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Low Power Gigabit NAS Build

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August 30, 2011 2:52:14 PM

I've been researching my upcoming computer build for several weeks now. I'm looking to build my NAS server for home use and to share with my offsite family as an FTP server. I'm hoping to complete the build by mid October. These are my hopes:

Saturate Gigabit Network
under 50W at idle (less is even better)
Price of $500 or less without HDDs
quiet doesn't matter
case looks don't matter
Server will be headless
Will be running on FreeNas open source
Support at least 6 HDDs in the future

I'm running into problems narrowing down hardware choices. It seems that there is just too much out there for me to sift through. Also, finding power usage along with data transfer rates is hard to come by.

I haven't decided what type of RAID to use yet so I'm interested in opinions. Is there a difference in performance of software vs hardware RAID? The cost may be too high for hardware RAID.

What recommendations do you have for CPU/Motherboard that will allow for saturation of Gigabit transfers but still keep the power down?

Thanks for the help in advance.
August 30, 2011 4:20:21 PM

I can't tell you with 100% certainty, but I am pretty sure you'll have a tough time saturating a gigabit interface with $500 in parts and only 6 HDDs.

I've not tested a home box to see if I am getting a full gig on the wire, but I think you'll bottleneck before you get to those speeds...especially for $500.

If you were building with a pretty huge budget and a respectable RAID controller, a solid processor, etc...you could more than likely get there.

Is there a reason you need Gb speeds (besides that it's awesome)?
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August 30, 2011 4:27:51 PM

I suppose Gigabit speeds are not required but I move around a lot of large files and don't like waiting.

I guess I'm more concerned with power usage. This rig will be on 24/7 so would like it to use the least amount of power as possible.

So far I'm looking at:

Intel Core i3-2100T
ASRock H67M (B3) LGA 1155 Intel H67

Do you think this will be close to maxing out the network? I assume I'll be able to use the built in RAID on the Motherboard

I'm having a tough time finding a PS that has a lower wattage. Any suggestions. I'm guessing I wont need anything more than about 150W. I would assume that the lower the Max wattage, the more efficient it will be.

Do you know if Motherboards make a difference at how power efficient they are?

Any suggestions on case?
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August 30, 2011 5:34:54 PM

I've heard good things about the i3 2100T. I've not seen the benchmarks of the onboard RAID, but I know it's not as good as having a controller with a dedicated chip (which is a lot more expensive anyway).

150w may be tight...especially if the CPU ramps up at all and having all 6 HDDs spinning.

Check out this site for a good estimate:

http://extreme.outervision.com/PSUEngine

Also, remember that PSUs have an optimal operating range...operating near 100% is not a good thing if it is the norm...more like the 50% range.

There are some cool cases...some nice ones with hot-swap if that interests you. What is the budget on case? Any specific needs...besides 6 HDDs at some point?
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August 30, 2011 7:20:59 PM

I'll check out that site.

Sinse this system will be at idle more than half the day and streaming wont take up too much power, the only real draw will be transfers. I'm guessing this will only happen for about 10% each day.

I can look for a 300W supply if that sounds better. I assume an 80+ Bronze will be the best bang for my buck.

I'm willing to sacrifice a little speed if it will save me from buying a controller. I was under the impression FreeNas will do the software RAID for me. I've done a software RAID with Ubuntu, but not with FreeNas. It looks to be pretty easy to do. You just set up the RAID after you select the drive sources.

As for the Case, I want it to be as cheap as possible but be able to hold the hardware needed. It's going to it in a closet, so it doesn't need to be pretty.

Thanks
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August 31, 2011 11:44:00 AM

The boards have RAID features built in, but it's not quite the same as having a dedicated controller.

FreeNAS is good, and if you're looking for tinkering and some interesting features, you could check out something like ZFS - I think it may be a part of FreeNAS now, but is definitely part of OpenSolaris - very cool snapshotting and other features.

There are a lot of solid case options - one that I come back to often is something like the Antec 300...plenty of space for the drives...room for a few fans up front to cool the drives, pretty cheap. There are certainly other options, but it's not a bad case for the price.
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August 31, 2011 3:15:56 PM

huron said:
I can't tell you with 100% certainty, but I am pretty sure you'll have a tough time saturating a gigabit interface with $500 in parts and only 6 HDDs.

I've not tested a home box to see if I am getting a full gig on the wire, but I think you'll bottleneck before you get to those speeds...especially for $500.

If you were building with a pretty huge budget and a respectable RAID controller, a solid processor, etc...you could more than likely get there.

Is there a reason you need Gb speeds (besides that it's awesome)?
A Gigabit interface can transfer a maximum of 125 MB/s. In theory a fast 7200 RPM hard disk can saturate it when reading large files (provided the other system is fast enough), but not when writing them. It almost is impossible to saturate the link when transferring lots of small files, even when using several PCs.
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September 1, 2011 1:59:20 AM

Gigabit speed is more about your pc subsystems speed than cpu speed.

