The world’s best media server (for me).

16 Dec

I’ve had many media servers in my life, and there are always certain things I like about each one. In 2018, I wanted to put together something small, quiet, and had the ability to transcode multiple media streams.

Aside from sourcing components I started with the single goal of cramming as such storage space as I could into a small compact computer. I know I wanted hardware RAID, high performance 7200 RPM hard drives, and an IMPI of some sort.

For my chassis I went with the Chenbro SR30169T2-250. My previous media server was an ACER AC100 – it was very quiet and allowed me to fill it with 4 hard drives and a PCIe SSD. My biggest gripe is the LED’s for the HDD’s were handled by a software driver which did not work (reliably) with any current versions of Linux.

On a side note, if you end up using this chassis ensure you purchase a SAS to SATA cable with a sideband cable. The sideband cable will connect your RAID card to the SPGIO header on the backplane allowing drive identification (eg: locate). A must factor with any RAID setup.

Second thing was the processor, I choose a used Intel 4790 purchased on eBay. The processor packs a good punch. I specifically decided against the 4790K as I suspect anything “used” would have been overclocked in it’s previous life.

For memory I went with 16GB (8GB x2) @ 12800MHz. Because I am going to use hardware RAID, memory requirements are dictated by the type and amount of virtual machines I need to run.

Next was cooling. The Intel 4790 has a TWP of 84W. It is not exactly a cool running processor. For roughly a week I tested a whole bunch of low profile CPU cooling fans. I found the best result was a Notica with Arctic Silver 5 High-Density Polysynthetic Silver Thermal Compound applied using the spread method.

The result is ~36°C degree temp when running at idle and ~73°C when under full load.

For the hardware RAID controller I opted for a LSI 9280-4i4e (which was bought by Avago who was then bought by Broadcom). I also purchased a battery backup (as to safely enable Write-Back mode). This card will also allow me grow my storage as it contains both an internal and external connector.

For anyone who happens to be looking for the latest firmware for any LSI 2108 card the Supermicro website has the latest version. At the time of writing Broadcom has published old drivers and firmware. Do not use them!

The motherboard chosen was a ASRock E3C224D2I. The board contains USB 3.0, dual Intel 100/1000 network cards, and a dedicated RTL8211E for IPMI.

For operating system storage I simply went with a single 2TB Micron SSD.

I format my equipment all the time. With that said,  For the operating system I wanted something simple, something easy to backup, and something easy to deploy. Server 2008 R2 x64 can be found pretty cheap on eBay (a legal copy is tricky to find).

So that’s about it, when configured in RAID5 I have about 27TB of redundant storage, more than enough storage to keep all our family backups and downloads safe.

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