New Beefy Storage Home Server — Part 1

The Aim

After using my com­put­ing equip­ment for some time my desk got filled with 3 exter­nal hard dri­ves con­tain­ing back­ups and archived data such as videos, pho­tos. Even worse these dri­ves spin down after a while result­ing in a 6 sec­ond lag when open­ing a file open or save pan­el. Fur­ther­more the use of a HFS+ filesys­tem for long-time stor­age seemed not very attrac­tive to me as it can get cor­rupt­ed silently.

So I want­ed to have a mod­ern, per­for­mant serv­er that plays well with my macs. After sev­er­al con­sid­er­a­tions I decid­ed to build a PC serv­er with serv­er com­po­nents, which should be nev­er­the­less not too expen­sive. This is what I chose:

The Hardware

  • Intel Xeon-E3 1240v2 (Quad­core 3.40 GHz with HyperThreading)
  • Moth­er­board Asus P8B‑E/4L
  • Man­age­ment coproces­sor ASMB5-iKVM
  • 32 GB DDR3 Kingston Val­ue ECC RAM
  • 2 OCZ Vertex4 SSDs with 120 GB
  • 3 West­ern Dig­i­tal Red 3 TB harddisks
  • Case Refine R4
  • Pow­er sup­ply Energmax
  • LG Blu­ray burner

I chose these com­po­nents for var­i­ous rea­sons: the CPU is afford­able, has 4 cores, sup­ports hyper thread­ing and tur­bo boost. The pow­er con­sump­tion of approx. 85 W is not that bad, but I still have to look into throt­tling and pow­er sav­ing. The main­board is a serv­er main­board, which means that it has an embar­rass­ing low-per­for­mance on-board GPU (16 MB VRAM and a VGA-ony con­nec­tor), which is basi­cal­ly just for instal­la­tion. The upside is that it sup­ports in total five net­work inter­faces on the board (four Intel Giga­bit LAN ports and one ded­i­cat­ed man­age­ment LAN port).

I was espe­cial­ly curi­ous about the remote man­age­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties using the option­al ASM­B5-iKVM board. It works as adver­tised: it is pos­si­ble to use a web inter­face to get a Java win­dow of the redi­rect­ed video out­put and the com­put­er is con­trolled over a vir­tu­al USB mouse and key­board. Because it is a sep­a­rate com­put­er on its own it is always on, even if the serv­er is switched off (mean­ing in ACPI S5 state). One can use the web inter­face to pow­er on the serv­er, mount an iso image for OS instal­la­tion or mon­i­tor fans, tem­per­a­tures and volt­ages. Fur­ther­more, this board is IPMI-com­pli­ant, which means that one can use tools like ipmiutil to con­trol and mon­i­tor the serv­er from the com­mand line.

The rest is quite stan­dard: 2 SSDs for the OS and cache and 3 main hard dri­ves for data stor­age. I would like to men­tion the case: the Refine R4 is a quite expen­sive case but real­ly worth it: it looks great, has big 140 mm fans and lots of hard disk trays which make installing hard dri­ves easy.

I also took quite an expen­sive pow­er sup­ply which is plat­inum-rat­ed, mean­ing a pow­er effi­cien­cy of more than 94% for a 20% to 50% load. The nice thing is that the pow­er sup­ply is cooled with a 140 mm fan which makes the serv­er qui­et. The only thing that is notice­able is the fan of the stock Intel CPU cool­er. With the large case it is pos­si­ble to mount a very large CPU cool­er which can use 140 mm fans, too, which would silent the serv­er even more.

Feel free to leave a com­ment for dis­cussing the hard­ware I chose. Next part I will be writ­ing about the server’s soft­ware installation.


Chemist, Programmer, Mac and iPhone enthusiast. Likes coding in Python, Objective-C and other languages.

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