4 Bay, E350 and a WHS 2011 build - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 02-02-2012, 05:20 PM - Thread Starter
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In the spirit of Mike Boulanger's "Keeping It Simple" - here's a thread dedicated to a simple media-centric Storage Server build ...

After getting rid of my HFX chassis based HTPC and moving to a EMC 800B based mini PC, I've put all my storage tasks onto my trusty Netgear Stora. However, although the Stora is a neat little appliance, it didn't really do justice as a media server for my HTPC because I wanted:
  • Efficient Usage of space: The Stora supported RAID0, RAID1 and JBOD. The JBOD mode was too flaky and what I wanted was keeping my documents and personal folders on redundant storage while having JBOD for my media files
  • A better DLNA server than the one in Stora: the miniDLNA server on the Stora was adequate but I wanted something that was more configurable with the ability to transcode on demand
  • More bays for the NAS than the 2 found in the Stora: Qnap, Lacie, Synology and ReadyNAS all do 4 bay NAS boxes but they were either too expensive or too underpowered for my taste. And only Synology has a decent offering for HTPC-centric storage

In the end, I decided to go for the following build:

Motherboard: Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350, with 5x SATA6, 1x eSATA and 2x USB 3.0 ports
RAM: 8GB DDR3 1333MHz Crucial SO-DIMMs
HDD: Crucial C300 SSD 64GB
Case: CFI A7879
PSU: PicoPSU-120-WI-25
Power: Dell PA-3E 19.5v/90W laptop power supply

Initial HDDs: 2 x 2TB Samsung F4EG

I only got the CFI case as money was a factor, coupled with wanting an open bay NAS ( ruling out LianLi PC-Q25 or Fractal Design Array R2 ). Working with this case was not quite a pleasant experience. The case is cheap and I got it on offer from LinITX but it isn't the most thoughtfully laid out case. There's no instructions and no sliding motherboard tray. The included 200W PSU has a whiny 40mm fan and the included 120mm fan while fine for the office isn't as quiet as needed for the living room.

I took out the PSU altogether and replaced the case fan with a Thermalright TY-140 fan ( this has 120mm retention holes )

Again the motherboard was a bit of a compromise. I'd have preferred an Atom D2700 based motherboard but these were 3 weeks out and in any case, none of them had more than 2 SATA ports. Thinking I might have the Media Storage Server do double duty as a HTPC, I opted for trhe cheapest E350 based board I could find that had more than 4 SATA ports and USB 3.0. Pixmania did a good offer on the Sapphire E350 although Xbitlabs had noted that the mobo did consume more power than the usual E350 based boards. ( And the D2700 boards consume more power than the E350 boards )

The Pure Fusion is equipped with HDMI - a huge plus point if this becomes my main HTPC instead of being relegated to a storage server - and comes with another tiny whiny fan on the heatsink. The fan went - after being replaced with a 120mm Nexus RealSilent Basic fan.

Routing the SATA cables in the CFI case was not easy or pleasant and I've managed to do 3 of 5 needed. The case has a mounting for the system 2.5" SSD so it can really take 1 x 2.5" SSD/HDD + 4 x 3.5" HDDs. In the end I needed a variety of cables ( some with angled ends and others with straight latches ) to make it all work - but it does work.

The DC jack for the PicoPSU had to be mounted on a blanking plate but this will change as I intend to mount a Dell P30 DC jack and use a Dell power supply for the PicoPSU instead of using a generic 12V 5A power brick. JohnnyGuru has the low down on why it's better to have a 19V quality brick for the PicoPSU-120-WI-25 than a 12V brick.

