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First Attempt at a Home Server

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I've been reading this sub-forum for a long while trying to learn what I can about building a home server. I figured it is about time to ask for some advice concerning the overall build.




Let me start out by stating what this server will be doing:
  • Automated backup for 4 computers
  • Storage and streaming of media files
  • Automated downloading (+Sabnzbd, Sickbeard, Couchpotato, etc)
  • Print Server
  • Small Ventrilo/Mumble Server
  • Remote access to server files
  • Security Camera DVR (at some point)

I am not married to any of these part choices. My emphasis is on low power consumption and noise level. I opted for full ATX for future expandability. I also figured that the stock cooler would be perfectly fine for my needs. Since the WD Reds weren't that much more than the WD Greens I also decided to go with a couple of those (for now.) Any critiques or advice about my build configuration are certainly welcome.

I don't have any experience with running any sort of server, but I do have access to Windows Server 2012 and Windows Home Server 2011. Spending time to learn new things doesn't really bother me, but do you see a reason for me to even bother with Windows Server 2012 even if it was free for me? Is it just too overkill for my needs?

Would it be better to have the server handle any transcoding of media files or should I allow the client device to perform that action? I am mostly thinking of my future htpc/steambox which will have significantly higher specs. I ask this because it is my understanding that a beefier processor would be needed for server-side transcoding.
Edited by Solarin - 2/22/13 at 10:57pm
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post #2 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Solarin View Post

I've been reading this sub-forum for a long while trying to learn what I can about building a home server. I figured it is about time to ask for some advice concerning the overall build.




Let me start out by stating what this server will be doing:
  • Automated backup for 4 computers
  • Storage and streaming of media files
  • Automated downloading (+Sabnzbd, Sickbeard, Couchpotato, etc)
  • Print Server
  • Small Ventrilo/Mumble Server
  • Remote access to server files
  • Security Camera DVR (at some point)

I am not married to any of these part choices. My emphasis is on low power consumption and noise level. I opted for full ATX for future expandability. I also figured that the stock cooler would be perfectly fine for my needs. Since the WD Reds weren't that much more than the WD Greens I also decided to go with a couple of those (for now.) Any critiques or advice about my build configuration are certainly welcome.

I don't have any experience with running any sort of server, but I do have access to Windows Server 2012 and Windows Home Server 2011. Spending time to learn new things doesn't really bother me, but do you see a reason for me to even bother with Windows Server 2012 even if it was free for me? Is it just too overkill for my needs?

Would it be better to have the server handle any transcoding of media files or should I allow the client device to perform that action? I am mostly thinking of my future htpc/steambox which will have significantly higher specs. I ask this because it is my understanding that a beefier processor would be needed for server-side transcoding.

Transcoding would be done on this server if you had DLNA software on it (i.e. Plex, SubSonic, Serviio, etc).

I say go with Windows Server 2012 Essentials if you have access to it, as it will make a lot of things simple for you (such as your backups and storage). Then again, I am a big fan of virtualization and Hyper-V is not available on Essentials. Consider running Server 2012 Standard, and running an Essentials VM on top of that for your storage/remote access needs. Another VM for your Usenet stuff (SAB, SB, CP HP, etc), another Vm for your DLNA software and/or Mumble-Server (I run a Ubuntu VM for this, more lightweight), etc.

That's what I recommend. FYI, I don't have access to see your document on your GDrive.
post #3 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Solarin View Post

  • Automated backup for 4 computers
  • Storage and streaming of media files
  • Automated downloading (+Sabnzbd, Sickbeard, Couchpotato, etc)
  • Print Server
  • Small Ventrilo/Mumble Server
  • Remote access to server files
  • Security Camera DVR (at some point)

How about ESXi with stuff on top?

Granted it's been a while since I admin'd any Windows server boxes, but these days I use linux exclusively for server duties - given that you said you'd like to learn something new, perhaps you could run a linux VM on top of ESXi, then if any of your requirements absolutely needed Windows (I can't see why though) you could run a windows server as well.

I would never install another server bare metal, even if I wasn't planning multiple VMs, because you never know and once you've put it on the bare metal that's it. Also, if you need to migrate it in future to different hardware it's much better if it's inside a VM.
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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tycoonbob View Post

Transcoding would be done on this server if you had DLNA software on it (i.e. Plex, SubSonic, Serviio, etc).

