School me on a new HTPC/Media Server...have some parts already - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 02-12-2013, 09:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Hey everyone, it's been a while since I did any type of in-depth research on HTPC's and Media Server tech, but I've read assassins guide as well as a few of the posts here but none of the threads really address adequately what I'm looking to do specifically.

I have a server case I picked up for cheap, it's a chenbro SR-10769 C0 with Two SATA 6.0 4 high hotswap bays, two 5.25" to 3.5" hotswap bays, a 5.25" to slim DVD w/3.5" hdd bay, and a 3.5" to 2 - 2.5" hdd bay converter installed. Has a Silverstone ST-1500 PSU inside also.

I have a USB Bluetooth adapter for a keyboard and mouse (server will be in the basement with the receiver) and a sdxc multi card reader ready to go in as well.

I'm looking for an HTPC to stream media to laptops and other pc's as well as an Xbox 360 as an extender, but also want to run HDMI direct to the Denon 4311ci to feed to the 11.2 home theater setup. Do I need a component out sound card to maximize sound quality from the HTPC, or is a HDMI video card going to be sufficient?

I have decided I want to run a windows 7 x64 ultimate client dedicated to media center 24/7. I already have Tunebite, DvDshrink, DvDFab8, etc. I want to store my entire DVD collection on HDD's and am looking for recommendations on storage - including backup and best bang for your buck RAID configuration. I am willing to entertain installing and populating an external raid array as well.

When I build a PC, typically I install a small SSD (128-256gb total) for the OS and a pair of RAID1 velociraptor's for application space. Storage is usually a couple of the largest available WD or Hitachi HDD's in my price range in a raid 0+1 configuration as hardware raid.

I'm looking for advice as I've never tried to assemble a storage array of this size (16-20TB of RAID drives with expandability and backup) and am looking for an affordable, realistic solution.

I'm an enthusiast, so money - while being important - will find it's way where it needs to. This server is a one time thing but I want it 4k capable in storage and processing power/throughput.

This will store DVD's of movies, TV series and cartoons, lossless CD audio, SACD and DVD-A lossless audio, HD home movies/videos, and my wife's photography portfolio.

Currently I have no plans to store Bluray as I will use my oppo for that function.

Please recommend me a RAID configuration and backup design that maximizes the abilities provided by the case above. Again, I will add a secondary external HDD array if need be. I'm just lost on the software vs hardware raid and SAS vs SATA6.0 and the best way to set it up with some level of redundancy while avoiding $1200 expansion cards.

Also, more slower cores (2ghz hex core) or fewer faster cores (3ghz quad core)?

Thanks in advance
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post #2 of 10 Old 02-12-2013, 02:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Shameless bump?

Current case has 10 3.5" hotswap sata 6 bays and 2 2.5" HDD slots. If the original post wasn't clear.
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post #3 of 10 Old 02-12-2013, 04:34 PM
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You want to do an HTPC and media server in one? Do you have a place to put it out of the way? Because a bunch of hard drives and the fans to keep them cool can make a lot of noise without going through a lot of effort.

The cheapest effort would be Windows 7 with software RAID. Not ideal in any way. Next up would be Windows 8 with Storage Spaces. Performance on Storage Spaces is pretty bad, so I'd skip it too. Next up would be alternate pooling software like DriveBender, and then snapshot RAID like SnapRAID or FlexRAID (FlexRAID can pool and snapshot RAID all in one). Beyond that you start to get into more high-end territory... not necessarily in cost but in technical understanding.

If you are dead-set on the Windows 7 OS for your all-in-one, then FlexRAID offers a good product to start out with. If you don't have a place to put your all-in-one where you can deaden sound, I would highly suggest building a dedicated server and a cheap HTPC for the living room.
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post #4 of 10 Old 02-12-2013, 04:52 PM
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+1 for flexraid.

Get some 7200.14 3TB seagates for $120 each. $40 per TB is good. Nice drives.

You can get an IBM card to add SATA ports for $80

Your OS can be either WHS (windows home server) or W7. Flexraid works on both.

It will give you drive pooling and parity based backup.

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post #5 of 10 Old 02-12-2013, 05:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Puwaha View Post

You want to do an HTPC and media server in one? Do you have a place to put it out of the way? Because a bunch of hard drives and the fans to keep them cool can make a lot of noise without going through a lot of effort.

