DIY Home Server/NAS suggestions

Headcase_Fargone

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 25, 2010
Messages
284
Currently I'm running a DNS-321 at home (which I've dubbed "The little NAS that could") and I've been incredibly happy with it for the past year or so. I originally purchased it with the sole intention of having it serve media to my televisions, but I soon discovered Fun_plug and now it does my torrent downloading, FTP/web hosting, and music collection streaming.

It does all of these things very well, and at an absurdly low power consumption. But the little guy starts to struggle when I try to do more than one of those things at the same time. So I'm thinking it might be time to build something a little more powerful/robust.

I'm looking at building an Atom-based box, probably using a 945GSE mobile chipset on a mini-ITX board. I'd like to keep power consumption as close to the DNS-321's as possible since electricity is stupid-expensive here in Texas.

My question at this point though is: What OS? I know there are plenty of threads about this already but I'd still like to solicit opinions for my particular situation.

Windows Home Server. Is there any point to this over, say, Server 2003 or even 2008? Will something like that run on a lowly Atom-based machine with likely 1GB of RAM?

Windows XP. Simple. Fairly quick even on Atoms. Dated as all hell. Enough said.

FreeNAS. This seems to be the most widely accepted solution, but after dealing with Linux on the DNS-321 I'd really rather avoid it if possible. For someone that's completely unfamiliar with Linux it can be pretty daunting to even install and configure things on it, much less keep everything running. Will FreeNAS allow me to run things like Subsonic and torrent applications like Transmission?

Would FreeNAS (or some full Linux distro like Debian) offer as much of a performance premium over a Windows OS as to justify the headaches?

Any input would be greatly appreciated.
 

Asposium

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 13, 2009
Messages
351
I'm looking at building an Atom-based box, probably using a 945GSE mobile chipset on a mini-ITX board. I'd like to keep power consumption as close to the DNS-321's as possible since electricity is stupid-expensive here in Texas.

My question at this point though is: What OS? I know there are plenty of threads about this already but I'd still like to solicit opinions for my particular situation.

Windows Home Server. Is there any point to this over, say, Server 2003 or even 2008? Will something like that run on a lowly Atom-based machine with likely 1GB of RAM?

my current WHS uses a Intel D945GCLF2D with 1gig RAM, runs perfectly well.
 

Reikon

n00b
Joined
May 9, 2007
Messages
42
WHS has better built in support for backing up PCs and streaming media than Server 2003 or 2008. You lose some of the more advanced features (for me, the biggest thing was losing more powerful control over user permissions), but you gain in convenience in other areas.

Not to mention WHS is a lot cheaper than either of the business servers.

More RAM is always better since files are cached in the RAM when transferring over the network.
 

pjkenned

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 8, 2010
Messages
1,971
I'm planning at taking a look at the Supermicro D510 based 1U in a few weeks as I think that would be a pretty awesome low-end server.

On the OS front, FreeNAS (ZFS), Openfiler (Linux), or EON ZFS Storage are pretty good options if you don't want WHS. WHS V2 Vail is probably going to be out in the next 7 months. I would suggest putting each in a VirtualBox VM and playing around with them before doing your build. Each has pros/ cons associated with the solution.
 

sub.mesa

2[H]4U
Joined
Feb 16, 2010
Messages
2,508
I recommend skipping the Atom instead, and going for an Intel/AMD solution which consumes even less power than the Atom solution; which is really not that hard as the Atom platform is not that power efficient; the CPU is lower power but the chipset is not. CPU has 1cm heatsink, the chipset one ten times as large and with a fan. And then you get a PCI slot where you can't do anything with.

If you care about power, there is little reason to go Atom; much more powerful AMD/Intel solutions have same or lower idle power while still providing you with high-performance and expansion capabilities through PCI-express x16.

