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Planning out my first server build

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August 28, 2011 9:02:43 AM

Ok so I'm not necessarily new to building computers but I'm unfamiliar with all this server lingo. Right now I have a computer with 5 HDDs and I'm looking to expand this on a regular basis.

Main use is storing of files (movies, music, school files). Doesn't need to be extremely fast IO speeds. As long as I can play a blu-ray size movie off it without problems that should be fine. My friend is pushing me to use LINUX and I am willing to learn. Also been reading alittle about FreeNAS as well.

My current configuration is as follows:

NZXT Phantom
i5-750
Corsair H50 Cooler
Gigabyte P55 UD3
4GB Dual Channel G.Skill DDR3-1600 (2X)
Crucial C300 128 GB
2TB WD Green (4X)
2TB Hitachi (1X)
ATI 6950 2GB

So basically I'm looking to move the HDDs into a dedicated box and add RAID 1 support. Right now none of the drives are RAIDed. I'm also looking to have plenty of room for the future so a small (4-5 bay) NAS box will not suffice.

My friend and I have been looking at the Norco 4U rackmounts as a good starting point.

24-Bay Norco 4U

Now after this point I start to get confused on what is necessary and what is a waste of money. I know I'll need some sort of expander/RAID card and this caught our eye.

Intel RAID Twenty-four port Expander Card

Now this will not RAID any drives? It is just an expander? Will software RAID be fine for my needs?

Then from here any suggestions on a CPU/MB/PSU?

Budget is roughly $1,400 for case, CPU, MB, PSU, RAID/Expander Cards

Thanks for the help
Doug

More about : planning server build

August 28, 2011 1:57:55 PM

WD Greens are not good for RAID.
You definitely don't need a 6950 for a server.
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August 28, 2011 6:33:41 PM

Ok well I should have made that clearer. The only thing basically I'm using for this server build will be the HDDs. The 6950 will stay in that computer. And as far as the WD Greens go, will they be alright for a couple months until I can replace them with something better? And what would be the optimal choice for me? WD Black?
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August 29, 2011 12:21:14 AM

RE's are the only drives WD certifies will work in raid. All their other models may or may not work, you won't get any support if they don't or cause problems.
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August 29, 2011 12:56:20 AM

You already got the drives so I'd just give em a go see if you can get it working. One of the guys i live with has 3 x 2tb WD greens in RAID 5 and that's working perfect for our media server atm.
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August 29, 2011 1:10:04 AM

Ok yea I can understand using the RE4 for a solid server but those are kinda pricey and I'd need to start from scratch then. I guess I can eventually move to them but I'd like to work with the 5 HDDs I already own. And this is not a very high demand server (2 ppl in use at once MAX).

So HDDs aside.... If I go with the Intel 24 Port Expander (Software RAID) and the Norco 4224, what kind of CPU,MB,RAM, PSU should I be looking for? Again not high demand so I'm thinking a dual core would be fine, 4GB RAM, and maybe a decent PSU since eventually I will have a lot of drives to power. Can I get away with a regular MB or do I need a "server" board?
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August 29, 2011 5:32:12 AM

A HDD is about 25-30W max for 3.5" drives, even less maybe for greens, so you will not need much to power them up, even if they are a lot.
Atom CPUs are frequently used in NAS solutions, so you may see you don't need a lot of CPU power. And even 2 GB RAM would be enough - you'll run only the OS here and with Linux you may not even use a GI. You can get away with a regular mobo. Server mobos are for support of server processors and special RAM with error correction, but this is mostly important for application/database/internet servers, running some applications, databases etc. on them.
You don't need RE drives for your server. Major problem with the Green series drives is that they are variable speed /while Blues and Blacks are with fixed speed/, so your RAID should be tolerant to such behavior. If it's software RAID it may be, but check the software you are planning to use.
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August 29, 2011 6:17:02 AM

Thanks for the info. 25-30W for a HDD tho? With all the bays filled that would be 720W for just the HDD? WD website says 5.3W on Read/Write.

So after some reading it looks like this Intel 24 Port Expander does basically nothing for me. I just want to be able to connect 24 drives and some how RAID pairs of them in RAID 1. How can I do this cost effectively?
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August 29, 2011 12:47:00 PM

It's the spinup power, what's highest, it's 12V for the motor, the supply for the cirquit is 5V and is ~5W. But only for the largest drives, with most platter spinup power goes up as of 20 W, usually it's even little below 15. The total operating power of a HDD is somewhere ~10W. Total spinup power - let say 25W should be enough.
Don't know any specifics for the WD Greens however, so if it's written it's 5.3W total, maybe it's 5.3, but again - it's the operating power, while the highest consumption for a HDD comes when spinning up. And spinning up 24 disks will need some noticeable power. Keep in mind however that usualy good power supplies are made to be able to deliver some 30% more peak power as what is printed in the specifications.
SAS /or any SCSI/ controllers are not for SATA drives.
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August 29, 2011 10:50:16 PM

Ok so I found a blog post by Lime Technology that really helped.

I'm changing it slightly and adding a couple newer parts and wanted some opinions...

