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Posts tagged with 'intel'

Dustin Kirkland

and bought 3 more with the i5-3427u CPU!



A couple of weeks ago, I waxed glowingly about Ubuntu running on a handful of Intel NUCs that I picked up on Amazon, replacing some aging PCs serving various purposes around the house.  I have since returned all three of those...and upgraded to the i5 version!!!  Read on to find out why...
Whenever I publish an article here, the Blogger/G+ integration immediately posts a link to my G+ feed.  In that thread, Mark Shuttleworth asked if these NUCs supported IPMI or a similar technology, such that they could be enabled in MAAS.  I responded in kind, that, sadly, no, they only support tried-and-trusty-but-dumb-old-Wake-on-LAN.

Alas, an old friend, fellow homebrewer, and new Canonicaler, Ryan Harper, noted that the i5-3427u version of the NUC (performance specs here) actually supports Intel AMT, which is similar to IPMI.  Actually, it's an implementation of WBEM, which itself is fundamentally an implementation of the CIM standard.

That's a health dose of alphabet soup for you.  MAAS, NUC, AMT, IPMI, WEBM, CIM.  What does all of this mean?

Let's do a quick round of introductions for the uninitiated!
  • NUC - Intel's Next Unit of Computing.  It's a palm sized computer, probably intended to be a desktop, but actually functions quite well as a Linux server too.  Drawing about 10W, it's has roughly the same power of an AWS m1.xlarge, and costs about as much as 45 days of an m1.xlarge's EC2 bill.
  •  MAAS - Metal as a Service.  Installing Ubuntu servers (or desktops, for that matter), one by one, with a CD/DVD/USB-key is so 2004.  MAAS is your PXE/DHCP/TFTP/DNS (shit, more alphabet soup...) solution, all-in-one, ready to install Ubuntu onto lots of systems at scale!  Oh, and good news...  Juju supports MAAS as one of its environments, which is cool, in that you can deploy any charmed Juju workload to bare metal, in addition to AWS and OpenStack clouds.
  • AMT - Intel's Asset Management Technology.  This is a feature found on some Intel platforms (specifically, those whose CPU and motherboard support vPro technology), which enables remote management of the system.  Specifically, if you can authenticate successfully to the system, you can retrieve detailed information about the hardware, power cycle it on and off, and modify the boot sequence.  These are the essential functions that MAAS requires to support a system.
  • IPMI - Intelligent Platform Management Interface.  Also pioneered by Intel, this is a more server focused remote network management of systems, providing power on/off and other capabilities.
  • WBEM - Web Based Enterprise Management.  Remote system management technology available through a web browser, based on some internet standards, including CIM.
  • CIM - Common Information Model.  An open open standard that defines how systems in an IT environment are represented and managed.  Does that sound meta to you?  Well, yes, yes it is.
Okay, we have our vocabulary...now what?

So I actually returned all 3 of my Intel NUCs, which had the i3 processor, in favor of the more powerful (and slightly more expensive) i5 versions.  Note that I specifically bought the i5 Ivy Bridge versions, rather than the newer i5 Haswell, because only the Ivy Bridge actually supports AMT (for reasons that I cannot explain).  In fact, in comparison to Haswell, the Ivy Bridge systems:
  1. have AMT
  2. are less expensive
  3. have a higher maximum clock speed
  4. support a higher maximum memory
The only advantage I can see of the newer Haswells is a slightly lower energy footprint, and a slightly better video processor.

When 3 of my shiny new NUCs arrived, I was quite excited to try out this fancy new AMT feature.  In fact, I had already enabled it and experimented with it on a couple of my development i7 Thinkpads, so I more or less knew what to expect.

At this point, I split this post in two.  You're welcome to read on, to learn what you need to know about Intel AMT + Ubuntu + the i5-3427u NUC...

:-Dustin

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Dustin Kirkland


A couple of weeks ago, I waxed glowingly about Ubuntu running on a handful of Intel NUCs that I picked up on Amazon, replacing some aging PCs serving various purposes around the house.  I have since returned all three of those, and upgraded to the i5-3427u version, since it supports Intel AMT.  Why would I do that?  Read on...
When my shiny new NUCs arrived, I was quite excited to try out this fancy new AMT feature.  In fact, I had already enabled it and experimented with it on a couple of my development i7 Thinkpads, so I more or less knew what to expect.

