Budget-Conscious Cam Security / File / Streaming / Virtualization Server

GeForceX

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I posted this thread over at the SSD / Storage forum but didn't get any response. I was thinking maybe it was the wrong place to post. I'll post it here and see what assistance and ideas I get.

I've been doing a lot of research and with a potential job interview coming up, I'd like to turn this into a learning experience that I can prove my knowledge in a tech support position where linux, backup technology, and virtualization is used primarily.

I'm looking into creating a thin low-powered server that will run linux based on zfs which will have the following purposes:

- stores files from Windows-based computers (with gigabit transfer rate capability)
- runs security webcam software connected to a wired or wireless cam
- plays / streams movies over HDMI / network (1080p quality)
- acts as a smart device hooked up to a TV in the living room
- low priority web hosting, DNS, and DHCP services running on VirtualBox (experimental)

My priorities are as followed:

1) Reliability
2) Cost
3) Performance

File storage redundancy is important which is why I chose zfs to start with. Cost is the second most important thing. I'm not looking to build a $1,000+ server. I'm looking to spend anywhere between free to a few hundred bucks -- this will be my first linux server ever and I want to learn from it. As a result, I know that I cannot expect so much out of performance but if I can get the performance I need without compromising cost, then excellent. I may not entertain SSD drives because of cost -- I'll stick with good ol' platters, unless I can find something incredibly irresistible for the price. I will not overclock.

With it being my first server build (I've built hundreds of desktop computers before but never a server), I will not have any spare parts to bring over. I will require some sort of 1u or comparatively thin case, low powered CPU, ECC RAM, onboard video capable of running 1080p, onboard gigabit NIC, running at least two HDDs (likely non-SSD), motherboard, and PSU.

However, I will also entertain pre-built systems if I can get an excellent deal (e.g., from Dell's outlet, big promos, used from other sellers). I was offered a SuperServer 5015A-L for $100. I don't know if that's a decent deal or not but it does have what I'm looking for -- it's Atom-based (low power requirements), runs ECC RAM, it's a 1u-sized server, and it's cheap. I don't know if the Atom CPU would be strong enough to play videos at 1080P (let alone, it's VGA-only -- I'd have to use an adapter). I also don't know if 2 GB of memory is enough too -- if I'll be running VirtualBox, I highly doubt it.

All parts will be shipped to Rochester, NY, USA. Sales taxes are 8% which sucks but as long as I can get the best deal, it's not a big concern. I know how to find the best deals -- I almost never buy anything in retail price. However, I'd like to get the parts in within the next week. The moment it comes in, I'll be so excited to build it ASAP!

Thanks to anyone who contributes to this thread!
 
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Dangman

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For $100, that SuperServer 5015A-L is a rip-off. It's the single-core Atom, not the better dual-core Atoms. As such, you're basically buying a Pentium 4 CPu at that point. So that rules out virtualization. Not only that, it uses an older 775 chipset with onboard video that sucked for playing HD content.

Exactly what's your max budget?
 

GeForceX

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Good call! I definitely want virtualization. I've got a Q6600-based CPU that runs virtualization admirably! I'd love to make my current workstation with 4GB of RAM and gigabit LAN to be my server but I use it for work. Which is why I need to build another one dedicated to being a server.

I can't really tell you what my maximum budget is because:

1) I don't even know how much servers can cost.
2) I have money in the bank but what I spend more on the server build means less money I can spend elsewhere.

As mentioned, I'm looking to spend anywhere between free to a few hundred bucks. A few hundred bucks would mean anywhere from $300 to even $600 (hesitantly). If it means to spend an extra $50 to get a CPU that would support virtualization, I would. I am OK with last generation technology. I guess I'm looking for the best bang for the buck. If someone seriously urges me to spend an extra $100 over my budget range for a good reason, I'd be happy to.

Thank you so much for helping out!
 

Dangman

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Oh $300 to $600? That's doable. But a few more questions:
1) When are you planning on buying the parts for this server?
2) How strict is that 1U case requirement?
 

GeForceX

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As mentioned in the OP, I'd like to get started on it within the next week. ASAP, if possible.

1U-style would be ideal simply because it's thin and low-profile. However, I will be OK if it's 2U-style. Slight thickness would be perfectly fine just so as long as I can stick it in the TV stand shelf. I'm more concerned about functionality over form at this time.
 

Syran

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I will give you a major problem with 1U & 2U servers: Noise! If you are running it in your TV stand shelf, it's going to be really loud, especially if you are truly looking at normal server chassis of that size. You might be better off looking into the component case look and more of a fanless/quiet fan setup if you have the size-ability. Honestly, IMHO, you might be better off running XMBC or something along those lines, and use a streaming stick for casting to your TV.
 

