More on the TonidoPlug - the geeky stuff

More on the TonidoPlug - the geeky stuff

Summary: My post from last night on the TonidoPlug generated some great questions and interesting feedback. I wanted to write a short followup to give some missing technical details, a few new perspectives, and a sense of where this is all headed.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Servers
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My post from last night on the TonidoPlug generated some great questions and interesting feedback. I wanted to write a short followup to give some missing technical details, a few new perspectives, and a sense of where this is all headed.

First, let's talk tech. I have a web server in my office that handles our school district site and is now beginning to host content for all of the schools in the district. I have other servers in there too and my boss always wonders why I can't hear him hollering down the hall. At least during the winter, I can just open a window to keep it cool in there instead of running the AC. And now I'm adding a second web server for redundancy and development since I was able to scavenge an older application server that is no longer being used. The point is that these things use a lot of power and generate a lot of heat.

Ultimately I'll want to consolidate and virtualize, but right now I'd rather devote the money to classroom tech instead of new servers. SMART Boards don't come cheap. TonidoPlugs, however, do come cheap, and they also come with very low power requirements. The plug itself only pulls 5-13W of power. Adding an external hard drive only brings this to about 25W at peak consumption and as little as the base 5W at idle, depending upon the drive.

Compare this to the consumption of a standard server (even a modern server designed for reduced power and cooling needs) and the savings, both in dollars and energy can be substantial. Even the Frankenstein web server in my basement running with some elderly desktop specs is pulling about 150W when it's just sitting there serving up pages.

Does the TonidoPlug give you RAID and provide the sorts of fault-tolerance needed for a mission critical server? Of course not. However, for the vast majority of media sharing and web serving needs, it's more than up to the task. Speaking of being up to the task, the other specs on the device lend themselves to the strengths of embedded Ubuntu:

  • 1.2GHz ARM processor
  • Half gig of RAM
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • A single USB 2.0 port (that can drive a USB hub with multiple disks)

It's important to remember as well that the plug is, at its core, a Ubuntu box. Any Ubuntu software that you want to install that can be accessed by command line or a web interface (e.g., backup, clustering, load balancing, FTP, etc.) can be installed from an SSH session. As one reader pointed out,

"Good initial set of apps. Pretty much covers all the personal sharing needs without relying on public online services. But, could have more..."

The good news? You can install more free software to your heart's content. The bad news is that you need a good sense of the Linux command line.

Where this shines is not necessarily in the server room, but in smaller settings (or settings that don't require high-availability clusters of powerful redundant machines). Another reader noted,

It is amazing to see how much technology has evolved. I can see a future where every classroom has one inside a cabinet with a shared space for each and every student"

Exactly. Or every home has a device like the TonidoPlug to give remote access to all of our "stuff."

Again, a power strip filled with these little guys probably won't replace your head end room. They do have the potential to give your users (as well as home and small business users) far more control over their own digital content and make the idea of hosting sites and sharing media far more attainable at very low costs.

As I work more with the TonidoPlug, I'm going to push it to see just where the line needs to be drawn between a "real server" and an embedded device. Where can the plug meet our needs more efficiently and cheaply than server-based alternatives, and where do we need to suck it up and go mount something expensive in a rack? Or provision a server in the cloud? Or colocate a few servers? You get the idea. More to come soon.

Topics: Hardware, Servers

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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5 comments
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  • good one...

    The software seems nice. Apparently you can download it in your computer and run it free.
    bingbend
  • RE: More on the TonidoPlug - the geeky stuff

    all nas baxes on the market are going that way too. Of
    course they are a bit more expensive, but offer raid
    storage.

    They start shipipng with atom giving them some more power
    to handle more complex activities, and extend software
    compatibility.
    s_souche
  • RE: More on the TonidoPlug - the geeky stuff

    Nice article. Just wanted to point out that while plugs don't come with RAID, they certainly support external RAID enclosures. So tack on 250 or less for a couple of 1TB drives and a enclosure. You still have a nice system for 350.
    tone711
  • RE: More on the TonidoPlug - the geeky stuff

    MMM...I need to dig into forums for installing new apps
    zanythoughts
  • I'll keep my eye on this

    I have two connected buildings. Ideally, I would like to
    have something ala Google's cloud storage. That is,
    adding another device creates more storage and redundancy
    automagically. I could then add and replace drives at
    will to my heart's content. And since the buildings are
    in two different locations, I'd have some security as
    well. Does this sound like a good idea or are there
    "better" ways of doing this?
    Adam S