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 Post subject: My DIY WHS 2011 Server
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2011 1:12 pm 
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I bit the bullet and migrated from WHS v1 to WHS 2011. Also revised my hardware a little and put it all in a rack. My first WHS v1 box was a HP EX470 that I purchased the first week HP made it available for sale back in 2007. Like many of the people who had these boxes, I went through the 2MB RAM upgrade, Athlon processor upgrade, etc. Great little machine but it died last year. I was ready to take on a DIY so I started with a basic system with an eye to update later. The plan was to revisit once VAIL went to RTM and I would bring it all to the next level to include putting all my server/primary network equipment in a rack. I put it all off after the VAIL DE debacle as I was on the fence about whether this was going to be a WHS v1 or WHS 2011 build. Ultimately I decided on WHS 2011. I then needed to figure out how I would approach data replication with the loss of DE and any additional hardware besides a rack. I also wanted to use as much existing equipment as possible. Some of my decisions: RAID? No. I chose to pair drives and duplicate data via mirroring. WHS 2011 does that as an option. Therefore I had to order a second Caviar 640GB drive for my OS/Boot drive. Type of rack? This is a home environment so I did not need a tall data center rack. What I was really looking for was a combination rack/cart ... something that could hold my equipment "rack style," allow me to disconnect my external connections/move it easily, and have a top to put a monitor/keyboard. Net, there was no perfect solution. So I decided to go with a NORCO rack with wheels and I built/installed a top shelf. The only other new hardware was an upgrade to 8MB RAM. Did I need it? No, but the two additional sticks were on sale and I had a coupon so I said what the hell.

None of this is bleeding edge hardware. For example, not sure you can even get a AMD 905e processor anymore but it is a quad core and low power (65 watts.) More than enough horsepower. I been using this "new" WHS 20011 server for about a month now and it is fast and stable. I will add that I am not a big multimedia storage guy... only pics, home movies, music, etc. so my storage needs are modest but I do see the need for more as we migrate more home movies. My current case is at max for # of disks so will be shopping for either a replacement case or an eSATA chassis to add to the rack. Will probably have to do something by next year. I've attached pics of the system and the hardware details are below. What do you think?

1. Server:
- LIAN LI Black Aluminum PC-C34F (4 swap disks/6 total)
- PS: CORSAIR CMPSU-750HX 750W
- CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 905e 65W Quad-Core
- MB: GIGABYTE GA-MA785GPMT-UD2H Micro ATX
- RAM: G.SKILL 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR3 Memory
- DVD: LITE-ON iHAP422-98 DVD Writer (IDE)
Hard Drives:
Boot/OS:
- WD Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB (Primary)
- WD Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB (Mirror)
Multimedia:
- WD Caviar Green WD15EADS 1.5TB (Primary)
- WD Caviar Green WD15EADS 1.5TB (Mirror)
Share/PC Backups:
- WD Caviar Green WD15EARS 1.5TB Hard Drive (Primary)
- WD Caviar Green WD15EARS 1.5TB Hard Drive (Mirror)
External Backup:
- Fantom G-Force3 2TB (USB 3.0) - will have to upgrade at some point

2. Norco 15U Rack – Portable and I have room to grow with this rack.

3. Other items on rack:
- Cisco RVS-4000 Router/4 Port GB Switch
- Cisco WRVS-4400N Wireless N Router/4 Port GB Switch (WAP plus backup router)
- Front/Rear Keystone Panels (Keystones allow me to quick disconnect CAT 6 cables if I need to move the rack and I am too old to be punching down wires!)
- Cisco 16-Port GB Managed Switch
- APC UPS 1500VA (8 Outlet)
- IBM Trackpoint Keyboard
- Dell 15” LCD Monitor
- Vonage VOIP Adapter (mounted on back of the rack)
- ADSL Modem (mounted on back of the rack)

Best, John


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Last edited by John B. on Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2011 3:49 pm 
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Nice setup, thanks for sharing. So you're doing software mirroring of each drive?

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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2011 5:44 pm 
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Yes. I'm sure there is overhead but I am not seeing an performance penalty on the client side. Since WHS 2011 is based on Server 2008, mirroring (RAID1) works well and much less risky than striping, IMHO. Bad idea?