But what followed was 6 straight hours of complete and utter frustration :-(  Like slam your fist into the keyboard and shout obscenities into cheese.
Actually, on that last point, I find it useful, when I'm mad, to open up cheese on my desktop and get visibly angry.  Once I realize how dumb I look when I'm angry, its a bit easier to stop being angry.  Seriously, try it sometime.
Okay, so I posted a couple of support requests on Intel's community forums.

Basically, I found it nearly impossible (like 1 in 100 chances) of actually getting into the AMT configuration menu using the required Ctrl-P.  And in the 2 or 3 times I did get in there, the default password, "admin", did not work.

After putting the kids to bed, downing a few pints of homebrewed beer, and attempting sleep (with a 2-week-old in the house), I lay in bed, awake in the middle of the night and it crossed my mind that...
No, no.  No way.  That couldn't be it.  Surely not.  That's really, really dumb.  Is it possible that the NUC's BIOS...  Nah.  Maybe, though.  It's worth a try at this point?  Maybe, just maybe, the NumLock key is enabled at boot???  It can't be.  The NumLock key is effin retarded, and almost as dumb as its braindead cousin, the CapsLock key.  OMFG!!!
Yep, that was it.  Unbelievable.  The system boots with the NumLock key toggled on.  My keyboard doesn't have an LED indicator that tells me such inane nonsense is the case.  And the BIOS doesn't expose a setting to toggle this behavior.  The "P" key is one of the keys that is NumLocked to "*".


So there must be some incredibly unlikely race condition that I could win 1 in 100 times where me pressing Ctrl-P frantically enough actually sneaks me into the AMT configuration.  Seriously, Intel peeps, please make this an F-key, like the rest of the BIOS and early boot options...

And once I was there, the default password, "admin", includes two more keys that are NumLocked.  For security reasons, these look like "*****" no matter what I'm typing.  When I thought I was typing "admin", I was actually typing "ad05n".  And of course, there's no scratch pad where I can test my keyboard and see that this is the case.  In fact, I'm not the only person hitting similar issues.  It seems that most people using keyboards other than US-English are quite confused when they type "admin" over and over and over again, to their frustration.

Okay, rant over.  I posted my solution back to my own questions on the forum.  And finally started playing with AMT!

The synopsis: AMT is really, really impressive!

First, you need to enter bios and ensure that it's enabled.  Then, you need to do whatever it takes to enter Intel's MEBx interface, using Ctrl-P (NumLock notwithstanding).  You'll be prompted for a password, and on your first login, this should be "admin" (NumLock notwithstanding).  Then you'll need to choose your own strong password.  Once in there, you'll need to enable a couple of settings, including networking/dhcp auto setup.  You can, at your option, also install some TLS certificates and secure your communications with your device.

AMT has a very simple, intuitive web interface.  Here are a comprehensive set of screen shots of all of the individual pages.

Once AMT is enabled on the target system, point a browser to port 16992, and click "Log On..."

The username is always "admin".  You'll set this password in the MEBx interface, using Ctrl-P just after BIOS post.

Here's the basic system status/overview.

The System Information page contains basic information about the system itself, including some of its capabilities.

The processor information page gives you the low down on your CPU.  Search ark.intel.com for your Intel CPU type to see all of its capabilities.

Check your memory capacity, type, speed, etc.

And your disk type, size, and serial number.

NUCs don't have battery information, but my Thinkpad does.

An event log has some interesting early boot and debug information here.

Arguably the most useful page, here you can power a system on, off, or hard reboot it.

If you have wireless capability, you choose whether you want that enabled/disabled when the system is off, suspended, or hibernated.

Here you can configure the network settings.  Unlike a BMC (Board Management Controller) on most server class hardware, which has its own dedicated interface, Intel AMT actually shares the network interface with the Operating System.

AMT actually supports IPv6 networking as well, though I haven't played with it yet.

Configure the hostname and Dynamic DNS here.

You can set up independent user accounts, if necessary.

And with a BIOS update, you can actually use Intel AMT over a wireless connection (if you have an Intel wireless card)
So this pointy/clicky web interface is nice, but not terribly scriptable (without some nasty screenscraping).  What about the command line interface?

