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post #1 of 9 Old 05-03-2013, 10:13 AM - Thread Starter
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After taking the plunge into a HTPC about 14 months ago, my media collection is starting to burst at the seams, so it is time to expand into a separate media server. Conveniently, we are doing some extensive home renovations at the same time, so I've taken the opportunity to wire the house so I don't have to worry about trying to serve media via wireless or have to fish CAT6 through the walls.

However, as I am specing out the components for the server, I'm running into some question about hard drive capacity and limitations

The equipment I have:
  • 5x TOSHIBA DT01ACA300 3TB Hard Drives
  • 2x Samsung EcoGreen 2TB Hard Drives
  • Existing HTPC w Ceton InfiniTV 4


The Software I am planning on using
  • Flexraid with Data Protection and Drive Pooling
  • Windows OS (still deciding between Win7, Win8, WHS 2011, and Server 2012 Essentials)
  • Plex Server (or maybe MediaBrowser 3)


I'm fairly open on the hardware, noise isn't going to be much of a factor since it will be in the basement. My biggest criteria are storage capacity and cost. By storage capacity, I specifically am looking for the most flexibility in terms of the quantity of hard drives I can support without needing extra hardware or needing to replace the case with something larger. I would also prefer a rackmount case since I'll have my switch and router in the rack too, but I can work with a tower on a shelf if it works out better.

SATA connections on the motherboard and space in the case seem to be the limiting factors. My guess is I'll need a minimum of 9 SATA connections to handle everything planned for my server (7x HDD, 1x SSD, 1x BD-ROM, but I'd like to plan for at least 3 more hard drives for future expansion just in case, so I'd need space for 12 drives.

So this leaves me with 4 questions:
  1. Is there any hope of finding a motherboard that can handle 9 or 12 SATA devices?
  2. Assuming the answer to #1 is a no, is there an inexpensive way to add additional SATA ports without expensive RAID controllers?
  3. Does anyone have any rackmount chassis (or Tower case) suggestions that an accommodate a minimum of 1 external 5.25", 1 internal 2.5", and 10 internal or hot-swap 3.25" drives. Cost is the biggest factor here as I am trying to stay under $200 and would prefer to be under $150 with shipping.
  4. This is somewhat of a side-bar question, but how do the multi-bay external drive enclosures work with eSATA and/or SATA? Are you actually trying to run 4 or 5 drives through the same eSATA port? Does this end up being a bottle neck in performance for Flex-Raid or other drive pooling solutions?
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post #2 of 9 Old 05-03-2013, 10:52 AM
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I would suggest not even bothering with the SATA ports on the motherboard for media storage drives and to get a IBM M1015 card or two flashed to IT mode. This would allow you more motherboard choices and you'll have plenty of expansion.

Another slight consideration is that if you ever plan on running a bare metal hypervisor then you get compatible hardware now. Not everything is ESXi compatible.

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post #3 of 9 Old 05-03-2013, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

I would suggest not even bothering with the SATA ports on the motherboard for media storage drives and to get a IBM M1015 card or two flashed to IT mode. This would allow you more motherboard choices and you'll have plenty of expansion..

This seems like an excellent idea, but I am less than familiar with SAS. I know it is backward compatible with SATA, but how many hard drives can I run off of the 2 SAS ports?
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Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

Another slight consideration is that if you ever plan on running a bare metal hypervisor then you get compatible hardware now. Not everything is ESXi compatible.

Thanks for the suggestion. Virtualization was something that I thought about for a fleeting moment, but I'm not doing enough that I think I would need more than 1 server at this point in time, so it didn;t make a lot of sense at this point. But I will keep this recommendation in mind\ when selecting hardware.
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post #4 of 9 Old 05-03-2013, 11:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

I would suggest not even bothering with the SATA ports on the motherboard for media storage drives and to get a IBM M1015 card or two flashed to IT mode. This would allow you more motherboard choices and you'll have plenty of expansion.

Another slight consideration is that if you ever plan on running a bare metal hypervisor then you get compatible hardware now. Not everything is ESXi compatible.

