96MB Low End VPS Review Part IX – FST Servers

Joe from FST Servers left a comment on one of my previous reviews stating that they would like me to write a review about them. I have never heard about this company before – no reviews, no history, but the fact that they are using Citrix XenServer is something that makes them a really worthy one to be reviewed for.

General Information and Prices

There is really limited information I can find about FST Servers, through the domain checks, their domain is registered to Brendan Fusco in Chicago Illinois and it seems to be where their servers are based as well according to this post on LowEndBox.com. As per this post on Webhostingtalk, they have decent processing power on the hardware nodes, as well as completely dedicated resources with nothing “burstable”.

Prices offered are definitely in the low end of the budget spectrum, especially for XenServer platform, with the lowest priced plan starting at $4 per month (with further discount if you pay annually), which is definitely the cheapest I have seen with Chicago servers using such platform. Their additional IP addresses are also relatively cheap at $1/month per IP address. Furthermore, because of the XenServer platform, you are essentially allowed to load any OS, including Windows 2003 and 2008 (although I would really doubt if 128MB of RAM is capable enough to support a Windows installation).

As the review was requested by FST Servers, the test box was set up without going through the regular sign up process and therefore can not comment on the time taken for the server to set up.

Custom Control Panel

The FST Control Panel is the name for their custom control panel, and is definitely one of the highlights of the review. For most of the XenServer providers, there is no control panel and you practically have to submit a ticket for everything from reloading the OS to recovery console access if clients are unable to access the VPS via the shell.

After login through HTTPs, here is how the control panel looks like:

image

As you can see, everything is on the same screen and is very straight-forward, which is definitely something that will be appealing to many clients.

On the main screen, the VPS could be reset, stopped and started with a click of a button, emergency recovery console is also available. Furthermore, adding reverse DNS can be done with a click of mouse as well.

Contact Support is pretty straight forward as well with four departments for technical support, sales, billing and other.

When clicking on the VPS, there are further configuration options that are available to the VPS:

image

 

From here, you can upgrade VM to a higher plan, as well as reloading OS, changing root password and hostname. It is interesting to note that in order to install CentOS, VM-2 is required (Windows as well, but that is hardly a surprise), since I am not aware that CentOS can’t run on 128MB on VPS.

The upgrade VM option does not allow upgrading according a certain feature of the VPS (i.e., upgrading only the RAM or the hard drive space), instead, you will need to upgrade to the next level of VM plan, making it impossible to create a customized VPS plan, which is perhaps the biggest distinction I can see between FST’s VPSes and those of the trending “cloud” hosts.

For their VM-0 VPS, the following OS templates are available:

image

which basically including the latest versions of Debian and Ubuntu. There is also a PBX in a Flash template, which would be useful for those interested in using the VPS box as a private phone exchange system.

When clicking on the second tab, creating VPS, which is essentially their order page, shows up:

image

It seems that new VPS could be created “within a few minutes” after the payment is submitted, which seems to hint that the provision of VPS is instant. Unfortunately, from what I can see, at this point, credit card seems to be the only payment method, which is perhaps not a very great piece of news to Paypal lovers.

FST Servers also has a detailed documentation about their control panel, which can be found here.

Overall, the custom control panel is pretty good, providing users a very compact but yet powerful interface to control the VPS, however, if CentOS could be permitted for VM-0 or VM-1 packages (at least a minimal template) and more payment gateways could be used, it would be really great.

Tests on the VPS

The test VPS that I have received is their lowest priced plan (VM-0), which include 128MB of RAM, 7GB of hard drive and 500GB per month of bandwidth. When the OS was first loaded up, only 8MB of RAM was used, which is impressive:

Linux 96mb 2.6.32-5-686-bigmem #1 SMP Wed May 18 07:33:52 UTC 2011 i686 GNU/Linux

 df -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/mapper/216-root  6.5G  496M  5.7G   8% /
tmpfs                  61M     0   61M   0% /lib/init/rw
udev                   50M   64K   50M   1% /dev
tmpfs                  61M     0   61M   0% /dev/shm
/dev/xvda1            228M   15M  202M   7% /boot

free -m
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           121         59         62          0          2         47
-/+ buffers/cache:          8        112
Swap:          239          0        239

 

There is only one CPU core offered though, and is locked to 2.0GHz, which limits the processing power of the VPS:

