Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E
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Author:  morpheus.dreaming [ Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

I am planning to create a modular server system for home used based on the following:
- Windows Server 2012 Essentials
- Booksize / Nano / Mini PC with one drive for the operating system
- JBOD stack connected via USB 3.0 or eSATA

I am busy researching this but would appreciate any thoughts or recommendations on a barebones nettop of any kind. I've looked at Foxconn, Shuttle and Zotac, and all seem reasonable for what they are.

Author:  Comp1962 [ Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

Why do that when you can get an HP ProLiant MicroServer for just a little bit more money and less then the cost of a Netop and external enclosure unless of course you already have an existing Port Multiplier which could later be put to use with the HP MicroServer.

Of course both a Netop and HP ProLiant Microserver would off limited performance and you would be locked into a proprietary hardware setup. Building a small form factor server would resolve this issue allowing you to chose the hardware without actually going broke in the process. You would also yield better performance from the hard drives and eliminate drive drop out issues that tend to arise from external enclosures for one reason or another.

Author:  morpheus.dreaming [ Sun Apr 14, 2013 2:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

The ProLiant Servers aren't bad but I like the idea of the modularity of a machine that has the OS and processor attached to one or more enclosures that have the storage.

Author:  Comp1962 [ Sun Apr 14, 2013 3:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

However you chose to configure and run a server is a personal choice but when you start to experience drive drop outs then you may form a different opinion.

Author:  morpheus.dreaming [ Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

What I'm not understanding is how the approach would be different.

Let's assume we have two Mediasonic Pro Box 4 Bay devices with 8 drives in. Each one is connected via USB3.0 to a stand alone SFF / Nano / Booksize PC. If I have WS2012E installed with Storage Spaces or another disk management tool, what am I missing compared to an integrated server form factor?

Author:  Comp1962 [ Sun Apr 14, 2013 7:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

What your looking to do will work but you will lock yourself into a limited less flexible solution. Now if your happy with that then that's all that matters. I don't know what you intend on doing with your server or how much drive capacity your looking at. One thing I would encourage you to do is to check out adding larger than 2TB Drives in your Mediasonic Enclosure because recently a forum member attempted to do that and ran into issues with the enclosure. I have several port multipliers and chose to discontinue using them because of random issues with drive drop outs which is something I do not experience with drives installed in a single enclosure. Now I still use port multipliers but I use them more as a docking station for working with drives but on my latest desktop build I have 2 hotswap bays so the port multipliers are all idle.

Also if your looking to stream your media and the transcoding is done on the server side then your going to need a serious processor to handle the task but if your going to just use it for file sharing and backups then then need for a powerful CPU goes away.

So if this is hardware you already own and want to take it out for a ride then go for it and see how it works out for you. I wish you well in your project and hope its successful for you.

Author:  morpheus.dreaming [ Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

I don't understand how it is a limited solution, and it certainly isn't less flexible - the point of this is to make it more modular.

With the amount of throughput supported by USB3 and the maturity of USB, one or two enclosures would be fast and resilient. The tiny form factor PC would also be modular and more manageable.

Author:  Comp1962 [ Fri Apr 26, 2013 2:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

The weak point in what you want to do is in relying on Port Multipliers to hold your data and the potential of having drive drop outs within the port multipliers. There are a couple of active threads discussing this as we speak. I have one running on my server that's unique but similar to what most others are using. The difference is that the PSU in my unit is different than the stock PSU's in the OEM units. The test is to see if I experience drive drop outs or not and how often as the issue tends to be intermittent.

Its because of the drive drop out issue that I have shared my concerns not so much with your solution but your solution may cause you grief down the road with drives dropping out sometimes daily other times weekly or less frequently. Now if I can find a viable solution to the issue and can prove it out to be reliable then your Server Solution would be 100% viable but when you expose yourself to a known issue with Port Multipliers then its something you may not want to go forward with.

