Feedback for a small server project

Arthur Chance freebsd at
Fri Nov 13 16:40:38 UTC 2020

On 13/11/2020 00:13, Christian Baer wrote:
> Greetings Programs! :-)
> This is not exactly a FreeBSD question, so please don't throw rocks at
> me! :-) FreeBSD will however most likely be utilized for this project!
> Because of the lockdown here in Germany (I know, in many other places
> too), I have way too much time on my hands. And since I haven't
> had the chance to really spend any money since April, I can afford to
> spend a little. Don't go crazy, everybody! :-P
> I would like to build a little server for my own use. This server is to
> be reachable from the outside, so this is not really a home NAS thing.
> A few things I'd like to run:
> - Webserver (Apache or nginx)

Personally I prefer nginx to apache, it's very efficient and with the
Lua extension remarkably flexible.

> - Nextcloud

Good call. That's the next thing I'm setting up at home.

> - Jitsi

I recently looked at setting up my own Jitsi server at home but the big
killer appears to be bandwidth rather than CPU power. With end-to-end
encryption the bandwidth scales as the square of the number of users.
I've currently got a 70 Mbs down/20 Mbps up FTTC link and decided the
uplink would get swamped for some of the (not very large) Jitsi calls I
make. There's a company putting in fibre in my neighbourhood that will
offer 900 Mbps symmetric but it's not here just yet. When it arrives
I'll reconsider Jitsi in house rather than hosted.

Another thing to consider is that with E2E encryption, the encryption
load on the server also scales as N**2. Does the ODroid have hardware
support for crypto?

> - Dovecot

I use it, it works well. Do you want web mail access as well? If so,
take a look at roundcube.

> - maybe an XMPP (like Prosody)
> - maybe a Matrix server

I have no experience with these so can't comment sensibly.

> I am currently using Nextcloud on shared hosting but would like to port
> that to hardware I control, not so much due to trust issues but because
> some of the NC-apps use a few more CPU-cycles than my ISP likes. While
> the performance for up- and downloads is more than fine, phonetrack is
> pretty laggy. This would be the first service I would set up. I
> currently also use XMPP, Matrix and IMAP, but on external servers and
> this works fine for me. So Jitsi would probably come next. But I do
> want to run all services in the long run.
> My internet connection is fast enough to run this sort of thing for my
> purposes.
> I am thinking about doing this using an ODROID N2+[1], the 4GB version.
> I have two main reasons for this:
> - ludic drive
>   Doing this on an ARM is way more exciting than on an AMD64. :-)
>   I have alread got a case for everything (an old modem from
>   the early 80s). It would look pretty cool. :-P
> - energy cost
>   Electricity is annoyingly expensive in Germany (a kWh costs ~30
>   Eurocents). So the fact that this computer needs a relatively small
>   amount of electricity (compared to the alternative) is a good factor
>   for me.

That's about twice what I pay. (I'm in the UK.) I find CPU power is
generally less of a problem than that everything around the CPU. It's
surprising how much energy networking can use when it's on 24 hours a
day, 365 days a year, and when active my current monitor puts out more
heat than the computer it's attached to.

> The alternative would be a computer I still have standing around here.
> It's an AMD A10-7800 with 32GB of RAM on an Asus ROG board. It was
> bought for a special (non-gaming) purpose (hence the high amount of
> RAM), but never really got used, so it currently just collecting dust.
> The usage scale of this project is pretty minute actually. We are
> talking between a dozen an two dozen users at the most - closer to the
> one dozen, probably even less. It would be my family (including my
> brother and his family), maybe one or two people from work and a couple
> of friends. Most of the time, the system would be used for file storage,
> text messages (possibly photos or media messages). Video calls may
> cause some slightly higher loads.
> I am guessing that the "real" computer (as apposed to the SBC) will
> probably have more CPU-power and the extra RAM will also make a
> difference, but with a 65W TDP CPU, it will [probably] also *need* more
> power. :-) I have also considered that the "real" computer has much
> better connectivity for HDDs, which do not have to be connected via USB.

If you do use the old board and usage is intermittent, run powerd to
drop the CPU frequency whenever you can. Also use SSDs rather than
spinning rust to reduce power requirements.

> What do you guys think? Would the SBC be able to deal with
> the said tasks or would it be worth using the machine I already own and
> deal with the electricity bill? I do want to have some reserves, so I
> do not have to turn anyone down, who may wish to join the club, but I
> do not want to go for an overkill either.
> Please give me your thoughts!

I suspect the only way to find out is to try it. Given that you would
like to play with a new architecture the ODroid isn't that expensive.

> Best regards und stay negative!
> Chris
> [1]

The number of people predicting the demise of Moore's Law doubles
every 18 months.

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