12TB NAS - Repurposing

Do I even have all the components yet?

Written on 09/20/2012 by Patrick Bregman

Sorry for not posting for quite a while, but some personal stuff happened. Anyway, on to the real reason of posting. I did get my BitFenix Prodigy case, and it looks pretty awesome in white :) I'll make a photo gallery once everything is done and running. While I did get the case, I'm still waiting for the motherboard, the CPU (which I changed, more on that later), the powersupply and the SSD.

I changed the CPU from an Intel i3 2120T to an 3230T a little while after making the first post. Why? Well, primarily because it was the same price and it was newer. And Ivy Bridge is supposed to be more energy efficient than Sandy Bridge because of the smaller transistors (sorry, I can give the whole talk in Dutch but I haven't got a clue how to do it in correct English). In the beginning of this week I was browsing the supported CPU list for my chosen motherboard (which also changed...) and I saw that an Intel Xeon is supported as well. Just for the heck of it, I decided to see if there were any power efficient Xeon CPUs. And well, I'll be damned. I found the Xeon E3-1265LV2.

What is this you may wonder. It is a quad core Xeon running at 2.5GHz, capable of Intel VT-d (virtualising PCIe devices and sending them straight to the virtual machine) and having a max TDP of only 45W. I was sold immediately. This opened up a whole lot of options. One of them was running a known Linux on the physical hardware, and then using KVM to run BSD for a nice 12TB ZFS pool. But it might be a while before I really go the route of a 12TB ZFS pool. Don't get me wrong, I am still very much looking into it, but it's quite pricey.

Before I jump to what I intend to do with it now, let's talk a bit about the motherboard. From the start I chose to use a Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi. Primary reason for this was two network ports, a mini PCIe slot and a mSATA slot. While this sounded like heaven, a bit of reading on the internet showed me that most likely it would turn into some kind of hell. Primary reason for this is that Zotac isn't really generous with BIOS updates, so as long as everything works it's pretty good, but if you need a new feature or one of many BIOS bugs needs updating, you're screwed. A little bit of searching later I found the Intel DH77DF, an Intel mini-ITX board. It doesn't have dual network ports, doesn't have WiFi but does have the mSATA/mini PCIe slot. The downside, it's just one slot. And it's likely a lot more stable than the Zotac board, but I'll never know this for sure.

So, what made me decided to change all of this? I am kinda looking into getting a place of my own, and the Prodigy is nice enough to serve as a HTPC. And with a few tweaks, it's probably also silent enough. I intend to put a 22cm fan at the front of the case, and a 140mm fan at the back. This should generate enough airflow to not really need much in the area of an active CPU cooler. And since those often have tiny fans, they make a lot of noise.

The decision to go primarily go for a HTPC instead of a NAS is going to save me from having to buy 5 3TB harddisks, but instead "forces" me to get a few TV tuners. Because it would be pretty neat to watch one program while the system is recording another channel. I am still looking into this, but when I go with a Linux base system, I can use XMBC to display everything I could possibly want. From live TV to my favourite series which is streamed from somewhere or stored on local disk. I even have a BluRay player dedicated to the machine just in case they suddenly find a way to make BluRay play under Linux :)

My only doubt now is if the Intel HD Graphics P4000 is able to handle all that media, since I don't really feel like getting a (cheap) GPU for this machine. I'd rather just use the IGP on the Xeon. Does anyone know if a Intel HD P4000 works? I haven't been able to find any benchmarks on the internet...

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