a month ago
Low Power UCRM Setup - Atom Based MiniPC
Used Products
×1
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Location
Santa Verónica, Atlántico, Colombia
Description

We’re a small WISP in the northern coast of Colombia, covering some of the rural coastline between Barranquilla and Cartagena.

There’s little to no internet access here from any operator, aside from a slow cellular connection that’s usually saturated. Since the market here is so small, with 500 or less customers across 40 km, they have chosen not to deliver affordable internet access in our area.

 

So, that led us to start creating our own WISP to serve the community. We chose to use airMAX and UCRM due to their price, features, support and value. It especially helps that UCRM is free! But we ran into a problem: our electrical infrastructure is not very good and is prone to surges and brownouts too.

 

Power trouble

We were most concerned about damage to our UCRM server during power fluctuations. Buying an expensive UPS was out of the question, so we needed to find a low-power way to support our UCRM. This would let us use a cheaper UPS that we could afford for our mini data centre.

 

Why waste a computer that consumes +200 W of power per hour, when we can do the same thing with one that uses only 12 W? The UCRM software is efficient enough to operate well on this low power machine, so it was up to us to make it happen from the hardware side.

 

Our network

We needed to provide 240 degrees of network coverage, so we used two LiteBeam AC 120-degree APs in bridge mode. These each consume 6 W and are connected to a PoE ERX-X-SFP that also consumes 12 W. The router that our telco partner put in needed 25 W plus the 12W MiniPC, bringing our total to 61 Watts. If we can stay within 100 W total for this site, we can use a much cheaper UPS with an auto transfer-switch function and keep our equipment safe!

 

IMG-20180122-WA0031.jpgBase Station

 I first tried to use a low-power ARM processor-based machine, but I found out UCRM is compiled for x86 only. Back to the drawing board! Luckily, I found a solution. The x86-based machine I found, the Wintel Pro, was rated for 12 W of power consumption and was a small, compact unit as well.

 

It has an Intel Atom processor, 2 GB of RAM and a 30 GB hard disk – perfect for the requirements of UCRM, which ends up accounting for less than 7 GB in total, including the OS itself. I installed Debian from a USB drive and then UCRM with no issues at all with installing. Having a solid state drive, I also used 2 GB for SWAP.

 

20180619_224024.jpg20180619_224147.jpg

 

Performance

The performance of UCRM on this Atom-based PC is excellent. It’s proven to be very stable and functional, with the CPU being almost 100% free and with RAM consumption typically below 1 GB. The hard disk also looks to have more than enough space to run for 10 years of logs, user data and reports at its current rate.

 

The lower power usage of this setup makes it ideal for places like mine with old electrical infrastructure as well as for solar sites where the power budget is limited. UCRM works great!

 

Captura.PNG

Low Power UCRM Setup - Atom Based MiniPC

by a month ago - last edited a month ago

We’re a small WISP in the northern coast of Colombia, covering some of the rural coastline between Barranquilla and Cartagena.

There’s little to no internet access here from any operator, aside from a slow cellular connection that’s usually saturated. Since the market here is so small, with 500 or less customers across 40 km, they have chosen not to deliver affordable internet access in our area.

 

So, that led us to start creating our own WISP to serve the community. We chose to use airMAX and UCRM due to their price, features, support and value. It especially helps that UCRM is free! But we ran into a problem: our electrical infrastructure is not very good and is prone to surges and brownouts too.

 

Power trouble

We were most concerned about damage to our UCRM server during power fluctuations. Buying an expensive UPS was out of the question, so we needed to find a low-power way to support our UCRM. This would let us use a cheaper UPS that we could afford for our mini data centre.

 

Why waste a computer that consumes +200 W of power per hour, when we can do the same thing with one that uses only 12 W? The UCRM software is efficient enough to operate well on this low power machine, so it was up to us to make it happen from the hardware side.

 

Our network

We needed to provide 240 degrees of network coverage, so we used two LiteBeam AC 120-degree APs in bridge mode. These each consume 6 W and are connected to a PoE ERX-X-SFP that also consumes 12 W. The router that our telco partner put in needed 25 W plus the 12W MiniPC, bringing our total to 61 Watts. If we can stay within 100 W total for this site, we can use a much cheaper UPS with an auto transfer-switch function and keep our equipment safe!

 

IMG-20180122-WA0031.jpgBase Station

 I first tried to use a low-power ARM processor-based machine, but I found out UCRM is compiled for x86 only. Back to the drawing board! Luckily, I found a solution. The x86-based machine I found, the Wintel Pro, was rated for 12 W of power consumption and was a small, compact unit as well.

 

It has an Intel Atom processor, 2 GB of RAM and a 30 GB hard disk – perfect for the requirements of UCRM, which ends up accounting for less than 7 GB in total, including the OS itself. I installed Debian from a USB drive and then UCRM with no issues at all with installing. Having a solid state drive, I also used 2 GB for SWAP.

 

20180619_224024.jpg20180619_224147.jpg

 

Performance

The performance of UCRM on this Atom-based PC is excellent. It’s proven to be very stable and functional, with the CPU being almost 100% free and with RAM consumption typically below 1 GB. The hard disk also looks to have more than enough space to run for 10 years of logs, user data and reports at its current rate.

 

The lower power usage of this setup makes it ideal for places like mine with old electrical infrastructure as well as for solar sites where the power budget is limited. UCRM works great!

 

Captura.PNG

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Comments
by Ubiquiti Employee
a month ago

Love it! Nice low power setup and glad to see UCRM in action.

by
a month ago

Looks great!

 have a question though: I see solar panels on the roof of the structure in the image of your AP.  I'm wondering why you don't just run the system DC - off batteries that can be supplied with power from the Solar AND/OR a charge circuit from your grid?

by
a month ago - last edited a month ago

That is a great question @Warren_Woolsey

You have a very sharp eye for detail!

 

The panels have been there for some 5 years and they work like a charm. We did some experiments with clean energy (given the power problems) in order to power the entire house with an 5 Kw inverter and a set of 12 batteries. It did work very well at first but quickly degraded. After a year of being clean we ended up with a buch of damaged gear and a lot of worn batteries, which hardly made it to 200 cycles.

 

We keep the solar part of that system with a grid-tie inverter and inject some 5 Kilowatts/day of power back to the grid to lower our electric bill. We considered the possibility of a full solar operation on the equation for our base station, but we concluded it was more expensive, given that our days are not always sunny and 3 dark days in a row will effectively drain the batteries, which would eventually require grid redundancy or a bigger set of panels/batteries. The advantage in our scenario is that we only keep 1 backup battery, where as in full solar we would need at least 5 to account for possible dark days.

 

Since we are injecting... (in a way) the energy is being solar.
We do have a full solar repeater site running, but with only 17 watts.

 

Perhaps we are overlooking other possible scenarios. Have you had any success with solar sustaining a constant 60 watt load? did it go well?.

 

Best

Pedro