The drop out issues have been attributed by some with the frequency of drive polling or heavy drive activity in both WHSv1 and WHS2011 and I can not comment on other OS's. I have been down that road and eliminated most of those issues but still experienced drop outs and I was heavily into Port Multipliers. The only thing I noticed was with the Port Multipliers I built were not prone to drop outs and the only reason I can think of is Cooling and the PSU. So to prove this out I have one of my MSS Port Multipliers running on my WHS2011 Server for testing these past 2 weeks and no issues. Now I am going to swap that out with a stock 5 bay unit running with the OEM PSU and see if the drop outs occur and if so then I have a 300w Athena Flex PSU to run the port multiplier to see if the issue goes away or not.

Again its not with your server choice because it will work but the concern is drive drop outs and I would hate to see you go down that road and experience this issue because its the most annoying thing.

Author:  Gardian [ Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

In theory its an awesome idea! At one time I was going to do the very same thing. Have a small main brain (I was looking at something with a I5 or I7) and massive storage USB (tanks), its an awesome idea, you can have a spare main mini brain for backup/replacement if needed. And everything is plug n play, easy to move around if needed and expandable like crazy with USB.
Then reality came in and ruined the whole idea. The external connections are not stable enough to run your main data on full time.
The only thing I will use USB for is Non-pooled backups. I attach them, backup for a couple of hours and then shut them down. I have no problems used in this manor, but try using them all the time with a lot of data traffic, and good luck. It's just not stable enough. IMHO...

It may work for awhile, but at some point it's going to have problems. I think it's the quality of the parts inside the enclosures. Maybe if you could fine some really hi-end heavyduty mil spec stuff.

All that being said, I never did it to prove without a doubt it wouldn't work, I decided to stay in the box and avoid the possibility of problems. Maybe I gave up to soon and if you can prove it wrong, please report back on the setup you go with.
I still like the idea. But I would want some horsepower in that main brain (at least a I5 and 8 gigs memory, most likely running winserver2012E installed on a ssd drive) probably 4 bay enclosures (for cooling) running 3-4 tb drives. What would be really cool is if you could get the whole thing to sleep at night and come up running at 6am every morning ready to go.

Author:  Gardian [ Sun May 05, 2013 7:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

If I was going to do it, I would use this or something like it for the main brain:

It's not barebones, but it's small and has some horse power.

Then attach a couple of these for starters: ... 6817576009

Or go big and use one of these for the storage tank: ... 6816322007

Author:  CanadianPilgrim [ Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

This is a very interesting, unique and futuristic thread. After hours of looking, it seems to be the only one one topic, where the industry is on the verge of a flood of both "mini-pcs" (like the kinds noted here) and DAS units connected via USB 3.0 or e-sata or both.

I am considering the very same kind of "build" (with WHS 2011) for the reasons of modularity. While I can upgrade the mini-pc relatively easy, the DAS hard drive stack remains as-is, waiting for the new brain. This would allow me to recycle the old mini-pc for something like a media server. Sounds good in theory.

It is interesting to read in here the perceived problems with USB and "drive drop outs". I would appreciate it if those knowledgeable about the subjects would elaborate on the following:

1) do "drive drop outs" occur with connections via a) e-sata; b) USB 2.0; c) USB 3.0?
2) where unreliable connections occur, is there any indication of the source (i.e. motherboard, cable connections, or the DAS itself)?

Finally, important to this subject as a whole is the port multipliers. Port multiplication has been around, from what I can tell, for over 10 years but there are few (none that I could find) motherboards that support it. Also, though some threads seem to discuss port multiplication as applying to both eSata and USB, I have concluded that the elusive technology (not found on motherboards) is only applicable to eSata ports. Am I correct? Further on this subject, is port multiplication in the loose sense of the word (e.g. the ability to see and manipulate more than 1 HD drive at the end of a single cable) native to USB 3.0s? I ask this because some users are reporting that they can see >1 HD at the end of the USB 3.0 connections (for example in threads about the Lian Li EX503B DAS where it is said to support "port multiplication out of the box - which turns out to be via a USB 3.0 connection).

Am I glad I found you guys in this thread. :)

Author:  Comp1962 [ Sat Oct 26, 2013 1:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

Hi CanadianPilgrim welcome to the forums! Good to have you on board!