It does take some time to replicate data from the primary to the secondary when you first set up but the timing depends on how much data is on the primary. Since I have no tech docs on how the mirroring function works, I'm not sure whether there is a two-phase commit when you write a file(i.e. the file is written to the primary then to the mirror before task completion) or writes to the primary then "catches up" to the secondary a short time later. I haven't tested "bulk loads" of data and performance times but there is nothing that I would send over my network that would case a noticeable slowdown. Disk to disk may be another matter. CPU loads have been very low.

Obviously this is still a work in progress and I am learning as I go. Since my disks are swappable, I am going to see what the recovery procedures are when I lose a primary drive and want to use the mirror. Basically, I will shutdown the server, pull a primary data drive, power up and see what I need to do to use the mirror. Not sure how WHS 2001 will handle the loss of a data drive. I guess I will find out. I'm hoping that on the OS/Boot drive I will just need to point to it in the BIOS. It isn't DE but if it does work then I can deal with it. Will share what I come up with! New territory for me. Also, I do have a full server backup so if I do get into trouble I can also test WHS 2011 recovery. ;)

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:31 pm 
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Still making upgrades (big and small) to my WHS 2011 hardware build. Since I last posted, I’ve upgraded the following and thought it might interest some:

• New Asus AMD 950FX Sabertooth motherboard.
• New OS Drive( C: ) - 2.5” WD Scorpio Black HD (320GB) and drive mount adapter that lets me install of up to four 2.5” drives in a single 5.25 space.
The 2.5” WD drive is an interim until the cost of 160+ GB SSD drives come down in price. I may be ahead of myself big time with the cost of the SSD’s at over $200 now but my intention is to eventually use them for the OS plus shares/files the family uses all the time. Will use 3.5” spin drives that will always have much greater capacity and better price for PC backups, family movies, music, etc.

• Dual Intel NIC’s with LAG teaming.
• Replacement PWM case fans (2 x 80mm and 2 x 120mm)

Overall the newest WHS has been rock steady since I started using in April despite my inability to keep the hardware static for more than week! However, there are things that could be improved or just useless with this OS (e.g. the MAC Dashboard) and will share next time.

John

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:15 pm 
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Hi John,

I noticed your using a 2.5” WD Scorpio Black HD (320GB) for your system drive. I have a build in progress still waiting on components to arrive next Tue or Wed but I have chosen the same drive for the system drive but am not sure at this point how it will work out. Can you tell me how the performance of your server is with that drive.

I have an interest in an SSD but the cost for me is abit too much for a 160GB or higher SSD. The other drive I was considering was a 2.5" Seagate Momentus XT but when comparing those against the WD Scorpio Black the performance increase was not all that great. I know this because I swapped out the WD Scorpio Black for a Momentus XT and while there was some performance increase it was not stellar. I actually have two XT drives running in different notebooks for work.

Anyway I have posted a question asking about using 2.5" drives as system drives and so far have not received any feedback. After reading your post I am quite interested in what you have to say about the performance of the drive in your server.

Also that motherboard if its the one I am thinking of is very interesting please post your experience with it.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:55 pm 
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I researched the various options and saw the Seagate “hybrid.” The XT does present an interesting choice as a low cost way to improve performance since it uses an adaptive 4GB SSD cache. I saw mixed reviews on the real utility other than faster Win 7 boot times and virtually nothing from a server performance perspective. Also read about some challenges with the firmware but that may have been worked out at this point.

I chose the WD Scorpio Black since it has proven to be a fast and reliable workhorse for me. I use them in my laptops and a mini-ITX build. Concluded that it would be fine as a WHS OS/Boot drive until SSD’s come down in price. However, I was prepared to switch back to the Caviar Black if needed.

I’ve had the 2.5” Scorpio Black in my server for over a week. I see no perceptible performance difference and I was using a 3.5" WD Caviar Black which is not a "slow" drive. The Scorpio Black runs cool and allows me to free up space in my case for the larger capacity 3.5 inch drives. You should not have any performance issues using the Scorpio Black drive based on my experience so far.

Like you, I think SSD’s are the way to go but not yet.

On the ASUS 990FX ... Here's my Newegg review under "JB":
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... llFullInfo

Come back to me if you have any specific questions.