GeForceX

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Interesting. Are there no fan replacements to reduce the noise or to reduce the RPM of the fans?

If not, I'm perfectly fine with a low-profile custom case instead of an actual server case. I've already gotten some ideas such as Lian Li's or Silverstone's media center boxes.
 

Syran

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Interesting. Are there no fan replacements to reduce the noise or to reduce the RPM of the fans?

If not, I'm perfectly fine with a low-profile custom case instead of an actual server case. I've already gotten some ideas such as Lian Li's or Silverstone's media center boxes.

Most 1U's I've worked with in the server space, even the quiet ones, give off a good humm, if not louder, mostly because they are so low, they have tiny fans that run at high speeds to cool everything, since all your cpus, memory, hard drives are typically all in line, and all cooled by them, many times they will ramp up, and it sounds like an airplane taking off. I've never really built something into the 1U space that isn't a server of some sort, 2U should be much cleaner, especially if you can go ITX on it. I may get a chance to play with something in a little bit.
 

Sp33dFr33k

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Agreed on the rack server, even 4U servers chassis can be very loud. I'd look at an HTPC case that supports an ATX motherboard. For home use ECC RAM is overkill IMO. I have an ESXi host running at home (for several years) and it's using standard DDR3, never had any issues with it.
 

ToddW2

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1U always loud pretty much 2U you could really quiet down... a 4U should just be like a mini-tower, you spend the $ on fans you can cool it down quietly. Don't expect a chassis with a lot of hot swap bays to ever be quiet when all the drives are full the humm + required air flow guarantee it won't be silent for in your TV room, at-least it would be to loud for me.
 

GeForceX

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Sounds good. I'll explore ITX, MPC, and even mini-tower options where I can set them horizontally. I'd probably go with built-in fans and if it get gets loud, I'll consider swapping them.

Let's get to the specs. This is one area I have absolutely no idea what to get. Should I go with desktop parts or server parts? However, I believe ECC RAM is a must since I'll be using ZFS.
 

Syran

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$459.93 for a fairly low power, low budget build, that can handle storage space (4x 2.5" bays), and not horribly expensive.
 

Syran

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Let's get to the specs. This is one area I have absolutely no idea what to get. Should I go with desktop parts or server parts? However, I believe ECC RAM is a must since I'll be using ZFS.

ECC Ram is going to run you a small fortune on your pricing, at least as long as we are talking new parts.
 

GeForceX

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I may not even do new at all. I'd probably hit the [H] Buyer's/Seller's forum to get the parts. I don't mind previous generation parts, as long as it performs just fine. I, for example, am running a 7 year old PC and I will not be upgrading anytime soon (yes, laugh at me, but it does the job well). :)

And thank you for the build! That gives me something to start with!
 

Syran

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Be vigilant with ITX parts, they tend to get snapped up quickly if they are decent. I'd stick in the Intel wheelhouse for low power parts. If you really do intend to virtualize, then Memory & Core count probably are your biggest want list. You'll want to shoot for 16GB at a minimum for handling virtualization. I'm still almost of the opinion what you really should do is get an XMBC box or something similar built, that can run inside a virtual enviornment, then use a FireTV Stick, Chromecast, or some other HDMI small device to handle streaming to the TV, you can go a bit more inexpensive if you aren't doing the whole small scale bit.
 

GeForceX

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I think I'm loving the Lian-Li PC-37B. It's a mini-ITX case. What do you guys think?

Now to discuss on what to stuff in the case. I'm pretty much decided on a Xeon CPU with ECC RAM. These are my minimum.

Case - Lian-Li PC-37B.
CPU - It'll be single CPU -- unsure which Xeon CPU to get -- looking at previous generation Xeons such as Ivy or Sandy. Need to determine which one of these uses the least power.
RAM - 16GB (8GBx2) of Samsung DDR3-1333 8GB ECC.
Motherboard - No clue as of this time. It needs to be compatible with the CPU and memory mentioned above and be mini-ITX as well.
PSU - Once everything else is determined.

BTW, I forgot to mention that I already have a Chromecast hooked up to our LG 50" TV in the living room. It works well... when the iPhone/iPad wants to be friends with it, that is! :)
 

Dangman

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I may not even do new at all. I'd probably hit the [H] Buyer's/Seller's forum to get the parts. I don't mind previous generation parts, as long as it performs just fine. I, for example, am running a 7 year old PC and I will not be upgrading anytime soon (yes, laugh at me, but it does the job well). :)
7 years old you say? Umm..pretty much any new Intel CPU from Ivy Bridge onwards (and even Sandy Bridge if you have a Core i3 or AMD CPU or less) would be a major upgrade over your current system. Even Syran's flawed proposed setup (I'll get to that in a sec) would potentially be faster than your current PC.