 

 cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor       : 0
vendor_id       : AuthenticAMD
cpu family      : 16
model           : 9
model name      : AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 6128
stepping        : 1
cpu MHz         : 1999.998
cache size      : 512 KB
fdiv_bug        : no
hlt_bug         : no
f00f_bug        : no
coma_bug        : no
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 5
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu de tsc msr pae cx8 cmov pat clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 ht syscall nx mmxext fxsr_opt 3dnowext 3dnow constant_tsc up nonstop_tsc amd_dcm pni popcnt hypervisor cmp_legacy extapic cr8_legacy abm sse4a misalignsse 3dnowprefetch nodeid_msr
bogomips        : 3999.99
clflush size    : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes   : 48 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management: ts ttp tm stc 100mhzsteps hwpstate


Meminfo does not really offer anything fancy:

cat /proc/meminfo
MemTotal:         124352 kB
MemFree:           91564 kB
Buffers:            3284 kB
Cached:            19436 kB
SwapCached:          156 kB
Active:            23288 kB
Inactive:           2560 kB
Active(anon):       1360 kB
Inactive(anon):     1836 kB
Active(file):      21928 kB
Inactive(file):      724 kB
Unevictable:           0 kB
Mlocked:               0 kB
HighTotal:             0 kB
HighFree:              0 kB
LowTotal:         124352 kB
LowFree:           91564 kB
SwapTotal:        245752 kB
SwapFree:         245596 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:          2988 kB
Mapped:             3828 kB
Shmem:                68 kB
Slab:               4796 kB
SReclaimable:       2756 kB
SUnreclaim:         2040 kB
KernelStack:         376 kB
PageTables:          340 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:      307928 kB
Committed_AS:      34284 kB
VmallocTotal:     729080 kB
VmallocUsed:         776 kB
VmallocChunk:     728224 kB
HardwareCorrupted:     0 kB
HugePages_Total:       0
HugePages_Free:        0
HugePages_Rsvd:        0
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB
DirectMap4k:      131072 kB
DirectMap2M:           0 kB


VMStat shows the CPU is pretty light as well:

 vmstat
procs -----------memory---------- ---swap-- -----io---- -system-- ----cpu----
 r  b   swpd   free   buff  cache   si   so    bi    bo   in   cs us sy id wa
 0  0      0  30468   3100  81252    0    0     1     1   10    2  0  0 100  0

 

Inode is set not exactly at a low range, but is somewhat reasonable:

df -i
Filesystem            Inodes   IUsed   IFree IUse% Mounted on
/dev/mapper/216-root  428240   15375  412865    4% /
tmpfs                  15544       4   15540    1% /lib/init/rw
udev                   12677     457   12220    4% /dev
tmpfs                  15544       1   15543    1% /dev/shm
/dev/xvda1            124496     222  124274    1% /boot

 

Even with a full LNMP stack installed, only 26MB of RAM is used, which is really good:

 free -m
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           121        112          8          0          4         82
-/+ buffers/cache:         26         95
Swap:          239          5        234

 

And the output of top with the full LNMP stack:

top - 19:12:48 up 4 days, 23:55,  1 user,  load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
Tasks:  56 total,   1 running,  55 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
Cpu(s):  0.0%us,  0.0%sy,  0.0%ni,100.0%id,  0.0%wa,  0.0%hi,  0.0%si,  0.0%st
Mem:    124352k total,   115368k used,     8984k free,     4244k buffers
Swap:   245752k total,     6056k used,   239696k free,    84264k cached

  PID USER      PR  NI  VIRT  RES  SHR S %CPU %MEM    TIME+  COMMAND
 8028 www       20   0 14508 9776  724 S  0.0  7.9   0:00.45 nginx
 8018 root      20   0 24204 3756 1088 S  0.0  3.0   0:57.48 php-cgi
 8020 www       20   0 24204 3380  748 S  0.0  2.7   0:00.00 php-cgi
 8019 www       20   0 24204 3372  748 S  0.0  2.7   0:00.00 php-cgi
 8023 www       20   0 24204 3364  748 S  0.0  2.7   0:00.00 php-cgi
 8024 www       20   0 24204 3352  748 S  0.0  2.7   0:00.00 php-cgi
 8021 www       20   0 24204 3344  748 S  0.0  2.7   0:00.00 php-cgi
10712 root      20   0  8464 2968 2348 S  0.0  2.4   0:00.27 sshd
21604 mysql     20   0 35100 2240 1136 S  0.0  1.8   0:00.02 mysqld
10716 root      20   0  4496 1724 1388 S  0.0  1.4   0:00.03 bash
10852 root      20   0  2336 1104  880 R  0.0  0.9   0:00.01 top
  529 root      20   0 27408 1040  788 S  0.0  0.8   0:00.34 rsyslogd
 8026 root      20   0  4696  612  248 S  0.0  0.5   0:00.00 nginx
  575 root      20   0  5496  512  396 S  0.0  0.4   0:00.45 sshd
    1 root      20   0  2036  468  440 S  0.0  0.4   0:04.16 init
  566 root      20   0  3788  432  384 S  0.0  0.3   0:00.46 cron
  592 root      20   0  1708  412  408 S  0.0  0.3   0:00.00 getty

