When we think of web servers, one picture comes into our mind. Rows and rows of computers connected by miles of cables taking the space of a whole room.
Data center where servers are stored.
Thin rack servers from Dell.
These big servers run the Internet, sending out terabytes of data everyday. They can handle huge amounts of traffic without a problem, and store a large amount of data. Then we have smaller servers for small businesses. These are usually normal PC set up to run a web server or a file server so their clients can easily access the company’s data. Some people might even have small servers at home that serve files on a local network. These are usually network storage devices.
There are however some very interesting servers that most people don’t even know they exist. True, they may not be able to handle large amounts of traffic, but their size do speak volumes about their capabilities. Today I’m going to show you some of the world’s smallest servers. One of them even run on potatoes.
PICNIC got its name because it’s essentially a PIC (programmable integrated circuit) connected to a NIC (network interface card).
PICNIC is a very small and simple server that serves HTTP pages. HTML pages are stored on the PIC itself. When a request for the page is made, the PIC fetches the page from it’s program memory and transmit it through the NIC to the network. Complete documentation here.
Probably the world’s smallest web server.
webACE “server farm”.
The size of webACE is really tiny. It contains a Fairchild ACE1101MT8 micro controller programmed as a Web server and containing two tiny web pages in its on-chip memory. However, this server requires a host to connect it to the Internet. A 57.6Kbps SLIP line connects the webACE server to a Linux host, which serves as a bridge between SLIP and an ethernet LAN. The LAN then connects via a NAT firewall and cable modem to the Internet. Complete documentation here.
WWWpic2 server built on a breadboard.
Similar to webACE, WWWpic2 uses SLIPS as well. This server is based on the highly popular 16F84 that many PIC enthusiasts are very familiar with. Can be built with simple and easy to find parts. Complete documentation here.
Potato powered web server.
And you thought potatoes are good for powering clocks only. This is probably the only web server in the world that is vegetable powered. The potatoes need changing every few days though when the server shuts down because the potatoes run out of juice. And it is extremely slow. It can take only 0.2 hits per second. Or it takes roughly 5 seconds to process one request. Not too bad for something that runs on potatoes. Potatoes usually last 14 days. Complete documentation here.
Above are just some of the strangest servers that ever existed. They are not operational anymore. Their use were also severely limited due to the lack of storage, very slow processing and the lack of a proper filesystem and dynamic content generation (php, asp). However, it is very interesting to see people cramming a whole web server onto a piece of silicone no bigger than your thumbnail. Continue reading