Rajahal

Looking to combine 3 boxes into 1

8 posts in this topic

Ah, UCD, the old digs. I'm back to tinkering with servers after a long absence. If you're curious where I've been, I told my life story over in the Lounge. While I used to be very involved here, now my knowledge base is at least 5 years obsolete, so I'm hoping y'all can help point me in the right direction and save me hours of research.

 

I've currently got 3 separate computers/servers that I'm looking to combine into one. I'm happy to scavenge parts and mix and match from each, though I don't think any of the core CPU/RAM/MOBO components are interchangeable. Here's the hardware I've got handy:

 

Test system:
M/B: Biostar H55A+
CPU: Intel i3 540 @ 3.07 GHz
HVM: Enabled
IOMMU: Disabled
Cache: 128 kB, 512 kB, 4096 kB
Memory: 4 GB (max. installable capacity 4 GB)
Network: bond0: fault-tolerance (active-backup), mtu 1500 
 eth0: 1000 Mb/s, full duplex, mtu 1500
 
Existing unRAID server:
M/B: Intel Corporation - DH67CF
CPU: Intel® Celeron® CPU G440 @ 1.60GHz
HVM: Enabled
IOMMU: Disabled
Cache: 32 kB, 256 kB, 1024 kB
Memory: 4 GB (max. installable capacity 16 GB)
Network: bond0: fault-tolerance (active-backup), mtu 1500 
 eth0: 1000 Mb/s, full duplex, mtu 1500
 
Existing HTPC:
M/B: Gigabyte GA-MA785GM-US2H
CPU: AMD Athlon 7750 Dual-Core Processor @ 2.700 GHz
HVM: Disabled
IOMMU: Disabled
Cache: 128 kB, 512 kB
Memory: 4 GB (max. installable capacity 4 GB)
Network: bond0: fault-tolerance (active-backup), mtu 1500 
 eth0: 1000 Mb/s, full duplex, mtu 1500
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 4600
SSD: Kingston SNVP325S264GB (64 GB)
 
I'm not sure that the 'max installable memory capacity' as reported by unRAID is correct, I'm pretty sure most of these motherboards can handle more than 4 GB of RAM. I've also got various hard drives, two 500 GB, one 640 GB, and the rest ranging from 2 TB to 4 TB. The small capacity ones and the SSD I'm happy to dedicate to certain apps, as cache drives, boot drives, whatever is needed. The large ones I want to keep as unRAID parity and data drives.
 
My goal is to build a system with 3 primary functions: unRAID for mass storage and drive failure tolerance, front-end HTPC software such as XBMC or Plex for a nice TV interface, and a torrent seedbox, which I would probably prefer to manage remotely.
 
So much has changed with unRAID OS I'm not sure where to begin. There's a GUI now! That's pretty sweet. And all the work done with Docker and VMs is incredible too. A few questions to start:
 
Can unRAID GUI be used as a regular linux desktop to run other apps, such as torrent software?
Will Docker cover my needs, or should I be looking at VMs?
If I need to go the VM route, will my above hardware suffice?
What HTPC and torrent software do you recommend? Will it run in Docker or does it need a VM?
 

 

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40 minutes ago, Rajahal said:

Can unRAID GUI be used as a regular linux desktop to run other apps, such as torrent software?

No. It is a plain browser running as root. Not secure, and shouldn't be used to do anything other than manage the server.

41 minutes ago, Rajahal said:

Will Docker cover my needs, or should I be looking at VMs?

Yes and no. Docker for pretty much all your download and seedbox functions, VM for TV front end.

42 minutes ago, Rajahal said:

If I need to go the VM route, will my above hardware suffice?

Possibly. I didn't go to the trouble of investigating whether any of your systems could have Vt-d (IOMMU) enabled, but you need that to pass through a video / sound card to output HTPC directly.

 

You can run remotely controlled VM's without IOMMU, so theoretically if you don't need more than office level graphics and no sound you could use a VM from the unraid GUI interface, but you wouldn't be able to drive a monitor directly from the VM.

44 minutes ago, Rajahal said:

What HTPC and torrent software do you recommend? Will it run in Docker or does it need a VM?

My personal preference is Emby in a full linux VM, but many here use and prefer Plex with Kodi or Openelec/Libreelec. I like the independence of Emby, the last I researched you pretty much had to have a Plex account to do anything decent with it, and I would rather stay local on my server. You may have different priorities or needs.

 

Torrents, I use @binhex's delugevpn linked with a PIA account, depending on your software preference, locale, and privacy needs other options may be better.

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Thanks very much! That gives me somewhere to start. I'll see if I can get IOMMU enabled on one of the systems.

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Raj -

 

The biggest changes that have happened with unRaid server recommendations have been around horsepower, memory, and cache drive. 

 

The need for more horsepower/memory is driven by two things primarily:

1 - the ability of Plex or other media server to perform transcodes of video files. Depending on the from and to formats, the requirements can vary, but generally 2000 passmark is needed to transcode each stream (2000 for 1, 4000 for 2, etc.). So pumping high res video files to a couple iPhones can require a lot of horsepower on the server.

