Wiki hosting


We currently have just one server - a 1U rack-mount machine with a 2.0GHz Athlon64 dual core processor (x2 3200+), 4GB of ECC memory and 200GB of RAID1 storage. The server is based on a Tyan Transport barebone package and runs Gentoo Linux.

We are hosted in Cernio's cabinet at United Layer's facility in the 200 Paul data center in San Francisco. We recently moved the server from Cernio's half-cab at's facility in Santa Rosa to take advantage of better pricing, connectivity, and logistics.

Our colocation expenses are approximately USD$70/mo.

There are several other Wikis hosted on the system, including [WWW]Santa Cruz Wiki, [WWW]The Ant Hill Housing Cooperative, and [WWW]Project Sycamore, but DavisWiki is by far the largest.

Below is the discussion that took place when we were debating whether and how to purchase and colocate our own server equipment.

  1. Buying a server
    1. Colocation
      1. Background and Definitions
      2. Available to
        1. Notes on colocation
        2. Commentary/discussion on colocation
    2. Initial Recommendations for a System
      1. Case/PSU/Motherboard
      2. Processor
      3. Memory
      4. Storage
      5. Case
      6. RAID Controller
    3. Purchased items and status
  2. Raising funds
  3. Awesome photos of the machine in the data center

Buying a server


Background and Definitions

In this context, colocation (see [wikipedia]Colocation ), or colo for short, means renting physical space, an Internet connection, electrical power, and physical security in a central facility whose amenities and capabilities far surpass anything an individual or small company could build on their own.

Rack space is measured in Rack Units (abbreviated "U") equaling 1.75 inches in height. Width is 19 inches. -see [WWW]

Power consumption is usually derived from current, measured in amps, as measured at any given point of time, rather than Kilowatt-hours used over the course of a month as you'd see on a utility bill. It's assumed that all equipment in a colo facility is always on - fluctuations are usually relatively minor and vary with disk and CPU use.

Network use is usually billed per-GB-transferred-per-month on lower-end contracts, and using the 95th percentile measurement on higher-end contracts. With the 95th percentile measurement, transfer rates are measured every 5 minutes over the course of a month. The highest 5% of the usage is ignored, and the bill is based on the average usage for the remaining 95% of the time.

Available to

Graham Freeman of Cernio has a half-cabinet (21U) at the enterprise-class [WWW] datacenter in Santa Rosa. Cernio has offered to make up to 4U of space, 2 Amps (ongoing, spot-checked every once in a while), 2 public static IP addresses, 512Kbps@95%, and physical access available to the project on a cooperative basis. This means that DavisWiki would pay for what it uses based on the actual cost of these resources - Cernio will not attempt to make money off of the deal. Cernio would benefit by having increased purchasing power and by working closely with good-natured, community-minded, competent, and technically skilled people.

LukeCrawford of [WWW] has a full rack (2 post) in the community cage at herakles data (It's down by Fry's) and a 100 megabit commit. You are welcome to drop a 1u server in, or if you don't mind NetBSD, I can give you a NetBSD/xen server with 2G ram and a 10G slice of my raid 1+0 fibre channel disk without charging you. You are welcome to use this setup for a primary or a backup. Serial consoles and remote rebooters will be provided either way.

Notes on colocation

Space: Rack-mounted hardware only. (No desktops, nor towers.) Rack rails aren't necessary, but they help. A cable management arm may not fit if it's on a long server.

Power: 2A is mostly a guideline to make sure we don't get carried away with unnecessarily power consumptive equipment. More is available, but probably won't be necessary.

IP addresses: We'll probably only need one public static IP address, but more are available if they're used wisely.

Bandwidth consumption: 512Kbps@95% means that most of the time (24h/7d), the site is transferring data to/from clients at a cumulative rate of 512Kbps. DavisWiki and RocWiki combined are not likely to use even half that any time soon. Even so, bandwidth consumption (and its associated cost) is the most significant variable.

Physical access: Granting physical access to Cernio's cabinet space means granting physical access to Cernio's equipment as well as to the DavisWiki equipment. It requires an [wikipedia]RFID-embedded picture ID, [wikipedia]biometric (hand print, body shape, total weight) verification, and a key. Physical access will not be granted casually. Philip Neustrom and Amit Vainsencher have passed the initial screening.

Commentary/discussion on colocation

I don't think 2 Amps is enough to run a server. 2amps x 125volts = 250 watts. - arlen

Why in the world is co-location even being talked about? How big IS this site?! —DomenicSantangelo

Initial Recommendations for a System






RAID Controller

Price estimates were found through [WWW]Pricewatch. This configuration would cost roughly $1600. -AV

Are you considering purchasing a built server? It may be cheaper and will save the trouble of configuring the hardware. The hard part, of course, is finding something that fits what we need, but it shouldn't be all that hard. For example, [WWW]this setup is pretty close, but I don't know anything about this company. In a couple of weeks I should be able to help out with some funds. Should we set a deadline for a week before New Year's or so to have a built server? -MikeIvanov

I'd strongly recommend buying a pre-configured server rather than building your own. If you throw in all the extra shipping charges and, most of all, time spent hunting down the "best" prices and dealing with inevitable vendor SNAFUs, you're going to spend a lot more resources building your own than you would buying something from a server vendor. PN mentioned that [WWW] is strongly recommended by the LiveJournal folks, and I've been reasonably happy with Dell. - GrahamFreeman

I wouldn't have a problem doing the hunting, configuring, assembling. Also at least with the inital setup I suggested, everything comes from one vendor except for standard parts such as the CPU, RAM, and hard drives. - AV

Purchased items and status

The following items were purchased on 2005-12-26: (4) STT D400 1G/64X8 ECC Memory, (1)Tyan Transport GT20 B2865G20S4H SATA 1U Server Platform, (1) Chenbro 24" Mounting Rail Set for RM124, (2) Maxtor 7Y250M0 250GB Serial ATA 7200rpm 8MB cache Hard Drive, (1) AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor 3800+* (2.0GHz) Retail.

After a courageous fight against hardware demons, Amit found the hardware defective. On 2005-02-15 the barebones components were shipped back to the manufacturer for replacement/fixing. After a motherboard replacement, the problem is still appearing. A hard drive was purchased to test possible issues with Maxor drives, but it turned out that there were no issues with the hard drive. 2 DIMMs ("certified") were ordered on 2006-3-9 and solve the problem, and more ordered on 2006-3-28 after we figured out they actually work.

The old memory needs to be sold to recover costs. As such, we're selling (4) [WWW]STT D400 1G 64X8 ECC DIMMs (memory). They work fine, just not with nforce4 chipsets which is why we have to sell them. $70 a piece or better offer. We've managed to sell two of these sticks, but two more are still up for grabs. They've been verified working on various P4 motherboards (by the manufacturer), on an Athlon64 Socket 754 (with a VIA chipset), and a Dual Athlon MP system (both by us).

The new system was installed in Cernio's cabinet at on the evening of April 5th (picture below!). It's been completely stable since the installation of the new memory, and we're in the process of moving data over to it for the site transition. Thanks for all the help, Graham!

Raising funds

Okay, so buying a server is obviously going to cost some dough. How are we going to get said moolah?


How about, as suggested, we go with Dec. 27th as the deadline to have the stuff purchased — thus giving us time over Winter Break to get configuration done. We will have $~1050 in personal contributions, but having more than that would give us much more leverage. We should set a deadline for collecting funds for Dec. 19th, giving about a week for the parts to ship. Any ideas for fundraising? —PhilipNeustrom

Awesome photos of the machine in the data center


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