Discussion Lenovo M720 Tiny and M920 Tiny can support a 4 port NIC for firewall duties

Parallax

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jun 3, 2020
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Hi, I'm interested in very small, low power consumption units for use as a firewall. I wanted more CPU than was available from Qotom et al boxes.

Some digging led me to the somewhat surprising pre-packaged option which is the Lenovo M720 or M920 Tiny, some of which which have an unusual/proprietary PCIE-like slot which requires a special riser (part number FRU01AJ929, there are others) which then will present a standard PCIE 8x connector which allows the addition of a NIC card, looks like a 1 port (00FC879) or 4 port I350-T4. Note that once you knock out the cover at the back of the Tiny you'll find that standard PCI card brackets don't fit and even most of the Lenovo spare part NICs won't fit either, so you will need a Dremel (other brands are available) to carve it up a bit or take off the bracket. The Tiny is also, um, small so you will need a pretty short card and you will need to remove/forgo the 2.5" drive.

Some earlier models, like the M910, may also support this riser. Note that the M715 specifically does not, according to the person I spoke to at Lenovo. The riser is not cheap (£40-50 in the UK) and is hard to find, and the 4 port card is not cheap either ($399 RRP).

You can also buy the M720 and M920 pre-configured with the TX4 card, and this probably makes a lot of sense given how hard the parts are to find, and Lenovo's generous financing and fairly frequent sales. Because nothing is simple, however, bear in mind that this configuration appears to be only available in Australia, Canada, and the US. I am in the UK.

I'll leave this information here in case it's of use to someone - more is available on the Lenovo forums. I already have an M75q-1 Tiny for general Docker duties I bought off eBay, and it's excellent for that purpose.
 

Arboreal

King of Cable Management
Silver Supporter
Oct 11, 2015
815
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They do look good, I tried to buy a used Haswell Tiny, but it failed pre sale testing ?
 
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Parallax

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jun 3, 2020
24
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Nice setup Phuncz.

I think the GPU variants (the M920x, for example) are the same - they have a PCIe x4 slot (sorry, above I said x8 and I think that's only electrically true) on a riser card and then an innovative heatpipe system that extends to the card to keep it cool. So if you get one cheap you may be able to put the 4 port NIC card in instead if that better suits your requirements.

I read on a Japanese Tiny site that if you replace the standard 65W power brick with the uprated one intended for the M920x and others - 130W I think? - you can get around a 100% performance increase in some areas.

Arboreal, sorry to hear that. There are quite a lot on eBay at the moment so you should have your chance - and remember you can always buy a Pentium variant and swap the CPU, to something like the Xeon 1268L v3, 1265L v3 or 1275L v3 which generate pretty decent performance if your workloads are multi-threaded (the 1268L will get 5401 in Passmark). The Haswell Tinys will also operate as a Hackintosh, without very much fiddling. You can even run Proxmox and have the MacOS as a VM, I believe, with some judicious passthroughs. Fun little (ha!) project.

My M75q-1's Ryzen 3400GE gets a Passmark of 8246, which is superb for this size of device - more than an i5-8500T. At the moment it's running my home Elasticsearch and Greylog instances in 16GB of RAM, with a 256GB NVME and a 500GB Samsung SSD.
 

Parallax

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jun 3, 2020
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51
I have an update. After some research I'm buying a Lenovo M720q Tiny with an i5-8400T CPU from a corporate disposal on eBay. I have ordered via Superbuy the following Taobao item : https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=612099329056 which is the requisite PCIe riser card and the special Tiny PCIe baffle/bracket which I'll use with a generic Intel i350 T4 four port LAN card. My aim is to assemble a Tiny-based OPNsense firewall to replace my current Topton small i5 8250 I got off AliExpress, which works well but has only two Realtek LAN ports and I would prefer four Intel ones. I have a slight concern based on what I read that there may be a BIOS whitelist on the Tiny which restricts me from using non-Lenovo LAN cards, but I'll see when it all arrives.

If there's any interest here I will post an update after everything has arrived and been assembled, because I've not found any write-ups detailing success with this configuration anywhere, and no photos either.
 

Phuncz

Lord of the Boards
SFFn Staff
May 9, 2015
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Awesome solution ! Be sure to report back when you have the item installed !
I almost bought an M720q this week and then realised I already have plenty of computers...
 

chx

Master of Cramming
May 18, 2016
553
282
Note https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/i-figured-out-how-to-get-10gbe-from-an-m-2-port.14511 this thread, it can easily be relevant especially if you 3D print a tiny enclosure for the HP 1QL49AA module. If you have an x4 slot, Aliexpress 4000934459217 is a tiny, tiny x4 to OCuLink card.

If your slot is x8 then note the Ceacent ANOL4PE08 card which has its own PLX PCie switch and yet it's only 65 USD and gives you four OCuLink connectors. From there you can add M.2 disks and the above mentioned HP device.

Also note https://shop.udoo.org/m-2-dual-ethernet-module-kit.html and https://www.recabuk.com/peripherals/m-2/m-2-ethernet-devices/
 
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Parallax

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jun 3, 2020
24
51
Just for reference, as mentioned elsewhere here I've bought an M920q Tiny and replaced the Pentium Gold it had with a retail i9 9900T (8C/16T - Passmark about 17,000) which I also sourced through Taobao via Superbuy for ~$370 including shipping. It's quite a beast and meets my need for a compact VM host.
 
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