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Building a Home Server, need some ideas

Last response: in Networking
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June 9, 2013 5:42:05 AM

I'm looking into putting together a computer to use as a home server. It will probably be used eventually for a lot more than meagerly backing up computers and hoarding torrent downloads. I want to be able to host game servers on it as well which would also include Minecraft FTB. Also I am in my first year of an IT degree specialising in networking so I guess I also want to leave it open enough to be able to play around with different things later on.

What I'm looking for is some ideas on how much processing something like a gaming server will drink. I was looking at something like the i3-3220T processor to power as it also has a great 35w TDP, is that overkill or just making it?

Secondly, software. I'm torn between Windows server or using ubuntu or another linux variant. If there's any good places to read up on the differences between the two and what's better at what that would be great. I've got free access to all Microsoft and Vmware software through the university so nothing is really out of the question.

So any advice really on how people have gone about it in the past would be great.

Thanks
June 9, 2013 7:10:42 AM

lets start with the hardware,

Power efficiency is great, but you might be limited with that processor in certain scenarios, 10+ players on the server will start pushing limit (varies with the game type)

In the past few Core iX series processors intel keeps turning off features essential for VMware, you might need to go with a Xeon processor for that stuff (highly recommended, also check Hyper-V and baremetal environment)

Get a motherboard considering different RAID options in mind, you might also want to go with something with alot of SATA ports or more PCI slot for several RAID cards.

BIG CASE, get a case than can easily carry more than a few hard drives, you never know what the future holds. Also consider decent airflow around the hard drives, you want to run them as cool as possible.

PSU, easily the most important component in the server, make sure you are getting something stable and efficient rather than alot of Wattage, I usually go with Corsair HX series.

Hard Drives, make sure you are getting hard drives designed for RAID and 24/7 reliability, take a look at WD RE for example to get an idea.

*personal preference* If I have a machine like that lying around, I'd throw in a decent graphics card in a heart beat and game on it in my free time.

For the software, I only have 1 advice for you, BOTH, you want to learn as much as possible at this stage, sometimes I still regret not doing this in the past.
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June 9, 2013 11:16:36 AM

Brute Force has some really good information for you here. If all you are wanting to do is file sharing on the system, then a basic Core i3 is going to do the job nicely. However, if you plan to run game servers, or even doing additional work with testing operating systems or virtual machines down the road (which, being in the IT field is probably a good idea) then you need something better suited for a more demanding environment. You can get away with using a desktop series AMD FX or Intel Core i5/i7 but there are some problems with this, mainly support. The processor may not have some integrated features that certain enterprise operating systems (I'm looking at you, VMWare) might need, but also many of the standard desktop motherboards for those processors do not support your enterprise software anyways. Look up on the support sheets of most of your LGA1155/1150 motherboards and see how many list VMWare as a compatible OS, or list drivers for Server 2008/2012 or even linux? Most of your server-class motherboards, however, will have support for these server-class operating systems.

How much storage space do you need? Are you talking about 2 to 4 TB, or more like 12 to 14 TB? For a basic home file server, you may be able to get away with using the onboard RAID SATA controller, but I wouldn't recommend this especially if you are talking about going high performance or high capacity. I've seen onboard RAID fail several times before, so if reliability and performance are important for you than invest in a nice hardware RAID controller. Be careful, though, as this is especially something that you have to be sure is supported by your selected operating systems, whether it is Windows, VMWare, or Linux. I also have used the WD Black and WD RE4 hard drives for storage servers, home and business, and they are great hard drives.

Now, what operating system you choose to use is going to be up to what you feel comfortable with, and what kind of compatibility you have with your hardware. To give you the flexibility to run several different things in the future, though, I'd recommend you do some form of virtualization. The most common platforms out there are VMWare and Windows Server. It comes down really to preference on this. One of the nice things about Windows Server for virtualization (Hyper-V) is that you can use the same box to run virtual machines and actually access and use those virtual machines. With a solution like VMWare ESXi HyperVisor, you can only run the virtual machines on one system, but you have to use a completely separate computer to actually access and use them.