The amttool command (provided by the amtterm package in Ubuntu) offers a nice command line interface into some of the functionality exposed by AMT.  You need to export an environment variable, AMT_PASSWORD, and then you can get some remote information about the system:

kirkland@x230:~? amttool 10.0.0.14 info
### AMT info on machine '10.0.0.14' ###
AMT version: 7.1.20
Hostname: nuc1.
Powerstate: S0
Remote Control Capabilities:
IanaOemNumber 0
OemDefinedCapabilities IDER SOL BiosSetup BiosPause
SpecialCommandsSupported PXE-boot HD-boot cd-boot
SystemCapabilitiesSupported powercycle powerdown powerup reset
SystemFirmwareCapabilities f800

You can also retrieve the networking information:

kirkland@x230:~? amttool 10.0.0.14 netinfo
Network Interface 0:
DhcpEnabled true
HardwareAddressDescription Wired0
InterfaceMode SHARED_MAC_ADDRESS
LinkPolicy 31
MACAddress 00-aa-bb-cc-dd-ee
DefaultGatewayAddress 10.0.0.1
LocalAddress 10.0.0.14
PrimaryDnsAddress 10.0.0.1
SecondaryDnsAddress 0.0.0.0
SubnetMask 255.255.255.0
Network Interface 1:
DhcpEnabled true
HardwareAddressDescription Wireless1
InterfaceMode SHARED_MAC_ADDRESS
LinkPolicy 0
MACAddress ee-ff-aa-bb-cc-dd
DefaultGatewayAddress 0.0.0.0
LocalAddress 0.0.0.0
PrimaryDnsAddress 0.0.0.0
SecondaryDnsAddress 0.0.0.0
SubnetMask 0.0.0.0

Far more handy than WoL alone, you can power up, power down, and power cycle the system.

kirkland@x230:~? amttool 10.0.0.14 powerdown
host x220., powerdown [y/N] ? y
execute: powerdown
result: pt_status: success

kirkland@x230:~? amttool 10.0.0.14 powerup
host x220., powerup [y/N] ? y
execute: powerup
result: pt_status: success

kirkland@x230:~? amttool 10.0.0.14 powercycle
host x220., powercycle [y/N] ? y
execute: powercycle
result: pt_status: success

I was a little disappointed that amttool's info command didn't provide nearly as much information as the web interface.  However, I did find a fork of Gerd Hoffman's original Perl script in Sourceforge here.  I don't know the upstream-ability of this code, but it worked very well for my part, and I'm considering sponsoring/merging it into Ubuntu for 14.04.  Anyone have further experience with these enhancements?

kirkland@x230:/tmp? ./amttool 10.0.0.37 hwasset data BIOS
## '10.0.0.37' :: AMT Hardware Asset
Data for the asset 'BIOS' (1 item):
(data struct.ver. 1.0)
Vendor: 'Intel Corp.'
Version: 'RKPPT10H.86A.0028.2013.1016.1429'
Release date: '10/16/2013'
BIOS characteristics: 'PCI' 'BIOS upgradeable' 'BIOS shadowing
allowed' 'Boot from CD' 'Selectable boot' 'EDD spec' 'int13h 5.25 in
1.2 mb floppy' 'int13h 3.5 in 720 kb floppy' 'int13h 3.5 in 2.88 mb
floppy' 'int5h print screen services' 'int14h serial services'
'int17h printer services'

kirkland@x230:/tmp? ./amttool 10.0.0.37 hwasset data ComputerSystem
## '10.0.0.37' :: AMT Hardware Asset
Data for the asset 'ComputerSystem' (1 item):
(data struct.ver. 1.0)
Manufacturer: ' '
Product: ' '
Version: ' '
Serial numb.: ' '
UUID: 7ae34e30-44ab-41b7-988f-d98c74ab383d

kirkland@x230:/tmp? ./amttool 10.0.0.37 hwasset data Baseboard
## '10.0.0.37' :: AMT Hardware Asset
Data for the asset 'Baseboard' (1 item):
(data struct.ver. 1.0)
Manufacturer: 'Intel Corporation'
Product: 'D53427RKE'
Version: 'G87971-403'
Serial numb.: '27XC63723G4'
Asset tag: 'To be filled by O.E.M.'
Replaceable: yes

kirkland@x230:/tmp? ./amttool 10.0.0.37 hwasset data Processor
## '10.0.0.37' :: AMT Hardware Asset
Data for the asset 'Processor' (1 item):
(data struct.ver. 1.0)
ID: 0x4529f9eaac0f
Max Socket Speed: 2800 MHz
Current Speed: 1800 MHz
Processor Status: Enabled
Processor Type: Central
Socket Populated: yes
Processor family: 'Intel(R) Core(TM) i5 processor'
Upgrade Information: [0x22]
Socket Designation: 'CPU 1'
Manufacturer: 'Intel(R) Corporation'
Version: 'Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-3427U CPU @ 1.80GHz'

