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I have just build a new homelab server that has been running quite pretty good for weeks now.
This homelab server is used to host my NAS, a windows OS with gaming possibility, oracle database labs and more virtual geeking stuff.
So I just wanted to share my server build in case of some of you would want to build one.
I try to build this with full virtualization features and price in mind.

Why host my NAS on this homelab server?

It saves me to build another machine, but in another part, it will not be as energy efficient as a dedicated NAS server.
And I wanted my NAS to provide premium speed to vm guest (network shared folder, NFS or iSCSI LUN).

Purpose

I wanted to build a "not too expensive" all-in-one multipurpose homelab to :

  • do a NAS server
  • do desktop computer and a bit of gaming
  • do multipurpose lab testing on different system

For that, I needed to build a server which :

  • support ECC memory for NAS server
  • support visualization AMD-V or Intel VT-x
  • support IOMMU AMD-Vi or VT-d for hardware passtrough (List_of_IOMMU-supporting_hardware)
Cpus which offer all these characteristics are:
  • On Intel side, only Xeon cpu
  • On AMD side, we have AM2/AM3/AM3+ cpu and especially the AMD FX series
 
Recent Xeon cpu is more powerful/robust and more energy efficient than AMD FX cpu, but Xeon cpu and their compatible motherboard are much more expensive.
Pricewise, I decided to go for AMD cpu and ASUS motherbard which is the only one which officially support ECC on AM3+.

Final build configuration

I ended with the following build configuration:
  • Motherboard: ASUS M5A97 EVO R2.0
    • Support unbuffered ECC memory
    • Support AMD-V with IOMMU
  • CPU: AMD FX8230E
    • 8 cores processor 3.2GHz, max TDP 95W
    • Support ECC memory
    • Support AMD-V with IOMMU
  • Cooler: Noctua NH-U12P
  • Memory: 4x 8Go DDR3 PC12800 unbuffered ECC
  • PSU: CORSAIR Builder Series CS450M
  • GPU: Radeon R9 270 GDDR5 2G
  • HDD: SSD Crucial BX100 500GB
  • Case: Zalman r1
  • Other: 2 x Cheap SATA III controller cards and 4 HDDs for NAS

I would have prefered to get microATX motherboard form factor but I wasn't able to find one which is AM3+, ECC compatible and AMD-V with IOMMU.

Feedback

I have installed Proxmox (based on KVM) which is hosting :
  • Xpenology NAS with SATA III controller cards passtrough (4 HDDs attached)
  • Windows 7 with AMD R9 270 GPU passtrough (for desktop use and a bit of gaming)
  • Several Linuxes for Oracle database lab
The server is plug on a APC UPS and the power button is configured to start or stop my windows 7 guest via ACPI.
 
Good:
  • Proxmox is a pretty good hypervisor system, it works great so far, it's stable, it's all web based and it's free ... well ... good project need donation support I think
  • About my Xpenology NAS, it works pretty good as well. SMART information is available and HDD hibernation seems to work.
  • About my Windows 7 for gaming, the AMD R9 270 gpu passthrough works pretty well too. Up to some gpu benchmarking, performance is pretty close to baremetal. Also, I didn't experience a host crashing cause by the gpu passtrough yet. And I played some games in 1080p without any issue ... so far so good.
  • About virtual network performance between NAS and VM guest, it's pretty great. Using iperf tool, Linux guest can go up to 15Gbits/sec ... and Windows guest can go up to 3Gbits/sec.
  • About power consumption, I don't know yet because I don't have a power meter plug to check consumption.

 

Issues encounters:
  • GPU passtrough doesn't work well if graphic card plug on the black  PCIe x16 socket (mode x4)
  • External sata ports, controlled by the onboard ASMEDIA ASM1061 controller, are not stable

Related articles
- If you just want a NAS build, here is a good blog about DYI NAS
- HP Gen8 microserver is a great little server for NAS or Virtualization. It can be upgraded with xeon and its vt-d feature but it is limited to 16GB RAM

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