Home file sharing Network architecture

Hi guys, I’m relatively new to all this and am looking for some advice on setting up a Home network/Home media network.
What I want to do is set up a home media system, fully hardwired and integrated into the house.
Id like to do most of it myself as it’s a hobby, and also it ensures I know how the system will work eventually (and be able to do repairs and upgrades).
I’m an engineer so have no trouble with the technicalities of it, and have built my own PC’s before with no trouble and consider myself fairly computer literate.
In this situation let’s assume I’m not needing to be super tight with my money and am happy to buy things if they’re worthwhile. (Without getting excessive and spending 100’s of 1000’s!).
Problem is I'm not really well versed on how to build servers and what goes with them in terms of running them. Id ideally love a LINUX system as it is completely open to my adaption, but I simply don’t know enough about programming at this point to do it, so at this point unless there’s better suggestions id go with Windows Home server 2008 and versions of Windows media Centre. (Please feel free to advise me of different softwares available).
What I want to do:
Set up a Data network throughout the house.
I would ideally like to set up a server system in a rack configuration within a space in the house.
One that I can add to and upgrade when needed.
I have searched high and low for references on how to build a server and what would be needed for my purposes, but it’s not easy to find anything, especially in terms of rack architecture.
What I want it to do:
• To serve as a file server – being able to stream all media to every outlet in the house INDEPENDANTLY. I.e. can watch multiple files simultaneously in different zones.
• To be a massive storage hub & backup destination for all files from HTPC’s and desktop PC’s
• A PVR server would also be useful if that’s possible – again to be able to be used simultaneously from each centre. I understand this will require multiple Tuner cards which is fine – but is it possible to house the multiple cards (lets say 5) in the one Rack mount case (1U/2U/4U), and if so what else would be needed to make it work? MOBO/Ram etc?
• A print server
• An internet Router to serve all access points.
The questions I have which are arising from my research:
 Are you able to daisy chain multiple servers with HDD’s I’m sure you can? I’m not sure of how the HDD setup would work/be configured? Do you have the one server and then just link up as many cases of HDD’s as you want? Or do you need a full new Server&MOBO with each new case?
 What sort of hardware would I need to build the servers?MOBO, Graphics Cards, RAM, HDD etc.
 How would I piece together these servers?
 What would the cabling requirements be? Can everything be in HiDef (1080p or higher for future..) and Digital audio (7.1 min)? for every media outlet throughout the house? Cat 5? Fibre Optic?
 The main media room will have a dedicated AV receiver to distribute 7.1 sound. The others will not. Is it possible to have that output capability (i.e. 7.1+ speaker cable connections) on the back of each HTPC (much like an AV receiver)? Or conversely have it run from the server hub?
 Can anyone suggest links to companies and sites which could help me in my search / selling products?
 How would all this sort of thing be cabled up to work properly? Can anyone help with the architecture or recommend someone who can?
Ideally I’m imagining having a rack unit (or more if necessary) of cases dedicated to each component (file server, PVR, Print etc) then have them linked into multiple 4U rack cases simply filled with HDD’s. Is that how they work? Or does each server need its own HDD’s and work independently?
The idea is to have simply a TV and a smaller HTPC at each access point and that’s it. Then everything is controlled at the Server Hub via each HTPC or PC with a nice GUI. I.e. recording, viewing, listening etc. it would be as if each access point is its own independent centre however they’re all linked into the one big server. All the processes are accessed through each access point TV screen via a remote control. So you can watch anything, listen to anything, record anything etc and then also get into the file manager and move/rename etc files (if you add a keyboard) from every access point. Ideally you can also use it as a home PC to web browse and maybe word process/play games/view docs etc.
I would ideally also like to add a Sky/foxtel/Pay TV dimension to this system. Again with multi-room capabilities. (Whether I do this legitimately or not is not under consideration at this point – I simply want to set up the infrastructure and know if it’s possible). Could I hypothetically take out all the guts of multiple Satellite boxes (dreambox?) and stack them in say, a 4U rackmount case? Then have this slot nicely integrated into my rack system? How would I configure it?
This is by no means exhaustive either, so if anyone has the know how or expertise and wants to help me work my way around and through this project it'd be greatly appreciated!
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More about home file sharing network architecture
  1. Wow! That's quiet the project you have there but you've overlooked one MAJOR component: Heat.