kirkland@x230:/tmp? ./amttool 10.0.0.37 hwasset data MemoryModule
## '10.0.0.37' :: AMT Hardware Asset
Data for the asset 'MemoryModule' (2 items):
(* No memory device in the socket *)
(data struct.ver. 1.0)
Size: 8192 Mb
Form Factor: 'SODIMM'
Memory Type: 'DDR3'
Memory Type Details:, 'Synchronous'
Speed: 1333 MHz
Manufacturer: '029E'
Serial numb.: '123456789'
Asset Tag: '9876543210'
Part Number: 'GE86sTBF5emdppj '

kirkland@x230:/tmp? ./amttool 10.0.0.37 hwasset data VproVerificationTable
## '10.0.0.37' :: AMT Hardware Asset
Data for the asset 'VproVerificationTable' (1 item):
(data struct.ver. 1.0)
CPU: VMX=Enabled SMX=Enabled LT/TXT=Enabled VT-x=Enabled
MCH: PCI Bus 0x00 / Dev 0x08 / Func 0x00
Dev Identification Number (DID): 0x0000
Capabilities: VT-d=NOT_Capable TXT=NOT_Capable Bit_50=Enabled
Bit_52=Enabled Bit_56=Enabled
ICH: PCI Bus 0x00 / Dev 0xf8 / Func 0x00
Dev Identification Number (DID): 0x1e56
ME: Enabled
Intel_QST_FW=NOT_Supported Intel_ASF_FW=NOT_Supported
Intel_AMT_FW=Supported Bit_13=Enabled Bit_14=Enabled Bit_15=Enabled
ME FW ver. 8.1 hotfix 40 build 1416
TPM: Disabled
TPM on board = NOT_Supported
Network Devices:
Wired NIC - PCI Bus 0x00 / Dev 0xc8 / Func 0x00 / DID 0x1502
BIOS supports setup screen for (can be editable): VT-d TXT
supports VA extensions (ACPI Op region) with maximum ver. 2.6
SPI Flash has Platform Data region reserved.

On a different note, I recently sponsored a package, wsmancli, into Ubuntu Universe for Trusty, at the request of Kent Baxley (Canonical) and Jared Dominguez (Dell), which provides the wsman command.  Jared writes more about it here in this Dell technical post.  With Kent's help, I did manage get wsman to remotely power on a system.  I must say that it's a bit less user friendly than the equivalent amttool functionality above...

kirkland@x230:~?  wsman invoke -a RequestPowerStateChange -J request.xml http://schemas.dmtf.org/wbem/wscim/1/cim-schema/2/CIM_PowerManagementService?SystemCreationClassName="CIM_ComputerSystem",SystemName="Intel(r)AMT",CreationClassName="CIM_PowerManagementService",Name="Intel(r) AMT Power Management Service" --port 16992 -h 10.0.0.14 --username admin -p "ABC123abc123#" -V -v

I'm really enjoying the ability to remotely administer these systems.  And I'm really, really looking forward to the day when I can use MAAS to provision these systems!

:-Dustin

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Dustin Kirkland

Last week, I posed a question on Google+, looking for suggestions on a minimal physical format, x86 machine.  I was looking for something like a Raspberry Pi (of which I already have one), but really it had to be x86.

I was aware of a few options out there, but I was very fortunately introduced to one spectacular little box...the Intel NUC!

The unboxing experience is nothing short of pure marketing genius!



The "NUC" stands for Intel's Next Unit of Computing.  It's a compact little device, that ships barebones.  You need to add DDR3 memory (up to 16GB), an mSATA hard drive (if you want to boot locally), and an mSATA WiFi card (if you want wireless networking).

The physical form factor of all models is identical:

  • 4.6" x 4.4" x 1.6"
  • 11.7cm x 11.2cm x 4.1cm

There are 3 different processor options:


And there are three different peripheral setups:

  • HDMI 1.4a (x2) + USB 2.0 (x3) + Gigabit ethernet
  • HDMI 1.4a (x1) + Thunderbolt supporting DisplayPort 1.1a (x1) + USB 2.0 (x3)
  • HDMI 1.4a (x1) + Mini DisplayPort 1.1a (x2) + USB 2.0 (x2); USB 3.0 (x1)
I ended up buying 3 of these last week, and reworked my audio/video and baby monitoring setup in the house last week.  I bought 2 of these (i3 + Ethernet) , and 1 of these (i3 + Thunderbolt)

Quite simply, I couldn't be happier with these little devices!

I used one of these to replace the dedicated audio/video PC (an x201 Thinkpad) hooked up in my theater.  The x201 was a beefy machine, with plenty of CPU and video capability.  But it was pretty bulky, rather noisy, and drew too much power.

