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Telstar The Sorcerer

Thinking about a home server

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I'm thinking of a good setup for a server unit that will (likely) run Windows Home Server (when they'll fix the compatibility with vista x64). The machine main use will be servicing of video (both compressed and uncompressed), audio (mostly high-bitrate mp3) and doing remote backups through a gigabit network where the clients are 2 desktops, 1 notebook and 2 media box (ps2 or whatever).

I was considering the following setup:

Cpu: the cheapest core2 duo, thinking about a quad

Controller: Areca ARC-1231ML 12 ports, w/ 2gb cache

Video card: old pci vga

Hard Drives: 11 (or 12)x 500GB or 5x 1TB*

Chassis: Not sure. I dont need or want a rackmount.

Array: raid5 or raid6. Having WHS a poor man's raid1 on folder basis, I believe a raid5 offer sufficient protection.

*What i'm really not sure is about the drives to use. I was thinking about 1TB drives and 750GB units but the cost per gigabyte is too high, expecially with the 750. The projected capacity need is around 4-5 TB. I wouldn't like to add drives in the future, altough that would be possible.

The drives I'm considering are:

-Hitachi 7T1000 (1TB and 750GB size) [available]

-Samsung Spinpoint F1 (500GB, 750 and 1TB) [ETA october 07]

-Western Digital GP (500GB, 750GB, 1TB) [ETA november 07]

-Western Digital RE2 (500gb, 750GB) [available]

-Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 / ES2 (500GB, 750GB, 1TB) [ETA september 07?]

Thoughts:

1. The total cost of the server shouldnt exceed €2,500, ex VAT

2. 750GB units are strangely not cost effective as 1TB, or maybe just the hitachi price has dropped a lot

3. Speed is not critical, anything over 100MB/s sustained will be fine.

4. The chassis must be hot-swap

5. power-consumption is very important, as the server will run 24/7. I'll be using a low-consuming xeon or regular c2d, a pci videocard and an adequate amount of fans.

I'm looking for suggestions about the drives, the chassis and the setup in general, with some cost figure.

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I don't have any suggestions on which drives to get, however if you're looking at 11-12x drives all in hot swap bays, then that'll severally limit your chassis selection...

Just based on that, I would look at 5x 1TB drives (get 2x 3drive 5.25" bay encloses). Then have 2x 40GB for the OS (in RAID 1) mounted internally. That type of setup will let you use any full tower case that has 5x 5.25" external drive bays... (4 for the 2x drive enclosures, and 1 for the DVD drive).

Plus power/cooling would be another consideration for the 12 drive vs 5 drive scenario. Doesn't take a lot to realise 12 drives eats more power than 5 drives (and needs more cooling to boot) esp 24/7 operation.

I don't know if pricing for WHS has been released, but my only concern is what features in WHS are available, that are not available in other OS choices? (But don't let me push an alternate OS, if you have no experience with them).

For the video/audio are you looking at streaming WMV/WMA (or other codec) via a web-service, or are you just looking at sharing the raw video/audio files themselves. (IIS has builtin wmv/wma streaming and bandwidth throttling capability, at least in Win2K and Win2K3 Server, I've only read 1 review on WHS, not having the product in person).

And for the motherboard, any thoughts? Why not look at with onboard video, instead of an old PCI card? (http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon3000/3010/PDSME+.cfm or http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherb.../PDSML-LN2+.cfm, or http://www.tyan.com/product_board_detail.aspx?pid=349). All these boards are ATX, Xeon certified, take up to 8GB RAM, have 4x and 8x PCIe slots, and the onboard gfx is a discrete chip (either ATI ES1000 or V10's).

And lastly, how are you going to backup 4-5TB on the WHS box?

PS. I was thinking this type of drive bay: http://www.scsi4me.com/cremax-mb453spf-b.html

PPS. I've never purchased from scsi4me, just using their site as an example drive enclosure.

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Have you considered Windows 2003 Small Business Server? It's a proven platform with plenty of information on the internet, and obviously good compatibility in terms of drivers, software, etc.

For a long time I looked at network attached storage, Linux storage servers, etc. Nothing ever seemed ideal, at least for the price. Eventually I came across an HP server for $899CAN that included SBS. I don't have the storage requirements you do, but I picked up a couple cheap 320Gb drives and slapped them in, and have been running that setup for the last couple months. It has 4 SATA drive bays (not hotswap, but easy to change), so you'd need to add some sort of controller and use an external HD enclosure, but it may be a good starting point.

Basic spec's:

Proliant ML110 G4

http://shopping.hp.ca/cStoreCA/BaseDetails...d=5&Lang=EN

Dual-core Xeon, 1Gb ram with room to expand, built-in RAID 0,1 for the 4 SATA drive bays, 2 5.25 bays, gigabit lan, PCI and PCI Express, etc.