I say go with Windows Server 2012 Essentials if you have access to it, as it will make a lot of things simple for you (such as your backups and storage). Then again, I am a big fan of virtualization and Hyper-V is not available on Essentials. Consider running Server 2012 Standard, and running an Essentials VM on top of that for your storage/remote access needs. Another VM for your Usenet stuff (SAB, SB, CP HP, etc), another Vm for your DLNA software and/or Mumble-Server (I run a Ubuntu VM for this, more lightweight), etc.

That's what I recommend. FYI, I don't have access to see your document on your GDrive.

Thank you for letting me know the google doc wasn't public. I knew I forgot to do something. tongue.gif

I do have access to standard (even data center) Windows Server 2012 through my graduate school.
Quote:
How about ESXi with stuff on top?

Granted it's been a while since I admin'd any Windows server boxes, but these days I use linux exclusively for server duties - given that you said you'd like to learn something new, perhaps you could run a linux VM on top of ESXi, then if any of your requirements absolutely needed Windows (I can't see why though) you could run a windows server as well.

I would never install another server bare metal, even if I wasn't planning multiple VMs, because you never know and once you've put it on the bare metal that's it. Also, if you need to migrate it in future to different hardware it's much better if it's inside a VM.

I notice you both made mention to VMs. They seem a little daunting to me, but I constantly see mention of them throughout these forums. I am certainly not opposed to any efficient method of server administration, but I am somewhat clueless as to their true nature or purpose. Are there any good sources of information that a complete novice like me could start with? Most places I've started looking at assume some level of knowledge I do not have.

Learning to have control over my server is more important to me in the long run over having complete automation (and subsequently having no idea what is really happening.) Obviously, in the beginning I would need some help with automation just to get things working. From what both of you have said, I can essentially run any OS I want in a VM? So, for example, I should start with something like ESXi and then get my feet wet with Windows Server in a VM?
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post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Solarin View Post

you both made mention to VMs. They seem a little daunting to me
...
I can essentially run any OS I want in a VM? So, for example, I should start with something like ESXi and then get my feet wet with Windows Server in a VM?

Yes.

Ref the build, The main thing you want out of the hardware to run VMs is the intel VT-x extensions, which as you can see at http://ark.intel.com/products/65693/Intel-Core-i3-3220-Processor-3M-Cache-3_30-GHz your suggested CPU does have. These extensions basically allow VMs to run separately in secure, individual "sandboxes" on the CPU.

Now given that this box is for storage, it would be _nice_ (but is not essential) if you moved up to something that also has VT-d. What that does is lets you pass through hardware directly to a particular VM, so if for example, you wanted to run RAID in a VM, you could pass through the drives so that VM saw them just as if they were directly attached to it's "hardware". Without VT-d, what you'd do is create a separate virtual storage device for each drive, then pass those devices through to the VM which would RAID them together. That would add an additional layer that reduces performance. So VT-d is by no means essential for a storage box, but it's nice to have if you can stretch to a processor that has it (I'm not sure which is the lowest cost one that does, you'd have to check the intel site).

ESXi is the free version of VMWare (it was renamed to Vsphere, but I am in the habit of calling it ESXi, so they mean the same thing). Here's the main page for it: http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere-hypervisor/overview.html it's completely free but you do have to register to download it.

Basically, ESXi is just a smallish OS which you'll hear referred to as a "hypervisor". You can either install it on one of the main drives in the system, or, what I'd advise (what I do) is to install it to a small USB stick - it only needs 2GB to 4GB. Once it's booted, it basically runs from RAM and doesn't write anything to the USB stick very often so there's no performance hit from doing that, and it means the drives are purely for the VMs.

So once you've installed the hypervisor, you then install the client application that you use to manage it on your desktop, connect to your new server, and you get a view like this:

http://vninja.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Deploy-vMA-01.png

You can then create as many VMs as you want, of whatever different OSs, and manage them all through the management client. You can allocate each machine as much CPU, RAM and storage as you want, and they can be dynamically allocated (ie. you can overprovision, so say you have 8GB of ram in the box, and you give 4 different VMs 4GB each, as long as they don't all use it at once, that's fine - you can have VM1 using 4GB and VMs 2,3 and 4 all using only 1GB and you're still OK) - the same of course goes for memory and CPU resources.