There's no optical drive but an 8GB USB key enabled me to load WHS 2011 (again acquired very cheaply). Be warned that WHS 2011 doesnt like being installed on anything less than a system disk with at least 160GB free. The answer is to have another USB key with a cfg.ini file and make sure that nothing is plugged into the USB 3.0 ports


The whole reason for going with WHS 2011 instead of FreeNAS or OpenMediaVault is that I can perhaps use it as a media box ( except that I'm not happy with ease of use at the moment ) and also I can use a RAID-Z / DriveExtender style add-in for WHS 2011 from CoveCube called StableBit DrivePool. There are other DriveExtender plugins - none free although CoveCube have said theirs will cost around $25 [?] - but CoveCube's is the simplest to use. It gives you a virtual drive that is a pool of actual volumes. On this virtual drive it is possible to create two types of folders - duplicated folders and normal pooled folders. The normal pooled folders are great for storing media - HD movies and the like - since they are distributed across all disks in the pool and they don't really need redundancy. Duplicated folders are mirrored across all drives in the pool and are perfect for storing backups and documents - especially the GF's documents ( " what do you mean hard disks CRASH ? You're a techie - you're supposed to prevent all this ... ")


Does it all work ? Some observations:

Noise: This puppy is quite silent. Not as silent as I would like - my living room is dead quiet and night and I can hear the system if I strain myself. The TY-140 is at the lowest PWM setting and the Nexus 120 has a 7v adapter. But I can probably grab a Zalman FanMate2 for the Nexus as well as a PWM cable for the TY-140. I've tested with a WD Caviar Green and the Samsung and I have to say the Samsung is quieter than the Caviar while running cooler.

Power Consumption : Recently it's quite important down here in the Blighty. On the whole, a wee bit disappointing. Even with the single 2TB drive ( at present ) powered down on idle, I get an idle of 17W-21W from my Kill-A-Watt. I'd expected much less. I intend to try out BrazosTweaker and a better power brick ( the Dell PA-3E ) to see if that makes a difference

Performace As a Storage Server: Here's where it gets interesting. Using Crystal DiskMark to measure - a single 5900rpm drive on the server gives me 54 Mb/sec for reads and 92 Mb/sec for writes respectively. That's not bad considering my Stora never went above 40 Mb/sec for reads or writes. When I get my second Samsung, I'll update with performance figures

GAF ( GF Acceptance Factor) : Case isn't fugly and passes GF acceptance test, while being light on the wallet. 'nuff said.

As I go along I'll update this thread with results of testing with two drives, how CoveCube's DrivePool pans out
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post #2 of 15 Old 02-02-2012, 05:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Ah there's a limit on the number of attachments so have to post a reply with more attachments ...

More observations ...

Temperatures: With an ambient of 23c, I usually see temps of 35c for the CPU and 27c-30c for the solitary drive. I'm going to record more temps after a session on my HTPC. Also I'll update more with setting up my WMC to run off a pooled drive + transcoding experiences

CPU util: Running CDM causes CPU to spike amazingly to 50%. I guess the E350 isn't that powerful. In fact with the idle figures being what they are, I'd go for a Pentium G620 or even cheaper CPU and a DH61AG mini-ITX. The only problem is the lack of SATA connections on Intel's motherboards. The E350 cost me £90, and the DH61AG can be had for £70, with the G620 retailing for £45. On the whole, not a lot of difference in price. Or in idle power. But there's a HUGE difference in CPU speed ...
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post #3 of 15 Old 02-03-2012, 06:35 AM
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Your's is very similar to my WHS2011 build. I went with:

Motherboard: ASUS E35M1-I E-350 Mini-itx motherboard (6 x SATA)
RAM: 4GB Kingston DDR3 1333
OS HDD: Kingston 64GB SSD
Case: Lian-Li PC-Q09B
PSU: PicoPSU-120-WI-25 / APEX AL-8250SFX 250W SFX12V
Power: 19V / 6.3A AC/DC power brick
Data HDDs: 3 x 2TB, 1 x 1.5TB, 1 x 1TB

I started out with the picoPSU which I mounted with one of the ATX backplates that I make (you can see it in my signature link). Later, I needed that picoPSU for another build so I stuck a low-end SFX12V PSU I had lying around into the case. I had an ATX-to-SFX adapter that I mounted it with (some SFX PSUs come with them).