So from a cost to performance standpoint, you might be better off just converting your old PC to the server and getting a new PC for yourself.
And thank you for the build! That gives me something to start with!
It's not a good setup:
1) The Intel "T" CPUs are a waste of money since their idle power are almost the same as the regular non-T CPUs. In addition, the lower clock speeds means it'll take more time doing tasks which means more power is spent. So all in all, the T or S series CPUs don't save you power. So might as well get more performance with a regular CPU.

2) That case can only hold one 3.5" hard drive.

I think I'm loving the Lian-Li PC-37B. It's a mini-ITX case. What do you guys think?
Ridiculously overpriced at $152 plus shipping. That's more than the price of solid full tower ATX cases! It is more than likely solidly built but at $152 + shipping, it's not worth it. But before I can start recommending different cases, we have to settle first on the motherboard and CPU. You'll see why in a sec.....

Case - Lian-Li PC-37B.
CPU - It'll be single CPU -- unsure which Xeon CPU to get -- looking at previous generation Xeons such as Ivy or Sandy. Need to determine which one of these uses the least power.
RAM - 16GB (8GBx2) of Samsung DDR3-1333 8GB ECC.
Motherboard - No clue as of this time. It needs to be compatible with the CPU and memory mentioned above and be mini-ITX as well.
PSU - Once everything else is determined.)
Yeah your proposed mITX setup won't work either. No one good (read Supermicro) actually released a solid mITX server class motherboard that supported Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge based Xeon CPUs and ECC RAM. Basically, if you want a cost-effective Xeon and therefore ECC RAM setup, you're going to have to go with mATX. Alternatively, if this is going to be a "I don't care about money, spend it all!" type setup, then there are options for mITX Xeon with ECC RAM options.

Also, which ECC RAM are you talking about? Unbuffered or Registered?
 

GeForceX

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7 years old you say? Umm..pretty much any new Intel CPU from Ivy Bridge onwards (and even Sandy Bridge if you have a Core i3 or AMD CPU or less) would be a major upgrade over your current system. Even Syran's flawed proposed setup (I'll get to that in a sec) would potentially be faster than your current PC.

So from a cost to performance standpoint, you might be better off just converting your old PC to the server and getting a new PC for yourself.

My current PC is running on a Core 2 Duo Q6600 CPU, 2 GBx2 G.Skill F2-6400CL5D-4GBPQ RAM, Sapphire HD4850 GPU, on Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3R motherboard. It's beefy, does everything admirably. It can run as a decent server.

It's not a good setup:
1) The Intel "T" CPUs are a waste of money since their idle power are almost the same as the regular non-T CPUs. In addition, the lower clock speeds means it'll take more time doing tasks which means more power is spent. So all in all, the T or S series CPUs don't save you power. So might as well get more performance with a regular CPU.

Noted. I'm going for Xeons, not the i3.

2) That case can only hold one 3.5" hard drive.

It actually holds two! And I'm looking to store no more than two HDDs.

Ridiculously overpriced at $152 plus shipping. That's more than the price of solid full tower ATX cases! It is more than likely solidly built but at $152 + shipping, it's not worth it. But before I can start recommending different cases, we have to settle first on the motherboard and CPU. You'll see why in a sec.....

I'm not buying it for $152 plus shipping. ;) I'm buying it for $60 or so including shipping. I'm talking with a seller here who has a perfect condition Lian Li case for sale. I wouldn't have even considered it if it were $150+! This is going to be a budget-conscious build.

Yeah your proposed mITX setup won't work either. No one good (read Supermicro) actually released a solid mITX server class motherboard that supported Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge based Xeon CPUs and ECC RAM.

:(

Basically, if you want a cost-effective Xeon and therefore ECC RAM setup, you're going to have to go with mATX. Alternatively, if this is going to be a "I don't care about money, spend it all!" type setup, then there are options for mITX Xeon with ECC RAM options.

On a second thought, I just realized that the case above (Lian Li) actually supports mATX-sized motherboards!

Also, which ECC RAM are you talking about? Unbuffered or Registered?

This depends entirely on motherboard requirements. When we decide on what motherboard is best, we'll go with what it recommends. For extra stability, we'd probably go with registered but if I can get away with unbuffered at a lower cost, that'd be fine.
 

