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New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 9:23 pm

It is time for my approximately twice-a-decade file server upgrade. I've actually been intending to do this for over a year, but kept putting it off. The death of one of the drives in the RAID array of the existing server gave me sudden incentive to move the project forward. If I'm going to need to muck around with the server anyway, I might as well get 'er done right and build the new one!

My home file servers are typically based on older, recycled desktop hardware; this time is no exception. However, I did decide to splurge on some hot swap drive bays to make replacing/upgrading drives easier, and a new PSU, since this rig going to be powering a substantial pile of hard drives.

First up, the case. This is an old Chieftec full-tower, picked up dirt cheap years ago when the local TigerDirect was clearancing a truckload of obsolete Alienware cases. It has housed multiple systems over the years, but has been sitting in the spares pile for a while now. Time to put it back in service!
Image

The motherboard is an Asus M3A78-CM, a Micro-ATX Socket AM2+ board. This is a real workhorse board that I used for multiple builds back in the day. It never let me down, but was retired from duty as a secondary desktop a while back. Power is provided by a new Corsair CX500 picked up at Microcenter. The two PCIe cards are a 4-port SATA controller to augment the 6 on the motherboard, and a 2-port USB3 card. Two of the SATA ports are brought out to rear eSATA connectors, so this system can support a total of 4 external drives (2 eSATA and 2 USB3) in addition to the hot swap backplanes which will be used for the main storage arrays.
Image

The CPU is an Athlon 7750 X2, which based on the Kuma core and runs at 2.7 GHz. 4 GB of DDR2-800 ECC RAM rounds out the core system components. The CPU cooler is actually the retail HSF from my FX-8320; this system will be moved to the crawlspace, so I don't care about the fan noise! I also replaced the CMOS battery; the existing one was reading a little low, and neglecting to replace the battery when repurposing old motherboards is just asking for trouble.
Image

There are 7 hot swap bays in all -- a single 2.5" one for the system drive (a Corsair 40GB SSD I had sitting around), and 6 3.5" bays for data drives. One of the reasons I'm using the Chieftec case is that it has 4 external 5.25" bays; this allows me to use a pair of the 5.25" hot swap backplanes (each backplane occupies 2 5.25" bays and provides 3 trayless hot swap bays). The faceplates of the hot swap backplanes don't match because I didn't order them at the same time, and they were out of the silver ones by the time I ordered the second one. Kind of wish I'd gotten them both in black (in hindsight it looks better), but nobody's going to see them once the server is in the crawlspace anyway!
Image

Initial complement of hard drives consists of 4 3TB WD Reds.
Image

The OS is Ubuntu Server 14.04 64-bit. I've already got the OS installed, and I'm about to create the RAID arrays. I thought about doing RAID-10, RAID-6, or even ZFS, but decided to keep things simple this time and will just be doing a pair of RAID-1 arrays.

I hope to get all the files copied over so I can cut over to the new server in the next couple of days. There's some additional mucking I'll need to do before pulling the plug on the old server though, since the old one also provides some other services on my network (it is configured as a local NTP and DNS server).
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Re: New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 9:33 pm

just brew it! wrote:
This is an old Chieftec full-tower. This system will be moved to the crawlspace, so I don't care about the fan noise!
I retired the last of the Chieftec Dragon / Antec SX1030 / ThermalTake X cases in my family a while ago. There's no point in putting up with old noisy 80 mm fans when modern cases use larger and quieter fans.
Last edited by JustAnEngineer on Sun May 03, 2015 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 9:38 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
This is an old Chieftec full-tower. This system will be moved to the crawlspace, so I don't care about the fan noise!

I retired the last of the Chieftec Dragon / Antec SX1080 / ThermalTake X cases in my family a while ago. There's no point in putting up with old noisy 80 mm fans when modern cases use larger and quieter fans.

Yeah, that's the reason this case was in the spares pile. Well, that and the fact that it is just frikkin' huge!

The plentiful drive bays mean it is still a pretty nice server case though...
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Re: New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 10:04 pm

Boxes from the floor to ceiling!!!!!!

Trying to get on the TV show hoarders or buried alive ;)

That case, wow the color, I wonder why it was on clearance ;)
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Re: New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 10:09 pm

Just don't drywall over the crawlspace while leaving the server inside!

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Re: New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 10:46 pm

just brew it! wrote:
4 3TB WD Reds

If you bought them relatively easily, you may want to check that head parking timer and either bump it to 300 seconds or disable it altogether. Don't feel like searching now, but I remember posting links before. :P
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Re: New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 10:49 pm

just brew it! wrote:
...this system will be moved to the crawlspace, so I don't care about the fan noise!

I would've been more worried about actually having to look at that case; good lord. :lol: Crawlspace is nice for free air conditioning, but I'd be nervous about possible water issues.
 