I've been pretty happy with it. With all the HDDs and the inefficient PSU, it draws more power than I would like but it's working. I am not sure another 5%-10% in efficiency would pay for a new PSU.

I love the PC-Q09 case. It's very roomy, looks like a NAS box (albeit a big one), has room for 6 x 3.5" and 1 x 2.5" HDDs and keeps everything very cool. With the SFX PSU there's plenty of room inside for cable routing, etc. I would not have splurged for this case if I hadn't caught a sale ($80 shipped).

WHS2011 I think is just OK. I don't do much more than serve media and perform backups so it's adequate for now. Once Win8 comes out and is stable, I am sure I'll be moving to that, especially if the Storage Spaces feature works out.

 

 

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post #4 of 15 Old 02-05-2012, 03:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

Your's is very similar to my WHS2011 build. I went with:

Motherboard: ASUS E35M1-I E-350 Mini-itx motherboard (6 x SATA)
RAM: 4GB Kingston DDR3 1333
OS HDD: Kingston 64GB SSD
Case: Lian-Li PC-Q09B
PSU: PicoPSU-120-WI-25 / APEX AL-8250SFX 250W SFX12V
Power: 19V / 6.3A AC/DC power brick
Data HDDs: 3 x 2TB, 1 x 1.5TB, 1 x 1TB

I started out with the picoPSU which I mounted with one of the ATX backplates that I make (you can see it in my signature link). Later, I needed that picoPSU for another build so I stuck a low-end SFX12V PSU I had lying around into the case. I had an ATX-to-SFX adapter that I mounted it with (some SFX PSUs come with them).

I've been pretty happy with it. With all the HDDs and the inefficient PSU, it draws more power than I would like but it's working. I am not sure another 5%-10% in efficiency would pay for a new PSU.

I love the PC-Q09 case. It's very roomy, looks like a NAS box (albeit a big one), has room for 6 x 3.5" and 1 x 2.5" HDDs and keeps everything very cool. With the SFX PSU there's plenty of room inside for cable routing, etc. I would not have splurged for this case if I hadn't caught a sale ($80 shipped).

WHS2011 I think is just OK. I don't do much more than serve media and perform backups so it's adequate for now. Once Win8 comes out and is stable, I am sure I'll be moving to that, especially if the Storage Spaces feature works out.

I must say that your build with the Lian Li case is VERY nice. Out here in UK, Lian Li is a lot more expensive, never in stock and almost never on sale. I'd have loved to go with the PC-Q25 but it is too expensive ...
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post #5 of 15 Old 02-05-2012, 11:09 PM
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Nice build!

Sapphire boards are easier to find in Europe for some reason (New Egg stop carrying them). There are two Sapphire E-350 boards, I wanted the one with the x1 slot to get a mini-SSD drive, but WHS 2011 needs 120GB minimum at install. I am sure I can clone the 60GB it uses for the OS and move it to the mini-SSD (64GB).

That makes it possible to run (4) 2TB drives (when the price returns to normal) and a 500-750GB 2.5 drive as well for a total of 4.5 or 4.75TB of storage.

That would solve all my storage issues that were not fully solved when I built the server to start with.

If you want a low usage E-350 board, get the MSI it seems to get the lowest (best) scores on watt usage.

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post #6 of 15 Old 02-06-2012, 06:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dj4monie View Post

I am sure I can clone the 60GB it uses for the OS and move it to the mini-SSD (64GB)

That's exactly what I did. I installed to one of my data drives and then using Acronis True Image to copy it to the SSD.

One very importnat thing however you need to be careful about when you do that is to not let Acronis shrink the System Reserved partition when it shrinks the System (C: ) partition. By default, it makes the partitions proportional so it can fit it to the smaller disk. You want that for the C: parition but not the hidden reserved partition. If the System Reserved partition is too small WHS backup fails due to an issue with the volume shadowing service. I didn't realize that and ended up needed to use one of the linux-based paritioning programs to fix it which was non-trivial at best.

