Tonight I powered down Tombstone, the Dell Poweredge 1400SC in the basement, for perhaps the last time. I bought Tombstone in 2002 to replace the no-name PC whose motherboard fried when the CPU cooling fan failed. I ran FreeBSD on this system and used it to provide external services (HTTP via Apache, SMTP via Postfix, ssh) for narsil.com and narsil.org, as well as internal services for our home PCs: DHCP, NTP, Samba, DNS caching, outbound email and other odds and ends.
Hosting my own domains in the basement gave me a lot of flexibility and largely freed me from limitations of ISPs, but it also meant that I had to be the on-call system administrator for my own family. If Tombstone went down, so did all of our email and network connectivity. Over the years, this trade-off has come to look less attractive. A couple years ago (before my 6-month stint in India) I went in with a buddy on a BSD VPS at johncompanies.com that took over for email. I also dropped the local DNS cache, NTP and DHCP servers, relying on our ISP's name servers (Speakeasy) and the DCHP daemon in our little Linksys BEFSX41 router. All that was left externally was the web server, and internally the file server.
The advent of Google Apps finally seduced me away from all this roll-your-own stuff. Email and web services for my domains are all with Google now, pretty much completing the process of Google owning me (I've been a gmail/picasa/blogspot junkie for years). We never really used the file server very much anyway, so it was time to stop burning those kilowatt-hours. But I'm still a bit saddened by this.
Tombstone was a fine example of an on-the-cheap server. I think I paid about $700 (brand new) for Tombstone, with a mighty 1.2GHz Celeron processor, 128MB of ECC memory and a huge 36GB SCSI drive (in addition to the 4GB ATA primary drive). This modest hardware easily handled all of our services: NTP, DHCP, DNS (both caching and separate internal/external name servers, using dbjdns), Samba, Apache, Postfix, a CUPS printer queue, ssh. Granted, our internal machines didn't exactly constitute a huge load, but I did a fair amount of web and email traffic. FreeBSD never crashed; all my outages were due to power failures (I had a UPS for a while, but when it died a few years ago I never replaced it). Auto-reboot always brought everything back without intervention.
Good-bye, Tombstone. I'll miss you.
Sunday, March 1, 2009