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Author Topic: Building a home server. Please help, DC!  (Read 31683 times)
superboyac
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« Reply #25 on: May 23, 2011, 03:21:56 PM »

What do you guys think of the Dell PowerEdge R710 units?  They seem to be popular and reliable from what I've read.
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superboyac
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« Reply #26 on: May 23, 2011, 04:55:17 PM »

Stoic, I just spoke to Geoff from Stallard.  He's a great person to talk to, thanks for that recommendation.  Very knowledgeable and easy to understand.
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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #27 on: May 23, 2011, 06:15:16 PM »

Stoic, I just spoke to Geoff from Stallard.  He's a great person to talk to, thanks for that recommendation.  Very knowledgeable and easy to understand.

Yeah he's a hell of a good (real people kinda) guy. And he does know what he's doing.

So why the R710? Are you planning a rack system?

You're not going to have 500 users, so you really don't need QuadCores. So why not go back one more generation to a 2900 (tower) or 2950 (rack). You can still get ( 8 hot-swapable) 3TB drives on a 6I controller in the box with redundant power supplies.

I just picked up one of the 2900's around the first of the year. I got it with 4GB RAM, and 2 Xeon (5060) 3.2GHz CPUs. Serving the accounting db to 20 users at the office is super fast. The old HP NetServer LH3 used to take 30 - 45 minutes to do a from the application local backup. The 2900 doesn't even take a full minute to do the same thing.

Could be a lot more bang for your buck, if you don't need that close to the cutting edge.
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40hz
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« Reply #28 on: May 23, 2011, 07:02:13 PM »

I'm not generally too enamored of Dell. But I have to say I have never had serious issues with any of their servers. And that goes back to the 90s when I first started not insisting on IBM, Compaq or HP (they used to be two different companies back then!) for server deployments.

Dell does a nice reliable server. I have clients with Dell servers that have been running continuously for years. And if we set them up, the only time they ever need to get power-cycled is when a software upgrade requires it, or if a drive is getting replaced because it threw a SMART alert.

One additional thing I really like about Dell is they don't load their servers up with a bunch of proprietary technology, or adopt their own vocabulary for common industry-wide terminology.

------------------

Agree (like I almost always do) w/Stoic regarding the spec for your personal server. Unless you're planning on supporting more than 100 heavy users, the 29xx series (or equivalent) should do ya fine. And since you're mostly talking "file & print" as your core function, even the 29xx will provide you with more power than you need right now. Which is great because you'll have room to grow.

For you, the most expensive components you own will probably be your disk controllers if you're serious about running something like 15Tb worth of storage. Muy macho! I like! Thmbsup

Note: If you plan on running Windows Server, put any spare money you have into RAM (up to 8Gb) first. 4Gb is a good number. Probably 4Gb the sweet spot for what you'll be doing. So start with that and up it if you think you need to. Don't bother going past 8Gb however, because you'll start getting diminishing returns unless you have a lot of simultaneous users.

re:CPU - go with Intel if at all possible. I know you can arguably get more bang for the buck with AMD. Don't bother unless you're a heavy-duty Linux or BSD wonk. Intel OWNS the Windows server marketspace. And when it comes to CPUs, be sure to check for: 64-bit with support for virtualization. Because that's where everything is going - if it hasn't already gone there.

 Cool

« Last Edit: May 23, 2011, 07:11:27 PM by 40hz » Logged

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superboyac
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« Reply #29 on: May 24, 2011, 12:19:40 PM »

Yeah, I just threw that R710 model out there.  That was before talking to Geoff.  Now, I'm sort of relying on his analysis to recommend something for my needs.  So I don't have any idea at this point what models I'll be using.