There were only two things that annoyed me... First that it took about a month to arrive after I ordered it. Second that there is no floppy controller at all (still needed for installing RAID controller drivers during Windows installation). I got around the second issue easily by finding a USB floppy drive, but it was still annoying.

Now I have my own little domain at home, along with an Exchange server. I might just have to get myselft a static IP...

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I don't have any suggestions on which drives to get, however if you're looking at 11-12x drives all in hot swap bays, then that'll severally limit your chassis selection...

Just based on that, I would look at 5x 1TB drives (get 2x 3drive 5.25" bay encloses). Then have 2x 40GB for the OS (in RAID 1) mounted internally. That type of setup will let you use any full tower case that has 5x 5.25" external drive bays... (4 for the 2x drive enclosures, and 1 for the DVD drive).

Plus power/cooling would be another consideration for the 12 drive vs 5 drive scenario. Doesn't take a lot to realize 12 drives eats more power than 5 drives (and needs more cooling to boot) esp 24/7 operation.

Yes, it would be a better solution vs the 11-12 drives, for power and especially because i dont need an external or a pricey server case to mount a total of 6-7 disks.

After posting, I looked more deeply at the upcoming drives and the Samsung F1 seems to have everything i need and with a very competitive price of around 250€ in 1tb model w/ 32mb cache.

I don't know if pricing for WHS has been released, but my only concern is what features in WHS are available, that are not available in other OS choices? (But don't let me push an alternate OS, if you have no experience with them).

WHS is based on server 2003. Price should be in the 100-200$ range. Therefore much cheaper than standard 2003 (which I know btw and I like for the stability of the kernel). I could setup a linux box, but the man-work of setting it up would exceed 200 bucks. There are a few advantages:

-efficient external backup of client PCs

-easy sharing and servicing of media files

-dynamic storage

WHS treat every drive u connect as spanning, while providing a poor man's raid1 for specific folders.

I will surely go for raid1 for the system drive, but it is impossible to separate it from the first data partition. Hence it must be mirrored and backupped (only external drives are supported for this). Funnily WHS has a great backup feature for the clients, but poor to none backup for itself. This is the only thing that I dont like. Besides this, WHS sounds perfect for my needs... when they make the client connector for x64.

For the video/audio are you looking at streaming WMV/WMA (or other codec) via a web-service, or are you just looking at sharing the raw video/audio files themselves. (IIS has builtin wmv/wma streaming and bandwidth throttling capability, at least in Win2K and Win2K3 Server, I've only read 1 review on WHS, not having the product in person).

I'm going to service divx, xvid and uncompresed dvds directly to the media clients across the network (2) and occasionally to the connected PC (3). HD content in the future. That's why I need a gigabit lan. The media clients must have it. So far I know about xbox 360 (expensive) and the upcoming divx connector, which seems optimized to allow smooth playback of dvd-quality content. I have the RC of WHS but I dont have a dedicated machine at the moment. I'll check it in VMware, when I get back from holidays :)

And for the motherboard, any thoughts? Why not look at with onboard video, instead of an old PCI card?

(http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon3000/3010/PDSME+.cfm or http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherb.../PDSML-LN2+.cfm, or http://www.tyan.com/product_board_detail.aspx?pid=349). All these boards are ATX, Xeon certified, take up to 8GB RAM, have 4x and 8x PCIe slots, and the onboard gfx is a discrete chip (either ATI ES1000 or V10's).

Because I have a spare pci card :) And I hate onboard devices. I may change my mind and put a radeon if the clients need a part of decoding to be performed on the server. This is not clear atm. Probably will be useful for HD content only. The divx connector seems to do a part of the decoding. Unfortunately i'm not a beta tester of it and I have only second hand data.

Being not a tradidional server, the ram and cpu requirements are not typical. In particular 1gb of ram are plenty. It doesnt need a server board, which means that i can save about 200 bucks. I'll go fine with any intel-based motherboard (=reliable chipset) that supports c2d, altough i'm aiming at the new 45ns 1,8gb model to be available in the Q4 of this year to save on power and have a good speed too for HD decoding. I'm pretty sure that it'll go in C1E most of the time, if not sleep.

And lastly, how are you going to backup 4-5TB on the WHS box?

I'm not :D

The raid 5 (or 6) will be the sole protection. But, the most important part of the media library will be duplicated in the client PCs and will use also WHS folder duplication.

PS. I was thinking this type of drive bay: http://www.scsi4me.com/cremax-mb453spf-b.html

PPS. I've never purchased from scsi4me, just using their site as an example drive enclosure.

That cage sounds good. I have hard of scsi-4-me but never ordered from them either. Anyway overseas shipping is prohibitively expensive for all but the lightest hardware, like ram. One of the german Areca distributors can set me up the storage and will probably have suitable bays like those. I did contact them when I was deciding the storage setup of my gaming machine.