 

However, the surprises did not stop there, when I did a disk I/O test, I was literally astonished by the I/O speed:

dd if=/dev/zero of=test bs=64k count=16k conv=fdatasync
16384+0 records in
16384+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 9.60772 s, 112 MB/s


And I did it one more time just to make sure I was not just being lucky:

dd if=/dev/zero of=test bs=64k count=16k conv=fdatasync
16384+0 records in
16384+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 9.61134 s, 112 MB/s

This is definitely one of the best, if not the best, disk I/O that I have witnessed.

I have done quite a bit of research about their VPS offerings, however one thing that I could not find is their port speed. Nonetheless, the wget results using Cachefly seems to indicate that they are on Gbit port:

wget http://cachefly.cachefly.net/100mb.test
--2011-06-17 13:27:44--  http://cachefly.cachefly.net/100mb.test
Resolving cachefly.cachefly.net... 205.234.175.175
Connecting to cachefly.cachefly.net|205.234.175.175|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 104857600 (100M) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: â100mb.testâ

100%[======================================>] 104,857,600 23.9M/s   in 4.8s

2011-06-17 13:27:49 (20.9 MB/s) - â100mb.testâ

Upload speed from the test VPS, although not surprisingly impressive, are definitely pretty good:

First one is the BuyVM VPS from Fremont, CA:

wget 216.231.132.67/100mb.test
--2011-06-17 05:15:08--  http://216.231.132.67/100mb.test
Connecting to 216.231.132.67:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 104857600 (100M) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: `100mb.test'

100%[======================================>] 104,857,600 1.49M/s   in 80s

2011-06-17 05:16:28 (1.25 MB/s) - `100mb.test' saved [104857600/104857600]


Next is Nix Communication VPS from Montreal, Canada, which is perhaps the closest to Chicago among the tests I did:

wget 216.231.132.67/100mb.test
--2011-06-17 05:18:32--  http://216.231.132.67/100mb.test
Connecting to 216.231.132.67:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 104857600 (100M) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: `100mb.test'

100%[======================================>] 104,857,600 6.87M/s   in 17s

2011-06-17 05:18:49 (5.93 MB/s) - `100mb.test' saved [104857600/104857600]

And finally Quickweb VPS from London, UK, which, surprisingly, was not all that lagging behind:

 wget 216.231.132.67/100mb.test
--2011-06-17 05:19:38--  http://216.231.132.67/100mb.test
Connecting to 216.231.132.67:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 104857600 (100M) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: `100mb.test'

100%[======================================>] 104,857,600 5.53M/s   in 18s

2011-06-17 05:19:56 (5.62 MB/s) - `100mb.test' saved [104857600/104857600]

Finally the UnixBench results and the GeekBench results, which unfortunately is not that remarkable, perhaps due to the fact that only single core is available:

   #    #  #    #  #  #    #          #####   ######  #    #   ####   #    #
   #    #  ##   #  #   #  #           #    #  #       ##   #  #    #  #    #
   #    #  # #  #  #    ##            #####   #####   # #  #  #       ######
   #    #  #  # #  #    ##            #    #  #       #  # #  #       #    #
   #    #  #   ##  #   #  #           #    #  #       #   ##  #    #  #    #
    ####   #    #  #  #    #          #####   ######  #    #   ####   #    #

   Version 5.1.3                      Based on the Byte Magazine Unix Benchmark

   Multi-CPU version                  Version 5 revisions by Ian Smith,
                                      Sunnyvale, CA, USA
   January 13, 2011                   johantheghost at yahoo period com

1 x Dhrystone 2 using register variables  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1 x Double-Precision Whetstone  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1 x Execl Throughput  1 2 3

1 x File Copy 1024 bufsize 2000 maxblocks  1 2 3

1 x File Copy 256 bufsize 500 maxblocks  1 2 3

1 x File Copy 4096 bufsize 8000 maxblocks  1 2 3

1 x Pipe Throughput  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1 x Pipe-based Context Switching  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1 x Process Creation  1 2 3