With virtualization, though, you can run several computers on your system for testing out linux, Windows 7/8, and whatever services you need to have run.
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June 9, 2013 10:07:12 PM

Purchase:

1x http://www.ebay.com/itm/SGI-RACKABLE-C1001-TY3-1U-2x-XE...

1x http://www.ebay.com/itm/SGI-SE3016-16-BAY-SATA-Hard-Dri...

Hard Drives to suit and a quad port NIC for the first system.
Switch that supports 802.3AD

Setup the SATA expander unit with however many hard drive you want (there is a 2 TB limit for that raid controller so max storage is 32 TB, I use the same with 16 TB in a raid 10)

Install FreeNAS on the machine withe the SATA expander and setup iSCSI targets and setup NIC bonding (you will also need a switch that supports 802.3AD which is an older port trunking protocol )

Install ESXI on the machine with 48GB of ram. Install Linux and windows as you see fit.

Currently my setup like this runs a pfSense VM that handles the houses firewall/routing, Windows Server 2012 running Plex for media streaming and PBXIAF for VOIP phones in the house. I have 12TB of storage via ISCSI for my server 2012 and holding our media collection with plenty of room to spare for setting up test systems.

Relevant Links
freenas.com
pfsense.org
plexapp.com
pbxinaflash.net

Both those systems should work great with VMWare I think the only thing that doesn't register on mine is one fan controller. You can also always purchase more of the first systems and begin creating VMClusters and etc.

These are a little noisy you won't want them in the same room as you.

Also Backblaze (http://www.backblaze.com/) released a report about the drives they use in their storage pods ( http://blog.backblaze.com/2013/02/20/180tb-of-good-vibr... ) they found that commercial drives fail as often or more often than consumer drives when in use in a 24/7 environment so unless you're looking for SAS drives cheap SATAs seem to work fine. Avoid any kind of hybrid drives i'd just go with normal 7200RPM SATA drives.
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June 10, 2013 7:02:20 AM

netwalker0099 said:
Purchase:

1x http://www.ebay.com/itm/SGI-RACKABLE-C1001-TY3-1U-2x-XE...

1x http://www.ebay.com/itm/SGI-SE3016-16-BAY-SATA-Hard-Dri...

Hard Drives to suit and a quad port NIC for the first system.
Switch that supports 802.3AD

Setup the SATA expander unit with however many hard drive you want (there is a 2 TB limit for that raid controller so max storage is 32 TB, I use the same with 16 TB in a raid 10)

Install FreeNAS on the machine withe the SATA expander and setup iSCSI targets and setup NIC bonding (you will also need a switch that supports 802.3AD which is an older port trunking protocol )

Install ESXI on the machine with 48GB of ram. Install Linux and windows as you see fit.

Currently my setup like this runs a pfSense VM that handles the houses firewall/routing, Windows Server 2012 running Plex for media streaming and PBXIAF for VOIP phones in the house. I have 12TB of storage via ISCSI for my server 2012 and holding our media collection with plenty of room to spare for setting up test systems.

Relevant Links
freenas.com
pfsense.org
plexapp.com
pbxinaflash.net

Both those systems should work great with VMWare I think the only thing that doesn't register on mine is one fan controller. You can also always purchase more of the first systems and begin creating VMClusters and etc.

These are a little noisy you won't want them in the same room as you.

Also Backblaze (http://www.backblaze.com/) released a report about the drives they use in their storage pods ( http://blog.backblaze.com/2013/02/20/180tb-of-good-vibr... ) they found that commercial drives fail as often or more often than consumer drives when in use in a 24/7 environment so unless you're looking for SAS drives cheap SATAs seem to work fine. Avoid any kind of hybrid drives i'd just go with normal 7200RPM SATA drives.


Wow, that is actually one heck of a deal for that kind of system. It's only SAS/SATA 3 Gbps on the RAID controller and storage subsystem, but even that has a decent amount of headroom for a home testing solution. I've been wanting to play around with a SAN environment for testing clustering and other things, but it has always been way outside my price range but something like this actually makes it quite feasible!
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