 

 

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post #7 of 15 Old 02-06-2012, 08:55 AM
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I was planning a mITX server build, but in the end, I went with a $250 HP N40L Proliant Microserver. They have been running GREAT sales on these for the last 6 months or so. Bundling either WHS 2011 or a 2TB Hard drive for free.

I stuck with the included 2GB of RAM and installed WHS 2011. I added an internal 2 port SATA card to increase SATA ports from 5 to 7. I still have an empty PCIe x16 slot.

Storage Configuration:
Boot: 60GB SSD (in 5.25" Bay)
Data: 2x2TB and 2x1.5TB drives for 3.5TB total (mirrored by WHS 2011, not RAID 1)
Backup: 1x2TB (in 5.25" Bay)

I have no need for an optical drive in the server, so I didn't bother with one.

Just another viewpoint/option for anyone reading this thread. YMMV!
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post #8 of 15 Old 02-06-2012, 02:12 PM
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Newegg Deal for today (Feb 6, 2012): $300 for the N40L Microserver and a 2TB hardddrive:

http://www.techbargains.com/news_displayItem.cfm/285351
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post #9 of 15 Old 02-06-2012, 09:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

That's exactly what I did. I installed to one of my data drives and then using Acronis True Image to copy it to the SSD.

One very importnat thing however you need to be careful about when you do that is to not let Acronis shrink the System Reserved partition when it shrinks the System (C: ) partition. By default, it makes the partitions proportional so it can fit it to the smaller disk. You want that for the C: parition but not the hidden reserved partition. If the System Reserved partition is too small WHS backup fails due to an issue with the volume shadowing service. I didn't realize that and ended up needed to use one of the linux-based paritioning programs to fix it which was non-trivial at best.

I use Clonezilla for task like this, I don't think it has the same issue, I could be wrong.

I find Clonezilla easy to use, basic menus. I've even walked people through cloning their systems using it.

Thanks for the information though mayne...

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post #10 of 15 Old 02-06-2012, 09:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StanF View Post

I was planning a mITX server build, but in the end, I went with a $250 HP N40L Proliant Microserver. They have been running GREAT sales on these for the last 6 months or so. Bundling either WHS 2011 or a 2TB Hard drive for free.

I stuck with the included 2GB of RAM and installed WHS 2011. I added an internal 2 port SATA card to increase SATA ports from 5 to 7. I still have an empty PCIe x16 slot.

Storage Configuration:
Boot: 60GB SSD (in 5.25" Bay)
Data: 2x2TB and 2x1.5TB drives for 3.5TB total (mirrored by WHS 2011, not RAID 1)
Backup: 1x2TB (in 5.25" Bay)

I have no need for an optical drive in the server, so I didn't bother with one.

Just another viewpoint/option for anyone reading this thread. YMMV!

The Dell I based my server on will boot from USB and I wanted to try installing the OS via USB. I ended up doing a repair install on my HTPC that way. Much faster than using physical media, I recommend highly and MS even has a tool to take all the shell typing out of it (not that its hard).

I like those HP servers and I see them on-sale from time to time. But I want USB 3.0 for the eventual backup USB drive.

I have a question though I downloaded the owners manual for WHS 2011 -

The 2TB backup drive is backing up the entire server or ?

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post #11 of 15 Old 02-08-2012, 04:11 AM
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You asked about the 2TB drive for server backups...long answer...

My general backup strategy is:

1st level of protection = drive mirroring via WHS2011 = 100% coverage
2nd level of protection = regular server backups of most data to 2TB drive
3rd level of protection = cloud backup of most data (Crashplan)

Advantages: 100% automatic. Requires no action from me at all.

There's some risk, but it is a tradeoff between convenience, cost and importance of data. Don't overlook the cloud backup as an important part. It is your protection against theft, fire or a catastrophic hardware failure.

