The World’s Fastest Small Business Server

One sunny day while mowing the yard with the old John Deere I thought, “How cool would it be if I could mount a Small Business Server on this lawn tractor?"

The answer (as you already know) is “not very cool”. Nobody wants to see a lawn mower running Exchange and SharePoint.

Obviously, I need to drink more fluids when mowing the yard in the hot sun, but that’s neither here nor there. The proverbial wheels were turning, and I started brainstorming for something much faster and infinitely cooler than a green and yellow tractor…

Matthew SnoddyEnter Matthew SnoddyMicrosoft Small Business Specialist and owner of Network Therapists in Lexington, Kentucky.

a.k.a. “The Stig” (nobody knows for sure)

Not only is Matthew a fantastic network engineer and wheelman, he’s got some beautiful muscle cars,
like this supercharged 2008 SRT8 Dodge Challenger:

Matthew Snoddy–2008 SRT8 Dodge Challenger on the dyno

 
A Challenger is much cooler than a John Deere, but it gets even better!

Recently, Matthew expanded his stable with the addition of a rare (one of only 20 ever made) 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR convertible. A street-legal race car.

Matthew Snoddy's 2010 Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR convertible

(More pics of Matthew Snoddy’s Viper ACR here)

VIPER SRT10 ACR SPECS – BONE STOCK

  • 8.4-liter aluminum V10 engine
  • 600 horsepower
  • 560 lb. ft. of torque
  • 0-60 in 3.4 seconds
  • Top speed 184 MPH (202 MPH w/o the rear wing, but you’ll die)

If you’re a gearhead, you know all about the ACR. Matthew’s red ACR is a convertible model of the car that broke the Nürburgring track record.

Video of the Viper ACR record-breaking run (7:22) at Nürburgring

 
This video of a white hardtop ACR on the twisting Virginia City Hill Climb
(Nevada State Route 341) is pretty terrifying.

Car and Driver–Video of Virginia City Hill Climb in a Viper ACR

 
Suffice it to say, the word ‘awesome’ does not even begin to describe this car.

So one night Matthew and I discussed the viability of mounting a Microsoft Windows Small Business Server in the Viper, and “Project Daffy” was born.

“Why a goofy name like Project Daffy” you say? Check out what happens when you invert the Viper ACR logo:

Normal Dodge Viper ACR logo Turn the Viper ACR logo upside down and it becomes Daffy Duck

Can you see Daffy Duck on the right? Thought so. Winking smile

We took some measurements of the ACR and (shocker) it’s not really designed to hold a standard server like an HP ProLiant ML370 G6, or even a smaller one like the HP ML110 or ML150.

Trunk of the Viper ACR - empty

The trunk is so small, there’s not even a spare tire – just an air pump (left).

Greg Starks - SMB Solutions Program Manager, Hewlett-Packard.Enter Greg Starks – SMB Solutions Program Manager at Hewlett-Packard. Greg has been with HP and Compaq for over 20 years, has presented at over 10 SMB Nation events, and he really knows his stuff.

a.k.a. “Mr. Awesome” (of that we *are* sure)

We needed something that had enough horsepower to run a server OS, but not so big that it wouldn’t fit in the Viper. With limited space, heat and power requirements, it was a tall order. Greg hooked up Project Daffy with the brand new HP ProLiant MicroServer and got it to us in time to make it to the racetrack!

HP ProLiant MicroServer

HP MICROSERVER SPECS:

  • AMD Athlon II NEO N36L processor 1.3 GHz
  • Supports up to 8 GB PC3 DDR3 RAM
  • Embedded NC107i PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Server Adapter
  • OCZ Vertex 2 200GB solid state SATA II drive*
  • Cold boot to SBS 2011 login – 2 minutes 45 seconds
  • Shut down – 14 seconds
  • Operating System – Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard

*We took out the stock 160 GB LFF SATA drive and used the SSD instead to mitigate vibration from the car. (The SSD isn’t a factory option.)

View inside the HP ProLiant MicroServer with the USB drive plugged in for OS loadThe HP MicroServer is physically small enough (10.5" x 8.3" x 10.2") to fit perfectly in the Viper trunk with room to spare. The MicroServer doesn’t come with a DVD drive, so we took an ISO of SBS 2011 Standard Edition and made a bootable flash drive and installed SBS 2011 that way – no problem.