I read just yesterday about WHS and it sounds just like what I want: I dont see the time to setup all the network in the new home.

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Have you considered Windows 2003 Small Business Server? It's a proven platform with plenty of information on the internet, and obviously good compatibility in terms of drivers, software, etc.

For a long time I looked at network attached storage, Linux storage servers, etc. Nothing ever seemed ideal, at least for the price. Eventually I came across an HP server for $899CAN that included SBS. I don't have the storage requirements you do, but I picked up a couple cheap 320Gb drives and slapped them in, and have been running that setup for the last couple months. It has 4 SATA drive bays (not hotswap, but easy to change), so you'd need to add some sort of controller and use an external HD enclosure, but it may be a good starting point.

Basic spec's:

Proliant ML110 G4

http://shopping.hp.ca/cStoreCA/BaseDetails...d=5&Lang=EN

Dual-core Xeon, 1Gb ram with room to expand, built-in RAID 0,1 for the 4 SATA drive bays, 2 5.25 bays, gigabit lan, PCI and PCI Express, etc.

There were only two things that annoyed me... First that it took about a month to arrive after I ordered it. Second that there is no floppy controller at all (still needed for installing RAID controller drivers during Windows installation). I got around the second issue easily by finding a USB floppy drive, but it was still annoying.

See my previous post for why I prefer WHS. Driver-wise any 2003 driver will work on WHS.

I was looking for a nas for long time too, but I never found a good solution price and performance-wise and a real server allows me to do much more, like the backup of all clients are automated. Also, drive capacity and cost were too high. So i never got a NAS and never realized this project. I wouldnt get a server, PLUS an external enclosure, as they are expensive almost as the proliant you linked.

WHS can boot from usb media if the mainboard bios allows it.

That proliant is pretty cheap, expecially if price is in CAN$. It would host 5 HD (one in the 5,25 bay) + the dvd-rom (or the dvd is out of the bays count?). I wonder what kind of raid controller it supports. Maybe there's a bigger model with raid5. Anyway the raid controller must be full-hardware with bootable bios (i.e. no matrix raid).

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A xeon based system for a home based server, that is only simply a glorified file server, is overkill. If power is of concern, get a mobile based low-voltage intel processor.

Your tasks do not require much CPU power at all, that is unless, you actually had your server, doing the encoding of video files. I'd look at a 2.4-3.0GHz proc, and call it a day. It'll lower the cost of the mainboard and RAM too.

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5. power-consumption is very important, as the server will run 24/7. I'll be using a low-consuming xeon or regular c2d, a pci videocard and an adequate amount of fans.

I'd definitely would use an Athlon64 X2 then. When it comes to idle (and this is what your home file server will be 99% of the time) power consumption AMDs C'n'Q still beats Intel. Plus, both the CPUs and the AM2 mainboards offer a better cost effectiveness.

Also i would think about software RAID5. When it comes to home file servers, you want read performance. Write performance is not that much of an issue. Or to be more precise - it does not justify a hardware RAID controller because just for private home use they are obscenely expensive.

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I'd definitely would use an Athlon64 X2 then. When it comes to idle (and this is what your home file server will be 99% of the time) power consumption AMDs C'n'Q still beats Intel. Plus, both the CPUs and the AM2 mainboards offer a better cost effectiveness.

Interesting idea. I have to check and compare costs and Watts. Are these mobo stable and have chipset drivers for 2003 server?

About the xeons, xeon specific boards are too expensive, so i have to ditch s771 for regular 775 and go for the cheapest C2D. Or opt for an AMD solution. I'm not sure how much cpu power is required to decode divx, dvd and HD in the future, which could be done for 2 clients max simultaneously and i prefer to not replace the mobo/cpu.

Also i would think about software RAID5. When it comes to home file servers, you want read performance. Write performance is not that much of an issue. Or to be more precise - it does not justify a hardware RAID controller because just for private home use they are obscenely expensive.

WHS does NOT support any kind of software raid. it does a software JBOD with any disk you install. I would like to play with an (expensive) areca card, but those 700€ could be saved :) I also want to make a raid1 for the system drive, for the reasons stated above. Excluding software raid, the cheapest

Also, i want a hw controller because the onboard cache produce a terrific performance boost, even with non raid configuration. I could opt for the cheapest areca pci-e (i'm guessing that an AM2 mainboard has 2 pci-e slots and that are compatible with raid cards), that's about 200€ IIRC. Consider that in place of a OS backup, which is virtually impossible to to the WHS machine itself. I'm thinking to put two raptors for this use.

Or i ditch completely the raid controller, but i wouldnt sleep peacefully without protection.

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A xeon based system for a home based server, that is only simply a glorified file server, is overkill. If power is of concern, get a mobile based low-voltage intel processor.

