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FreeBSD Systems 2U (iNET 2325) Server

I have been in the market for a faster server for a while. I do a lot of testing, which means building and rebuilding programs and that is pretty demanding. My dual PIII 600s are adequate but not quick. So, I recently procured a 2U from FreeBSD Systems for evaluation. I am writing up a detailed review as a tool to help others make informed decisions about hardware for use for use with FreeBSD.

I have broken the review into sections so that you may jump to the areas that interest you. The rating scale is from 1 to 10. One means that it sucks, 5 is average, 7 is good, 9 is ideal, and 10 (a rare award) means they really went above and beyond expectations.


While it may not seem important, let me explain why it is. I'm in the habit of opening the lid of every server as soon as I pull it out of the box. There are many reasons for this, but I'll give you the biggest one. One particular brand of servers that I've used a lot of would arrive and at least 50% of the servers would need the RAID cards reseated in the PCI slots before they would work. This was due to several issues, including packaging but it's very annoying. Rather than having the provisioning team take them from receiving to the data center, I'd have them all delivered to my office where I'd personally inspect each server.

So, when I get a server that shows up with adequate packaging, I do appreciate it. When I opened the box from FreeBSD Systems, I was quite pleased. Everything was nice and orderly, with custom styrofoam inserts just like you'd expect from the much bigger server vendors.


Maybe you'd have to work in a data center to appreciate this, but we used to keep an old office chair with pneumatic height adjustment that we removed the back from in our data center. Some of the crappy hardware we had to use (don't worry Micron, I won't name names) had the worlds worst rackmount hardware and often required two or three guys to get a server mounted in the rack. If you were shorthanded, you could use the chair to hold your server up while you monkeyed with getting the rails set up. Not a very pleasant experience.

Even in my home, my wife is no stranger to being beckoned down to the basement to assist me when installing a server in my (four post) rack. Racking up my FreeBSD Systems iNET 2325 was a pleasant surprise. Having never used their hardware, I read the little rackmount instructions, and in under 5 minutes, I had the server mounted in my rack with no assistance. I could do it again in 1 minute. My one observation here is that if you plan to have a rack full of these (stacked tight), make sure to get the rackmount rails. You won't be able to get the lid off the case without fully extending the server chassis out of the rack.


It's easy to overlook the importance of built in ports. An easy example is motherboards that ship with integrated SCSI yet with no external interface for accessing it. Duh! You end up cutting a hole in the chassis or running a cable out a PCI slot. Yucky. I was pleased to find two 10/100/Gigabit Ethernet ports on the motherboard. In addition, on the back you have (2) USB ports, video, serial, SCSI, PS/2 (keybard/mouse), console (RJ-45), and dual power supply bays. On the front you have a USB and video port. My only dislike is the PS/2 port is a single and it requires the use of an (included) dongle to plug in a mouse. However, since you can plug in the keyboard directly without the adapter, and I don't often need a mouse, it's a very small issue that doesn't bother me.


What a great feature. No more wheeling the KVM card to the back of the rack, and then having to run around the row of cabinets/racks to the front of the servers to: insert a CD in the drive tray, press the power button, watch the LEDs, etc. Just bring the KVM cart to the front of the server.


(2) Hot-swap power supplies, (6) hot swap SCSI drive bays, dual channel SCSI controller, 6 PCI slots, dual Gigabit Ethernet, dual CPUs, (6) DIMM slots, (3) USB. You could have a lot of hardware fail and still keep your server online. That's an excellent feature!


Getting into this baby is a treat. No tools required, just push the lid lock button with one finger and with the palm of your other hand, push back on the non-slip pad embedded in the lid. It slides back and voila, you're inside. You can install a PCI card or RAM without the use of tools. Nice.

I'm sure nearly any reader of this article will understand the term "explosion in a spagetti factory". It describes the horrible feeling you get when you crack the case of a computer and it's a maze of wires and cables that make it very difficult to work inside. This server is the antithesis of that. It's clean and very well organized. The SCSI cable is the round type rather than the fat ribbons. There are only a few cables. The SCSI backplane for the hot-swap drives also serves as a control board and carries the circiuts for the integrated floppy/CD drive as well. Wahoo! No ATA ribbons. A single ribbon carries signals from the motherboard up to the LED panel on the front of the server (instead of a collection of jumper cables). It's so pretty and clean. :)


These deserve special mention. If you've ever given blood, or spent more than a half hour figuring out how XYZ server company expects you to get a PCI card installed, you will love this server. Pop off the lid, and right there, big and obvious are two blue pull handles on the PCI riser card. Just pull on them and the whole riser card assembly is in your hand! No using special screwdrivers, no magic levers to find, no trying to match the card into the slot at awkward angles. Just pull out the riser, insert your card(s), and stick it back in. Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest! Intel did an outstanding job of designing this server board and it really shows.