My XPA-5, 3 UPA-2's, and 4311ci are all in the basement and I have a harmony 900 that controls everything. I'll be using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and some sort of IR blaster to control it.
Quote:
The cheapest effort would be Windows 7 with software RAID. Not ideal in any way. Next up would be Windows 8 with Storage Spaces. Performance on Storage Spaces is pretty bad, so I'd skip it too. Next up would be alternate pooling software like DriveBender, and then snapshot RAID like SnapRAID or FlexRAID (FlexRAID can pool and snapshot RAID all in one). Beyond that you start to get into more high-end territory... not necessarily in cost but in technical understanding.
tech understanding isn't an issue, but I don't work with the stuff every day. I do research for a few months before pulling the trigger on anything. Both of my existing pc's use hardware raid currently and I have raid 1, 5 and 10 operating depending on the box. I was looking at hardware based raid6 but decided against it because of the cost of the card.

I've also never had a need to add external HDD storage in a raid configuration and don't know what parts to install in the main pc box to operate the 20hdd box.
Quote:
If you are dead-set on the Windows 7 OS for your all-in-one, then FlexRAID offers a good product to start out with. If you don't have a place to put your all-in-one where you can deaden sound, I would highly suggest building a dedicated server and a cheap HTPC for the living room.
. I'm looking for seamless integration with existing components. There is no place for an HTPC to be visible and acceptable to the wife unit, so it's hiding. Not to mention, I already have the case and PSU.

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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

+1 for flexraid.

Get some 7200.14 3TB seagates for $120 each. $40 per TB is good. Nice drives.

You can get an IBM card to add SATA ports for $80

Your OS can be either WHS (windows home server) or W7. Flexraid works on both.

It will give you drive pooling and parity based backup.

Details on flexraid? Just runs in win7 and makes it go?

Any advice on additional software to integrate into win7 that will help organize and stream to my IPad or other pc's/laptops/360?

Thanks
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post #6 of 10 Old 02-12-2013, 10:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goros View Post

My XPA-5, 3 UPA-2's, and 4311ci are all in the basement and I have a harmony 900 that controls everything. I'll be using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and some sort of IR blaster to control it.
tech understanding isn't an issue, but I don't work with the stuff every day. I do research for a few months before pulling the trigger on anything. Both of my existing pc's use hardware raid currently and I have raid 1, 5 and 10 operating depending on the box. I was looking at hardware based raid6 but decided against it because of the cost of the card.

Yeah, hardware RAID is so "last decade". biggrin.gif Most people nowadays use hardware RAID cards in JBOD mode and use software RAID.

I'm glad that you are going to take your time. Start reading up on FlexRAID it's good to start out with. It can be difficult to wrap your mind around snapshot RAID coming from a real-time RAID background. As mfusik says, WHS is a good platform to start from. If you are Microsoft-adverse then there are good Linux and Solaris (*cough* ZFS) alternatives.

Quote:
I've also never had a need to add external HDD storage in a raid configuration and don't know what parts to install in the main pc box to operate the 20hdd box.

If you aren't planning on filling up the 20 drives from the outset, then FlexRAID offers a good upgrade path. Each disk you add brings more storage, and you just recompute the parity. With ZFS you would add a set of drives at a time to the pool depending on your strategy. For instance, if you are mirroring drives, you add them two at a time. If you are RAIDz-ing then you add them at a minimum of 3 at a time. With ZFS there is no parity recompute, it's instant storage.
Quote:
I'm looking for seamless integration with existing components. There is no place for an HTPC to be visible and acceptable to the wife unit, so it's hiding. Not to mention, I already have the case and PSU.

You can get some really nice purposely-designed HTPC cases that look just like regular stereo components. If your wife-unit is like most others, they just want it to work, so I still highly suggest separating the duties. Otherwise, if you have to work on the "server" and it's also the main HTPC, you take down everything.

Quote:
Details on flexraid? Just runs in win7 and makes it go?

Yep.
Quote:
Any advice on additional software to integrate into win7 that will help organize and stream to my IPad or other pc's/laptops/360?