Your tasks do not require much CPU power at all, that is unless, you actually had your server, doing the encoding of video files. I'd look at a 2.4-3.0GHz proc, and call it a day. It'll lower the cost of the mainboard and RAM too.

I'm not sure which amount of the video encoding relies on the server. XBMC, a software for xbox1 does some part on the client, that would be my first choice, but is castrated by 100mbit ethernet. The d-link connected divx player, which is n.1 on the list, seems to decode more on the client and the software is open source. Still, if it doesnt decode 100% of divx, it will hardly do >30% of HD.

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About the xeons, xeon specific boards are too expensive, so i have to ditch s771 for regular 775 and go for the cheapest C2D. Or opt for an AMD solution.

Just so you are aware, those 3x boards I linked to are socket775 and will run anything from a CeleronD right through to a Xeon... The advantage of the 3000series chipset is that it's designed for 24/7 use and has tweaks to optimise I/O throughput through out the entire system...

The Tyan board in particular has PCI, PCI-X and PCIe x16 and PCie x4 slots... (If you get a cheap PCI-X RAID controller, you'll not suffer performance loss from placing it in a PCI slot, such as an Adaptec 2420SA or 2410SA, or 3Ware or Acrea equivalent).

However at the moment, AMD does lead in Performance per Watt per $$$ metrics... So I wouldn't fault you if you get the cheapest Athlon X2 and a mid-level board, and attach a PCIe RAID controller...

Edited by Chewy509

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About the xeons, xeon specific boards are too expensive, so i have to ditch s771 for regular 775 and go for the cheapest C2D. Or opt for an AMD solution.

Just so you are aware, those 3x boards I linked to are socket775 and will run anything from a CeleronD right through to a Xeon... The advantage of the 3000series chipset is that it's designed for 24/7 use and has tweaks to optimise I/O throughput through out the entire system...

My bad. But they still cost between 200 and 300€ (unfair conversion of crappy EU distribution), while a bare P965/P35 motherboard costs 100€.

The Tyan board in particular has PCI, PCI-X and PCIe x16 and PCie x4 slots... (If you get a cheap PCI-X RAID controller, you'll not suffer performance loss from placing it in a PCI slot, such as an Adaptec 2420SA or 2410SA, or 3Ware or Acrea equivalent).

This is a good idea. I want a cheap but not crappy raid controller for at least the system drive. I would never use a pci controller anymore (awful experience). The choice of the mainboard is also related to the raid controller. I do not trust Promise and 3ware due to past bad experiences. I would consider only areca, adaptec and intel. What there is among that with onboard cache, all-hardware and in pci-x and pci-e? If i find an old pci-x controller that people are dismissing it would be worth to go with the xeon motherboard.

However at the moment, AMD does lead in Performance per Watt per $$$ metrics... So I wouldn't fault you if you get the cheapest Athlon X2 and a mid-level board, and attach a PCIe RAID controller...

Interesting, i was reading just yesterday about xeon and barcelona systems and intel power usage comes mostly from memory. 2 modules only of ddr-2 should much less than 8 :) I wonder if they'll make energy saver xeons for s775 as well. The difference between a E4400 and an athlon X2 is negligible

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Why not a Sempron or Celeron? System requirements are something like a 1 GHz CPU and 512 MB RAM (can you even find smaller modules these days??). I'd go for a decent mainboard and a low end (as cheap as possible) CPU. If you pick a mainboard that's likely to support future CPU's you should be able to upgrade to a more powerful one later on.

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Why not a Sempron or Celeron? System requirements are something like a 1 GHz CPU and 512 MB RAM (can you even find smaller modules these days??). I'd go for a decent mainboard and a low end (as cheap as possible) CPU. If you pick a mainboard that's likely to support future CPU's you should be able to upgrade to a more powerful one later on.

Because the difference in price between a celeron or sempron and a E4400 is ~50€ and even less between 512/1gb to 2gb ddr2. So why bother with something that could be a bottleneck? :)

The system requirements dont consider media decoding. And when you believe to MS windows requirements anyway? :)

I finally found some figures about HD decoding:

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3047&p=4 (and following pages)

which translates that I will need to upgrade the cpu to something like a 3,5ghz penryn to be able to do two simultaneous HD streamings.

I couldnt find anything about divx/xvid and DVD. In the first case the set top box should be able to do most of the work, expecially if i buy the one with divx connect software. Not sure about DVDs, but i believe a recent celeron wouldnt be a bottleneck. Having two cores would help in multi user and multitasking, though and they are CHEAP.

So, yeah, to sum up: i'm almost sure that i'll get a s775 motherboard and the cheapest c2d, or the second cheapest. The only thing I have to figure out is a mainboard fully compatible with the raid controller that i'll get.

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