And the other two are Baby-buntu baby monitors, as previously blogged here, replacing a real piece-of-crap Lenovo Q100 (Atom + SiS307DV and all the horror maligned with that sick chip set).

All 3 are now running Ubuntu 13.10, spectacularly I might add!  All of the hardware cooperated perfectly.




Here are the two views that I really wanted Amazon to show me, as I was buying the device...what the inside looks like!  You can see two mSATA ports and red/black WiFi antenna leads on the left, and two DDR3 slots on the right.


On the left, you can now see a 24GB mSATA SSD, and beneath it (not visible) is an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 WiFi adapter.  On the right, I have two 8GB DDR3 memory modules.

Note, to get wireless working properly I did have to:

echo "options iwlwifi 11n_disable=1" | sudo tee -a /etc/modprobe.d/iwlwifi.conf


The BIOS is really super fancy :-)  There's a mouse and everything.  I made a few minor tweaks, to the boot order, assigned 512MB of memory to the display adapter, and configured it to power itself back on at any power loss.


Speaking of power, it sustains about 10 watts of power, at idle, which costs me about $11/year in electricity.


Some of you might be interested in some rough disk IO statistics...

kirkland@living:~? sudo hdparm -Tt /dev/sda
/dev/sda:
Timing cached reads: 11306 MB in 2.00 seconds = 5657.65 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 1478 MB in 3.00 seconds = 492.32 MB/sec

And the lshw output...

    description: Desktop Computer
product: (To be filled by O.E.M.)
width: 64 bits
capabilities: smbios-2.7 dmi-2.7 vsyscall32
configuration: boot=normal chassis=desktop family=To be filled by O.E.M. sku=To be filled by O.E.M. uuid=[redacted]
*-core
description: Motherboard
product: D33217CK
vendor: Intel Corporation
physical id: 0
version: G76541-300
serial: [redacted]
*-firmware
description: BIOS
vendor: Intel Corp.
physical id: 0
version: GKPPT10H.86A.0025.2012.1011.1534
date: 10/11/2012
size: 64KiB
capacity: 6336KiB
capabilities: pci upgrade shadowing cdboot bootselect socketedrom edd int13floppy1200 int13floppy720 int13floppy2880 int5printscreen int14serial int17printer acpi usb biosbootspecification uefi
*-cache:0
width: 32 bits
clock: 66MHz
capabilities: storage msi pm ahci_1.0 bus_master cap_list
configuration: driver=ahci latency=0
resources: irq:40 ioport:f0b0(size=8) ioport:f0a0(size=4) ioport:f090(size=8) ioport:f080(size=4) ioport:f060(size=32) memory:f6906000-f69067ff
*-serial UNCLAIMED
description: SMBus
product: 7 Series/C210 Series Chipset Family SMBus Controller
vendor: Intel Corporation
physical id: 1f.3
bus info: pci@0000:00:1f.3
version: 04
width: 64 bits
clock: 33MHz
configuration: latency=0
resources: memory:f6905000-f69050ff ioport:f040(size=32)
*-scsi
physical id: 1
logical name: scsi0
capabilities: emulated
*-disk
description: ATA Disk
product: BP4 mSATA SSD
physical id: 0.0.0
bus info: scsi@0:0.0.0
logical name: /dev/sda
version: S8FM
serial: [redacted]
size: 29GiB (32GB)
capabilities: gpt-1.00 partitioned partitioned:gpt
configuration: ansiversion=5 guid=be0ab026-45c1-4bd5-a023-1182fe75194e sectorsize=512
*-volume:0
description: Windows FAT volume
vendor: mkdosfs
physical id: 1
bus info: scsi@0:0.0.0,1
logical name: /dev/sda1
logical name: /boot/efi
version: FAT32
serial: 2252-bc3f
size: 486MiB
capacity: 486MiB
capabilities: boot fat initialized
configuration: FATs=2 filesystem=fat mount.fstype=vfat mount.options=rw,relatime,fmask=0022,dmask=0022,codepage=437,iocharset=iso8859-1,shortname=mixed,errors=remount-ro state=mounted
*-volume:1
description: EXT4 volume
vendor: Linux
physical id: 2
bus info: scsi@0:0.0.0,2
logical name: /dev/sda2
logical name: /
version: 1.0
serial: [redacted]
size: 25GiB
capabilities: journaled extended_attributes large_files huge_files dir_nlink recover extents ext4 ext2 initialized
configuration: created=2013-11-06 13:01:57 filesystem=ext4 lastmountpoint=/ modified=2013-11-12 15:38:33 mount.fstype=ext4 mount.options=rw,relatime,errors=remount-ro,data=ordered mounted=2013-11-12 15:38:33 state=mounted
*-volume:2
description: Linux swap volume
vendor: Linux
physical id: 3
bus info: scsi@0:0.0.0,3
logical name: /dev/sda3
version: 1
serial: [redacted]
size: 3994MiB
capacity: 3994MiB
capabilities: nofs swap initialized
configuration: filesystem=swap pagesize=4095