That's a good question which is not always spelled out on motherboard or the actual computer specifications. You would need to look closely at the actual controller specification for the unit your looking at to see if its eSATA Port is indeed Port Multiplier Aware and if so how many drives will it support be it 4 or 5.

Many newer ports showing up are both USB and eSATA some are port multiplier aware others are not. USB is easier to work with but eSATA is faster then USB2 but not the case compare to USB3 and you would need to review what ports the Port Multiplier is compatible with.

I use to be a big fan of Port Multipliers until I started experiencing drive drop out issues and I had at one time 6 of them running off my server at the time which was running WHSv1. I have written about this extensively in the forums so there is no need for me to rehash this but its the most annoying thing when it occurs.

Earlier this year I did some testing with a 4 bay and 5 bay port multiplier to see if I could isolate why the drop outs might occur again I wrote about this extensively. I did a test with WHS2011 and then in April I upgraded that server to run WS2012E and continued to test the port multiplier out but not once did I experience a drive drop out.

I have a lot of theories about the reasons why they might drop out some point to the PSU used in some units, to poor quality or overly long eSATA cables to high utilization of the drives and more importantly the thing to watch for is time out issues with one or more drives.

Because drive drop outs are a possibility and it can be one drive or all the drives in the enclosure dropping out, I have stopped recommending port multipliers but for those who need more storage capacity and have an existing system where by their enclosure is full a port multiplier becomes attractive. If a person is looking to build or put together a new server I would personally urge them to build a server that can house enough drives to support their current and future storage needs. With the availability of larger then 2TB Drives this greatly reduces the need for a large drive system.

Now Gardian just started using a Lian Li EX503 and he told me that his unit dropped out but that drop out may have been caused by StableBit Drive Scanner so for the time being he is not running that software and 24 hrs later the EX503 is still running and I hope it does stay running for him because those units are not inexpensive.

The one thing you have to keep in mind is that the drives in a server are their to be accessed and utilized and the last thing you will want to introduce is the possibility they may drop out when you need something from them. Does this mean that other setups do not experience drive drop outs? No because when drives start to fail they can drop out also drives used in a RAID Setup that are not designed to run RAID can drop out but many use consumer drives in a RAID Array and knock on wood they like it but its not exactly something I would do which is why for my WHS2011 and WS2012E I took the much simpler approach to use Stablebit Drive Pool which works quite well and it may not be the fastest solution but it works and has yet to let me down so that means its a stable solution and much more friendly and easier to work with then RAID.

I know this doesn't quite answer your questions but I would approach this with some reservation and put more thought into a server system that's more self contained.

Author:  Gardian [ Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

I covered my bases, I went with both. I built a small diy with dvd that can handle 5 drives with win2012E and Then for fun Picked up the EX-503B and I have been testing the 5 2tb drives in it as a pool just to see how it would work on USB3.

As comp1962 said, I had heck when I installed stablebit scanner, but Stablebit drive pool is working.
It's been a week now and still no problems. I'm done testing and I am going to move the drives inside the main box and just use the external for backups. And yes the EX-503 it comes set to port multiplier mode and all five drives showed right up.

My setup is over in the DIY thread Called X-710.

I still would like to try the mini pc with usb 3 storage, but I can only spend so much before the girls will be not happy. Can't have that.

I'm happy with my (3) X-510's and my diy for down the road.

I do have to saw that ex-503 is sweet, but it was to much, but it matched my main server, just had to do it.
Drops outs, I think it's a coin flip, depending on the hardware and depending on the load, I think it could go either way. Would be cool if it worked.

Author:  morpheus.dreaming [ Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Picking a good Booksize / Nano / Mini PC for WS2012E

I may still build a mini + external storage solution. Currently having some issues with my installation of WS2012E that might make be upgrade to WS2012ER2 - the server is acting flakey, and I think it might be the installation.

The idea of port multipliers, drive combiners and other approaches are interesting. Different use cases mean people want more or less flexibility and speed. WS2012ER2 even supports server folders on the internet - and if all you are doing is serving media and centralising your backups, a bunch of uncombined disks should work fine.

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