Dangman

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My current PC is running on a Core 2 Duo Q6600 CPU, 2 GBx2 G.Skill F2-6400CL5D-4GBPQ RAM, Sapphire HD4850 GPU, on Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3R motherboard. It's beefy, does everything admirably. It can run as a decent server.

Soooo...why not repurpose that old PC as the server and get yourself a faster and more up-to-date system? Your system isn't actually that beefy by today's standards. My HTPC (in sig) is beefier.

Now that I've re-read your thread again, I don't think you're going about this the right way.
1) Your self-imposed limitation of two hard drives means that you're actually not storing that much data. As such, I don't see a solid reason for ECC RAM.
2) Without the ECC RAM requirement, your price for this planned setup drops. Which means that you'll more than likely end up with a faster desktop as a result.
3) Your planned usages should be just fine with that Q6600.
3) If your data is truly important, than you would also have another form of backup like an external hard drive. This could be a $2000 Xeon server and I would still recommend having an external hard drive or other form of backup as ZFS is nowhere near as effective as having multiple copies of the data stored on different mediums and locations.

So again, why not a new system for yourself and repurpose your current system as a server?

If you get yourself a new system, you could go mITX and get your thin-based system relatively easy with the Silverstone RVZ01B case:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163252

Or if you can wait, you can get the smaller RVZ02 or the better looking FTZ01:
http://techreport.com/news/27633/uber-slim-silverstone-mini-itx-cases-can-house-dual-slot-graphics
On a second thought, I just realized that the case above (Lian Li) actually supports mATX-sized motherboards!
I have doubts about its actual cooling though. Not to mention the difficulty of finding a replacement 70mm fan. Even at $60, it's still a hard recommendation.

This depends entirely on motherboard requirements. When we decide on what motherboard is best, we'll go with what it recommends. For extra stability, we'd probably go with registered but if I can get away with unbuffered at a lower cost, that'd be fine.
Well unfortunately, the LGA 1150 and LGA 1155 platforms don't really support registered ECC RAM. So unbuffered it is.

Ok, assuming that you're going to ignore my previous recommendation of NOT doing this server build, here's our baseline:
$257 - Intel Xeon E3-1230V3 CPU
$180 - Supermicro MBD-X10SLM-F-O Intel C224 mATX Motherboard
$81 - Kingston 8GB DDR3 1600 ECC Unbuffered RAM
----
Total: $518 shipped.

The above is the latest mainstream Xeon platform and what I would recommend if looking for an Intel Xeon setup. Any Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge setup that you get would have be at least $100 cheaper IMO to justify the purchase. The extra $100 for the above gets you:
- Lower power usage than either Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge.
- About 5% performance increase over Ivy Bridge or 8% performance increase over Sandy Bridge.
- Two extra rear USB 2.0 ports
- Actual warranty.

A few other notes:
- The Xeon E3-1230V3 is basically the Xeon equivalent of a Core i7 CPU. While you technically don't need the HT features, it's only $57 more than the Core i5 equivalent Xeon E3-1220V3. Considering that the price difference between a Core i7 4790K and Core i5 4690K can range between $100 to $120, $57 extra fpr HT and therefore increase the longevity of the system is a good deal IMO.
- Stick with Kingston ECC Unbuffered RAM if you can as those tend to have higher compatibility rates
- The Sandy Bridge CPU equivalent is the Xeon E3-1230 or E3-1230V1. The Ivy Bridge equivalent is E3-1230V2. See a pattern there?

Now if you do go the used route for Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge Xeons, then the motherboard you should try to buy (used or not):
$180 - Supermicro MBD-X9SCM-F-O Intel C204 mATX Motherboard

The X9CSM-F-O was/is one of the more reliable and popular server motherboards for SB and IB based Xeons. If you do buy it used, make sure that its BIOS was updated so this way you can use the slightly lower power Ivy Bridge based Xeons. If buying new for whatever odd reason, I'd stick with the Sandy Bridge Xeons since there's a good chance that the motherboard shipped with an older BIOs.
 

GeForceX

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Dangman, thank you for your well thought out post. I should re-emphasize that while I'll be having several purposes for the server, it still remains entirely experimental. My requirements are not exceedingly high and I know it'll be relevant for the next few years (just as my desktop gaming PC had been in the past seven years). While I may convert my desktop PC into a server, the Q6600 CPU uses a lot of energy and 4 GB would not be enough for a zfs-based linux server. Yes, my PC is not as beefy as today's standards but considering what I use my PC for 90% of the time (productivity work, research, programming, virtual machine testing, gaming, dual booting), it is perfectly adequate!

Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I did some research prior to seeing your post and came up with a good compatible set with cost effectiveness being a primary concern. I will most likely go with the used parts path because that ends up giving me the most savings.

So far here is what I can gather:

Lian-Li PC-C37B: $60 shipped. Honestly, you can't beat the aesthetics. It will be placed underneath our TV in our TV stand shelves. Cooling will be plenty as you can place several 70 mm fans on the sides. 70 mm fans can be found anywhere online if I need to replace them.
Samsung 8 GB x 2 (16 GB) PC3-10600R 1333 MHz M393B1K70DH0-CH9: $100 shipped for registered DDR3 RAM.
Intel Xeon E5649: $60 shipped. Chosen for its great performance per price ratio, several cores, and low TDP.
Motherboard: Unsure -- I'm limited in this section and will need help in this. There are three motherboards that are in mATX form and they're not as widely available.

So far, the total is $220. I'm looking at an extra ~$220 for the motherboard and PSU to make it complete @ $440 total. Assuming we go with your build, add in another set of RAM, it'll cost me:

$257 CPU
$162 RAM
$180 Motherboard
$60 Case (probably my maximum budget on a case)
~$70 PSU

Total of ~$729.00

Definitely more than what I'm looking to pay. I certainly don't need all the performance nor the most recent hardware for my purposes.

With work coming tomorrow, I have to cut this short and re-read your post tomorrow. Maybe I'll change my mind. Thank you so much!
 
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Dangman

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I'm not sure what motherboards you found but looking at Supermicro's website, I don't see a single LGA 1366 mATX motherboard at all. In fact, since that Xeon E5649 was meant for dual-socket LGA 1366 platforms (meaning the Intel 5500 or Intel 5520 chipsets), pretty much all the Supermicro dual LGA 1366 motherboards start at eATX. Not even ATX. Even looking at the subpar Tyan site shows that their dual LGA 1366 motherboards are mainly SSI CEB, even larger than eATX.

So based on the above info, mATX with that CPU is out of the question. You need to look at the E3-12xxx series if you want mATX.

Anyway, key word is "adequate". Once you actually work on a newer PC with a SSD, more RAM, and faster CPU, that Q6600 will no longer be "adequate". Not to mention the better gaming performance from the better CPU and GPU. In addition, since you're only using two drives and the rest of your planned workload isn't all that much, 4GB of RAM should be ok. If it isn't you can always add 4GB of DDR2 RAM for like $30 to $40.

Also, TDP in Intel's terms doesn't mean power usage. Straight from Intel's white paper on it:
http://www.intel.com/content/dam/doc/white-paper/resources-xeon-measuring-processor-power-paper.pdf

As for the case, it seems that you are correct in that the case can mount multiple 70mm fans. I was looking at the Lian-Li website and it didn't mention that ability at all. Wait, under the TV? Is the server going to be connected wirelessly or direct via cable?
 
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I used a Silverstone ML03b, the older mATX version of the ITX case in Syran's build, as an HTPC for a while. The physical specs of the Lian-Li PC-C37B are very comparable to the ML03b. I was able to get one 3.5" and two 2.5" HDs in the ML03b, but it wasn't silent - the HDs are directly attached to the case in these setups and subtle vibrations of each drive caused a harmonic buzz throughout the case, despite using the (included) yellow sound dampening rubber mounts. Granted these weren't brand new drives. I couldn't hear it at around 6 feet. Just something to consider.

I initially used two 80mm case fans but the extra airflow wasn't needed to cool the system, which was already fairly low heat (i3 Ivy Bridge), so I took them out.

Unless you are a ninja case builder, I would strongly suggest getting a modular PSU. The ML03b is 4.13" tall (the C37B is 3.7"!) and the cabling is a pain with a traditional PSU.

For the HTPC component of your proposed build, are you trying to do something specific that the Chromecast doesn't already do? Might help with hardware recommendations. IMO it is hard to build a system that is both small, quiet, "cheap," and robust on the storage side (ZFS with TB), particularly if you are staying with the horizontal case format. You might consider building a separate, quiet, and low power server and put it in a closet somewhere, and use something different for the living room.

You mentioned wanting 1080p from onboard video. The E5649 does not have an integrated GPU. It looks like desktop Socket 1366 boards are limited to the X58 chipset, which also does not typically have onboard video, so you might need a discrete GPU, adding to your cost. I am not sure if the various Matrox video chipsets onboard the Supermicro 1366 boards can do 1080p either (it will have to be over a VGA port as well...).
 
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