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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