It also supports: virtualization technology, S3/S4/S5 sleep states, Wake-on-LAN, and PXE boot.  Sadly, it does not support IPMI :-(

Finally, it's worth noting that I bought the model with the i3 for a specific purpose...  These three machines all have full virtualization capabilities (KVM).  Which means these little boxes, with their dual-core hyper-threaded CPUs and 16GB of RAM are about to become Nova compute nodes in my local OpenStack cluster ;-)  That will be a separate blog post ;-)

Dustin

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Colin Ian King

I've been fortunate to get my hands on an Intel ® 520 2.5" 240GB Solid State Drive so I thought I'd put it through some relatively simple tests to see how well it performs.

Power Consumption


My first round of tests involved seeing how well it performs in terms of power consumption compared to a typical laptop spinny Hard Disk Drive.  I rigged up a Lenovo X220i (i3-2350M @ 2.30GHz) running Ubuntu Precise 12.04 LTS (x86-64) to a Fluke 8846A precision digital multimeter and then compared the SSD with a 320GB Seagate ST320LT020-9YG142 HDD against some simple I/O tests.  Each test scenario was run 5 times and I based my results of the average of these 5 runs.

The Intel ® 520 2.5" SSD fits into conventional drive bays but comes with a black plastic shim attached to one side that has to be first removed to reduce the height so that it can be inserted into the Lenovo X220i low profile drive bay. This is a trivial exercise and takes just a few moments with a suitable Phillips screwdriver.   (As a bonus, the SSD also comes with a 3.5" adapter bracket and SATA 6.0 signal and power cables allowing it to be easily added into a Desktop too).

In an idle state, the HDD pulled ~25mA more than the SSD, so in overall power consumption terms the SSD saves ~5%, (e.g. adds ~24 minutes life to an 8 hour battery).

I then exercised the ext4 file system with Bonnie++ and measured the average current drawn during the run and using the idle "baseline" calculated the power consumed for the duration of the test.    The SSD draws more current than the HDD, however it ran the Bonnie++ test ~4.5 times faster and so the total power consumed to get the same task completed was less, typically 1/3 of the power of the HDD.

Using dd, I next wrote 16GB to the devices and found the SSD was ~5.3 times faster than the HDD and consumed ~ 1/3 the power of the HDD.    For a 16GB read, the SSD was ~5.6 times faster than the HDD and used about 1/4 the power of the HDD.

Finally, using tiobench I calculated that the SSD was ~7.6 times faster than the HDD and again used about 1/4 the power of the HDD.

So, overall, very good power savings.  The caveat is that since the SSD consumes more power than the HDD per second (but gets way more I/O completed) one can use more power with the SSD if one is using continuous I/O all the time.    You do more, and it costs more; but you get it done faster, so like for like the SSD wins in terms of reducing power consumption.

 

Boot Speed


Although ureadhead tries hard to optimize the inode and data reads during boot, the HDD is always going to perform badly because of seek latency and slow data transfer rates compared to any reasonable SSD.   Using bootchart and five runs the average time to boot was ~7.9 seconds for the SSD and ~25.8 seconds for the HDD, so the SSD improved boot times by a factor of about 3.2 times.  Read rates were topping ~420 MB/sec which was good, but could have been higher for some (yet unknown) reason. 

 

Palimpsest Performance Test


Palimpsest (aka "Disk Utility") has a quick and easy to use drive benchmarking facility that I used to measure the SSD read/write rates and access times.  Since writing to the drive destroys the file system I rigged the SSD up in a SATA3 capable desktop as a 2nd drive and then ran the tests.  Results are very impressive:

Average Read Rate: 535.8 MB/sec
Average Write Rate: 539.5 MB/sec
Average Access Time: sub 0.1 milliseconds.

This is ~7 x faster in read/write speed and ~200-300 x faster in access time compared to the Seagate HDD.