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Re: New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 11:05 pm

anotherengineer wrote:
Boxes from the floor to ceiling!!!!!!

Umm... yeah. :oops:

In my defense, the pile on the right is mostly empty boxes from a couple of recent builds; they just need to be broken down and put in the recycling. And the pile on the left is actually the top of a tall bookshelf; you just can't see the shelves with the books in that pic.

anotherengineer wrote:
That case, wow the color, I wonder why it was on clearance ;)

There are also a couple of purple ones, and one that I refer to as "puke color" which I no longer own (last I heard that box was pulling duty as gleek's Minecraft server).

Flying Fox wrote:
If you bought them relatively easily, you may want to check that head parking timer and either bump it to 300 seconds or disable it altogether. Don't feel like searching now, but I remember posting links before. :P

I assume you meant "recently" not "easily"... :wink:

Yeah, one of the things I did was test the drives to see what the head park timeout is. It appears to be set to something north of 2.5 minutes so I think I'm good.

The Egg wrote:
I would've been more worried about actually having to look at that case; good lord. :lol: Crawlspace is nice for free air conditioning, but I'd be nervous about possible water issues.

We had all of the foundation cracks in the crawlspace sealed a number of years back, and haven't noticed any water issues in that area since. The previous two file servers have both lived there as well. Yeah there's always a possibility of a new leak developing, but I'm in and out of there periodically and would notice any musty odors that would result.
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Re: New home file server build

Sun May 03, 2015 11:11 pm

just brew it! wrote:
Flying Fox wrote:
If you bought them relatively easily, you may want to check that head parking timer and either bump it to 300 seconds or disable it altogether. Don't feel like searching now, but I remember posting links before. :P

I assume you meant "recently" not "easily"... :wink:

Yeah, one of the things I did was test the drives to see what the head park timeout is. It appears to be set to something north of 2.5 minutes so I think I'm good.

You got what I meant. ;)

I disabled the timers on all my reds, not sure if you have to. I would keep an eye on those SMART counters.
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 2:35 am

*looks at the M3A78-CM + 7750, 4GB on the adjacent workbench*

Excellent choice, I approve.
 
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 10:05 am

In the scheme of things how big a deal is the ECC memory for this? I ask because I'm slowly building a server at the moment and have no ECC laying around...
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 10:49 am

Those Chieftec cases are workhorses to the extreme, weighing a ton, and nothing short of a M1A tank blast will dent them.
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 11:13 am

Concupiscence wrote:
In the scheme of things how big a deal is the ECC memory for this? I ask because I'm slowly building a server at the moment and have no ECC laying around...

In the grand scheme of things, having components that are stable and reliable overall is top priority. Personally, I would not build a storage server without ECC; but I'm a bit of an "ECC Nazi" (most of my desktop builds use it too). For most people, I'd say ECC is a "nice to have" (but not a hard requirement) for a home server, unless you intend to run ZFS on it (in which case I'd say it is a "must have").

Looks at it this way... A home server is probably going to see sporadic usage patterns, which means that sometimes you're going to have data that sits in the file system cache for hours (if not days). If that data subsequently gets read (from cache), modified, and written back to disk, you're vulerable to bitrot caused by random "soft" DRAM errors. Furthermore, any file server worthy of the name should have uptime measured in months, other than reboots required for patch installation; but the longer a system stays up between reboots, the more likely it is that the OS will be affected by a random bit flip. Maybe the bit flip is harmless; or maybe it results in a crash or overt misbehavior (in which case you'll reboot the system and all will be well again until the next time); or maybe not (with more subtle adverse effects on data integrity and/or system stability going forward). Do you want to take that chance?

ECC can also give you advance warning of a failing DIMM or memory controller, assuming you check the ECC logs periodically.

If you intend to use ECC on consumer hardware, make sure the motherboard and CPU *both* support it. ECC support on desktop boards and CPUs is often absent or disabled for cost and/or product segmentation reasons. Intel is notorious for doing this, and AMD has opted to omit ECC support from their APU product line (though I suppose there's a chance it might be re-appearing with Socket FM3).
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 11:19 am

morphine wrote:
Those Chieftec cases are workhorses to the extreme, weighing a ton, and nothing short of a M1A tank blast will dent them.

I think it would be funny to use a pair of them as the legs of a low table or bench. I bet they'd remain sufficiently rigid to house running systems.
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 11:34 am

just brew it! wrote:
morphine wrote:
Those Chieftec cases are workhorses to the extreme, weighing a ton, and nothing short of a M1A tank blast will dent them.

I think it would be funny to use a pair of them as the legs of a low table or bench. I bet they'd remain sufficiently rigid to house running systems.