Case - go to a used pc store and look for an old server case with room for 8 drives. This is about $25. Plan on replacing the PSU.

CPU - Athlon II x4 pick a speed in the low power e series, 2Gb Ram. Sure 4 is cheap if you want.
Intel Gigabit controller on PCIe. Version 3 is preferred as PCIe v2.x has a 20% overhead that v3 doesn't. I suggest 2 such cards, dividing your network in half or seperating 2 high bandwidth users. You can use jumbo frames if you wish but everything in the network and in between must also support it for it to work otherwise the packet will have to be broken up and resent wasting time.

Power usage is under 100w at full load and with cool n quiet its so low even the cpu fan shuts off. Sorry I didn't measure that.

As for software raid its recommended to go with a dedicate hardware raid controller. software is ok if you dont mind reinstalling everything when it crashes as there isnt usually much support at the dos-type level for dealing with problems whereas a hardware raid usually does. Raid 5 has decent read speeds but slow write speeds and can only suffer a 1 disk loss. The more drives you add the faster the read speed and the worse the write overhead becomes.
A mirror accomplishes the same thing but maintains a faster write speed but if you delete a file from 1 drive its automatically erased on the other also.
Raid 6 offers the same benefits as raid 5 with even slower writes but can suffer a loss of 2 disks.

Raid 10 is a stripe plus a mirror. Great read and write performance and redundancy but just like a straight mirror when you accidentally delete a file its gone from the mirror as well.
I use drive syncing myself. Every morning at 4am my 2 primary data drives get sync'd to dedicated backup drives. This way if my wife deletes a file and I'm not home I have just about all night to copy it back over. This doesnt work with a file created today obviously but this is a better solution for me than attempting a deleted file recovery a day later. Also - I dont need any raid for my method.

Remember - you cant transfer a file any faster than the slowest drive in either system no matter how fast your network.

Running Windows Home Server 2011. - $50

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September 1, 2011 7:30:28 PM

That's great information. I guess my priority would be low power usage since it's on all the time. It don't have to worry about data recovery because I will keep some decent backups and it will be mostly used for read only media and backups.

I'm thinking about having no redundancy and just setting up an old computer with a couple hard drives that will hold the back ups once a week.

Do drives really fail that much that it's worth mirroring? I've never seen a hard drive fail, although I haven't been working in RAID much either.
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September 1, 2011 8:57:22 PM

I use that site a lot for getting basic requirements...really solid place to get a start.
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September 1, 2011 9:51:55 PM

check this blog out about which controller card to use (or NOT use...) when going with OpenSolaris or ZFS. This guy has done a lot of testing on cards, he has some interesting ideas and benchmarks that may be helpful.
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September 2, 2011 12:02:05 PM

festerovic...I didn't see a link for the blog. I'm actually pretty interested if you can provide it.
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September 8, 2011 4:02:12 AM

I noticed Popatim mentioned using a athlon II X4. I have been interested in building a server myself and I have a athlon II X4 640 propus that i'm not using and thought about selling. Would this be a good CPU for a home server?

Whats the difference between the server and desktop CPU's and Mobo's other than ram sockets and drive connectors?

It seems like people are concerned about power usage also. I seen a opteron mention 115W which is higher than my propus. Is there a huge difference in data management between a server CPU and a desktop CPU?

I'm trying to start learning a bit reading through some posts. I appreciate any help.
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September 8, 2011 1:42:50 PM

There are differences in server and desktop CPUs/motherboards and RAM. I believe the largest portion deals with the ability to have ECC (Error Correction Code) RAM - that can detect and resolve errors.

ECC has to be supported by the CPU and motherboard, then you'd have to buy ECC RAM. Those items are usually more expensive, but are intended for stability and for error-free (or certainly less errors) data.

I guess in the end, servers are really intended for 24x7 work that is meant to be stable and so the data is consistent and not corrupt in any way, while desktop equipment doesn't quite fall into the same needs.

Can you build a server with desktop equipment...absolutely. Would I run a production business environment on it...no. Would I do it for home...more than likely. Can you build a desktop with server parts...absoultely...it'll cost a bit more.

Hope that helps a bit.
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September 8, 2011 11:03:09 PM

2354002,15,552578 said:
I noticed Popatim mentioned using a athlon II X4. I have been interested in building a server myself and I have a athlon II X4 640 propus that i'm not using and thought about selling. Would this be a good CPU for a home server?

Sure it would! When its not being used Cool-n-Quiet will drop the power useage to a few watts. I'm actually only using an X2 245e in mine since its only a file server and doesn't really need much in the way of computing horsepower. It servers the 6 pc's in my house just fine, only 4 are ever on at 1 time.

As for the difference between server boards and desktop boards, besides ECC, server boards are usually run headless. IE - nor video, no mouse, no keybd. The desktop bd I have also runs headless though I did need a pci video card for the initial WHS installation. Its the Biostar a870u3
[/quote]
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September 8, 2011 11:13:59 PM

Jimmypooh said:

I'm thinking about having no redundancy and just setting up an old computer with a couple hard drives that will hold the back ups once a week.