You can also do all the same sort of stuff with the networking resources, so you can create vswitches (virtual switches) and put virtual network cards in the virtual machines and connect them to whatever virtual (or real) networks you want. In the simple case of a VM that's connecting to the same LAN as the ESXi server itself, you'd just add a vnic (virtual network card) to the VM that connects to the LAN and that's it done.

To install a new VM, you can either use a CD/DVD in your management machine, or an iso image, you then just tell it you want to create a new VM and follow the steps to tell it how much memory, disk and so on to allocate, then you get (through the vsphere management client) a console window that shows you the "screen" of the VM and you go through the installation just as you would on a real machine.

Once you've got your VMs on there, you then are best off managing them mostly through some sort of remote management tool directly on the VM (treating them exactly as you would a "real" machine). So on a windows box you'd use VNC or some other remote desktop tool, on a linux box you'd probably use SSH. So you manage the individual VMs just like you'd manage a physical server, and you use the vsphere management client to add new VMs or change resource allocations etc.

Honestly all this probably makes it sound more complicated than it is. The easiest way to learn it is just to install it on something and play around. It's very flexible, but not that complicated once you get the hang of it, and I pretty much guarantee you'll be extremely glad you did rather than installing on bare metal.

If you want to give all this a try in advance of buying your hardware, you can go virtualisation crazy and install ESXi as a virtual machine!!! The free VMWare player which installs in Windows can have ESXi installed within it as a VM, so you can then play around with it just as if it was on your new server. Here's a guide: http://www.sysprobs.com/guide-install-vmware-vsphere-5-esxi-5-vmware-workstation-windows-7 and also http://henriwithani.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/running-esxi-5-on-vmware-player/
Edited by BorisTheSpider - 2/23/13 at 11:26am
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post #6 of 9
lol I was just about to make a similar thread to this.
I don't want to hijack this thread but what would be the easiest way to make a server dedicated for streaming/ a bit of storage. I'm talking software wise.
As storage I have 1 SSD for boot and a WD 2TB green, no raid yet but I'm planning to in the future.

Ty for help! smile.gif
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post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Midgethulk View Post

lol I was just about to make a similar thread to this.
I don't want to hijack this thread but what would be the easiest way to make a server dedicated for streaming/ a bit of storage. I'm talking software wise.
As storage I have 1 SSD for boot and a WD 2TB green, no raid yet but I'm planning to in the future.

Ty for help! smile.gif

ESXi with Ubuntu server on top would be my choice. Install ESXi on a USB stick, put the datastore that holds the "drive" that the ubuntu box boots from on the SSD (leave space free for future VMs, the server OS itself will not take much space), then if you have VT-d pass the 2TB drive through to the ubuntu server, otherwise create a datastore on it in ESXi and connect that to the ubuntu box as a "drive".

In the ubuntu server, install samba for sharing. I don't know about streaming, you'd want to check the ubuntu forums.
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post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by BorisTheSpider View Post

ESXi with Ubuntu server on top would be my choice. Install ESXi on a USB stick, put the datastore that holds the "drive" that the ubuntu box boots from on the SSD (leave space free for future VMs, the server OS itself will not take much space), then if you have VT-d pass the 2TB drive through to the ubuntu server, otherwise create a datastore on it in ESXi and connect that to the ubuntu box as a "drive".

In the ubuntu server, install samba for sharing. I don't know about streaming, you'd want to check the ubuntu forums.

Thanks I'll try that. thumb.gif +rep
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post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BorisTheSpider View Post

Yes.

Ref the build, The main thing you want out of the hardware to run VMs is the intel VT-x extensions, which as you can see at http://ark.intel.com/products/65693/Intel-Core-i3-3220-Processor-3M-Cache-3_30-GHz your suggested CPU does have. These extensions basically allow VMs to run separately in secure, individual "sandboxes" on the CPU.

Now given that this box is for storage, it would be _nice_ (but is not essential) if you moved up to something that also has VT-d. What that does is lets you pass through hardware directly to a particular VM, so if for example, you wanted to run RAID in a VM, you could pass through the drives so that VM saw them just as if they were directly attached to it's "hardware". Without VT-d, what you'd do is create a separate virtual storage device for each drive, then pass those devices through to the VM which would RAID them together. That would add an additional layer that reduces performance. So VT-d is by no means essential for a storage box, but it's nice to have if you can stretch to a processor that has it (I'm not sure which is the lowest cost one that does, you'd have to check the intel site).