File System Benchmarks


So which file system performs best on the SSD?  Well, it depends on the use case. There are may different file system benchmarking tools available and each one addresses different types of file system behaviour.   Which ever test I use it most probably won't match your use case(!)  Since SSDs have very small latency overhead it is worth exercising various file systems with multiple threaded I/O read/writes and see how well these perform.  I rigged up the threaded I/O benchmarking tool tiobench to exercise ext2, ext3, ext4, xfs and btrfs while varying the number of threads from 1 to 128 in powers of 2.  In theory the SSD can do multiple random seeks very efficiently, so this type of testing should show the point where the SSD has optimal performance with multiple I/O requests.

 

Sequential Read Rates

Throughput peaks at 32-64 threads and xfs performs best followed by ext4, both are fairly close to the maximum device read rate.   Interestingly btrfs performance is always almost level.

Sequential Write Rates


xfs is consistently best, where as btrfs performs badly with the low thread count.

 

Sequential Read Latencies



These scale linearly with the number of threads and all file systems follow the same trend.

 

 Sequential Write Latencies



Again, linear scaling of latencies with number of threads.

Random Read Rates


Again, best transfer rates seem to occur at with 32-64 threads, and btrfs does not seem to perform that well compared to ext2, ext3, ext4 and xfs

Random Write Rates



Interestingly ext2 and ext3 fair well with ext4 and xfs performing very similarly and btrfs performing worst again.

 

Random Read Latencies



Again the linear scaling with latency as thread count increases with very similar performance between all file systems.  In this case, btrfs performs best.

Random Write Latencies


With random writes the latency is consistently flat, apart from the final data point for ext4 at 128 threads which could be just due to an anomaly.

Which I/O scheduler should I use?

 

Anecdotal evidence suggests using the noop scheduler should be best for an SSD.  In this test I exercised ext4, xfs and btrfs with Bonnie++ using the CFQ, Noop and Deadline schedulers.   The tests were run 5 times and below are the averages of the 5 test runs.

ext4:




CFQNoopDeadline
Sequential Block Write (K/sec):506046513349509893
Sequential Block Re-Write (K/sec):213714231265217430
Sequentual Block Read (K/sec):523525551009508774


So for ext4 on this SSD, Noop is a clear winner for sequential I/O.

xfs:




CFQNoopDeadline
Sequential Block Write (K/sec):514219514367514815
Sequential Block Re-Write (K/sec):229455230845252210
Sequentual Block Read (K/sec):526971550393553543


It appears that Deadline for xfs seems to perform best for sequential I/O.

 

btrfs:




CFQNoopDeadline
Sequential Block Write (K/sec):511799431700430780
Sequential Block Re-Write (K/sec):252210253656242291
Sequentual Block Read (K/sec):629640655361659538


And for btrfs, Noop is marginally better for sequential writes and re-writes but Deadline is best for reads.

So it appears for sequential I/O operations, CFQ is the least optimal choice with Noop being a good choice for ext4, deadline for xfs and either for btrfs.   However, this is just based on Sequential I/O testing and we should explore Random I/O testing before drawing any firm conclusions.

Conclusion

 

As can be seen from the data, SSD provide excellent transfer rates, incredibly short latencies as well as a reducing power consumption.   At the time of writing the cost per GB for an SSD is typically slightly more than £1 per GB which is around 5-7 times more expensive than a HDD.    Since I travel quite frequently and have damaged a couple of HDDs in the last few years the shock resistance, performance and power savings of the SSD are worth paying for.

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Colin Ian King

The Ubuntu Kernel Team has uploaded a new kernel (3.2.0-17.27) which contains an additional fix to resolve the remaining issues seen with the RC6 power saving enabled. For users with Sandy Bridge based hardware we would appreciate them to run the tests described on https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Kernel/PowerManagementRC6 and add their results to that page.

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Colin Ian King

The Ubuntu Kernel Team has released a call for testing for a set of RC6 power saving patches for Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin LTS. Quoting Leann Ogasawara's email to the ubuntu kernel team and ubuntu-devel mailing lists:

"Hi All,

RC6 is a technology which allows the GPU to go into a very low power consumption state when the GPU is idle (down to 0V). It results in considerable power savings when this stage is activated. When comparing under idle loads with machine state where RC6 is disabled, improved power usage of around 40-60% has been witnessed [1].

Up until recently, RC6 was disabled by default for Sandy Bridge systems due to reports of hangs and graphics corruption issues when RC6 was enabled. Intel has now asserted that RC6p (deep RC6) is responsible for the RC6 related issues on Sandy Bridge. As a result, a patch has recently been submitted upstream to disable RC6p for Sandy Bridge [2].