For example the newer ULV chips from Intel are way nice, with 18W TDP a system built on this platform would likely have lower idle power than 'legacy' Atom.
 

novadude

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
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Messages
1,108
That's true of the 945GC chipset used with older gen atom boards but the 945GSE and the newest boards are much more power efficient.
 

Headcase_Fargone

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 25, 2010
Messages
284
I was actually looking at this board which appears to have an extremely low power consumption, both idle and at load. My research (Googling) hasn't found anything close to what it uses. Intel's white sheet claims a TDP of between 8 and 11 watts.

I've been reading up on WHS, FreeNas and now OpenFiler (as someone suggested above) and power management options are becoming a concern.

Right now my DNS-321 spins down both HDs after just a few minutes of idling and consumes under 5w in this state. I'd like to get as close to that as possible. It immediately spins them back up whenever an application needs them, whether it's SAMBA, torrents, or music streaming.

I take it WHS has to be installed to a third HD? I know FreeNas and OpenFiler seem to have options for installing to a USB drive, but OpenFiler seems to lack any real power saving features.

I'm beginning to wonder if a true low power solution is really available at this point. Maybe I'm asking too much...
 

sub.mesa

2[H]4U
Joined
Feb 16, 2010
Messages
2,508
That board has a DC power input; so you do not require a separate power supply which cuts your power consumption. It just needs a AC->DC 12V adapter.

You should carefully check if the ethernet is connected to PCI-bus, PCI-express bus or integrated MAC in the chipset with separate PHY. If you want any reasonable performance, you should avoid using PCI altogether. Especially when both disk and network are on the same PCI bus, your performance would be noticeably impacted.

An AMD/Intel low-power solution would be settling on 25W idle, by using a PicoPSU as power supply, a Mini-ITX motherboard and quadcore recent cpu. The advantage here is that such more powerful hardware would be idling most of the times, unless you really need it. That means 99.8% is idle time; and you can look at the idle power consumption. So even with 45W TDP if you only use 1W when idling then the TDP can be misleading. Idle power consumption is much more important, in my eyes. The TDP is important for thermal and electrical specs; not for average power consumption.
 

Headcase_Fargone

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 25, 2010
Messages
284
I'm definitely more concerned with idle power consumption than anything else. That's why I was looking at the Atom + 945GSE to begin with.

I'd actually be using a PSU with that board despite its inclusion of a power input. From what I've read that board won't power two 3.5" HDDs, much less three if I chose to put another in.
 

sub.mesa

2[H]4U
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Feb 16, 2010
Messages
2,508
Yes two 3,5" HDDs would be 75W spinning up; PicoPSU wouldn't work well here too. A real low idle NAS would have to use 2,5" HDDs or SSDs.

But if you are going to use a regular ATX power supply, you might as well pair it with a decent AMD /Intel board, as these power supplies get very inefficient below 50W. You might not all save that much power by going Atom, perhaps that's my point.

In the end, a faster system would be powerful enough for something more fancy in the future. Due to its faster processing power it would also more or less guarantee that it's idling all the time; unless you use something like server-side compression when you need the speed for just a short while; the extra power consumed is negligible over a long period of time.
 

Headcase_Fargone

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 25, 2010
Messages
284
But if you are going to use a regular ATX power supply, you might as well pair it with a decent AMD /Intel board, as these power supplies get very inefficient below 50W. You might not all save that much power by going Atom, perhaps that's my point.

Okay, that's where you had lost me. This makes a lot more sense.

In the end, a faster system would be powerful enough for something more fancy in the future. Due to its faster processing power it would also more or less guarantee that it's idling all the time; unless you use something like server-side compression when you need the speed for just a short while; the extra power consumed is negligible over a long period of time.

It would very often be downloading torrents. I assume these more powerful CPUs would throttle their power consumption doing something like that as opposed to encoding a video?

