New Media/File Server and VM Lab - AVS Forum
Home Theater Computers > New Media/File Server and VM Lab
kesawi's Avatar kesawi 01:24 AM 06-11-2014
It's been a long term goal of mine to set up a central server to transfer most of the roles that my current main HTPC plays and also play around with VMs, active directory and different operating systems. I know the hardware that I need and am looking at some guidance for the software side. It's probably not really a HTPC oriented post, but it will primarily need to be a media server.

I'm looking at running several VMs to perform various functions:

VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS, AD server, DHCP/DNS server, Server Essentials Role, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication, WSUS repository
VM2 - Windows 8.1: Argus TV server, anything that won't run on Windows Server of Linux
VM3 - Linux host of some description: Plex, utorrent, SABNZBd, CouchPotato, Sickbeard, Calibre
VM4 - Sophos UTM Firewall

At this stage I want to stick with Hyper-V rather than ESXi as I have access to Windows Server 2012 RS Essentials/Standard/Datacenter through Dreamspark. I'm not sure whether to just run the Hyper-V core as the host, or Server 2012 R2
Standard/Datacenter as the host. If run Server 2012 R2 as the host, should AD and DHCP/DNS remain within a guest VM? Also should I connect to my NAS via iSCSI from the host or via the guest VMs?

I’d appreciate any input.

kapone's Avatar kapone 04:42 AM 06-11-2014
Whichever hypervisor you choose, go bare metal. That means running Hyper-V or ESXi directly on your hardware, and then everything else as VMs. Server 2012 has no issues running as a domain server within a VM.

My preference is ESXi as it has better passthrough support, as well as better support for running Linux and BSD VMs, but no reason Hyper-V wouldn't work. Btw I run a similar setup with a virtualized router/firewall, AD/DNS/DHCP/RADIUS on Server 2012 as well.
Oolzie's Avatar Oolzie 07:04 AM 06-12-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post
It's been a long term goal of mine to set up a central server to transfer most of the roles that my current main HTPC plays and also play around with VMs, active directory and different operating systems. I know the hardware that I need and am looking at some guidance for the software side. It's probably not really a HTPC oriented post, but it will primarily need to be a media server.<br><br>
I'm looking at running several VMs to perform various functions:<br><br>
VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS, AD server, DHCP/DNS server, Server Essentials Role, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication, WSUS repository<br>
VM2 - Windows 8.1: Argus TV server, anything that won't run on Windows Server of Linux<br>
VM3 - Linux host of some description: Plex, utorrent, SABNZBd, CouchPotato, Sickbeard, Calibre<br>
VM4 - Sophos UTM Firewall<br><br>
At this stage I want to stick with Hyper-V rather than ESXi as I have access to Windows Server 2012 RS Essentials/Standard/Datacenter through Dreamspark. I'm not sure whether to just run the Hyper-V core as the host, or Server 2012 R2<br>
Standard/Datacenter as the host. If run Server 2012 R2 as the host, should AD and DHCP/DNS remain within a guest VM? Also should I connect to my NAS via iSCSI from the host or via the guest VMs?<br><br>
I’d appreciate any input.
I would recommend avoiding core and installing 2012 R2 with Hyper-V enabled and standard should be fine for your needs. The difference is the number of free server 2012 r2 VM's you get per host (4 for standard, unlimited for datacenter), Linux and other OS's don't factor into that.


I would not install any other roles on the host beyond hyperv and maybe backup. Let it be the host and use your VM's to do the various tasks that you want.


Connect iscsi at the host level. That way you have it for anything you need to use it for, expanding vm's, adding new VD's, etc. No real negatives and a lot of potential benefits.
shortcut3d's Avatar shortcut3d 10:34 AM 06-12-2014
I currently use a mix of vSphere ESXi hosts and physical machine(s). I went with 3 Intel NUC i5 DC53427HYE as my compute. Storage is handled by a DS1813+ since it has VAAI acceleration for iSCSI. Backup is to a DX513 extender and a DS214+ doubles as the failover NAS and Surveillance Station. Switching is courtesy of a Netgear GSM5212P / M4100 Intelligent Edge managed switch. It can handle VLANs, Jumbo Frames, Flow Control and QoS without issue. I've found lesser switches struggle with all those features enabled.

