Intel NUC? Any Experience

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The price point of Intel’s NUC unit makes it attractive to use as a server that doesn’t have significant computational load. In my environment, a USB connected hard-drive could provide all the storage needed. I wonder if anyone has had experience with it, and can answer:

1) Does CentOS6 and/or CentOS7 install from a USB connected optical drive? or a USB flash drive? I’d prefer to do a NetInstall.

If the answer is essentially no, there’s no point in continuing.

2) Is the Ethernet connection supported by NetInstall and the subsequent OS?

3) Is it possible to add an additional NIC for possible use as a home router/gateway? If not internally, then via a USB connected NIC?

Any thoughts on the subject would be appreciated.

David San Francisco

6 thoughts on - Intel NUC? Any Experience

  • I installed CentOS 7 on a pair of NUCs using a PXE server, but I see no reason why a USB DVD wouldn’t be a problem. The onboard wired connection works flawlessly, the wireless is an optional card so it depends what you buy. The Intel wifi card I got worked without hassle.

    USB NICs will be fine, I’ve used the Apple USB2->100Mbps adapters for RHEL 6 and they “just work”. I’ve used the Siig USB3->gbit adapters and they “just work” in Fedora, but needed the drivers installed for EL6
    (didn’t try EL7, I expect they’d just work there).

    I would get the model NUC with 2.5″ drive and go that route, much harder to accidentally known an internal drive out.

  • IMHO, its totally unsuitable as a server, there are many better choices.

    A) there’s no ECC, and servers tend to keep data in memory for a long time. soft bit errors in gigabytes of memory are a more frequent occurance than you might think. With a file server, that corrupt data stands a good chance of ending up back on disk, where it becomes permanent silent data corruption.

    B) a single USB drive is a very poor choice for any sort of server, there’s no redundancy whatsoever. When (not if) that drive croaks, you lose everything.

    something like an HP Microserver is a much better choice for a SOHO
    server. Been running one of the older N40L models here for 2+ years, running FreeNAS, although it certainly can run CentOS. supports 8 or
    16GB ram, with ECC, and has 4 SATA drive bays. Mine has 4x3TB in raidz
    (like raid5) for 7.3TiB total usable storage, I have no trouble reading or writing at near gigE speeds.

    Another good choice would be one of the mini-ITX “Avoton”/”Rangley” Atom C2xxx family of boards (don’t let the ‘Atom’ branding fool you, these are low power high performance server processors). These have 2-4-8
    cores at 1.6-2.4ghz, support ECC RAM up to 32GB, and have 6+ SATA ports and 4 gigE ports onboard. A variety of people make mini-ITX chassis that hold 2-4 disks, and a few with 6-8.

    for a home gateway/router, I would suggest looking into an APU1D4, such as are sold by Netgate. This little 6×6″ board draws less than 10
    watts TOTAL ACTIVE, has 3 GIgE ports and a dual core 1Ghz CPU with 4GB
    ram, it has SD card slot, miniSATA slot (for a SSD), and 2 miniPCI-E
    slots (for expansion boards such as wifi), its fanless (convection cooled via a heat spreader to the aluminum case, and basically rocks.

    I’m using one with pfSense (a freeBSD based firewall distribution) and its very slick. routing tons of connections (bittorrent) to my 30Mbps internet, it uses only 3-5% of its CPU, I’ve been told it can handle AES
    IPSEC vpns up to about 100Mbps, and 400-500Mbps simple NAT routing.

  • At 01:54 PM 1/8/2015, John R Pierce wrote:

    John Thanks for your comments. In the particular application, I used the word “server” only in the sense that GUI is only rarely used, and CPU
    speed isn’t an issue. The data the server holds has other “primary”
    copies elsewhere, so if some corruption or damage occurs, it can be restored within acceptable time. Thus, I am not interested in ECC
    memory or RAID for this situation, although I do appreciate the need for servers with mission-critical data. As a former employee of Tandem Computers, mirroring, backup, check-everything, dual everything is in my blood.


  • Still, John, thanks for your brilliant comments (I bet there are many people for whom they are very instructive), and for pointers to small footprint/ small consumption units, – these are particularly interesting for me!


    Valeri Galtsev Sr System Administrator Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics University of Chicago Phone: 773-702-4247

  • the problem with non-ECC memory is, you never KNOW when data corruption has happened. Making life more complicated, the statistical rate of these soft bit errors varies widely from machine to machine as a significant cause is background radioactivity, and other components of the system such as the chassis materials can contribute to this. I’ve seen numbers ranging from a few errors per century per gigabyte to a few per HOUR per gigabyte. without ECC, you simply don’t know this has happened, unless the flipped bit happens to be in some code in a place and position where it causes the code to crash, or you happen to notice corruption, such as a block decode error while playing a video (which, for formats like mpeg/mp2/mp4 can cause video block glitches for several seconds until a new I-frame restores the whole picture).

    I really wish the PC industry made ECC the norm even for desktop workstations. it only adds 12% to the memory cost (9 bits instead of 8
    bits per byte, or 72 instead of 64 per word), and the memory cost is typically about a 10th of the total system price, such that the cost of ECC would only be 1% or so…. but since ECC is ‘special server only’
    stuff, it costs a premium far above and beyond that 12%.

  • Have EL7 working great on a DN2820FYKH; everything works including remote control. Had to use the Elrepo kernel-ml to get graphics working properly though, also had to update the BIOS to get rid of some bugs. You may not encounter any of the above issues since you are running it headless.