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Server/HTPC Questions

post #1 of 8
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Hey guys, im planning to build a server+HTPC, Basically what i want this to do is to allow all users in my network to be able to store and retrieve files from the server and if possible have access to the HTPC files as well and also be able to work as a HTPC to a 1080p screen. What i would like this htpc to run are my ripped blu ray disks, HD video recordings.


My current build is

CPU: Intel Core i3-3220
Mobo: ASrock H77M
GPU: Sapphire HD 7770
PSU: Corsair CX500
Memory: Corsair XMS3 4GB (2x2GB)
Storage: 4x Western Digital Caviar Green 3 TB
Storage 2: Kingston Digital 60GB SSD
Casing: Still looking for good cheap casings, fractal designs definitely caught my eye
Node 605
Define mini

Any other suggestions would be awesome.

A few questions i do have are.

Do i really need a graphic card?

What ideal OS should i run for this setup ( server+HTPC)?I've read alot and just really cant pick one as everyone is using different things. from linux to freenas to typical windows.)

What raid setup would be ideal for me? (with so much hard disk space i would really like to go unraid but if i do lose all my files, those lost hours ripping my blurays would make me go ballistic.) (what does look appealing is raid 5 and raid 1, but i believe more than 2 drives is called raid 10?)

Any suggestions and help would be great thumb.gif.
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post #2 of 8
I'm in a similar situation. Since no one else has given any feedback I figure I would share where I'm going with my setup.

I need a home server to give me shared storage for all my devices, and provide desktop/htpc duties to a monitor.
I would like my home server to also act as my router via pfesense, and provide a lab environment to do experimental/educational type stuff.

All data below is theoretical. I have been doing lots of research, and playing around with VirtualBox on my desktop, but I haven't pulled the trigger and put together my server yet..

I have figured out that I want to run a bare metal hypervisor, which will allow me to create a virtual machines for each task I want to do. ESXi seems to be the best choice, but there are some other options like Xen or KVM. ESXi is very particular on the hardware it will run with so there is that to consider.

Another thing to consider when building the server is hardware resources. You need to assign HDD, RAM, and CPU resources to each VM you create. Something like FreeNas recommends about 1GB of ram per TB of storage, plus you would need additional ram for any additional VMs you want to run.

I think, for the most part, you will need a graphics card to feed to your monitor for viewing from the htpc. Its possible that integrated graphics will work but I haven't found a lot of information on it. My A10-5800k integrated graphics work fine in my virtualbox machines, but I just dont know how this will all carry over to other platforms. For your situation you could run a VM for a HTPC. At minimum you would want .5 gigs of ram, and a few gigs of HDD space just to install something like ubuntu+xbmc to stream videos to your tv. Of course, your HTPC VM would access files stored on your storage VM.

For storage I like the look of unRaid at the moment, mostly because it allows me to use different sized drives. My storage will be something that grows over time, and I will be starting with 2 HDD for my storage array. If your current HDD are not raided, and all full then you will probably have to buy another drive to build a, unRaid array. Add the new drive to unRaid, format it, build an array. Then copy one drives worth of data to the array. Add the drive you just copied to the array, which will format it.. rinse and repeat. Your last drive then could be your parity drive and would give you some protection against data loss on your other 4 drives.

Money is a huge issue for me, so Im looking at putting together an FX6300 CPU, ATI 6450 GPU, and 16gb of RAM to start. I am looking at putting ESXi on the system and will run 5-6 VMs: pfesnse for routing, unraid for storage, ubuntu for htpc/light office, and some other server os for DHCP/LAMP/DNS type stuff. For my storage array Ill use and a SAS/SATA card, and I will use my onboard sata ports for my VM OS installs. ESXI and unraid will be run off USB thumbdrives.

Good luck, its complicated.
post #3 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by indorill View Post

ESXi seems to be the best choice, but there are some other options like Xen or KVM. ESXi is very particular on the hardware it will run with so there is that to consider.

I am interested in how you are planning to run an HTPC in ESXi. As far as I know not many, if any, GFX cards (including onboard) will work with VT-d or IOMMU. The only working cases that I know of are Xen/KVM with modified drivers?

Knowing that, it makes freenas and unraid unsuitable as they are entire operating systems and not up to the task.
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Intel 520 Series SATA3 25nm 120G 2.5' Scythe Kozuti CPU low profile heatsink fan Microsoft Windows 8 Pro w/ Media Centre Corsair Vengeance K90. Performance, MMO, Mechan... 
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Intel Core i7 3770 3.40 GHz 8M LGA1155 Processor Intel DQ77MK Intel HD4000 integrated gpu STRONTIUM 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 Dimm Single Module P... 
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post #4 of 8
Quote:
I am interested in how you are planning to run an HTPC in ESXi. As far as I know not many, if any, GFX cards (including onboard) will work with VT-d or IOMMU. The only working cases that I know of are Xen/KVM with modified drivers?

Knowing that, it makes freenas and unraid unsuitable as they are entire operating systems and not up to the task.