The case would, but the feet wouldn't. One of the first things I did when I got one of them was tilt a running system full of drives slightly to one side, with the feet in their outward position, and one immediately snapped.

I learned after that to just leave the feet in their inward position.

Sadly mine is starting to rust on the inside as a side effect of having it in a room with a dryer vent blowing inside instead of outside.
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 12:01 pm

I think the feet would be up to supporting a table or bench as long as the case isn't tilted at all. But yeah, the feet are definitely the weak link. I leave them folded in because they just get in the way if you fold them out.
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 6:03 pm

Any interesting/exciting options for the drive controller?

I think your original thought of RAID-10 is a pretty good one.
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Re: New home file server build

Mon May 04, 2015 7:26 pm

LoneWolf15 wrote:
Any interesting/exciting options for the drive controller?

I think your original thought of RAID-10 is a pretty good one.

Nahh, nothing fancy on the controller front. We're talking low RPM drives and a single gigabit network connection, so I'm just going to use Linux software RAID. This will be served out over NFS for the Linux systems in the house, and Samba for the Windows ones.

Speaking of SATA controllers, I just realized there was something I wanted to check before declaring the build complete on the hardware front: I need to test the eSATA ports for port multiplier compatibility, and (possibly) swap out the PCIe SATA card if it's a no-go. This isn't just idle curiosity, as I have a couple of dual-drive eSATA docks that require FBS port multiplier capability if you want to use both slots. I think I just added a "to do" item to my list for this evening... :lol:
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Re: New home file server build

Tue May 05, 2015 8:08 pm

just brew it! wrote:
LoneWolf15 wrote:
Any interesting/exciting options for the drive controller?

I think your original thought of RAID-10 is a pretty good one.

Nahh, nothing fancy on the controller front. We're talking low RPM drives and a single gigabit network connection, so I'm just going to use Linux software RAID. This will be served out over NFS for the Linux systems in the house, and Samba for the Windows ones.

Speaking of SATA controllers, I just realized there was something I wanted to check before declaring the build complete on the hardware front: I need to test the eSATA ports for port multiplier compatibility, and (possibly) swap out the PCIe SATA card if it's a no-go. This isn't just idle curiosity, as I have a couple of dual-drive eSATA docks that require FBS port multiplier capability if you want to use both slots. I think I just added a "to do" item to my list for this evening... :lol:


A caching controller means never having to be sorry for low-rpm drives. My HP SmartArray controller makes a significant difference with fairly pedestrian WD Reds.

Some of Adaptec's 128MB caching RAID controllers can be had relatively inexpensively on eBay, though the 8-port models might bring you up a little in price over the 4-port ones
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Re: New home file server build

Tue May 05, 2015 10:10 pm

Well the arrays are already built at this point, and half-populated with data pulled over from the old server. I may look into a better controller the next time I upgrade the disks.
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 2:00 am

Dang you brew, now I want to build another home file server.... I even have a spare 40gb SSD laying around that would be good enough for the OS, /sigh. *Walks over to bench and starts grabbing parts begrudgingly*

I really dig those hot swappable bays, did those come with the case or did you retrofit those? If so where did you grab them and how much :). I'm assuming your board supports hot-swappable SATA and that you have enabled them...? Be it that you are running RAID 1's you won't probably be doing much hot swapping anyhow.

What are you doing for backups?

OH... and you missed your chance for RAID 10, would have been my vote too :)
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 3:06 am

Whoa, I recognize that thing anywhere. So who made the underlying case, Antec or Chieftec? I bought my first desktop case way back in 2002/2003 locally, it was an an Antec SOHO SX1040BII that's identical to that thing (minus the paintjob) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811129120
 
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 6:36 am

Welch wrote:
Dang you brew, now I want to build another home file server.... I even have a spare 40gb SSD laying around that would be good enough for the OS, /sigh. *Walks over to bench and starts grabbing parts begrudgingly*

I really dig those hot swappable bays, did those come with the case or did you retrofit those? If so where did you grab them and how much :). I'm assuming your board supports hot-swappable SATA and that you have enabled them...? Be it that you are running RAID 1's you won't probably be doing much hot swapping anyhow.

They are retrofits. This unit from Newegg. I believe I picked them up during a 20% off sale. They have different sized units ranging from 1 to 5 bays based on the same basic design; all but the 1 bay unit have active cooling (fan on the rear of the enclosure). You can't really tell from the pics, but the case uses drive rails; so I just attached a pair of drive rails to each enclosure and slid it in.

Yes, hot swap is enabled.

Welch wrote:
What are you doing for backups?

The plan is to back up via rsync, over the network. As noted in the first post there are eSATA and USB3 ports as well. Server will be located adjacent to the entry to the crawlspace, with eSATA/USB3 cables snaked around within reach of the opening so I don't have to climb into the crawlspace; this gives me the option of using external drives and drive docks (e.g. for cloning an array during an upgrade).