40hz: regarding your comments, I have a couple of questions.  if not Dell, what other brands would you consider?  Also, how hard would it be to build a Dell-like server?  I always prefer building things myself because I get to choose each part specifically, and I end up knowing how to do the maintenance later on, when necessary.  Now, as an older and wiser person, I am moving away from all that DIY stuff, especially since I am extremely busy now and I can afford way better things than I used to.  So if something is reliable and made well, I'll just buy it if it's in a rather large price range.  People on this forum are always concerned about how much I pay for things, and I appreciate their concern (but I probably spend a little more "liberally" than most people are comfortable with).

About prices, it sounds like this project will cost me around $3-5000 or something.  Which is fine, and I hope it's a reliable setup.  I'm very excited about having my own server and trying to clean up my life.  I want as much of my "stuff" as possible on hard drives and backed up.  Then I can clean out unnecessary paperwork and cabinets and other useless things that I've held on to.  I'm in the middle of a whole clean up phase in my life.  I simply don't need or care to have a lot of the things I have.  DVD's, useless books, unused furniture, all that type of junk.  I just want to remove all the clutter.  This server will really help me do that.  All the stuff I have backed up on spare drives and cd's and dvd's, it's all going on the server.

The next step would be to create my own private network, or intranet, or VPN, or whatever you call it.  if I can accomplish that, I'm really set.  especially if I can do it using no other cloud services or anything.  The only service I'd like to employ is the ISP, and that's it.  If I can achieve that level of computing independence, I'll be very happy.

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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #30 on: May 24, 2011, 12:41:37 PM »

Servers need to be rock stable, and that requires well matched components. They don't need to be constantly tweaked to maintain lightning speed...They ain't for that.

DIY desktop can be fun...DIY server = bad idea. The factory takes great care to make sure all components are matched and play well together. And they're also very well documented and easy to get parts for.

Googling an error message for a mainstream server will get you tons of spot-on info.

Googling an error message for a DIY server, will get you tons of cryptic guessing games.
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superboyac
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« Reply #31 on: May 24, 2011, 12:44:38 PM »

Servers need to be rock stable, and that requires well matched components. They don't need to be constantly tweaked to maintain lightning speed...They ain't for that.

DIY desktop can be fun...DIY server = bad idea. The factory takes great care to make sure all components are matched and play well together. And they're also very well documented and easy to get parts for.

Googling an error message for a mainstream server will get you tons of spot-on info.

Googling an error message for a DIY server, will get you tons of cryptic guessing games.
Thanks.  I needed to hear that.  That's the impression i got the last couple of weeks while I was looking into it.
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40hz
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« Reply #32 on: May 24, 2011, 06:51:52 PM »

I'll agree again with Stoic's comments. (Jeez! It's getting to be a habit lately... mrgreen)

From an assembly perspective, a server is no more difficult to build than a desktop.

But it is hard to get a good match of components unless you really know what you're doing (as in: you're familiar with a lot of server-type brands and products) or you're willing to spend some time reading and digesting Scott Mueller's massive Upgrading and Repairing PCs book every time you run into something about hardware you don't fully understand. Server hardware is similar enough to desktop hardware that you can make bad decisions if you only think of a server as some sort of 'souped up' PC. Because the entire design criteria is different than that of a desktop.

Then there's the infamous HCL (i.e hardware compatibility list) Microsoft publishes for server system builders that you'll need to consult if you're going with a Windows solution.

In short, more trouble than it's worth unless you have something very specific in mind. But unless you have an exotic application, web, or database server requirement (like Google or some ISP hosts do), it's always easier (and usually cheaper) to buy an assembled system. You could go bare-bones and get something from Super Micro. But for the same or less money, you could also get a very capable used server (with warranty) from a 'name brand' maker.

Kind of a coin toss...

I've pretty much stuck to the big three prior to using Dell: HP, Compaq, IBM.

Of the three, I liked Compaq (ProLiant series) best, then HP, then IBM.

Today, I'd stick almost exclusively with Dell or HP - with my current preference being for Dell.