1 x System Call Overhead  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1 x Shell Scripts (1 concurrent)  1 2 3

1 x Shell Scripts (8 concurrent)  1 2 3

========================================================================
   BYTE UNIX Benchmarks (Version 5.1.3)

   System: 96mb: GNU/Linux
   OS: GNU/Linux -- 2.6.32-5-686-bigmem -- #1 SMP Wed May 18 07:33:52 UTC 2011
   Machine: i686 (unknown)
   Language: en_US.utf8 (charmap="UTF-8", collate="UTF-8")
   CPU 0: AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 6128 (4000.0 bogomips)
          Hyper-Threading, MMX, AMD MMX, Physical Address Ext, SYSCALL/SYSRET
   19:25:13 up 5 days, 8 min,  1 user,  load average: 0.16, 0.03, 0.01; runlevel                                                                                                                                                              2

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Benchmark Run: Mon Jun 20 2011 19:25:13 - 19:53:09
1 CPU in system; running 1 parallel copy of tests

Dhrystone 2 using register variables        8842764.1 lps   (10.0 s, 7 samples)
Double-Precision Whetstone                     1526.5 MWIPS (10.0 s, 7 samples)
Execl Throughput                               1623.3 lps   (29.9 s, 2 samples)
File Copy 1024 bufsize 2000 maxblocks        299978.0 KBps  (30.0 s, 2 samples)
File Copy 256 bufsize 500 maxblocks           85266.5 KBps  (30.0 s, 2 samples)
File Copy 4096 bufsize 8000 maxblocks        601062.9 KBps  (30.0 s, 2 samples)
Pipe Throughput                              565178.6 lps   (10.0 s, 7 samples)
Pipe-based Context Switching                  61785.9 lps   (10.0 s, 7 samples)
Process Creation                               2761.1 lps   (30.0 s, 2 samples)
Shell Scripts (1 concurrent)                   2700.8 lpm   (60.0 s, 2 samples)
Shell Scripts (8 concurrent)                    348.6 lpm   (60.1 s, 2 samples)
System Call Overhead                         674854.4 lps   (10.0 s, 7 samples)

System Benchmarks Index Values               BASELINE       RESULT    INDEX
Dhrystone 2 using register variables         116700.0    8842764.1    757.7
Double-Precision Whetstone                       55.0       1526.5    277.6
Execl Throughput                                 43.0       1623.3    377.5
File Copy 1024 bufsize 2000 maxblocks          3960.0     299978.0    757.5
File Copy 256 bufsize 500 maxblocks            1655.0      85266.5    515.2
File Copy 4096 bufsize 8000 maxblocks          5800.0     601062.9   1036.3
Pipe Throughput                               12440.0     565178.6    454.3
Pipe-based Context Switching                   4000.0      61785.9    154.5
Process Creation                                126.0       2761.1    219.1
Shell Scripts (1 concurrent)                     42.4       2700.8    637.0
Shell Scripts (8 concurrent)                      6.0        348.6    581.0
System Call Overhead                          15000.0     674854.4    449.9
                                                                   ========
System Benchmarks Index Score                                         456.6

 

GeekBench results is above average, which suggested really good performance otherwise:

Geekbench 2.1.13 : http://www.primatelabs.ca/geekbench/

Geekbench is in tryout mode.

Your copy of Geekbench is in tryout mode.  If you like Geekbench, please
purchase it so we can continue to make Geekbench awesome.  You can
purchase Geekbench online at:

http://store.primatelabs.ca/

If you've already purchased Geekbench, enter your license information
with the following command line:

        dist/Geekbench21-Linux/geekbench_x86_32 -r  

System Information
  Platform:                  Linux x86 (32-bit)
  Compiler:                  GCC 4.1.2 20070925 (Red Hat 4.1.2-33)
  Operating System:          Linux 2.6.32-5-686-bigmem i686
  Model:                     Linux PC (AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 6128)
  Motherboard:               Unknown Motherboard
  Processor:                 AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 6128
  Processor ID:              AuthenticAMD Family 16 Model 9 Stepping 1
  Logical Processors:        1
  Physical Processors:       1
  Processor Frequency:       2.00 GHz
  L1 Instruction Cache:      64.0 KB
  L1 Data Cache:             64.0 KB
  L2 Cache:                  512 KB
  L3 Cache:                  10.00 MB
  Bus Frequency:             0.00 Hz
  Memory:                    121 MB
  Memory Type:               N/A
  SIMD:                      1
  BIOS:                      N/A
  Processor Model:           AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 6128
  Processor Cores:           1

