Home Server

Purpose

Ok, this box probably seems like overkill once you get to the specs.. and it mostly is.  However, after using an HP Microserver N36L for the last couple of years, I’ve been wanting something with more memory expansion potential and a lot more cpu grunt, so I built a box which should be good for at least 3 years.

My home server box is Its currently in its Nth incarnation.  Yes, that says “Nth”.. I stopped counting as I’ve been running a home linux server in various forms since 1996.  My first dedicated home linux server was a Dell P133 box my wife (then girlfriend) brought with her to our relationship,  which became a Redhat 4 box providing network storage and doing NAT & firewall over the on-demand dial-up connection.  A home server has always been a fixture, and over the years has been asked to do more stuff (mail server, intranet, web server etc.).

So.. on with the hardware.  I took pics of building the box, and will at some point get around to writing it up, mostly because I was surprised at how few compromises I had to make in the process of building it.

Server Hardware

CPU Intel Xeon X3450
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U9B SE2
Motherboard Supermicro X8SIL-F
Memory 4x 8GB sticks of Crucial DDR3-1866 unbuffered ECC
Video Card Er.. its a server.  it has onboard Matrox G200
Power Supply Dell L255EM-01 (80plus Gold) 235W PSU modded to work with ATX connector
Storage 2x Intel X25-M 160GB SSD in RAID1
2x Western Digital WD3200BEKT 320GB 7200rpm 2.5″ drives in RAID1
4x Western Digital Red 2TB drives in RAIDZ1 (under freeNAS)
Expansion cards Dell PERC H310 PCIe RAID controller card
Intel PRO/1000 PT dual port PCIe
Case Lian-Li PC-V354b
Lian-Li PC-V354b with Vantec EZ Swap F4 drive bay adapter in it.

Lian-Li PC-V354b with Vantec EZ Swap F4 drive bay adapter in it.

There are some other bits tucked in the server closet which aren’t technically part of this PC, but which bear mention.  They are:

  • APC Smart-UPS 1000 (modded to be a SmartUPS-1500)
  • Netgear CG3100 cable modem giving us a 114mbps downstream and 2500kbps upstream
  • Netgear Prosafe 5-port switch to tie together various devices, and uplink to the home’s 16-port Prosafe

Software

Okay, this gets complicated.  The server box is a bare-metal virtual server, runing Xen.  As a result, its running a few different vm’s, in a combinatrion of hardware and paravirtual virtualisation, depending on client OS support.  As a rough idea, right now its running 8 vm’s, all for various dedicated purposes.

Host OS Centos 6.5
Host hypervisor Xen 4.2.4
Firewall vm pfsense 2.1
Storage vm Freenas 9.2
Intranet vm Centos 6
Mail Server vm Centos 5 with a (very) old Scalix installation
Windows 8 vm Windows 8 Pro with SQL Server 2012
Windows XP vm XP Pro with various 32-bit-only apps used via Remote Desktop
LAMP vm Centos 6.5 with Apache, MySQL, PHP
Various other vms
  • FreeBSD 8.3 – pfsense build environment
  • FreeBSD 9.2 – freeNAS build environment
  • FreeBSD 9.1 – nas4free build environment
  • Fedora 18 – testing
  • Fedora 20 – testing

Whats wrong with it?

Honestly, other than the items below, I’m very happy with the box.  Its physically functional, quiet, and doesn’t consume much power.  All I’d change if I were to do it again are:

CPU

I’d have like to use a CPU with support for the AES-NI crypto instruction set – although whether AESNI is compromised with NSA backdoors or deliberate weaking of the cipher/prng etc. remains to be seen.

I’d also like a further reduction in power consumption from a newer cpu architecture, although as the box currently idles at 50W with everything in it, I can’t complain.

Motherboard

Related to the chipset, but the X8SIL has a few problems, most notable of which is the second onboard Intel network port has issues under linux, and especially with PCI-passthrough.  Its why I ended up adding an expensive dual-port server NIC to the system, so I could stop fighting the second onboard NIC.

 

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