You maybe right, but I thought I would be able to pass through the GPU to the guest VM OS and let it handle the drivers and such. Isnt that the point of pass through? That ESXi can ignore handling for a device and pass it to the guest VM?

I understand that freenas or unraid wouldnt be suitible for an HTPC, but say windows on one VM with GPU passed through, and then a separate VM for storage would work well on paper. In practice though I am a little unclear.

I will be trying it within the next few weeks hopefully and will definitely post about it if I can get it all to work. Worse case scenario, I should be able to do a linux host and setup VMs within that environment which should work. I liked the idea of a bare metal hypervisor though to, thinking that it would save me the effort of maintaining a host OS.
post #5 of 8
Check out Hyper-V's RemoteFX. It allows for a VM to have access to a supported GPU. VMware has something comparable, but I have no experience with that. While technically RemoteFX will allow you to do what you want, the cost of a supported GPU and the extra configuration, it may not be worth it to you.
post #6 of 8
Quote:
Check out Hyper-V's RemoteFX. It allows for a VM to have access to a supported GPU. VMware has something comparable, but I have no experience with that. While technically RemoteFX will allow you to do what you want, the cost of a supported GPU and the extra configuration, it may not be worth it to you.

Thanks for the suggestion Bob, I will look into it. I have seen your other posts around, and you seem to be a wealth of knowledge. Maybe you could answer a few questions about Hyper-V for me.

Is it a bare metal hypervisor? Or does it require a windows host os? My current desktop is windows 8, and I know hyper-v is a download through MS, but I thought it was more similar to VirtualBox in regards to a program I run in my OS. At this point I have exclusively used VB for my virtualization experiments, but I will probably check out hyper-v and see how it goes.

Another issue, and this is a big one, is cost. I would love to build my home server with the Wiindows platform, but I dont think I can afford it. Is there a free to use version of Hyper-V that would allow me to run a Linux VM for basic office work?
post #7 of 8
look at Hyper-V Server 2012. Its a free download and works as a bare metal hypervisor

the only caveat is that you need Windows 8 to manage the VMs like you would with Xenserver/ESXi. Should work ok for you, I unfortunately couldn't get it working with Windows 7
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post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by indorill View Post

Thanks for the suggestion Bob, I will look into it. I have seen your other posts around, and you seem to be a wealth of knowledge. Maybe you could answer a few questions about Hyper-V for me.

Is it a bare metal hypervisor? Or does it require a windows host os? My current desktop is windows 8, and I know hyper-v is a download through MS, but I thought it was more similar to VirtualBox in regards to a program I run in my OS. At this point I have exclusively used VB for my virtualization experiments, but I will probably check out hyper-v and see how it goes.

Another issue, and this is a big one, is cost. I would love to build my home server with the Wiindows platform, but I dont think I can afford it. Is there a free to use version of Hyper-V that would allow me to run a Linux VM for basic office work?

Thanks for the compliment. I do like to share what I know, and most of what I know is in the Windows worlds, and I never mean to sound like I think Windows is better than any other OS out there, because that is never the point I try to get across.

On another note, I love Hyper-V. It's considered a bare metal Hypervisor, but it's actually a role of Windows Server. The best version of Hyper-V (3.0) is, of course, in Server 2012. From a licensing standpoint Server 2012 Standard allows for 1 VMs, and Server 2012 Datacenter allows for unlimited VMs, but there is no technical difference between the version nor any limiting thing that would prevent you from running more VMs on Standard. Hyper-V Server 2012, as previously mentioned, is basically Server Core with no role other than Hyper-V. It has no desktop GUI for management, and you have a PowerShell script that you configure everything with. Once configured, you connect to the Hyper-V Management Console by using the Hyper-V Tools from another server or PC. Selectstriker2 is correct in that the RSAT tools for Windows 7 will not manage Server 2012 Hyper-V (or anything Server 2012 for that matter), which is a bad design for Microsoft, but has always been this way in the past.

Since you are using Windows 8 already, you could definitely run Hyper-V Server 2012 and manage it from your PC. This way you only have the licensing cost of the OS that's running in your VMs, if you even wanted to activate them. You can re-arm them 3 times without issue if you are using them as a test/dev/lab environment. Hyper-V on Server 2012 technically will run any version of Linux, but with limits (such as 10/100 virtual NICs, no NTP sync, possible mouse issues) which is usually fine for a CLI only server that you will SSH into anyway. If you set up VNC on your Linux box, the mouse issues won't even matter (mouse issue is only when connecting to the VM with the Hyper-V Console). There are three distros that are supported (RHEL, SLES, and CentOS) and have Linux Integration Services available that you can install for 100% support in Hyper-V. Of course, they also work with Debian, Ubuntu, OpenSuSE, and other distros that share the same kernel as the three supported version. Linux support with Hyper-V is not the greatest, but it does work if your environment is primarily Windows.

If all your VMs are going to be Linux, you might as well run anything but Hyper-V (ESX, Xen, KVM, etc, etc, etc)
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