What about one of those I3 micro-ATX combos over in the HotDeals forum? Would you suggest something like that or are their ULV options more suitable to my purposes?
 

sub.mesa

2[H]4U
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Messages
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A modern cpu with multiple cores could use 95/125W when 100% stressed, but only 3 or 4 watts when idling. Generally, multicore CPUs would not go much beyond their idle usage under light usage.

Intel's 32nm and 45nm CPUs don't leak much current at all, AMD focuses on power saving with downclocking (Cool'N'Quiet) that clocks both voltage and cpu frequency down depending on use. While on Intel CPUs the comparable EIST technology does not provide much benefit at all, for AMD it's a must-have and saves a lot of power. Note that the VRM on the motherboard impacts heavily on idle power consumption. With "overclocking" boards often used in reviews, with 8 or 12-phase VRM, the idle power consumption would be much higher than a simple 3 or 4-phase VRM found in Micro-ATX/Mini-ITX boards. Those boards are often limited to either 65W or 95W CPUs; but that's actually a benefit in this case, leading to lower idle power consumption.

So both Intel and AMD have nice "NAS" CPUs that are both powerful yet very low idle consumption. An AMD quadcore on 2.5GHz with 45W TDP, and pretty cheap too. The Intel route is a bit more expensive but has nice options as well, and if you can score Intel onboard NIC that would be great as well.

But i would focus on having PCI-express and the network on PCI-express/chipset and avoiding anything that uses PCI. Would be a shame if you would still be limited by a PCI bus in 2010+.
 

pjkenned

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
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1,971
So both Intel and AMD have nice "NAS" CPUs that are both powerful yet very low idle consumption. An AMD quadcore on 2.5GHz with 45W TDP, and pretty cheap too. The Intel route is a bit more expensive but has nice options as well, and if you can score Intel onboard NIC that would be great as well.

Agreed with sub.mesa. The Clarkdale Intel CPU's sip power at idle and getting them to a full 73w seemlingly requires that the GPU gets stressed too.

I would *strongly* advise thinking about what you want this machine to do in the next 18 months (at least) both in terms of performance and storage capacity. Also, how you want to feed your network (after you do research the answer is probably going to be one or two Intel gigabit NICs) and how you want to manage the machine are important also.

For example, If you buy a low cost, quality, mATX motherbard for $80, then spend another $80 on a dual port Intel gigabit NIC you have something equivelant to a $160 motherboard witht he two Intel gigabit NICs onboard. The X8SIL-F that I just looked at has two integrated Intel nics and IPMI 2.0 with KVM over IP. The cost is somewhere in the $187 range. In essence, you pay $27 more for the IPMI 2.0 and KVM over IP including nice "extras" like BMC mounting of CD images and an internal USB header if you are running your NAS OS off of a flash drive.

The basic point is, a quality "server" motherboard may not cost that much more than a low cost motherboard if you decide you need things like Intel NICs (basically an add on for most non-Intel branded consumer Intel boards and almost all consumer AMD boards), extra SATA ports and etc, a more expensive board with this stuff onboard may be the way to go.
 

Headcase_Fargone

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 25, 2010
Messages
284
I get what you guys are saying, but honestly I have no use for things like IPMI and KVM and whatnot. This is going to be a fairly simplistic home server with very limited duties. Hell, I can't even imagine needing two NICs for what I'm using it for. I think the most bandwidth-intensive activity I would ever perform on it is streaming uncompressed Blu-Ray movies from it. That won't even saturate fast ethernet, much less gigabit. And I certainly don't want a footprint that a full-blown ATX board would necessitate.

I just spent a good long while researching power consumption on various I3 setups and while CPU consumption is pretty impressive the rest of the system would just eat up more than I'm willing to feed it for an "on all the time" box.

I think you guys are right about the Atom though. Coupled with the fact that the Atom/motherboard combo is a minimum of $100 (the same as you can get an I3 combo for) and I'm having second thoughts on it as well.

I may just stick it out with the little DNS-321 for now and wait for some more power-efficient chipsets.
 
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