I recommend ESXi because of increased performance and pass-through support. Lesser hardware can support higher density. It's also free as long as it's not managed. I would also connect iSCSI directly to the host. If your NAS supports VAAI you get the added acceleration and it makes moving, snapshots, etc. for VMs much faster. Storage related processes are offloaded with VAAI so you get better performance running off a NAS. This means you can run smaller disks in your hosts with VMs all on the NAS and little performance impact.
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Oolzie's Avatar Oolzie 12:54 PM 06-12-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by shortcut3d View Post
I recommend ESXi because of increased performance and pass-through support. Lesser hardware can support higher density. It's also free as long as it's not managed. I would also connect iSCSI directly to the host. If your NAS supports VAAI you get the added acceleration and it makes moving, snapshots, etc. for VMs much faster. Storage related processes are offloaded with VAAI so you get better performance running off a NAS. This means you can run smaller disks in your hosts with VMs all on the NAS and little performance impact.


I agree that pass-through support is nice, IF you need it, but I'd have to see some tests to back the claim that ESXi 5.5 offers better performance at either end of the spectrum compared to 2012 R2. The last test results that I read, pre-R2 release, Hyper-V 2012 outperformed 5.1. It was more scalable at the high end and delivered better performance, per vcpu, to the guests.


Then there's the management aspects. He has access to the full server, no free version limitations from a management standpoint.
rc05's Avatar rc05 01:17 PM 06-12-2014
Managing a single host in ESXi is still essentially free right now in 5.5
shortcut3d's Avatar shortcut3d 02:54 PM 06-12-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by rc05 View Post
Managing a single host in ESXi is still essentially free right now in 5.5
ESXi is free, but vCenter, vCS, vCOPs, etc are all paid. Doesn't matter how many hosts. If you add a host to any of those environments you need to pay for it. You may manage ESXi with other 3rd party software or through VMware SDKs for free. There are additional restrictions to free vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) as well, but we likely will not ever encounter those for HTPC.

VMworld stats had ESXi outperform Hyper-V. Citrix Synergy also had themselves outperform the competition. No surprises here. I'll try to dig up a pro VMware comparison.
rc05's Avatar rc05 03:46 PM 06-12-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by shortcut3d View Post
ESXi is free, but vCenter, vCS, vCOPs, etc are all paid. Doesn't matter how many hosts. If you add a host to any of those environments you need to pay for it. You may manage ESXi with other 3rd party software or through VMware SDKs for free. There are additional restrictions to free vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) as well, but we likely will not ever encounter those for HTPC.



VMworld stats had ESXi outperform Hyper-V. Citrix Synergy also had themselves outperform the competition. No surprises here. I'll try to dig up a pro VMware comparison.

That's what I mean, you don't need any of those extra services managing a single host/HTPC use
kesawi's Avatar kesawi 09:36 PM 06-12-2014
I thought that vCentre was required to manage an ESXi 5.5 host and guest VMs for hardware version 10? To get the performance gains of 5.5 won't I need to use HW v10?
shortcut3d's Avatar shortcut3d 09:52 PM 06-12-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post
I thought that vCentre was required to manage an ESXi 5.5 host and guest VMs for hardware version 10? To get the performance gains of 5.5 won't I need to use HW v10?
You need a version 10 capable VMware product, so Player, Workstation or Fusion can also edit version 10 VMs. The issue is the C# client no longer supports version 10 hardware, regardless of vCenter. You can deploy version 10, power on/off, move, etc. Just not edit with C# client.
kesawi's Avatar kesawi 10:07 PM 06-12-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by shortcut3d View Post
You need a version 10 capable VMware product, so Player, Workstation or Fusion can also edit version 10 VMs. The issue is the C# client no longer supports version 10 hardware, regardless of vCenter. You can deploy version 10, power on/off, move, etc. Just not edit with C# client.
So how do I edit a v10 VM? Fusion, Player & Workstation are all paid products. C# client doesn't let me edit v10, and the new web client requires a paid subscription.

