I replaced my RPi4s with one ThinkCentre M900 Tiny
Because of the actual prices for a Raspberry Pi I looked around for some cheaper alternatives. I played with the thought of buying an Intel NUC for my home server needs but the low spec models didn't resonate with me and the higher spec models are too expensive.
While surfing Youtube for some infos about some other SBCs I accidentally found a video about the so called 1 liter PCs. The "1 liter" comes from the small form factor which has the volume of nearly one liter. Perfect!
I decided on a used Lenovo ThinkCentre M900 Tiny for around 270 Euros with the following specs:
- Intel Core i7-6700T 4C/8T @ 2.8GHz (3.6GHz max.)
- 16 GB DDR4 2133MHz SODIMM / 32GB max. dual channel capable
- 1x NVME drive (256GB)
- One internal SATA 6.0GB/s 2.5" slot (empty)
- Intel HD Graphics 530 with 2 DisplayPorts
- 2x USB3.0 front / 4x USB3.0 rear ports
- 1GBit Ethernet Port (RJ-45)
- WiFi (not sure about the specs, I don't use it)
The M900 Tiny came with one 16GB DDR4 SODIMM module so I added another one to a total of 32GB memory. I also had some 500GB Samsung EVO SSD laying around and put it into the free SATA port inside.
LXC containers with Proxmox
While a full virtualization of my servers would require a lot of resources, LXC containers are cheap. With Proxmox as a host system it's easy to set up and maintain LXC containers as guests. There is a lot of functionality built into Proxmox like backups and a very good firewall. The backups are very fast and can be easily automated. My biggest container is down for around 12s for a full backup.
So I replaced 3 of my Raspberry Pis with one little device and several LXC containers on it:
- NAS: I connected my 4 bay ZFS raidz HDD case (USB3.0) to the M900 and passed the ZFS directories to a NAS and backup container
- SyncThing: One container runs SyncThing for sharing folders across my laptops and working PC.
- PiHole: A debian container which runs PiHole to block ad/tracking/malicious servers
- wireguard: A wireguard VPN server for my mobile needs
- gemini: running my own rgsrv gemini server software
- homeserver: My homeserver runs an instance of Node-Red and a mosquitto MQTT server for home automation
With these containers (I'll still add some in the future) the server is still mostly idle and the load rarely goes above 0.2. I gave a max of 1GB RAM and one thread to all of the containers and 4GB to the host for ZFS. And with containers you can easily overprovision the host. If one container needs a little more CPU, it can steal from the other idling containers.
I'm not sure how much power the RPis draw, but after some home restructuring - most of my infrastructure is now in the corridor - I measure nearly an exact powerdraw of 1kWh per day for the M900 plus periferal devices (NAS HDDs, SyncThing SSD), my router, a switch and a DSL modem together.
And as far as I can tell you get a lot more horsepower for your money with a tiny cheap 1L computer. Especially with the prices at the moment (~200€ for a 8GB RPi4) you can save a buck or two with such a device. And if you really max out your M900 then you can buy another one for the price of one and a half Pis and run them in a Proxmox Cluster.
So now I have 3 spare RPi4 with 8GB. Maybe I should sell them in these crazy times if I get some good offer. :-)
All in all - have fun!
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