In an effort to provide more exposure and testing for this proposed patch, the Ubuntu Kernel Team has applied this patch to 3.2.0-17.26 and newer Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin kernels. We have additionally enabled plain RC6 by default on Sandy Bridge systems so that users can benefit from the improved power savings by default.

We have decided to post a widespread call for testing from Sandy Bridge owners running Ubuntu 12.04. We hope to capture data which supports the the claims of power saving improvements and therefore justify keeping these patches in the Ubuntu 12.04 kernel. We also want to ensure we do not trigger any issues due to plain RC6 being enabled by default for Sandy Bridge.

If you are running Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) and willing to test and provide feedback, please refer to our PowerManagementRC6 wiki for detailed instructions [3]. Additionally, instructions for reporting any issues with RC6 enabled are also noted on the wiki. We would really appreciate any testing and feedback users are able to provide.

Thanks in advance,
The Ubuntu Kernel Team"

So please contribute to this call for testing by visiting https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Kernel/PowerManagementRC6 and follow the instructions.  Thank you!

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At Ohio LinuxFest I had lunch with Carl from System76 and Chase Douglas, who has been working on bringing multitouch to Ubuntu. Since we’re nerds the subject of hardware came up, and I got a glimpse of the amount of effort S76 puts into getting quality parts that are known-good Linux compatible components and some of the challenges they face. They have a budget box that boots in 6 seconds, if you get the SSD option. So, speaking about SSDs …

I had a first generation Intel SSD, and like most Intel SSD owners there’s really nothing like it. But it can get expensive, especially on a nice home machine where you want lots of room. On a laptop you can compromise with a hybrid drive, like this one, which I put in my new netbook and is a nice middle ground. However if you’ve got room in your PC case there’s a great compromise that I’ve been rolling with at home. Life is too short to worry about partitioning, however, a 40gb SSD is about one hundred bucks and a worthy addition to your existing PC.

“But it’s only 40gb!”

Yes. You will get this, and then put / on it. /home will go on your normal 1tb drive or whatever. So your OS is on the SSD, and all the stuff you need space for will be on the big disk.

“Is it worth the hundred bucks?”

Yes, because instead of spending $250 to get a 200mhz microbump or another 2 cores on the CPU you will get the mid priced CPU option and then buy this and then come out on top, by a mile. Or you will put this in your existing PC and realize that your existing computing needs are just fine once you get rid of the drive bottleneck.

“Aha, but what about stuff in /home, that’s still on spinning platters!”

Login time is about the sameish, since you’re reading a bunch of junk from .gconf, but the rest of the boot is so fast you won’t mind the compromise. Apps will launch very quickly. Your data will still be on disk, so copying stuff around will be normal, etc. You can also make a temporary directory under / and symlink things there that is important to you (like your Firefox profile, trust me on that one). And there’s enough room on the drive to pop into /tmp if you want to build something and want the SSD speed.

On a related note ZaReason does offer the X25-v and dual drive setups, though I have no idea if they partition it for you how you would expect. If anyone is familiar with this leave a comment!

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Canonical

A few weeks ago myself and Dustin Kirkland had the privilege of travelling to the Intel facility in Hillsboro, Oregon to work with Billy Cox, Rekha Raghu, Paul Guermonprez, Trevor Cooper and Kamal Natesan of Intel and Dan Nurmi and Neil Soman of Eucalyptus Systems and a few others on developing a proof of concept whitepaper on the use of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud on Intel Xeon processors (Nehalem).

The whitepaper is published today on the Intel site (registration required) so it seems like a good time to talk about why we collaborated.

The Intel Cloud Builder program is intended to develop some best practice information for businesses and institutions looking to take advantage of the promise of cloud computing. As we do consistently with UEC, we are being specific when we talk about cloud as the ability to build Infrastructure as a Service behind a corporate firewall – that is on your own systems, protected by your own security protocols.

In Portland we had access to some great hardware and as an ex-Intel man, it was good to mess directly with the metal again. Intel defined a number of use and test cases and the guys from Intel, Eucalyptus and myself were able to have some fun putting UEC through its paces. And the results were good. We documented them and the whitepaper gives numerous code and scenario examples to help anyone new to cloud to get up to speed really quickly and the make the most of the capabilities of the Xeon processor in supporting an internal IaaS infrastructure. You can find out how to get started on UEC with existing documentation. but this whitepaper takes it to the next stage.

Being able to test the software as part of the Intel Cloud Builder program and jointly publish this whitepaper is a great endorsement of what is still a young technology. And I hope it will give users confidence to start building their own UEC deployment on x86 technology.

Nick Barcet, Ubuntu Server Product Manager

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