There is a lot of options out there. Probably the easiest to setup is Windows Media Center for TV/DVR duties, and movie watching. The 360 integrates perfectly with WMC to provide a true whole-home DVR solution. If you have a server back-end then all PCs can access the content at the same time. You can throw Plex on a machine somewhere (HTPC, server, whatever) to transcode and stream to devices like an iPad/iPhone, Android device, SmartTVs, Roku boxes, you name it.

Most of this stuff is free or built into the OS, so you have nothing to lose by experimenting a bit.

You asked about a sound card in your original post, and if you have HDMI equipment, A motherboard with HDMI out or a discrete video card with HDMI out is going to be the easiest solution. No sound card needed, as HDMI will stream the bit-perfect digital audio to your AVR.
Quote:
Also, more slower cores (2ghz hex core) or fewer faster cores (3ghz quad core)?

The answer is "it depends" and is always up for debate around here. If you still want to do an all-in-one, then an i5/i7 is great for transcoding on-the-fly. If you are building a single-purpose HTPC, then you can get away with something simpler. This really all depends on how far you want to take video quality, as there is plenty of alternative packages of software that can take advantage of higher-speced hardware to push the envelope of video quality. Your wife may not care about squeezing every last drop of performance/quality out of a HTPC, but I have a feeling that you might.
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post #7 of 10 Old 02-13-2013, 05:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Alright that gets me started. Looks like FLEXRAID is where I will focus. All my components except an APC H15 and a Oppo BDP93 & Xbox 360 live in the basement in the racks. The tower I have should have enough space and power to run what I want it to run. I just need guts for it. Media Center was my plan from the beginning and I'm glad it's feasible.

I am an air cooling guy so I like big cases with space and big, quiet fans that move a lot of air.

It's going to do double duty as the HT's HTPC but will be the server responsible for transcoding and storage for the ret of the house as well. No more than 2 devices at once most likely, but bigger is better. Looks like I'll want more faster cores. Fail.

For the motherboard, I need to know what to look for. My main rig runs a P8Z77-WS and 2 cards in SLI. I want a single, powerful card for this setup with enough RAM to buffer a 4k display, so I have questions on the motherboard.

I will need to run RAID cards, most likely pci-e. Do the cards run in x1, x8, or x16? Do they even offer a pcie 3.0 card? Or just 2.0? Ivy bridge has more pcie pipes than sandy, but I was considering running a workstation or server motherboard not based around gaming, just processing and data throughput ability.

Advice on how many slots I should look for on a mobo? My case will fit atx, eeb and ceb boards so I have all the space I will ever need. No sound card will help free up space since I'll use audio over HDMI.

Thanks again.
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post #8 of 10 Old 02-13-2013, 05:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Shameless bump
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post #9 of 10 Old 02-14-2013, 05:48 AM
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For what?

Ask pointed questions.

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"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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post #10 of 10 Old 02-14-2013, 08:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok, here is what I have decided on thus far.

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 operating WMC with Mediabrowser and Plex.
Plex will feed the Roku and IPads, WMC will feed the 360, HDMI to the Denon 4311ci.

Mobo and processor I have a few options, I'll choose soon, but found some info and know what I need.

My main issue now is I want to run this tower (chenbro 10769) concurrently with a 24 drive enclosure (Norco 4224) but only want to run one motherboard/processor.

I've never used any commercial enclosures and have always used towers to build my pc's. FLEXRAID will give me the ability to grow my storage "on the run" so to speak. I want to use all SATA 6.0 drives since SAS drives are stupidly expensive.

My initial build will consist of a vertex4 128gb for the OS and a vertex4 256gb for applications. The 10 HDD hotswap bays in the tower will have 3tb 7200rpm drives fully populated and I'll have 10 drives populated in the 4u chassis to start. That's 60TB of total space, but I will be using FLEXRAID and will be backing everything up as well. My assumption is that my total usable space will run in the 20-24TB range after all is said and done, with the ability to add 14 more HDD's as the need arises. I'll probably back up the other PC's on the house to this system as well.

So, my question is - being utterly unfamiliar with the hardware involved in expansion cards or what this Norco 4224 case uses, what cards/cables etc do I need to buy that will be compatible with FLEXRAID? I need to support all 24 HDDs out of the back of the tower to the 4224 enclosure, plus whatever slots are needed for full SATA 6.0 in the tower that isn't on the motherboard natively.

Edit - a Norco DS-24D is also an option if that simplifies things

Thanks for the help.
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