Integer
  Blowfish
    single-threaded scalar    1443 |||||
    multi-threaded scalar     1553 ||||||
  Text Compress
    single-threaded scalar    1541 ||||||
    multi-threaded scalar     1493 |||||
  Text Decompress
    single-threaded scalar    1539 ||||||
    multi-threaded scalar     1578 ||||||
  Image Compress
    single-threaded scalar    1253 |||||
    multi-threaded scalar     1229 ||||
  Image Decompress
    single-threaded scalar    1009 ||||
    multi-threaded scalar     1035 ||||
  Lua
    single-threaded scalar    2174 ||||||||
    multi-threaded scalar     2214 ||||||||

Floating Point
  Mandelbrot
    single-threaded scalar    1416 |||||
    multi-threaded scalar     1438 |||||
  Dot Product
    single-threaded scalar    2056 ||||||||
    multi-threaded scalar     2178 ||||||||
    single-threaded vector    1929 |||||||
    multi-threaded vector     2220 ||||||||
  LU Decomposition
    single-threaded scalar    1698 ||||||
    multi-threaded scalar     1730 ||||||
  Primality Test
    single-threaded scalar    1942 |||||||
    multi-threaded scalar     1556 ||||||
  Sharpen Image
    single-threaded scalar    5219 ||||||||||||||||||||
    multi-threaded scalar     5305 |||||||||||||||||||||
  Blur Image
    single-threaded scalar    5694 ||||||||||||||||||||||
    multi-threaded scalar     5718 ||||||||||||||||||||||

Memory
  Read Sequential
    single-threaded scalar    1915 |||||||
  Write Sequential
    single-threaded scalar    2836 |||||||||||
  Stdlib Allocate
    single-threaded scalar    2122 ||||||||
  Stdlib Write
    single-threaded scalar    1235 ||||
  Stdlib Copy
    single-threaded scalar    1778 |||||||

Stream
  Stream Copy
    single-threaded scalar    1963 |||||||
    single-threaded vector    2193 ||||||||
  Stream Scale
    single-threaded scalar    1984 |||||||
    single-threaded vector    2125 ||||||||
  Stream Add
    single-threaded scalar    1790 |||||||
    single-threaded vector    1993 |||||||
  Stream Triad
    single-threaded scalar    1929 |||||||
    single-threaded vector    1479 |||||

Integer Score:                1505 ||||||
Floating Point Score:         2864 |||||||||||
Memory Score:                 1977 |||||||
Stream Score:                 1932 |||||||

Overall Geekbench Score:      2117 ||||||||

 

In conclusion, other than the processing power,  this VPS box offers impressive disk I/O and network speed, however, for $4/month, there is really not a lot more you can ask for.

Support and Customer Services

I have to confess that I had a hard time to send a ticket in to see how well FST Servers responds, because basically everything was in the control panel. However, when I finally did, the question was responded in 13 minutes (question submitted at 5:03PM, response received at 5:16PM) with a very detailed description and the link to the documentation page containing relevant information.

Conclusion

Low prices, compact but useful custom control panel, fast disk I/O and network speed, and fast ticket response are a few great things that worth giving this box a try. Granted it is not the most powerful box that ever listed on 96MB review and adding a little more power to the processors would perhaps be better (and I am having a hard time comprehending why CentOS could not run on a 128MB box), but for merely 4USD per month, this service definitely worth every single cent that is paid for.

3 thoughts on “96MB Low End VPS Review Part IX – FST Servers

  1. Nice Review,

    It is nice to see some providers with a custom control panel this seems to be getting more popular these days.

    Note on the CentOS only being available on the 256mb+ packages I would assume this is because YUM has a hard time with anything less that 256mb.

    That said with enough SWAP which you seem to have according to ‘top’ it usually manages ok.

    As you said for $4 it does pretty well by the look of it, although budget providers seem to be getting a hard press these days the fact that an effort has been made to create their own CP shows a good amount of effort has been made with the back end infrastructure services so although I have never heard of them either they are probably going to be a good company :) +1

    • @Anthony: I do think it is a great idea to create a custom control panel, especially for Xen server, which I am not sure if SolusVM does support it fully yet. Therefore, it definitely make sense for them to implement their own custom control panel instead of receiving 20 tickets a day on rebooting/reloading OS. CentOS seems to be a memory hogger from what I can see, so may be restricting it to higher plans does make sense. Good company you have as well and I sincerely hope all the great VPS providers will be around for a long long time :)

  2. Pingback: FST Servers – $4/Month 512MB Xen VPS in Chicago – Low End Box

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