ESXi is the free version of VMWare (it was renamed to Vsphere, but I am in the habit of calling it ESXi, so they mean the same thing). Here's the main page for it: http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere-hypervisor/overview.html it's completely free but you do have to register to download it.

Basically, ESXi is just a smallish OS which you'll hear referred to as a "hypervisor". You can either install it on one of the main drives in the system, or, what I'd advise (what I do) is to install it to a small USB stick - it only needs 2GB to 4GB. Once it's booted, it basically runs from RAM and doesn't write anything to the USB stick very often so there's no performance hit from doing that, and it means the drives are purely for the VMs.

So once you've installed the hypervisor, you then install the client application that you use to manage it on your desktop, connect to your new server, and you get a view like this:

http://vninja.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Deploy-vMA-01.png

You can then create as many VMs as you want, of whatever different OSs, and manage them all through the management client. You can allocate each machine as much CPU, RAM and storage as you want, and they can be dynamically allocated (ie. you can overprovision, so say you have 8GB of ram in the box, and you give 4 different VMs 4GB each, as long as they don't all use it at once, that's fine - you can have VM1 using 4GB and VMs 2,3 and 4 all using only 1GB and you're still OK) - the same of course goes for memory and CPU resources.

You can also do all the same sort of stuff with the networking resources, so you can create vswitches (virtual switches) and put virtual network cards in the virtual machines and connect them to whatever virtual (or real) networks you want. In the simple case of a VM that's connecting to the same LAN as the ESXi server itself, you'd just add a vnic (virtual network card) to the VM that connects to the LAN and that's it done.

To install a new VM, you can either use a CD/DVD in your management machine, or an iso image, you then just tell it you want to create a new VM and follow the steps to tell it how much memory, disk and so on to allocate, then you get (through the vsphere management client) a console window that shows you the "screen" of the VM and you go through the installation just as you would on a real machine.

Once you've got your VMs on there, you then are best off managing them mostly through some sort of remote management tool directly on the VM (treating them exactly as you would a "real" machine). So on a windows box you'd use VNC or some other remote desktop tool, on a linux box you'd probably use SSH. So you manage the individual VMs just like you'd manage a physical server, and you use the vsphere management client to add new VMs or change resource allocations etc.

Honestly all this probably makes it sound more complicated than it is. The easiest way to learn it is just to install it on something and play around. It's very flexible, but not that complicated once you get the hang of it, and I pretty much guarantee you'll be extremely glad you did rather than installing on bare metal.

If you want to give all this a try in advance of buying your hardware, you can go virtualisation crazy and install ESXi as a virtual machine!!! The free VMWare player which installs in Windows can have ESXi installed within it as a VM, so you can then play around with it just as if it was on your new server. Here's a guide: http://www.sysprobs.com/guide-install-vmware-vsphere-5-esxi-5-vmware-workstation-windows-7 and also http://henriwithani.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/running-esxi-5-on-vmware-player/

Thanks for the enormous amount of info and insight. You've given me a great deal to read up on. thumb.gif
Rishloo
(16 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 3770k @ 4.4 GHz ASUS P8Z68-V Pro/Gen3 EVGA 9800 GTX 8GB (2x4GB) G.Skill Ripjaws X 1600 8-8-8-24 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveOS
Samsung 840 EVO Crucial M4 Boot Drive WD Caviar Black Windows 8.1 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
Dell 24" G2410 Logitech G19 Seasonic X-Series 750W Coolermaster HAF X 
MouseAudio
Logtiech G9x X-Fi Gamer 
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Rishloo
(16 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 3770k @ 4.4 GHz ASUS P8Z68-V Pro/Gen3 EVGA 9800 GTX 8GB (2x4GB) G.Skill Ripjaws X 1600 8-8-8-24 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveOS
Samsung 840 EVO Crucial M4 Boot Drive WD Caviar Black Windows 8.1 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
Dell 24" G2410 Logitech G19 Seasonic X-Series 750W Coolermaster HAF X 
MouseAudio
Logtiech G9x X-Fi Gamer 
  hide details  
Reply
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