2 - the ability to run virtual machines, especially for gaming. VMs are inherently more demanding of system resources than are Dockers (which are rather remarkable in terms of being lightweight). More speed and more memory (memory is dedicated to VMs and not shared) is needed depending on what the VM needs to do. So gaming or transcoding (if needed for htpc functions) drive up the need for more cores and speed. And if multiple VMs need to run in parallel, this need becomes additive.

 

To support Dockers and VMs, many, or may I say most, users incorporate fast SSD cache drives, not so much to cache writes to the array, but as super fast homes for Docker containers and their respective application data. As well as for VM images. This helps tremendously in getting good performance. 120G-500G plus sizes are needed depending on the use case. But 250G is a very usable size if buying new IMO. This also provides a good platform for post processing downloads as well as video processing (e.g., handbrake).

 

In terms of recommendations, the following would reduce CPU/memory demands:

1 - use Dockers but shy away from VMs. A Windows VM would need 4, or better 8, gigs of ram. Without that to give them, they will not perform well. There are some lighter weight Linux options, but even these are going to need horsepower for video playback, which seems your primary use case for VM.

2 - Avoid having servers do transcodes.

 

To address both, look at a Roku Premiere, inexpensive NUC, or other player for video playback. I bought a Roku Premiere+ (on sale at ~$80) for one of my TVs and with the Plex app, it works extremely well IMO. I use a low end Celeron Braswell NUC (~$125 + memory) running PMP to handle playback and getting high end audio into my sound system. Keep your server serving the video and not transcoding, and let these devices handle playback.

 

You might struggle with the single core Celeron at 700 passmark, but the dual core Athlon at closer to 1600 might work better. But I would not be too surprised to see either function relatively well with a few Dockers for downloading duties and Plex or Emby for media, with an SSD. The VM for HTPC use might be a struggle, but certainly worth trying, especially if a lightweight Linux player is used and your need to transcode is light.

 

Good luck! 

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Great, thanks for catching me up! I've used Roku before and liked them, I'm definitely happy with that option. I have a Chromecast already that works well for streaming stuff (Youtube, Netflix, etc), but I figured it wouldn't work as well for this since it is WIFI only, and I didn't want to bog down my network with server traffic. Roku uses Ethernet, so that looks like a better option, as I can contain all of my video traffic within a hardwired section of my LAN.

 

The i3 540 in my test system has a passmark score of 2694, so it sounds like that's the one I should be working with. And according to Biostar the H55A+ motherboard supports up to 16 GB of RAM, so I'm happy to throw more RAM in there. I only plan to stream to a single TV.

 

With your setup, is PMP (which I assume stands for Plex Media Player?) running in Docker or on a VM? I might just try to copy your setup for now, and play with it as I learn more.

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3 hours ago, Rajahal said:

Great, thanks for catching me up! I've used Roku before and liked them, I'm definitely happy with that option. I have a Chromecast already that works well for streaming stuff (Youtube, Netflix, etc), but I figured it wouldn't work as well for this since it is WIFI only, and I didn't want to bog down my network with server traffic. Roku uses Ethernet, so that looks like a better option, as I can contain all of my video traffic within a hardwired section of my LAN.

 

The i3 540 in my test system has a passmark score of 2694, so it sounds like that's the one I should be working with. And according to Biostar the H55A+ motherboard supports up to 16 GB of RAM, so I'm happy to throw more RAM in there. I only plan to stream to a single TV.

 

With your setup, is PMP (which I assume stands for Plex Media Player?) running in Docker or on a VM? I might just try to copy your setup for now, and play with it as I learn more.

 

PMP is running on a NUC5CPYH. If you are good with the Roku it is not necessary. The Roku has a PlexApp similar to PMP.

 

The advantage of the NUC is HD audio passthrough. Can't get Roku to pass through everything. Not sure you requirement. My Roku is used on bedroom TV with no surround sound setup. All sound just comes through the TV.

 

My server is geographically undesirable compared to my media playing (basement vs Family Room). I have no VM for media playing.

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Ah, I see, the NUC is a separate box, I didn't catch that before. So the Roku doesn't support surround sound? That might be a deal breaker for me.

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It DOES support surround sound. It just has issues passing through certain formats as I recall. Do some research as there may be a solution. I already had the NUC when I got the Roku. I was curious if the Roku would pass through properly, and with my receiver at least, it was not perfect, it was surround sound but converted to PCM channels or something. Don't remember all the details, but I sort of gave up because I wasted to just the Roku install in the BR.

 

Could be there is a firmware update that fixes it. Or maybe I didn't have it fully configured properly. I was reading of people having success but wasn't working for me. The other Roku issue is an advertisement panel that can't be disabled. Not a big deal. Only see it on boot under I select the Plex app. But a little annoying.

 

The NUC definitely works. A little tricky to get a remote configured, but fully doable and I can help if you go that way. Roku is better for bedroom as you can listen through headphones plugged into the remote control. And NUC perfect for connection to higher end audio.

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