John

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2011 1:47 pm 
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Thanks for the feedback on the 2.5" WD Scorpio Black. The enclosure I am using is a Norco 2420 which can accomodate 2 2.5" drives and a slim drive which are over the drive bays. If someone were to ask me about using the Momentous XT over the WD Scorpio Black I would encourage them to stick with the WD drive as they perform very well.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:33 pm 
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Comp1962,

Your Norco 2420 is a very nice case and I can see why you would be looking to use a 2.5 inch drive up top.

BTW, the Sabertooth MB comes with ten temperature sensors on board and some very nice software to monitor temps, adjust fans, etc. Here's a screen shot of my WHS server showing some of the software. It shows the temps at idle across key areas of the MB. My AMD 905e Phenom II is a 65W TDP CPU that runs low temps normally compared to other AMD quad cores but I am very happy with a 38C temp. This morning I had a system backup, PC backup and a movie streaming to our PS3 and the temp only climbed to 41C.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2011 8:21 pm 
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Thats outstanding. Very impressive to have that ability to monitor your motherboard like that. I like ASUS myself but for my build I went with a GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD5 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... -_-Product which will arrive next Wed with the 1st of 3 Supermicro MV8's which will allow me to test the backplanes out but I also have cables which will allow me to connect the backplanes to the SATA Ports for testing too.

Its all good and your set up is very sweet and online. I will be online in 2-4 weeks.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2011 9:38 pm 
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I agree... it's all good. I'm sure I would be just as satisfied with the MB you selected.

Best of luck on your build.

John

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 9:58 pm 
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I don't know if they fixed it with Server 2008, but with Server 2003 and software mirroring, for the system drive the software mirroring wouldn't mirror the boot sector and some other critical boot files - there was a manual procedure you had to do to make the secondary drive bootable. It might be worth looking into ahead of time. As I have learned from past experience, finding these things out when you need that secondary mirrored drive because of a failure is not the ideal time to try to figure out that what you thought was a sure thing needed some extra work to be useful :)

Otherwise I think you have a fine setup and a fine strategy.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 8:15 pm 
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Hi,

Actually I think you can. However, I caveat that I did not perform destructive testing by just pulling my OS/Boot drive while the system was running as I did not want to damage a drive. However after esablishing an MBR Raid 1 mirror of the OS/Boot drive, I shut down the server, pulled the primary OS/boot drive and restarted. As part of the boot sequence WHS detected the loss of the primary and requested that I select either: 1. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 or 2. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 - Secondary Plex. I selected the second option and WHS came back up. (BTW, selecting #1 will cause a reboot) Net, I think you can be back up very quickly. Here's a very good overview of the process:

http://www.techotopia.com/index.php/Mir ... stem_Disks

However, in replacing the bad drive (at a more convenient time) you may have to manually break the existing mirror using Diskpart since you can't do it via the disk management panel. Here's a reference to do this:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/969749

Utility? If the primary drive fails you could be back up and running as quickly as it takes to reboot. Unless someone knows differently I do not believe that there is auto failover. Added Complexity? Yes and any time you are using CLI commands like Diskpart you have to be careful. Overhead? I have not experience any slow down by implementing mirroring. Net is that unless you are comfortable or inclined to play with software mirroring, I would stay away.

Going with a single OS/Boot drive may be the way to go for some. The process of replacing a boot drive, loading the WHS DVD to boot, and recovering the boot drive from an existing backup was easy and took no more than 30 minutes total on my system.

Hope this helps! John

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 8:56 pm 
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John B. wrote:
As part of the boot sequence WHS detected the loss of the primary and requested that I select either: 1. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 or 2. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 - Secondary Plex.


It sounds like they did finally fix that. Good to know - thanks!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 6:57 am 
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To those who are interested in using a SSD but do not want to spend the current price of a 160 GB drive, the minimum that WHS 2011 wants, you can try what I did. I installed WHS 2011 on a large drive without problems. Then I imaged the C and D drive that were created on the large hard drive on to a 96 GB SSD (which was on sale) and set up C at 60 GB with D using the remainder. Everything worked fine and I had no trouble activating. Currently, the C drive has about 19 GB on it, so there is room to spare. All backups and shares are done on separate low power Samsung F4 hard drives. Although this is not a supported method, I have had no problems yet and the system boots up pretty quickly while using less power.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:41 pm 
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Could get me to an SSD boot drive faster going this route... thanks for sharing.

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120 GB Kingston HyperX SSD OS/Boot Drive / 6TB Storage


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