I present you the iCluster

I present you the iCluster

August 13, 2014 by Cláudio Rodrigues

On my quest for a great portable Lab that I can take with me anywhere, airports included, I did quite a bit of research and ended up with something I have never seen before. So here you have the details in case you are looking for the most portable lab that you can still do all sorts of fancy stuff and with kick ass performance.

The iCluster, as I named it, is actually a pretty damn amazing little thing I built. Here are the specs:

1 x Synology DS412+ NAS. Has four drive bays and two gigabit interfaces. Does iSCSI, NFS, etc. 
4 x Samsung EVO 840 1TB. Loaded these 4 1TB SSD drives into the Synology for a total of 3TB usable space (they are in Hybrid RAID).
2 x Apple Mac Mini 2.3GHz, i7 Quad-Core with 16GB RAM each. The reason for the Mac Minis is simple: they are DAMN small and portable. Two of these with 16GB each give me 32GB of usable RAM for virtual machines. Not the best BUT for a portable lab that I can carry around and at only a couple pounds, nothing beats that.
1 x HP 1810-8G v2 switch. Small 8-port Gigabit switch with full LACP capabilities (so I can trunk two ports to the Synology, giving me 4 Gigabits (full duplex) throughput. Not bad.
1 x Apposite Linktropy Mini. WAN emulator. Allows me to simulate any sort of latency/loss in a 100MBits link. I can quickly see how things will behave for users when they connect over a 3G connection, from a remote location, over satellite, etc. Impressive gear.
1 x D-Link DIR-600L Router. Used to provide wireless access to the cluster and also a WAN connection to the outside, in case I want to plug something into it.

All this is loaded on a custom-built wooden case that has a front and back door for easy access to the devices and a handle at the top. I can easily carry this with me on trips and even take it on airplanes as carry on luggage. I also put a small power bar inside so I only have a single power cord to the outside.

On the back you see the antenna for the router and some Ethernet CAT6 colour coded ports. That allows me to select (patch) if I want the connection to be passing through the WAN emulator, directly to the HP switch, if the wireless will go through the Apposite, etc.

The case is being finalized as I post this. Hopefully I will have pics of the whole thing soon. Plan is to wrap it in leather to give it a finish similar to the Marshall Stanmore speaker.

Total cost, including the Apposite Linktropy, will be in the $7,500 range in case you are wondering.

On the software side of the house I decided to go with Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V for now. If it becomes a PITA on the Mac Minis I will switch to ESXi as I know for sure it works great on the Mini (I have another one with ESXi – rock solid). This gives me all the goodies (live migration on the cluster, etc) in such a small and light form factor.

So next time I am at BriForum, be prepared for some interesting live demos on the iCluster.


(Source at WTSLab’s CEO Blog)

Posted in Cláudio Rodrigues Corner
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