Almost every small company out there needs a minimum level of IT services: file serving, document management, e-mail, and so on. Most of those services can now be found in the Cloud: Google Apps Professional, Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, Amazon AWS, and many others can take care of nearly any IT service you can think off. Although trendy, cloud services are not without disadvantages.

One example related to our review today is that the latency involved in accessing data over the internet is much higher than on a LAN. While network latency of a well configured LAN is less than half a millisecond, the latency of accessing a cloud service is several tens of milliseconds. And although high bandwidth Internet access has become a lot cheaper over the years, a 100 mbit/s or better is still not widespread among smaller companies, where a 1Gbps LAN is easily attainable. Moreover, while renting a few Terrabytes in the cloud has become relatively affordable, you again run into speed issues, especially if you have massive amounts of data that you want to analyze -- or if you simply feel that a third party should have no control over your (sensitive) data.

So if you require high bandwidth file serving and low latency database access, or if you need massive amounts of storage capacity, a local server could still be the attractive option. Of course, as a small company you likely don't have nor want a dedicated data center (or even just a smaller data room). A decent data room can be an expensive investment (e.g. it would need CRAC and other facilities) and the energy cost can be very high. Due to the costs, some might be tempted to use what others would consider an old fashioned twentieth century option: a server somewhere on a shelf or under a desk. But there are some 21st century requirements that are needed, so a noisy, power hungry tower server is out of the question. Density isn't generally an issue, but it would be great if the server is able to cool it's components in an office environment without being louder than the ambient office noise -- local whirlwinds are generally frowned upon.

The desire for a quiet, low energy server underneath your desk can still make sense: you are in control of your data, the capex investment is limited, and with a little help from a good service provider, it is workable even for those who don’t have an IT department. Sometimes, old and tried methods beat the newest hype. Advatronix felt that it could do better than the current tower server offerings and designed a proprietary chassis that resembles a cube shaped desktop.

The reason behind this rather bulky chassis with 18 (!) drivebays is that most companies that need an in-house server usually have high storage demands: they need low latency, high capacity, or both. Thus there must be enough room for plenty of magnetic disks and some space for an SSD caching tier. And of course, a large chassis also allows large fans and thus relatively quiet operation. In a nutshell, Advatronix feels the Cirrus 1200 sets itself apart from the competition for the following reasons:

  • Quiet (enough) operation
  • Low Power, able to keep to cool in an office environment (no need for a CRAC)
  • Magnetic filter to cope with the fact that this server will be in dusty office instead of a clean data center
  • A good mix of components with a focus on storage performance

As the IT services of small companies are typically bottlenecked by storage and not by CPU performance, the Cirrus 1200 uses a low power quad-core Xeon E3 with up to 32GB of RAM. It's certainly nothing earth shattering, but the combination of all points mentioned above might make the Cirrrus 1200 very attractive for a certain market niche.

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  • thomas-hrb - Friday, June 06, 2014 - link

    If you looking at storage servers under the desk why not consider something like the DELL VRTX. that at least have a significant advantage in the scalability department. You can start small and re-dimension to many different use cases as you grow Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, June 06, 2014 - link

    Good suggestion, although the DELL VRTX is a bit higher in the (pricing) food chain than the servers I described in this article. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, June 06, 2014 - link

    With room for 4 blades in the enclosure the VRTX is also significantly higher in terms of overall capability. Were you unable to find a server from someone else that was a close match in specifications to the Cirrus 1200? Even if it cost significantly more, I think at least one of comparison systems should've been picked for equivalent capability instead of equivalent pricing. Reply
  • npz - Friday, June 06, 2014 - link

    I myself have been looking around for a while and have not found any tower/office system that offers more than 8 x 3.5" drives from Dell, HP, Supermicro, etc. (If anyone finds one I'd love to know!)

    I know Synology offers a 12 disk large cube NAS, but I don't want their OS and don't like their hardware. So I built my own 12 x SATA hotplug instead.
    Reply
  • npz - Friday, June 06, 2014 - link

    Well, aside from this Advatronix that is, which now has my interest.

    All drive bays on my machine are taken, but this Cirrus 1200 still has room for 6 x 2.5" drives in its 5.25" optical bay. (I also have the same 6 x 2.5" drives in 5.25" bay adapter for another machine)
    Reply
  • Haravikk - Monday, June 09, 2014 - link

    I'm still disappointed by the attention to detail on a lot of these products. I just built my own RAID chassis, in my case for direct attached storage rather than a NAS, but I've just modified a cheap 9x 5.25" bay PC case, installing backplanes into the bays gives me room for up to 15 3.5" drives or up to 54 2.5" bays (in my case 10 3.5" drives, but with three bays left for expanding.

    Only cost me about $600 before drives, it runs cool, and is practically silent thanks to two 120mm fans (one per backplane) and a 140mm fan as a top exhaust since the unit doesn't have much room for circulation behind it, plus it's much easier to keep clean.

    I dunno, a lot of these units are massive for what they are, and this advatronix one is really ugly; okay so I know aesthetics aren't a big deal, but if I can make a neat looking chassis from a cheap gaming case, a hacksaw and a piece of plastic (for a new back) then you'd think a proper company could do something a bit less obtrusive.
    Reply
  • jjeff1 - Friday, June 06, 2014 - link

    I'm not sure who would want this server. If you have a large SQL database, you definitly need more memory and better reliability. Same thing if you have a large amount of business data.

    Dell, HP or IBM could all provide a better box with much better support options. This HP server supports 18 disk slots, 2 12 core CPUs, and 768GB memory.

    http://www8.hp.com/us/en/products/proliant-servers...
    It'll cost more, no doubt. But if you have a business that's generating TBs of data, you can afford it.
    Reply
  • npz - Friday, June 06, 2014 - link

    That must be for the rack mount form factor because if you look at the tower version specs when you go configure it to buy, it only supports 6 x 3.5" or 8 x 2.5" max.

    Also, businesses that deal with lots of TB of data don't have to be big businesses at all. Many small to tiny businesses and individuals can EASILY generate and/or work with many TBs of data if they deal with multimedia.
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Sunday, June 08, 2014 - link

    If you have a large SQL database, or any SQL database, you wouldn't run it on this box. This is a storage server, not a compute server. Reply
  • Gonemad - Friday, June 06, 2014 - link

    I've seen U server racks on wheels, with a dark glass and keys locking it, but that was just an empty "wardrobe" where you would put your servers. It was small enough to be pushed around, but with enough real estate to hide a keyboard and monitor in there, like a hypervisor KVM solution. On the plus side, if you ever decided to upgrade, just plop your gear on a real rack unit. It felt less cumbersome than that huge metal box you showed there.

    Then again, a server that conforms to a rack shape is needed.
    Reply

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