Just to clarify, I assume editing the VM means changing any of the parameters associated with the VM such as amount of memory allocated, deivce pass-through, storage, etc. If this is the case, the ability to edit seems pretty fundamental to managing a guest VM.
shortcut3d's Avatar shortcut3d 10:15 PM 06-12-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post
So how do I edit a v10 VM? Fusion, Player & Workstation are all paid products. C# client doesn't let me edit v10, and the new web client requires a paid subscription.

Just to clarify, I assume editing the VM means changing any of the parameters associated with the VM such as amount of memory allocated, deivce pass-through, storage, etc. If this is the case, the ability to edit seems pretty fundamental to managing a guest VM.
Player is free. And yes this is incredibly clumsy way to edit the VM settings. By default ESXi 5.5 does not create version 10 VMs so it's not an issue unless you want/need the new version features.
rc05's Avatar rc05 10:21 PM 06-12-2014
You do not need HW version 10 to get any performance benefits in 5.5
kesawi's Avatar kesawi 08:20 AM 06-13-2014
Are there any advantages/disadvantages to separating some of the roles into more VMs? For example, rather than have a single VM:
  • VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS, AD server, DHCP/DNS server, Server Essentials Role, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication, WSUS repository

Have multiple VMs:
  • VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: AD server, DHCP/DNS server, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication
  • VM2 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS
  • VM3 - Windows 2012 Server R2: Server Essentials Role, WSUS repository

pylor's Avatar pylor 08:44 AM 06-13-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post
Are there any advantages/disadvantages to separating some of the roles into more VMs? For example, rather than have a single VM:
  • VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS, AD server, DHCP/DNS server, Server Essentials Role, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication, WSUS repository

Have multiple VMs:
  • VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: AD server, DHCP/DNS server, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication
  • VM2 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS
  • VM3 - Windows 2012 Server R2: Server Essentials Role, WSUS repository
I may get flak for this, but I'm going to say that seems silly for a home setup. If you were doing this for a business/work environment, then yes, you would want all of that stuff on completely different hardware/VMs. You're in a home setup, all you're doing is making more work for yourself and more maintenance with updates and the like, as well as filling up more disk space (especially if you use SSDs and don't utilize something like disk differencing). Save yourself a headache imo and just put those on one VM or even on the host server, and make plenty of good backups. I have daily differencing backups scheduled so I can go back almost a month and restore bare-metal every VM or OS file/the OS itself.

When I setup VMs, I ask myself a few questions. Mostly along the lines of this:
  1. Does this goal require specific settings I don't want set on my main machine?
  2. Does this need to be access restricted further than NTFS permissions?
  3. The obvious: Does this need a different OS than windows server?

There's more that I'm not thinking of off the top of my head, but generally I look for reasons to make VMs vs. not making them.
Oolzie's Avatar Oolzie 10:40 AM 06-13-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post
Are there any advantages/disadvantages to separating some of the roles into more VMs? For example, rather than have a single VM:
  • VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS, AD server, DHCP/DNS server, Server Essentials Role, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication, WSUS repository

Have multiple VMs:
  • VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: AD server, DHCP/DNS server, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication
  • VM2 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS
  • VM3 - Windows 2012 Server R2: Server Essentials Role, WSUS repository