 Cool Thmbsup
--------------
P.S. if I were engineering a truly massive data center (which I'm not) for something like Facebook or Amazon, I'd definitely call IBM and invite them to buy me lunch (which they would) to discuss their "heavy iron."
 Grin


« Last Edit: May 24, 2011, 07:03:52 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #33 on: May 24, 2011, 07:47:04 PM »

You could go bare-bones and get something from Super Micro. But

lol My website is hosted on a 5 year old Dual Xeon SuperMicro box.



It been a great machine, but today I'd definitely go with Dell.
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40hz
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« Reply #34 on: May 25, 2011, 12:55:31 PM »

OK...

Now that we're all finished talking common sense, let's start getting a little crazy once again in the grand tradition of the Donation Coder forum.

I mentioned earlier I didn't feel it made sense to custom build a server unless you  had a specific goal or need in mind.

Here's a blog post by Backblaze (an online storage service provider) who did have a unique need for a very high capacity, high density storage server that was reliable and extremely inexpensive to build. What they came up with was not only unique - they released the full design specs and a detailed parts list so others could build their own. It uses off-the-shelf components except for a custom designed rack case. It packs forty-five(!) 1.5Gb TB hard drives for a total of 67.5 gigaterabytes of total drive space. And it costs about $8000 in unit quantities including their custom designed case.

Here's the little monster, minus its 'skin,' with five drives installed - and another 40 to go!  Cool



While it would be patently insane to exactly duplicate this box for personal use, it would be relatively easy to go with a subset since the bulk of the cost is tied up in the hard drives. If you take the drives and the custom rack case out of the bill of materials (and remove some of the parts needed to handle all 45 drives) the cost drops below $1500. Pretty amazing.

Here's a video discussing the company's business model and it's server design. Interesting to watch both from a business and technical perspective.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4usvYLEXa0" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4usvYLEXa0</a>

A blog post with a cost analysis and full details on the design and construction of this server (with parts list) can be found here.

Here's a couple of illustrations taken from the blog to whet your appetite. Click to enlarge.

   


A couple of points:

Hardware is only part of the equation when building a server. Backblaze has done the hardware spec and component matching. Which is a major time saver for any who wish to follow in their footsteps. But note that this system is also designed to run a customized version of Linux and in-house software specifically set up for Backblaze's own requirements. And they are not providing copies.

Quote
Building a cloud includes not only deploying a large quantity of hardware, but, critically, deploying software to manage it. At Backblaze we have developed software that de-duplicates and chops data into blocks; encrypts and transfers it for backup; reassembles, decrypts, re-duplicates, and packages the data for recovery; and monitors and manages the entire cloud storage system. This process is proprietary technology that we have developed over the years.

You may have your own system for this process and incorporate the Backblaze Storage Pod design, or you may simply seek inexpensive storage that won’t be deployed as part of a cloud. In either case, you’re free to use the storage pod design above. If you do, we would appreciate credit at Backblaze and welcome any insights, though this isn’t a requirement. Please note that because we’re not selling the design or the storage pods themselves, we provide no support nor warranties.

If you were planning a Windows Server deployment, you'd still want to check Microsoft's HCL to be sure there were no known problems with components. I'm guessing some of these components (like the port multiplier backplanes and a few of the cards) will not be found on the 'official' hardware list. Which is not to say they won't work. It's just you may have driver or other issues if you use them. The only way to be sure would be to buy them and test them thoroughly before you commit your data if they weren't on the HCL.

But anyway, there you have it: 68GbTB of storage platform for only $8K.

Like I said earlier - pretty amazing.  Cool
« Last Edit: May 25, 2011, 04:04:09 PM by 40hz; Reason: corrected Gb to TB » Logged

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superboyac
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« Reply #35 on: May 25, 2011, 01:04:05 PM »

AAhh!!  I love it!
40hz, I don't know...who are you??  Get out of my brain!
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40hz
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« Reply #36 on: May 25, 2011, 01:34:02 PM »

@SB - sorry Bro. Server design...it's a sickness. I love these things. I really do.  Kiss

It's gonna break my heart the day all the SMBs I have as clients finally migrate to the cloud and no longer have their own servers.

