Last weeks i spent some time working on a ‘new’ DNS appliance. DNS is light weight but you must have multiple separate servers for redundancy in multiple locations. Using a power consuming HP DL-360 server would be a serious overkill and running Microsoft Windows Server for DNS only, is a waste of licensing / money / expertise and required hardware. The need for a simple (cheap hardware), easy to manage (web interface), standard (BIND for DNS), flexible (capable of working with Active Directory) and low-power consuming DNS appliance is everywhere.

I’m using one of my many Cobalt RAQ2 machines now. Sun bought Cobalt a few years ago and the whole Cube & Cobalt line of products is EOL (End-Of-Life). There are no new software / fixes supplied by Sun anymore, so i was looking for a new Operating System to run on these machines. I’ve heard of people running FreeBSD or Debian on the Cobalt RAQ2’s.

The Cobalt Cube, RAQ1 and RAQ2 are different than the others (RAQ2, RAQ4, RAQ XTR which work on a Intel x86 CPU) because they carry a RM5231 processor and use the MIPS IV instruction set in little Endian. It is capable of working in 64-bit mode but I’ll probably use it in 32-bit mode because most Operating Systems running on these machines are stable in 32-bit and expirimental on 64-bit mode. The machines consume about 25-30Watt power and can be passive cooled.
More techincal details on the Cobalt RAQ2:

  • System Controller: Galileo GT-64111
  • PCI-ISA Bridge: VIA Technologies VT82C586 (Apollo VP)
  • RAM: Two 72pins EDO slots for 3.3Volt SIMM’s. Minimal 16MB and maximum 128MB RAM per slot, so a maximum of 256MB is possible. The machine will work with only one slot loaded and one empty.
  • Power Supply: I’m trying to get more details on this, like a technical schema, to help people without a spare power supply when it is broken.
  • Network: 10/100Mbit Full Duplex interface. Some have two interfaces. We will try to do adapter teaming for redundancy later.

I had contact with Stuart Longland, a MIPS Gentoo developer with who i get in contact after reading on the Gentoo Forums. Gentoo is an open-source Operating System which can run on a MIPS CPU like in the Cobalt RAQ2. I decided to use Gentoo because of the broad community support for MIPS and specifically Cobalt. Cobalt RAQ2’s are even covered by the Gentoo Linux/MIPS Handbook.

I’ll continue this article here, at this place.

TODO: – Install OS, technical, etc.