Monday, January 16, 2017

Project Alphaberry - Part 1

As you have seen from recent posts, I am currently writing some software to pull down a lot of the content from my old website. At the same time, I am preparing the new hosting platform, as well as my own little playground, dubbed “Project Alphaberry”. In this first post, I want to talk about the “Alpha”.

Like most nerdy people who build there own computers, and have an unhealthy need to buy cool gadgets, this stuff is just laying around my house and garage. The other day, when planning out some of my hosting, I really just wanted to setup my own hosting system. My site doesn’t get a lot of traffic, and if it did for whatever reason decide to get popular, I could easily move it to the cloud. This is how the project was born.

A few years ago, Alienware released a “Steam Machine” that was actually shipped with Windows 8 called the Alienware Alpha. This links to the R2 however, because there was a few problems with the R1 that just made it not sell well as a gaming console. Primarly, they shipped it with the worlds slowest hard drive, a 5400 WD Black. The boot time on a brand new windows installation with nothing on it is just short of 5 minutes… Most people who knew what they were getting just tossed in an SSD and all was well, however, the common user pretty much had no idea how to do this. I picked this up for my wife, because she wanted a small form factor PC that was quiet, fit on top of her desk, and would play WoW on high detail. It did in fact do just that, but then my wife got a really nice Asus laptop, and stopped using it. So it has been sitting here, doing nothing, for about 2 years.

The Alpha packs a nice low power I3 4130T, which isn’t crap, just not an I7 which is what most people think they need, however, that is plenty of horse power to be a “controller” in my cluster :evilgrin:.

The plan is, upgrade the memory from 4GB to 16GB, and toss in a 256GB SSD, I don’t want to go crazy with storage, since I really don’t have a lot to store on this part of the cluster, and I have a 4TB NAS I am rebuilding right now (another post soon). Once the hardware upgrades are finished, I will be installing CentOS 7 minimal to act as my primary linux environment. I am installing the minimal because this entire setup will be headless, I just want to SSH in and do stuff, or use the future Web UI’s to checkout what is going on.

I have one (or many) things I want to run on this server, later I will probably expand to multiple admin servers, but for now, dump all the things on one!!!

Most of this software is what is going to allow me to run a highly scalable and monitored compute cluster with Software Load Balancing, Service Discovery, Key Value storage, and Secret management.

Idealistically, will be served externally, and will be served internally. Everything going through the nginx server, which will, teach me how to harden the shit out of it. And I will be using a real managed network switch to separate out all the traffic and handle the ACL access to the different software. At some point I might see that it is better to run the public nginx server separate from the internal one, but for now, I am going to stack them together.

Anyway, for now I am off to build out the core part of the Alpha, finishing up the hardware upgrades and installing CentOS.

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