This unit was built to replace my PowerPC Buffalo LinkStation (LS1) that I'm currently using to run SlimServer 6.3.1 (SlimServer was the forerunner to SqueezeCenter and Squeezebox-Server) and for general file sharing and back-ups. The LinkStation has worked great, but the latest 6.5.X versions of SlimServer and the associated MySQL is just too much for the little NAS device to handle.
The Mini-ITX unit wasn't cheep to build, costing about £300 (UK prices as of Aug 2007), but compares very well with several other commonly used options:
- Apple Mac Mini (£400) plus some external storage like the matching Lacie 500Gb unit (£140)
- QNAP TS109 NAS (£250) for the 320Gb version, (This is a current favourite low cost NAS device for running SqueezeCenter)
- Thecus N5200 RAID NAS (£515) plus the cost of multiple hard drives for RAID - (This appears to be a current popular high performance NAS device for running SqueezeCenter.)
I believe the unit I have put together offers far better expandability and future growth potential than any of the commercially off-the-shelf solutions.
One of my main priorities was to have a very quiet system when it wasn't in use. My initial method of using a 2.5" (laptop) hard drive to run the operating system from seems to achieve this very well, (I'd originally used a 'quiet' 3.5" Samsung Spinpoint drive and found it far too noisy). I had considered running from a Compact Flash card but the limited read/write performance and the very complicated work arounds put me off. Having recently replaced the 2.5" (laptop) hard drive with a 8GB Solid State Drive (SSD) has finally resulted in a truly silent server when the system is idle.
The benefit of using either the SSD or the 2.5" laptop hard drive and only spinning up the 3.5" drive when required is the very low power requirement for the system (8W consumed by the power brick and 22-27W by the server depending on if the 3.5" drive is spinning(1)). Less power means less heat and therefore no noisy cooling fans are required.
The large heat sink on the Via CN10000 motherboard gets quite warm (even on idle outside an enclosure) which I assume you have to expect with a fan-less unit. There is no temperature readings provided in the BIOS, so its a matter of trying to gauge how hot it is by touch. There is plenty of ventilation in the case and the motherboard doesn't appear to get much warmer when its all closed up; I've had no overheating problems with the server now running for over 3 years (Dec 2009).
(1) Thanks to Jean Claude Gaertner in France for the power measurements.
It's difficult to measure the performance of SqueezeCenter, but compared to my previous 6.3.1 installation on a PowerPC Buffalo LinkStation (LS1) navigation on the web interface and remote are very fast, with virtually no delay or lag.
A full "Clear library and rescan everything" for my my music (all stored as .flac files with separate artwork - 145 albums, 1802 songs, 86 artists) took ~4 minutes, which seems pretty good to me.
File Sharing PerformanceI've had a go at measuring the network read/write performance of the system using my current LinkStation as a benchmark. Using Windows Explorer I 'dragged and dropped' various files to and from my home PC and measured the time it took to transfer them.
For reference my PC, router, LinkStation and Mini-ITX unit all have a 100 Mbit/sec network connection speed, which would yield a theoretical 12.5 MBytes/sec (100 / 8 bits) maximum transfer rate - with network overheads this is probably unachievable.
Time and speed to transfer 39 off .flac music files, totalling 1000 MBytes:
Write (transfer PC to Mini-ITX) = 96 seconds = 10.41 MBytes/sec
Read (transfer Mini-ITX to PC) = 112 seconds = 8.93 MBytes/sec
Write (transfer PC to LinkStation) = 202 seconds = 4.95 MBytes/sec
Read (transfer LinkStation to PC) = 155 seconds = 6.45 MBytes/sec
The results for the Mini-ITX system are very respectable, for reference here's a link to some benchmark NAS test results.
...I plan to add a Gigabit network card in the future to speed up transfer
speeds and I'll add a 'How To' on the website.
ClearOS PerformanceThe performance of ClearOS is excellent, it has been extremely reliable and has required zero maintenance. I particularly like the network administration interface where you can easily check on the server without resorting to the command line.
It should also be mentioned the support from the ClearOS forum is very good and community very helpful.