of the gym, which seems an appropriate location. Both involve a fair amount of "heavy iron" and the sound of the hard drives and fans is unlikely to be bothersome when one is in the middle of a set.

networking and dialup access
Nyx user machines

Along this wall are most of the Nyx login machines, the Nyx user webserver, mailserver, DNS, and the two news machines, which are the two most powerful machines down here.

Dialup lines are handled through a 48-line US Robotics Total Control digital modem bank, feeding the Xylogics (aka Bay Networks, aka Nortel) Remote Annex 4000 remote access server, while the Cisco 2524 modular router handles the traffic going from here to the internet backbone.

total control unit and cisco routers
login machines

Underneath the two tables at the ends and scattered throughout the servers, are the backup power supplies. More than a dozen in total, together they weigh as much as a car and their combined rating exceeds 18.5KVA.

The big ones were especially fun to move down the stairs.

I don't know exactly how long the machines would run off the batteries if the power were cut off entirely, but certainly more than long enough for the backup generator to kick in.

Like everything else in these parts, the server room is always a "work in progress"; I still have plenty of things on the to-do list. One of these days I really will get the microwave relays going to supplement the land lines. Even though it's all new fiber between here and the internet "backbone" and reliability has been very good, maintaining multiple connection paths to the rest of the internet is just good practice.

That may wait a bit longer on the "get around to it eventually" list; I still have software and hardware upgrades waiting in the wings for Nyx's login machines that should get rolled into place first.

more suns?
picture albums
the base of the tree