+1 here.

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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 #5 of 9 Old 05-03-2013, 12:37 PM
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SAS on the M1015 allows for four SATA drives per port. All it really boils down to is a cable that has one SAS port on one end and four SATA ports on the other.

This is what I have http://www.amazon.com/HighPoint-Internal-Mini-SAS-SFF8087-Int-MS-1M4S/dp/B001L9DU88

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post #6 of 9 Old 05-04-2013, 06:42 AM
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I strongly recommend that you pay a little extra for a server grade motherboard that is ESXi compatible along with a vt-d CPU with the motherboard having Intel NICs and IPMI. Even if you never make the move to virtualization, the Intel NiC will give you better stability/performance and the remote accessibe IPMI will allow you to complete install, maintenance and power off/on/reset from a remote location. I have an older generation Supermicro X8SILF paired with a low power Xeon. I also have and recommend the IT-flashed M1015 discussed above.
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post #7 of 9 Old 05-04-2013, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by tcs2tx View Post

I strongly recommend that you pay a little extra for a server grade motherboard that is ESXi compatible along with a vt-d CPU with the motherboard having Intel NICs and IPMI. Even if you never make the move to virtualization, the Intel NiC will give you better stability/performance and the remote accessibe IPMI will allow you to complete install, maintenance and power off/on/reset from a remote location. I have an older generation Supermicro X8SILF paired with a low power Xeon. I also have and recommend the IT-flashed M1015 discussed above.

I am not a server expert, and this is going to be my first build that was not a standard desktop (or HTPC). I had long written off server-grade hardware as unnecessary for just a media server. The stability of the Intel NIC is certainly a plus, however, I can get an Intel NIC in a machine with desktop hardware. The remote management is certainly appealing though. You've given me something new to consider.

I have not done much in the way of research in this direction in a while, so would a Xeon-based system handle Blu-Ray ripping and video re-encoding tasks as well as or better than an i3 or i5 system? That is one function that I want to hand off to my new server so I don't have to let me HTPC do this chore.
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post #8 of 9 Old 05-04-2013, 10:14 AM
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Be careful going down the server grade route. You may end up with a motherboard with specific requirements such as limited processor support (Xeon and non-GPU Intel i-series) and ECC only memory.

Don't forget AMD when building a server.

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post #9 of 9 Old 05-05-2013, 07:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psubsee2002 View Post

I had long written off server-grade hardware as unnecessary for just a media server. The stability of the Intel NIC is certainly a plus, however, I can get an Intel NIC in a machine with desktop hardware. The remote management is certainly appealing though. You've given me something new to consider.

I agree that server grade is not necessary. But, if you ever want to take advantage of the great features/capabilities of virtualization using ESXi you need to consider server grade hardware. The Intel NIC is not the main reason to get server hardware, only a plus. The killer feature besides virtualization, is remote management. The ability to do an OS install, change BIOS settings, etc. of my server in a basement closet while I am somewhere else in the house or even away from the house is very convenient.
Quote:
Originally Posted by psubsee2002 View Post

I have not done much in the way of research in this direction in a while, so would a Xeon-based system handle Blu-Ray ripping and video re-encoding tasks as well as or better than an i3 or i5 system? That is one function that I want to hand off to my new server so I don't have to let me HTPC do this chore.

I have forgotten the detailed differences between the Xeon and the corresponding i5/i7, but I believe that Xeons are comparable to an i7.
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Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

Be careful going down the server grade route. You may end up with a motherboard with specific requirements such as limited processor support (Xeon and non-GPU Intel i-series) and ECC only memory.

Yes, you definitely have to do your research to make sure that motherboard/CPU/memory/power supply are compatible, but that is no different from any other system that is being built. Sure, you are more likely with a desktop board to randomly pick CPU and memory and have a working install, but there are numerous posts in this forum and others where someone ends up with a problematic install. If you read the couple of requisite pages from an online manual for the motherboard you are considering, anyone is capable of a successful build.
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Don't forget AMD when building a server.

Agreed, but I have nothing to suggest due to a lack of familiarity.
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