I think my great-grandfather felt the same way when the telephone finally replaced the handwritten letter as the primary means of personal communication after F2F conversation.

I shudder to think what he would have thought about something like Facebook or Twitter. Grin

« Last Edit: May 25, 2011, 01:45:11 PM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #37 on: May 25, 2011, 01:46:46 PM »

@ 40hz - A little crazy?!? Zoiks! I wonder how much torque 45 HDDs spinning up at once produces? Do they guage drive activity by how voilently the rack it's mounted in is shaking?

1.5GB x 45 drives to get to 67.5GB seems like a really old design considering they have 3TB drives now.


Then again my brother does work in a metal shop, so the case would be fairly cheap... undecided
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superboyac
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« Reply #38 on: May 25, 2011, 03:33:21 PM »

In my previous job, I was working on a big surveillance system installation.  There were loads of cameras, and so much video.  Obviously, there were tons of hard drives, I don't remember how many.  But there were 2 or 3 banks of something like 40 hard drives.  All I remember was that the fans were VERY loud, like jet engines.

I think 40 meant 1.5 TB (unless I'm mistaken).
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superboyac
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« Reply #39 on: May 25, 2011, 03:36:29 PM »

I love this stuff also.  It fits right in with my plans to live off the grid.  The only "service" I truly need is an internet connection.  I can manage to live without electricity (generator+ solar stuff), water (well), and sewage (fertilizer stuff).  but I still can't do without the ISP.
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40hz
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« Reply #40 on: May 25, 2011, 03:59:12 PM »

@ 40hz - A little crazy?!? Zoiks! I wonder how much torque 45 HDDs spinning up at once produces? Do they guage drive activity by how voilently the rack it's mounted in is shaking?

That was my first thought too. They address it in their blog however:

Quote
A note about drive vibration: The drives vibrate too much if you leave them sitting as shown in the picture above, so we add an “anti-vibration sleeve” (essentially a rubber band) around the hard drive in between the red metal grid and the drives. This seats the drives tightly in the rubber. We also lay a large (16″ x 17″ x 1/8″) piece of foam along top of the hard drives after all 45 are in the case. The lid then screws down on top of the foam to hold the drives securely. In the future, we will dedicate an entire blog post to vibration.

They didn't quite give an entire post to vibration, but there was a follow-up post. You can read it here.

----------

Quote
1.5GB x 45 drives to get to 67.5GB seems like a really old design considering they have 3TB drives now.

Helps if I can use the correct multiplier. It is terabytes - not gigabytes as I originally wrote. (Thanks Superboy for spotting that!)  embarassed

Note: This article was written in 2009. They were already mentioning plans to go over to 2TB drives in the near future.


Quote
Then again my brother does work in a metal shop, so the case would be fairly cheap... undecided

I'd be more likely to just do it in an open cage with a large fan blowing directly across it. Since I don't need to worry about space and density like they do, I don't feel a need to pack every available inch with a drive.

« Last Edit: May 25, 2011, 04:06:35 PM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #41 on: May 25, 2011, 04:35:27 PM »

I didn't have time to go read the details at work today ... but Damn! 67.5 TeraBytes.

...Now I'm afraid to read it ... 'Cause the wife will freakin shoot me if I come off with an idea like that.
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40hz
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« Reply #42 on: May 25, 2011, 05:40:40 PM »

I didn't have time to go read the details at work today ... but Damn! 67.5 TeraBytes.

...Now I'm afraid to read it ... 'Cause the wife will freakin shoot me if I come off with an idea like that.