Kougar wrote:
Whoa, I recognize that thing anywhere. So who made the underlying case, Antec or Chieftec? I bought my first desktop case way back in 2002/2003 locally, it was an an Antec SOHO SX1040BII that's identical to that thing (minus the paintjob) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811129120

Well, the case is actually Alienware branded (you can see that in the first pic, molded into the front bezel); the grill on the side fan intake originally had the alien head logo on it too. It came with a Chieftec PSU and fans in it though, so it was basically a Chieftec with an Alienware bezel. My understanding is that all of the Antec/Chieftec cases in this general style were actually produced by Chenming, so I guess you could say that this case is a rebrand of a rebrand!

Many years ago the local TigerDirect store literally had a couple of pallets piled high with them in the back clearance room (which looked like a computer junkyard), and were unloading them for (IIRC) something like $30 a pop, including a full complement of fans and a PSU. I assume Alienware discontinued them and unloaded a truckload of them to Tiger to get rid of them.
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 9:32 am

A couple of additional thoughts...

@LoneWolf15 on the caching controller issue... that's what the 4GB of system RAM is for! :wink: This system has no GUI (I am currently using pure CLI to set it up though I might install some sort of web admin interface at some point); and it is only going to be serving out files and DNS to a home network. Given the circumstances I'd say 4GB is pretty substantial overkill. Most of that RAM will end up being used by the OS as disk cache.

The server will be on a UPS, with battery monitoring (automatic shutdown if the battery gets low). I also plan to install some custom thermal monitoring scripts to cleanly shut things down in the event that the temperature of the motherboard, CPU, or hard drives goes above preset limits.
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 9:45 am

just brew it! wrote:
@LoneWolf15 on the caching controller issue... that's what the 4GB of system RAM is for! :wink:

I think he was referring to the speed of writing...if you're running without sync, I feel sorry for your data in a crash. :)
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 9:55 am

Waco wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
@LoneWolf15 on the caching controller issue... that's what the 4GB of system RAM is for! :wink:

I think he was referring to the speed of writing...if you're running without sync, I feel sorry for your data in a crash. :)

Ahh, OK.

I believe sync is normally enabled by default, yes? The server this one replaces had zero unscheduled reboots/crashes in 5 years; I'm hoping this one's reliability will be similar.
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 10:02 am

just brew it! wrote:
A couple of additional thoughts...

@LoneWolf15 on the caching controller issue... that's what the 4GB of system RAM is for! :wink: This system has no GUI (I am currently using pure CLI to set it up though I might install some sort of web admin interface at some point); and it is only going to be serving out files and DNS to a home network. Given the circumstances I'd say 4GB is pretty substantial overkill. Most of that RAM will end up being used by the OS as disk cache.

The server will be on a UPS, with battery monitoring (automatic shutdown if the battery gets low). I also plan to install some custom thermal monitoring scripts to cleanly shut things down in the event that the temperature of the motherboard, CPU, or hard drives goes above preset limits.


Hey, if 4 gigs was enough for ftp.cdrom.com's server in 2001... the specs of which are quoted below.

Micron NetFRAME 9201 system, consisting of:

One 500MHz Intel Pentium-III Xeon CPU w/512K L2 cache
4GB of main memory (16 * 256MB 50ns ECC EDO DIMMs)
1 Adaptec AHA-2940U2W PCI single-channel wide Ultra-2 SCSI controller
2 Adaptec AHA-3940AUW PCI dual-channel wide UltraSCSI controller
1 Intel Pro/100+ PCI 100Mbps Fast Ethernet controller
1 Bay Networks Netgear GA620 Gigabit Ethernet adapter

I believe it also had an effective 500 gigs of storage. It's just incredible how much things have improved since then.

edit: None of this was meant to sound snarky, for the record. If a server managing hundreds of simultaneous connections could comfortably manage all of that in 4 gigs of RAM, it really would be overkill for a home server if all else were equal...
Last edited by Concupiscence on Thu May 07, 2015 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 12:05 pm

just brew it! wrote:
They are retrofits. This unit from Newegg.


There is a version with faux wood bezel. :)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... gnorebbr=1
 
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Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 12:39 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:
There is a version with faux wood bezel. :)

For when the NAS box has to match your wine rack. :roll:
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Flatland_Spider
Graphmaster Gerbil
Posts: 1324
Joined: Mon Sep 13, 2004 8:33 pm

Re: New home file server build

Wed May 06, 2015 5:44 pm

SuperSpy wrote:
Flatland_Spider wrote:
There is a version with faux wood bezel. :)

For when the NAS box has to match your wine rack. :roll:


Or when it needs to match everything else you own.
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