For your needs/size, no, no benefit at all, but I've assumed, maybe incorrectly, that part of your desire to do what you're doing is to have this platform to experiment with and learn from. If that's the case, then the only real negative to splitting them up into several VM's is the fact that you have to allocate individual resources to the various guests rather than dumping more/all into a single guest and the management aspects, but that you're doing this at all suggest that you're interested in that part of it.. For the most part, the only reason those roles get split up in the enterprise is for performance and security (web server separate from sql, etc), but that really applies to what you're doing. All of the roles you're looking to install can be moved around pretty easily anyway. So regardless of what you go with, you can always expand or contract as the whim/need strikes you.
shortcut3d's Avatar shortcut3d 10:58 AM 06-13-2014
In my environment, I have a couple Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard servers in VMs because of roles and various application installation restrictions. For instance, vCenter can not be installed on the same machine as a Domain Controller. Other cases where the applications drive the installation is my Unifi Controller on a separate 2012 R2 VM because its beta and needs restarts more frequently. I'd hate to take down my DC or vCenter for WiFi controller a maintenance. I have a forth VM that is a virtual desktop scenario for tablets / Macs when I need native Windows software. Overall, I do not find this more complicated than a single server. RDP credentials are all saved so launching a session for an App is easy as going to the new Windows Start. I also have a physical Windows 8.1 Professional running Plex and Plexconnect. This machine is physical because of transcoding and also serves as my Handbrake encoding system with Intel QuickSync capability (can't pass through Intel HD 4000).
pylor's Avatar pylor 11:53 AM 06-13-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oolzie View Post
the only reason those roles get split up in the enterprise is for performance and security (web server separate from sql, etc)
Performance is a good reason, but don't forget the old saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket." There's always other DCs and such in an enterprise environment, but generally if something critical/bad happens whether it be software or hardware, you don't want another service getting impacted. That's not really much of an issue (imo) on a home based setup. Personally I think that all of that is fine and good for learning, I did similar things when preparing for the MCSA exams, but for a home environment to actually operate on? Whatever floats your boat I suppose!

Quote:
Originally Posted by shortcut3d View Post
In my environment, I have a couple Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard servers in VMs because of roles and various application installation restrictions. For instance, vCenter can not be installed on the same machine as a Domain Controller. Other cases where the applications drive the installation is my Unifi Controller on a separate 2012 R2 VM because its beta and needs restarts more frequently. I'd hate to take down my DC or vCenter for WiFi controller a maintenance. I have a forth VM that is a virtual desktop scenario for tablets / Macs when I need native Windows software. Overall, I do not find this more complicated than a single server. RDP credentials are all saved so launching a session for an App is easy as going to the new Windows Start. I also have a physical Windows 8.1 Professional running Plex and Plexconnect. This machine is physical because of transcoding and also serves as my Handbrake encoding system with Intel QuickSync capability (can't pass through Intel HD 4000).
You have good reasons for spreading your services out, although for a home situation I don't think rebooting a DC is really that big of an issue if you have stored credentials. I split my VMs off based on specific purpose. I have a linux VM for webserving which is on its own VLAN, I have a linux VM for an old openvpn connect server that I used before I set it up on my router, I have one that's on a separate subnet and uses PIA to access the web, and I have a windows 7 VM for media serving as I require WMC for serverWMC. Same as you, I have my reasons for them being separate. If OP has a good reason for them to be separate then that's fine too, I just wouldn't separate unless there was a need.
shortcut3d's Avatar shortcut3d 01:14 PM 06-13-2014
I guess I'm so use to working in virtualized environments that I feel it's easy to maintain. In many way I think it's easier to maintain. For example, my desktop and DC VM's can be auto update, whereas my plex server can be manual. Or as I just rebuilt my plex server, I didn't have to touch the WiFi controller, vCenter, DC, desktop VM, etc. I appreciate the elasticity virtualization provides.
shortcut3d's Avatar shortcut3d 01:20 PM 06-13-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by pylor View Post
That's not really much of an issue (imo) on a home based setup.
You haven't met my wife. She's tougher than many of my clients.
Oolzie's Avatar Oolzie 01:28 PM 06-13-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by pylor View Post
Performance is a good reason, but don't forget the old saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket." There's always other DCs and such in an enterprise environment, but generally if something critical/bad happens whether it be software or hardware, you don't want another service getting impacted. That's not really much of an issue (imo) on a home based setup. Personally I think that all of that is fine and good for learning, I did similar things when preparing for the MCSA exams, but for a home environment to actually operate on? Whatever floats your boat I suppose!