Asus 1155 MB w/ 5 PCI slots
Intel G620 Dual Core 2.6 GHz
Kingston 4GB DDR3 1066 ECC UnBuffered
FSP 700W
Norco 4224
Controller 4X Sata II (These will be added as need be) (5 cards x 4 HDDs/per card = 20 HDDs.... plus 6 SATA headers)
WD Greens 2TB (Already have 4 but will start moving to WD Blacks 2TB)
Hitachi 7200 RPM 2TB (Have 1 at the moment)

I will be taking pairs of these drives and doing (Software) RAID 1. What kind of performance can I expect? As long as I can stream 1 or 2 HD streams this should work just fine.

I'm kind of leaving my self some room to grow (2 empty RAM slots and possibly the ability to go to Ivy Bridge later), is this a good idea or not necessary (overkill) in my case?

And as far as the PSU is concerned my friend pointed me to a server PSU that has 4 12V16A rails. Is this a good choice?
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August 30, 2011 2:45:05 AM

Just wanted to point out that with Raid 1 if you delete a file accidentally its also gone from the mirror. Sure this is easily resolved if you catch it soon enough but what if a day goes by. Thats why I skipped raid 1 and went with drive syncing on my server.

have you decided on a linux solution or windows home server?
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August 30, 2011 2:58:52 AM

Right now I'm leaning towards using FreeNAS 8.0 since it's pretty user friendly. I'm not sure if FreeNAS offers a drive syncing feature tho it does mention Snapshots which sounds similar. My concern is mostly with drive failure. Not a whole lot of deleting will be happening with all this storage I will have...

How would you recommend skipping the RAID and implementing drive syncing instead? That may be a nice alternative since I've read that the Controller Card I would be using is MUCH faster when not using RAID.
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August 30, 2011 5:39:37 AM

Much faster means what? It's much faster, because it writes to only one drive, instead on two of them /which is obviously a problem for this card/. But then the software synchronization means again to copy the data to a second drive, only this time by software, not by hardware, which in any case should be much slower.
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October 15, 2011 7:52:18 PM

Lose the WD green and the GPU. Rather get more lan ports (1gb/s) and put those 4 drives in level 5 raid so you have 4tb over 4 drives. both speed and space you have there.. listen to this : what does a fast server help, if the users cant acces the server at a moderate speed? no use in SSD ect. its all about the network speed and the acces to it.
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October 16, 2011 4:36:10 AM

Jurgens said:
Lose the WD green and the GPU. Rather get more lan ports (1gb/s) and put those 4 drives in level 5 raid so you have 4tb over 4 drives. both speed and space you have there.. listen to this : what does a fast server help, if the users cant acces the server at a moderate speed? no use in SSD ect. its all about the network speed and the acces to it.

Agreed, and I would strongly suggest RAID 5 for your application. You don't need good hardware, but don't skimp on an actual RAID controller. That expander is usually used in conjunction with a RAID controller to get better bang for your buck, which will give you just about max read speed over gigabit LAN. Plus, it's tons more reliable. You only need dual NICs if you have heavy load, which would be streaming 3x HD content simultaneously. Good luck.
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October 18, 2011 6:16:10 PM

DougT said:
Ok so I'm not necessarily new to building computers but I'm unfamiliar with all this server lingo. Right now I have a computer with 5 HDDs and I'm looking to expand this on a regular basis.

Main use is storing of files (movies, music, school files). Doesn't need to be extremely fast IO speeds. As long as I can play a blu-ray size movie off it without problems that should be fine. My friend is pushing me to use LINUX and I am willing to learn. Also been reading alittle about FreeNAS as well.

So basically I'm looking to move the HDDs into a dedicated box and add RAID 1 support. Right now none of the drives are RAIDed. I'm also looking to have plenty of room for the future so a small (4-5 bay) NAS box will not suffice.

My friend and I have been looking at the Norco 4U rackmounts as a good starting point.

24-Bay Norco 4U

Now after this point I start to get confused on what is necessary and what is a waste of money. I know I'll need some sort of expander/RAID card and this caught our eye.

Intel RAID Twenty-four port Expander Card

Now this will not RAID any drives? It is just an expander? Will software RAID be fine for my needs?

Then from here any suggestions on a CPU/MB/PSU?

Budget is roughly $1,400 for case, CPU, MB, PSU, RAID/Expander Cards

Thanks for the help
Doug


So I'm confused about wanting a server vs wanting a gaming desktop. So far you say you want a server but most of your build (except for the RAID part) seem to be centered around gaming. A simple NAS drive can be the solution to your problem for something that can stream data to any PC. For instance, just a Buffalo NAS with RAID: http://www.amazon.com/Buffalo-Technology-TeraStation-TS...

$849 with 4 2TB drives. It can handle everything your looking for without having to dedicate a whole PC and linux expertise.

If you are looking to build a gaming rig, then that's a different story,then I'm not sure why you want to go Linux (unless you're looking at VMs as a side project) instead of win7 for a fast gaming rig with a boot SSD instead of a bunch of WD green in RAID configuration.

So what do you want? A true server or a gaming rig?

-S
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