Do drives really fail that much that it's worth mirroring? I've never seen a hard drive fail, although I haven't been working in RAID much either.


In all my years I've returned about a dozen harddrives for warranty work but for the most part they work for a long long time.

As for drive redundancy. Thats a personal choice and it depends on how quickly you want access to that data again. Figure about 15 minutes to restore from DVD per DVD. If you're happy with that then you're good to go. I would never recommend going without somekind of backup.

For me its the matter of my wife. 3 soaps a day and she is about 3 months behind and at about a terrabyte of data. :lol: 
Heaven forbid I loose that. I'd be pulling video from youtube an stiching them back together for months...
For all my other (ie important data) like photos. I use a triple redundancy plan. The users PC is primary storage, the server is backup storage, and then theres archival DVD's that go to the bankbox. And if I'm pulling those out... the house burnt down.
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September 9, 2011 2:06:09 PM

popatim...completely agree about backup. You honestly can't be too safe.

Even though people will think you are nuts for that, having an offsite backup is a must...especially in cases of natural disaster.
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September 9, 2011 9:01:28 PM

If i was to use the athlon x4 what should I be looking at for a board? I don't plan on needing tons of storage so I'm sure 4-6 sata ports would be fine for me. I would like to run raid in a mirror image form. So should I be looking at a raid card for a x16 slot? I plan on using linux based server software. Even though it may not be as easy I would like to learn.
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September 9, 2011 10:01:03 PM

In the article I posted above, the author specifically points at using motherboard based SATA or similar controllers for linux based NAS.

The thing to take away is - you don't need much CPU horsepower, even when using software RAID; and the speed of onboard SATA is sufficient for most in-class disk options (not SSD of course). Read the article for the nuts and bolts.

I can say that my 4 disk LSI driven array in a work machine (i7 860) is not much faster than my 4 disk software raid on ICH9 (celeron 430...LOL). I am using windows, though.
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September 12, 2011 2:29:30 PM

Thanks for all the help. I think I've narrowed my search down and will be purchasing hardware in the next 2 weeks (I'm a bit busy right now to tackle this).

Take a look at my list and let me know what you think

Case:
COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

PS:
Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W Continuous power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power

RAM:
Kingston ValueRAM 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model KVR1333D3K2/4GR

Motherboard:
ASRock H67M (B3) LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

CPU:
Intel Core i3-2100T Sandy Bridge 2.5GHz LGA 1155 35W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I32100T

Drives:
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
or
Seagate Barracuda Green ST2000DL003 2TB 5900 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

The price before Drives is less than $350 which I think is pretty good. I'm a little worried about the reviews of the WD green drives. There are a lot of people that have had problems with them. I will of course keep backups but still would like to have reliable hardware. Does anyone have any recommendations?

I'm willing to spend a little more if someone has any ideas of products that will run at lower power.
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September 13, 2011 1:04:04 AM

as single drives the ears work fine; in raid they may or may not cause problems. For raid I recommend the samsung ecogreen f4 for cheap drives or the WD RE3 or RE4 drives which were designed for raid. You could even wait for the Seagate 4tb drives to come out (soon)

Also - if you have a couple of smaller drives laying around to use- use those as OS and OS backup drives so you can have the data drives seperate. If you plan on using WHS and plan on having the OS handle the OS backup it will only accept a whole drive for this task. I originally had the os on a small partition until I stumbled across this and it wouldn't take an equivalent small partition on one of the other 2tb drives and wanted the whole thing for itself. LOL

For the same price as the 2100t you can get the 2120t.

I'm assuming you have an external or spare dvd drive handy since you dont list one.

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September 13, 2011 1:51:57 PM

That's good to know about the 2120t. I will upgrade my list to that one since it's the same price and really the same wattage.

I've been looking at the Samsung you recommended. It seems to get pretty good reviews but needs a firmware flash right away. I can probably manage that. I will be running FreeNAS so that adds a little complexity.

I have a spare IDE DVD drive but I'm hoping I wont need it. I'm not planning on putting it in.
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September 13, 2011 11:13:27 PM

I used my external burner to install with. Freenas can be run from a flashdrive. I did have a freenas server running for a couple fo years but then I wanted to play with WHS some.
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September 21, 2011 1:11:25 PM

I have an old machine that I've been messing with FreeNAS on. I'm trying to get a feel for FreeNAS before spending the money to build the new one. My problem I'm encountering is I can't get my windos shares to be discoverable on FreeNAS 8. I can map to the drive but it doesn't automatically show. This causes problems on my WDTV since I can't manually map. I do have Browsable checked in the config. Does anyone know what's up with this? I'm not sure if it's a bug or if it's me.

Thanks!

Jim
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September 28, 2011 8:25:56 PM

FYI it was a bug with FreeNAS. You must change the host name and Netbios name from freenas to something else before shares will work on samba.
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