The 2TB backup drive is backing up most of the server, especially the most important data. Most of the data doesn't change, so the 2TB is big enough. I am not backing up my client computer backups and ripped movies - I rely on the drive mirroring for that data.

YMMV - this is just what works for me.

For example, some people would only use RAID 5, but the cost to implement that correctly is extremely high (HW Raid card, identical enterprise hard drives, etc).

Drive mirroring is a free feature of WHS 2011, and actually almost all versions of Windows have it. For some reason, it is not widely used. My drive mirroring also only requires a drive to be equal or larger in size, not identical, and not expensive enterprise drives. Inexpensive green drives are perfect for drive mirroring, but aren't recommended for RAID applications.
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Thanks...

When I built the server around a 2TB drive and then backed up all the PC's, I was left with about 100GB. Its about 40GB now since I have moved some content over from the HTPC.

What I wanted to do when prices come back down is to put another 2TB drive in there just to backup put all the content on there, mostly series I would like to keep.

By then prices on 3TB drive should have dropped as well. We'll see.

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post #13 of 15 Old 02-11-2012, 05:15 AM
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"When I built the server around a 2TB drive and then backed up all the PC's, I was left with about 100GB. Its about 40GB now since I have moved some content over from the HTPC."

I forgot to mention a neat feature of WHS...it only stores one copy of any particular file, so it is more efficient for backups.

Also, I try not to store many files locally on the PCs. I try to store them on the server for many reasons...it makes it easier to access files using WHS remote access; Easier to backup, etc. A gigabit, wired network makes this work better. Large media files and slow wireless connections are a pain.

Throwing cheap TB harddrives at the problem also works very well, and I use that approach frequently too.
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post #14 of 15 Old 02-15-2012, 02:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dj4monie View Post

There are two Sapphire E-350 boards, I wanted the one with the x1 slot to get a mini-SSD drive, but WHS 2011 needs 120GB minimum at install. I am sure I can clone the 60GB it uses for the OS and move it to the mini-SSD (64GB).

Quote:
Originally Posted by harshw View Post

Be warned that WHS 2011 doesnt like being installed on anything less than a system disk with at least 160GB free. The answer is to have another USB key with a cfg.ini file and make sure that nothing is plugged into the USB 3.0 ports

Check the link above, it is possible to install WHS 2011 in less than 120GB. I didn't use an mSATA since I already had a 2.5" SSD lying around.
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post #15 of 15 Old 02-16-2012, 06:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Update: I discovered that having the motherboard's graphics output connected to a monitor enables it to go into lower power savings, it usually idles at 17W~18W instead of 21W when connected this way. Quite strange, almost as if not connecting the E350 output to a valid graphics sink stops the chip from going into some deeper power saving mode for the GPU.

Also managed to get my second 2TB HDD, I now have DrivePool running on both drives, giving me a virtual 3.6TB volume. Transfer speeds on this volume appear to be good - around 76 Mb/sec for reads and 87 Mb/sec for writes. Essentially for folders in pooled mode DrivePool allocates files on either of the drives so the speed will always be that of a single HDD. Which is fine because I really don't need anything faster than that at the moment. DrivePool also stores duplicated folders on at least 2 physical volumes so they are safe if one underlying drive fails. And it uses NTFS for everything so all folders are actually readable on the drives at all times. All in all, this is what Drive Extender should have been like on WHS v1

I also managed to grab a Dell P30 jack - this fits perfectly the newer PA3E power bricks, which are 90W and completely fanless. The jack is strange, the two center pins provide 19.5V with the three pins at the back being 0V-3.3V-0V. I suspect the 3.3V pin at back & center is used for communicating with the power brick. Since I didn't need it, I just cut it and soldered the PicoPSU's GND to the two 0V pins on either side. I then used some epoxy putty to mount the jack onto a blanking plate. I've noticed the Dell bricks are really efficient and run cool, as compared to generic bricks or ones from EDAC/Addonics.
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