Today we are taking a break from the usual review and guide schedule. This is an appeal to the various manufacturers out there regarding the Small Business Server that we need. As a background, ServeTheHome, despite its name, actually has more small business users than home users at this point. As a result, we get tons of e-mail around various topics, one of which I personally have a passion for – the need for a real small business server. Big vendors will market offerings, generally designed for enterprises to the small business market. Alternatively, manufacturers market servers designed first as a standard desktop chassis at the home and small business segment. Here is the deal, we need a real small business server. Let’s take a look at what that would look like and why we need this.
First off, there is an awesome segment out there in terms of the NAS players that largely understands the small business server segment to a large extent. Drobo, Thecus, QNAP, Synology, Buffalo and etc. are all well aware of the configuration. All five of those makers, and others, eight bay NAS devices. Here is my question, where is Dell’s offering? Or HP (OK the ProLiant N40L is an awesome first step in this direction.) Here is a gallery of five 8-bay NAS options and the N40L to give folks ideas around form factors.
Small Business Server – Thoughts on Requirements
To help the process along, let’s envision what we would want. Feel free to leave comments below with other thoughts.
- Mini ITX or Micro ATX motherboard support. A lot of small business servers are served just fine by the Intel LGA 1155 or AMD Socket AM3+. Neither has spectacular standard PCIe availability so there is little need for a full ATX chassis. The merits of mini ITX are smaller form factor. The merits of micro ATX are four expansion slots plus room for 4+ DIMMs.
- 8 Hot-swap drive bays. Sure there are options out there like the popular Fractal Design ARC Midi that costs around $100 but it does not offer hot swap bays. We know hot-swap is easier in the small business server market and server market. We are aware of the hot swap cages, and those products work well. The main issue is that spending $100 each for two 4-in-3 hot swap cages quickly raises the cost by a significant amount. Expansion through this method is a valid case, but 8 bays are minimum.
- 8x 3.5 hot swap bays plus 2x 2.5″ bays minimum. In a small business server whether mini ITX or micro ATX, this is a simple formula: two onboard SATA ports, eight HBA/ RAID controller ports. That would allow one to have RAID 1 OS/ VM disks and a VT-d pass-through storage controller as an example.
- Support for ECC memory. Data costs a ton. We have all seen data saying that there is a low chance of anything going wrong even without ECC memory. On the other hand, let the small business server market decide if a few dollars is worth the security.
- IPMI 2.0 or equivalent remote management built-in (vPro would be an example.) From what I understand something like three quarters or more of enterprise servers now include remote management. Here is my thought for the small business server mantra – Never plug a monitor, keyboard or mouse into the device. Ever.
- The small business server, especially if it is not a rack mount design, should be very quiet. The NAS makers have figured this out. Systems like the HP N40L and even Del T110 servers are relatively quiet. The idea needs to be that these systems can be put on or under a desk without interrupting work.
- No-vendor lock-in for drives. These are not enterprise systems where disk prices are very high only to be discounted by a significant amount through a direct sales force or through partners. For a small business server, drives are going to be purchased and upgraded through resellers.
- Reliable 80+ Gold or better power supplies. Green IT is in. The power supply is not going to be redundant so it needs to be reliable.
- Choice of CPUs – For some, a CPU like the Pentium G2120 is going to be plenty. For others, a fast Intel Xeon E3-1240 V2 may make more sense. The Turion II is not exactly the highest performing option out there.
- We need someone to either the chassis or small systems for these small business servers! Oh and offer them at a reasonable price. Make money on cloud connected small business offerings if needed.
I did look into sourcing a small business server mini ITX NAS design from Chinese manufacturers. Even purchasing 100 unit quantities costs were well over $200 with shipping. Also, the design was sub-optimal. It relied upon lower quality power supplies. Lastly, it did not have a standard expansion slot so a PCIe ribbon was required and there was no easy external access to the chassis.
Getting the 10 Features in the Small Business Server
If there is an enterprising (or small business-ing) company or individual that wants to take charge let us know. We are more than happy to get publicity for the project, give feedback during development and help if we can. Feel free to use our community to bounce ideas around. Bottom line, we need the desk mount (or floor mount) 8-bay small business server. The small business NAS players already do a great job at this. The HP ProLiant N40L was a decent step in this direction. We just need a better small business server option.
If anyone has thoughts on the small business server, feel free to provide them here or in the forums.