Very true, but when it's all on one physical it's all in one basket in that regard anyway. In ops case, it really comes down to what his long term goal is from this whole little project. I can't help but feel that a big part of this project is the learning experience as much as the functionality. Especially when a bulk of the base functionality he's going for can be handled by a semi-modern router. All of the server side functionality he's looking for is basic anyway and if he has a catastrophic failure on that end early on, I don't think having it split among a few VM's is going to make much difference. It could all be rebuilt from scratch in two hours anyway. It's six of one half dozen of another, dependent on what the ops goals are.
Oolzie's Avatar Oolzie 01:29 PM 06-13-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by shortcut3d View Post
You haven't met my wife. She's tougher than many of my clients.


The wives are always the toughest...
kesawi's Avatar kesawi 08:06 PM 06-13-2014
My goals are primarily functional. While I like to tinker and enjoy learning new skills, I will never use them in an enterprise environment as that is not my profession. My preference is to minimise management and maintenance overhead (I probably should be avoiding AD, RADIUS, hyper-v and a whole bunch of other stuff I'm looking at to keep it simple, but as I said I like to tinker ).
kesawi's Avatar kesawi 08:20 AM 06-14-2014
I'd appreciate some guidance in setting up my Synology DS1513+ NAS to work together with my Hyper-V server using the VMs outlined in my original post:

Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post
VM1 - Windows 2012 Server R2: File server via iSCSI to my NAS, AD server, DHCP/DNS server, Server Essentials Role, RADIUS server for WIFI authentication, WSUS repository
VM2 - Windows 8.1: Argus TV server, anything that won't run on Windows Server of Linux
VM3 - Linux host of some description: Plex, utorrent, SABNZBd, CouchPotato, Sickbeard, Calibre
VM4 - Sophos UTM Firewall
I'll be connecting LAN1 of my Synology to my HP 1810-24G switch to use as the administrative interface. I intend to connect LAN3 and LAN4 directly to two lan ports on my server rather than going through the switch and use MIPO for both redundancy and bandwidth.

I plan for my server to have a 120GB SSD (compliments of my main PC which I'm upgrading to a 500GB SSD), a 500GB HDD (spare from an old external drive), and a 2TB WD Green Drive (from my HTPC which current also acts as my file server). My intent is to use the drives on the server as follows:
  • SSD: host and guest VMs
  • 500GB HDD: TV recordings & temp plex working directory
  • 2TB HDD: backups (VMs, host, key stuff on the NAS, other PCs) & downloads (torrents, sabnzbd, general downloads).

My intent for the NAS is to be the main bulk storage housing all my media, personal files and photos which will be served up my Windows 2012 Server R2. I also would like it to be a backup for my guest VMs, host and other PCs.

My understanding is that I will set up my NAS using file-level rather than block level LUNs with thin provisioning to provide the greatest flexibility at the sacrifice of some speed as follows:
  • Create a single SHR volume on my NAS using all the available disk space.
  • Create an iSCSI LUN for my main bulk storage
  • Create an iSCSI LUN for each of my VMs which will be the backup
  • Create an iSCSI target and map it to each of my LUNs (do I need one target per LUN or can I map a single target to all LUNs?)

I intent to run my main storage through the VM over iSCSI rather directly through an SMB share off of the NAS as I want to be able to use the windows indexing feature from these files with the client PC. My understanding through research and testing is that samba isn't compatible with the windows indexing services.
kesawi's Avatar kesawi 05:02 PM 06-15-2014
After doing some further research I could be better off creating a disk group and then segmenting it with a block-level iSCSI LUN for my main storage, and a volume with file-level iSCSI LUNs for my VM backups. Any thoughts or comments?
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