What is the plan for my home server?
In my previous post I was pretty happy with my purchase of a HP Proliant Gen8 G1610T Microserver as my home server. I was thinking that I might finally be able to get working on installing ESXi. However I am starting to have some doubts that I may have underestimated what I am looking for in a home server..
Doubts about the Gen8 G1610T home server
By all means this is a great piece of kit and pretty good value too. The problem I have is that I want both a NAS and an ESXi home server but working on an all-in-one solutions seems a little difficult to implement without issues. My original plan had been to install ESXi as my hypervisor and virtualise FreeNAS (Or some other alternative) but it seems FreeNAS does not play nice when it is virtualised as it requires block level access to the drives to function properly. You can kind of force this by passing through (I previously mentioned GPU pass-through) the disks to the VM but I’ve heard mixed reviews about attempting this. Seems like some people got this working without issues while others are experiencing crashes, down time, etc.
If I did manage to successfully virtualise FreeNAS without any problems this still leaves me with a resource issue on my home server. The recommended resources for FreeNAS is 1GB RAM for every 1TB of storage space. I was considering a 4 x 4TB array of WD Red drives but this leaves me with no memory available for the virtual machines. Even if I drop to 3TB drives this still only leave me with about 4GB of usable RAM to work with. Certainly not ideal and wouldn’t allow for much wiggle room.
Then there is the financial cost to consider. Obviously the drives are going to be expensive but I had planned on doing this anyway so I consider this more of an investment. I think I would like to go all the way to 4 x 4TB which I believe is the maximum allowed on this server, but honestly 4 x 3TB would be more than enough. That isn’t the main concern here though – the cost of the additional RAM is. Normal DDR3 RAM is pretty expensive nowadays although it is finally dropping in price. The problem is this server requires ECC memory or Error-correcting code memory. Unlike normally every day RAM this can detect and correct any internal corruption so it is mainly used in systems where a fault could be catastrophic such as financial services. Unfortunately this kind of technology demands a hefty price tag at almost twice the price of normal RAM – Over €150 for one of the cheaper Value RAM sets of 16GB (8GB x 2).
So what is really needed for my home server?
This is the question I am asking myself. My original intention as a starting point was to set up a media server VM in ESXi including Plex and Torrenting as well as additional media library applications such as SickBeard. I thought this would be a good starting point as it isn’t exactly out of my comfort zone. This would work great in combination with a NAS fileserver so I need to find out how best to implement this – Virtualised or otherwise. I believe FreeNAS has some plugins that can be used to support these features but I’ve heard far from happy reviews about these in terms of uptime and general issues with staying running.
I definitely do want some sort of functional vSphere implementation as I want to gain my VCP certification this year if I can. I’m thinking at this point it might be best to build an ESXi whitebox to accomplish everything I want in terms of different VMs and NAS as it doesn’t look like the Gen8 is going to be enough for my needs.. This could well be the beginning of a home lab… Stay tuned