Tuesday 7 September 2010

Cats and Dogs

When Tomcats and Puppies Collide

This blog is hosted* on what may be the (literally) coolest little app server ever. A completely silent, ultra-low power IBM NetVista N2200. My "production infrastructure" is the N2200 plus a NetGear home router; total power consumption is something in the region of 10W :-)

The little black box runs a copy of Puppy Linux 4 that's been heavily butchered (sorry for the mental image that may conjure up) to run in the 256Mb of RAM with the smallest possible footprint (currently about 180Mb free before starting any Java processes). No XWindows, Samba or CUPS, just a lean, mean, SSH-accessible server. A Tomcat 6 installation does the actual work. With only a single 233MHz core to play on, it's no speed demon to start up, but once running it's just fine.

One of the nicest things is that the whole kit-and-kaboodle sits on a small Compact Flash card that I can copy off and treat just like a "virtual machine image". I've got 5 more NetVistas just waiting for work (courtesy of eBay). After replicating my image to more cards, I could cluster these puppies!

The blog software itself is Pebble - after messing around for hours trying to get a Roller instance to work properly on an H2 database, what a pleasure it was to plop pebble.war into place and see it Just Work. Pebble looks like it supports everything I could ever want to do with this site, and allows extension into some very interesting directions. I'm hoping to explore some of these in future and hopefully contribute them back to the development.

What a great endorsement for free and open source software - a complete, secure and performant application server, running useful software, on a ten-year old low-power desktop worth roughly USD$15...

* Not any more actually :-)

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