    One simply doesn't just go out and buy a bunch of rack units, throw them in a room, turn them on and enjoy the entertainement. A room with it's own dedicated AC sysem would be required for this sort of setup so add that into the cost (installation and maintenance).

    A few suggestions:

    1) Ditch the dedicated print server. Unless you have 50+ printers and 500+ people in your house its completely pointless. Just add a print server role to one of your existing racks.

    2) Gigabit ethernet would get my vote for cabling systems. Fiber is used for long haul connections and its immunity to EMI. Unless you're in a hospital or have a massive electromagnet somewhere it won't serve a point.

    As per your questions:

    You can buy racks whose sole purpose is to store HDD's and then link them to a rack server. You can have one file server driving say 4/8/16 HDD's in various RAID implementations. You don't need 4 file servers each with 4 HDD's linked together.

    As well, you can in theory 'gut' your sattelite box and stick the components in a 4U rack but that will take considerable skill from a person who is experience in case modifications.

    These link can help you on your search:

    http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?minorcatid=104&subminorcatid=48 <-- 4U Rackmount cases.

    Hope that helps.
  2. that sounds like a project I'd do in my future house ;)

    Let's start with the basics: You most likely don't need to buy half the stuff that you think you do.

    I will explain what I would do to get such a system going and then I'm sure we can work on the details later.

    1- cat5e (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_5_cable) cables will support 1080p streams afaik. Obviously, you need a cable in every room used ;) You might want to go for cat6 cable if you can get a good deal on them since they'll provide you ample future proofing (cat6 supports 10gbps...lol).

    2- Buy a normal computer. Racks are nice but hardly necessary in your application. Sure, getting a 1U unit would look nifty and you could put it somewhere in the basement but it doesn't actually change anything.

    That computer should be something middle priced with a crappy vidcard and a motherboard which supports 6 or 8 SATA drives (for future expansions). I'm thinking 4gig ram and a q6600 should be ample room. You are looking at a Linux system for the MythTV option (goooo open source!)
    You'll need a router that works with 1000mbps speed as well. Wireless is fun but probably not a necessity for you. Think about how many concurrent computers/rooms will be used and get a router with 1-2 extra ports (ie: 6 rooms? 8 slots).

    3- Install your mail/printer/file/media server on that computer you bought in step2. Some printers are equipped with ethernet ports, which makes them able to be plugged straight in the router for even easier access.
    Plug your internet in the router so that it can be shared on all the possible connections. After that, you want to create rules to send certain traffic on your server. Setup as needed (let's fine tune this when we get there).

    4- As for the video recording, I'm less knowledgeable on that issue but I believe there exists a software called MythTV (http://www.mythtv.org/) that does pretty much exactly what you need. You'll need a TV card for your PC and some good amount of hard drives for recording (the 1tb drives at 100$, SATA interface comes to mind here).

    5- For the sound system, I'm sure that there exist many different interconnect technology and you might want to actually read specialized guides to figure out what's your best bet. I'd say that HD content streamed over the same cat6 cable piped into a decent audio card (connected by either spdif or normal connectors) to your 7.1 speakers should do the job just fine.
    Here though I'm not quite sure if you meant that you wanted to get multiple 7.1 outputs going but I'm pretty sure this setup would work just fine.

    6- I'd say for the rest of the stuff, it gets pretty straightforward. Get a 1000gig drive for the PVR (Expand when needed) and another one for files/backups and a third one for mp3s / movies / pictures. That way, you can expand easily if needed.

    I'm thinking that the real problem with this is to rewire an home after it's been built. I've read some good stuff about ethernet over power cables so you might want to look at that to save yourself some work (it goes to like 300mpbs+ nowadays).

    edit: If you look at MythTV more closely, you'll see that you can have multiple servers recording from multiple cards and stream that to multiple clients to watch on multiple tvs. That sounds like flexibility to me :)
    Damn, now I want to get one of those.
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