Not surprising. If you were temped, it would probably be the only merciful thing to do. Grin Thmbsup
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« Reply #43 on: May 26, 2011, 08:43:14 AM »

I can fill up 60 TB no problem.  Uncompressed movies and music.  Backup.  Done.
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« Reply #44 on: May 26, 2011, 08:55:32 AM »

I can fill up 60 TB no problem.  Uncompressed movies and music.  Backup.  Done.

Yoiks! I'd think you'd be a shoe-in for the coveted 2011 "Swat Fly with Sledgehammer" Tech Achievement Award (also known in geek circles as the Spank the Monkey Medal) if you did that.
 Grin

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« Reply #45 on: May 26, 2011, 09:32:09 AM »

I can fill up 60 TB no problem.  Uncompressed movies and music.  Backup.  Done.

Yoiks! I'd think you'd be a shoe-in for the coveted 2011 "Swat Fly with Sledgehammer" Tech Achievement Award (also known in geek circles as the Spank the Monkey Medal) if you did that.
 Grin
That's me!  Quite literally.  When I was little, I had a traumatic incident with wasps and I got stung a lot.  Since then, I hated the creatures.  There was a while where if I saw a lone wasp on the ground or something, I'd take a running leap and jump just as high as I could, and land on it with all my strength.  And, of course, I still added a little foot-twist at the end to make sure.  That was before I was the founder and president of a club called the Extirpaters.  Three of us would go around the house and make sure there were no creepy crawlies around.  If they were, we'd catch them with a stick that had a sticky-gooey substance at the tip, then fry the bugs in the zapper lantern.  We had official laminated cards and everything.
My little sister was left out of the club in all of this.  One day, I found that my sister tried to make herself an "Extirpaters" card.  She copied the design as best as she could, but the funniest (or saddest!) part was that she didn't really know about lamination, so she took a couple of pieces of clear plastic and sort of taped the edges together with the card in the middle.  But the card would just sort of shake about inside the plastic pieces.  I was so mean!
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« Reply #46 on: May 26, 2011, 10:43:25 AM »

^Talk about initiative! I'd hire her in a heartbeat.  Grin

When I was younger I always pushed for letting a trusty girl or two into whatever we were getting up to. They often provided a "reality check" when thing started getting really stupid. And they were extremely valuable allies for getting adults to agree to something. (Never underestimate the power of a young female asking for a favor or permission.)

Most of them could also tell a lie (and be believed) much better than we could.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Emma, Judy, Kim, Tawney, and all the other so-called tomboys I grew up with.

Kim would have been one of the first to 'sign up' for building something like a personal petabyte cloud. She was handy with a soldering iron, "good with tools", and liked to build stuff. She's the first person I ever knew who had a ham radio license (and shortwave rig) when I was a kid. Self-taught too. Her father owned a dry cleaner shop and her Mom was a homemaker.

So imagine all the contributions your little sister might have made to your club if she'd been allowed in. Given enough time and encouragement, her skills and talents might have really taken off. Which would have been great. Because you just never know when you might need the services of a good forger.  Grin



« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 10:45:52 AM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #47 on: May 26, 2011, 10:45:36 AM »

And they were extremely valuable allies fir getting adults to agree to something. (Never underestimate the power of a young female asking for a favor or permission.)

Agreed, the negotiating skills of young females (I have two daughters) is a sight to behold.   cheesy
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« Reply #48 on: May 26, 2011, 10:51:37 AM »

^Agree. I have two nieces that have it down to a science. I have yet to meet a male that doesn't cave the minute they do that little 'prayer-hand & curtsy' thing they do when they say "Oh please can I?"

I just hope they continue to only use their superpowers for good.  tongue
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« Reply #49 on: May 26, 2011, 10:55:09 AM »

I don't get the "cutesy" act so much from my girls.  I get the "lady logic" arguments that flummox me to the point that I can't even form a coherent sentence with which to reply.  Personally, I find it awesome that a seven and eleven-year-old can make me speechless in this way.   Kiss 
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