If you poke around my site, you'll find that I'm a big fan of PXE and other similar management tools. PXE is a something that I expect on any server hardware and I wasn't disappointed. What was really neat is that now you can enable/disable the NIC BIOS features within the servers BIOS. It makes sense, since the NICs are embedded on the motherboard but I haven't seen this done on any other motherboard. The server board supports all sorts of nifty Intel Server Management options but sadly, there is no FreeBSD support for those options. I'd be quite pleased just to be able to get motherboard monitoring working (CPU voltage, fan speed, temperature).


Performance is very subjective. So, rather than just tell you how fast it is, I decided to do a comparison to my Intel Dual PIII 650 w/1GB. Since that's a fairly common hardware configuration, most people will find the results helpful:

Test DescriptioniNET ServerIntel ISP 2150
make buildworld36 minutes171 minutes
make kernel9 minutes43 minutes
Complete Mail::Toaster install minutes124 minutes
CreateJail5.5 minutes19 minutes
RedHat 9 Server Install (SQL,X,KDE)26 minutesLots, lots more!

As you can see, the operations there are significantly faster, as you'd expect. The buildworld times are about 5 times faster (650MHz -vs- 3GHz) which closely corresponds to the increase in CPU performance. The CreateJail command is almost entirely disk I/O. The roughly 4 times performance difference very closely resembles the disk throughput differences you'd expect to see between a 5 year old HP 80MB/s SCSI disk and a shiny new Seagate 320MB/s SCSI disk.


Every aspect of this server has left me very pleased. It's like opening the lid of an Xserve. You realize that whomever designed this server has spent a significant amount of time in a data center, or talking to people who work in data centers. It's hard to quantify into a checklist, but all the little details are all addressed. For example, the lid is easy to remove. It's got a push button lock that you depress and then push back on a non-slip pad to remove it. It works extremely well and requires no tools. Having a front panel video (console) and USB port is VERY nice. Dual GB NICs on the motherboard spares a PCI slot for other additions. A plastic air shield funnels air past the CPU heat syncs. A greater quantity of smaller fans is used for redundancy. The differences really are in the details.


I got the iNET 2325 in the following configuration:

CPU: Dual 3GHz Intel Xeon
RAM: 1GB (2x512MB)
Power Supply: Single 500W
Disks: (1) Seagate Cheetah 36GB

I didn't bother with additional drives or RAID as I use this as a development box. If the drive fails, I insert another, install FreeBSD, and I'm back in business. I can afford for it to be down for a couple days.

If you are using this as a production mail server and can fit your desired disk capacity onto a single disk, get three of those disks and the best Adaptec RAID controller you can afford. Of those offered, I've used the MegaRAID's and Adaptec (formerly DPT) cards and I favor the Adaptec cards. These sentiments were also echoed by others I've discussed this with, including FreeBSD Systems. Use RAID 1 on the first two disks can create your partitions on there. Duplicate the contents of the RAID volume to the third disk on a weekly/monthly schedule. I do that on my production mail systems. You'll be amazed at how useful that third drive is, even if you have tape backups.

If you can't fit your target disk capacity onto a single disk, use RAID 5 and as many disks as necessary to get there. I also use 0+1 (aka RAID 10) when I/O performance is critical.