After the OS installation, we did some testing with the UPS to estimate battery life (about 55 minutes). SBS 2011 runs on that SSD like a scalded dog!

The next step was powering it and mounting it in the car.

ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT:

Due to the irregular shape of the Viper trunk, we used a spare piece of cardboard as a template to map out the shape, and then transferred that outline onto a plank of 3/4” plywood (“The Surfboard”). After some lengthy trial and error moving things around, appropriate measurements were laid out to make sure that there was sufficient room for the equipment, padding, cabling, and tie-down equipment.

HEADING TO THE TRACK:

It’s a pretty long drive from Louisville out to the Mt. Park Dragway in Clay City, Kentucky (about 120 miles). When we got there it was so cold out that the grass in the shadows was still frosted even though the sun had been up for a few hours. Sadly, that morning one of Matthew’s friends lost control of his Corvette on the track and put it into the wall! Fortunately he’s OK, but the same can’t be said for the Vette. Even with safety equipment, racing is still a dangerous occupation.

Mounting the server and network equipment in the Viper trunk went surprisingly smooth. All of the planning and measuring paid off and it fit like a glove. We powered up the server and the router and ran some connectivity tests while Matthew drove around the track. As long as we kept the Yagi antenna (attached to the netbook in our makeshift pits) pointed at the Viper, we never lost a single ping. That’s pretty impressive considering that the antenna was INSIDE the trunk. The car body is fiberglass (except for the carbon fiber rear spoiler) so there was nothing externally on which to stick the antenna.

Side note: One of the coolest parts of the whole project was seeing the looks when people walked around to the back of the car to see what was in the trunk.

The phrase of the day was, “You put a *server* in a Viper!?”

Everybody thought it was cool! So did we. My face hurts from grinning.

Using the netbook back at the pits, we logged into the HP MicroServer via RDP and ran System Information for Windows (SIW) to keep an eye on the internal temperature of the CPU and SSD drive with the trunk closed. Since it was such cool day, all the temps stayed nice and chilly in the server. In fact, the only moving parts in the entire trunk were one cooling fan in the server and another one in the UPS. The rig doesn’t build up much heat anyway.

By design, the Viper ACR doesn’t have electronic traction control. On a cold day with cold tires, the lack of traction control meant that Matthew couldn’t safely punch the pedal to the floor without risking having the Viper suffer the same fate as the Vette. We know what the car can do in warmer weather, so there’s no doubt that that we truly have The World’s Fastest Small Business Server on our hands.

PICTURES OF THE COMPLETED PROJECT:

Viper SRT10 ACR - Showing off the V10 engine Viper SRT10 ACR - The blue tape keeps the burning hot rubber from sticking
A view of the Viper SRT10 ACR 8.4 liter 10-cylinder engine.
 
The blue tape keeps hot tire rubber from sticking to the paint.
 
SBS 2011 - Left Rear The World's Fastest Small Business Server
Left – HP ProLiant MicroServer
Right – APC Smart-UPS
 
Behold! The World’s Fastest
Small Business Server.
 
Closeup of The World's Fastest Small Business Server What happens when you burn too much rubber
Close-up – You can see Buffalo wireless B/G/N router in the front and the “Surfboard” underneath. The APC and all other equipment is mounted rock solid and can’t move even 1/4”.
 
This is what happens when you burn too much rubber – they have to literally scrape it off the track! I think they’ve been saving this for a while at the track, but I’m not sure how long.
 

If you’ve got questions about the project, please feel free to post them in the comments below.

PICTURES – You can see the rest of the pictures on Flickr (test fit before tie-down and different views of the car, etc.)

VIDEO – Matt Hester (IT Pro Evangelist for Microsoft) shot some video of Project Daffy today, so you may see it on his blog soon. If he does, we’ll link to it here.

THANKS – Super-special thanks go to Matthew Snoddy (Network Therapists) and Greg Starks (Hewlett-Packard) for making this dream a reality. Props to Andrew McIntosh too for the UPS, and to Lauren for assistance in the pits.
You guys absolutely rock!!

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