[root@jails] /usr/local/etc # dmesg
Copyright (c) 1992-2004 The FreeBSD Project.
Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
        The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
FreeBSD 5.2-CURRENT #0: Fri Mar 12 15:35:16 EST 2004
Preloaded elf kernel "/boot/kernel/kernel" at 0xc0950000.
Preloaded elf module "/boot/kernel/acpi.ko" at 0xc095026c.
Timecounter "i8254" frequency 1193182 Hz quality 0
CPU: Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 3.06GHz (3056.82-MHz 686-class CPU)
  Origin = "GenuineIntel"  Id = 0xf29  Stepping = 9
  Hyperthreading: 2 logical CPUs
real memory  = 1073676288 (1023 MB)
avail memory = 1041133568 (992 MB)
FreeBSD/SMP: Multiprocessor System Detected: 4 CPUs
 cpu0 (BSP): APIC ID:  0
 cpu1 (AP): APIC ID:  1
 cpu2 (AP): APIC ID:  6
 cpu3 (AP): APIC ID:  7
ioapic0  irqs 0-23 on motherboard
ioapic1  irqs 24-47 on motherboard
ioapic2  irqs 48-71 on motherboard
lapic0: Forcing LINT1 to edge trigger
Pentium Pro MTRR support enabled
npx0: [FAST]
npx0:  on motherboard
npx0: INT 16 interface
acpi0:  on motherboard
pcibios: BIOS version 2.10
Found $PIR table, 19 entries at 0xc00f3630
acpi0: Power Button (fixed)
Timecounter "ACPI-fast" frequency 3579545 Hz quality 1000
acpi_timer0: <24-bit timer at 3.579545MHz> port 0x408-0x40b on acpi0
acpi_cpu0:  on acpi0
acpi_cpu1:  on acpi0
acpi_cpu2:  on acpi0
acpi_cpu3:  on acpi0
pcib0:  port 0xcf8-0xcff on acpi0
pci0:  on pcib0
pci0:  at device 0.1 (no driver attached)
pcib1:  at device 3.0 on pci0
pcib1: could not get PCI interrupt routing table for
   \\_SB_.PCI0.P0P5 - AE_NOT_FOUND
pci2:  on pcib1
pci2:  at device 28.0 (no driver attached)
pcib2:  at device 29.0 on pci2
pci4:  on pcib2
ahd0:  port 0x4000-0x40ff,
   0x3800-0x38ff mem 0xfe9e0000-0xfe9e1fff irq 50 at device 7.0 on pci4
aic7902: Ultra320 Wide Channel A, SCSI Id=7, PCI-X 67-100Mhz, 512 SCBs
ahd1:  port 0x3400-0x34ff,
   0x3000-0x30ff mem 0xfe9f0000-0xfe9f1fff irq 49 at device 7.1 on pci4
aic7902: Ultra320 Wide Channel B, SCSI Id=7, PCI-X 67-100Mhz, 512 SCBs
pci2:  at device 30.0 (no driver attached)
pcib3:  at device 31.0 on pci2
pci3:  on pcib3
em0:  port 
  0x2040-0x207f mem 0xfe6c0000-0xfe6dffff irq 30 at device 7.0 on pci3
em0:  Speed:N/A  Duplex:N/A
em1:  port 
  0x2000-0x203f mem 0xfe6e0000-0xfe6fffff irq 31 at device 7.1 on pci3
em1:  Speed:N/A  Duplex:N/A
pci0:  at device 3.1 (no driver attached)
uhci0:  port 0x5020-0x503f
  irq 16 at device 29.0 on pci0
usb0:  on uhci0
usb0: USB revision 1.0
uhub0: Intel UHCI root hub, class 9/0, rev 1.00/1.00, addr 1
uhub0: 2 ports with 2 removable, self powered
uhci1:  port 0x5000-0x501f
  irq 19 at device 29.1 on pci0
usb1:  on uhci1
usb1: USB revision 1.0
uhub1: Intel UHCI root hub, class 9/0, rev 1.00/1.00, addr 1
uhub1: 2 ports with 2 removable, self powered
pcib4:  at device 30.0 on pci0
pci1:  on pcib4
pci1:  at device 12.0 (no driver attached)
isab0:  at device 31.0 on pci0
isa0:  on isab0
atapci0:  port 0x3a0-0x3af,0-0x3,0-0x7,
  0-0x3,0-0x7 at device 31.1 on pci0
ata0: at 0x1f0 irq 14 on atapci0
ata0: [MPSAFE]
ata1: at 0x170 irq 15 on atapci0
ata1: [MPSAFE]
pci0:  at device 31.3 (no driver attached)
atkbdc0:  port 0x64,0x60 irq 1 on acpi0
atkbd0:  flags 0x1 irq 1 on atkbdc0
kbd0 at atkbd0
psm0:  irq 12 on atkbdc0
psm0: model IntelliMouse, device ID 3
acpi_ec0:  port 0xca7,0xca6 on acpi0
fdc0: I/O to control range incorrect
sio0 port 0x3f8-0x3ff irq 4 on acpi0
sio0: type 16550A
sio1: configured irq 3 not in bitmap of probed irqs 0
sio1: port may not be enabled
fdc0: I/O to control range incorrect
sio1: configured irq 3 not in bitmap of probed irqs 0
sio1: port may not be enabled
cpu0 on motherboard
cpu1 on motherboard
cpu2 on motherboard
cpu3 on motherboard

Last modified on 4/25/05.