This second post of the Media Server series describes the server hardware. Though there is an external Blu-ray drive, universal remote control, and a different PC as the media client, this post focuses on internal server hardware. Without further adieu, the hardware:
- Lian-Li PC-Q25B Mini ITX Tower Case - $119.99
- Asus P8H77-I Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard - $96.99
- Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory - $66.27
- Intel Core i3-3220T 2.8GHz Dual-Core Processor - $127.99
- Corsair CX430W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V Power Supply - $49.99
- Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB 3.5" 5900RPM Internal Hard Drive - $189.99 x 3
- Western Digital Scorpio Blue 160GB 2.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive - $28.99 (refurbished)
- SATA 6 Gbps cable 36" - $3.05 x 9
All total (including shipping) the hardware arrived at my door for just under $1,120. Anyone with a basic understanding of computer hardware can tell I don't need 9 SATA cables. However, my extreme pickiness required I buy enough cables for future expansion using the same cables. Obviously, a few bucks could have been saved had I not been so finicky. That being said, its time to dig into the hardware. First up, the case.
Case (Lian Li, PC-Q25B)
In searching for an enclosure I wanted something small, quiet, sleek, and capable. Small, quiet and sleek because I didn't want a big, noisy, ugly box sitting around my TV or even next to my daily work station. Though the small case means components are practically sitting on top of each other, the nearly toolless design makes up for tight quarters. In terms of capability, the case simply needed to hold a pile of hard drives and typical PC components. The Lian Li PC-Q25B can hold a total of 9 hard drives: five 3.5" in the hot-swap cage plus three 3.5" and one 2.5" on a removable rack. The remaining internal components are discussed next and start with a Mini ITX motherboard.
Motherboard (ASUS, P8H77-I)
As with nearly every component of this build, spending more money generally meant more features. Features such as IPMI support (to manage the server remotely) were evaluated and eventually forgone as the added cost did not seem worth it. In the end I focused on the need for onboard video, as many SATA ports as possible, and gigabit Ethernet. Hardware can always be upgraded and at the moment the Asus Mini ITX motherboard selected does exactly what is necessary for a decent price.
RAM (Corsair Vengeance, 8GB) and CPU (Intel, Core i3-3220T)
The Corsair RAM and Intel Core CPU selected were purely based on a price-per-performance comparison. I knew 8GB of RAM was a minimum so I simply found something compatible with the motherboard that fit my budget. Faster options are surely available but not at the price point I was sticking to. The same is true for the CPU. The i3-3220T had enough power with a low enough cost to meet my requirements. The power supply, on the other hand, had a few more options to consider.
Power Supply (Corsair, CX430M)
The 430W Corsair power supply selected has enough power to spin up as many hard drives as could be packed into the case as well as power the motherboard, fans, etc. A less powerful power supply could have been selected but would have left little room for expansion. One non-optional feature was modularity. Though the ability to expand was a requirement, having a bunch of extra cables sitting at the bottom of the case until they are used is less than desirable. With the modular CX430M power supply, additional cables can be connected as new drives are added.
Hard Drives - Data (Seagate, 4TB)
What would a media server be without hard drives? For this server I started with three 4TB 5900RPM Seagate's which were the cheapest cost per TB when compared to others. Additionally, the lower RPM keeps noise, heat, and power consumption to a minimum. Starting with 3 drives allows for 2 data and 1 parity (this is explained in Media Server - Software). Essentially, the 12TB of drives results in 8TB of usable media storage, more than enough to start this project. I say "media storage" because I still needed somewhere to load the OS.
Hard Drive - OS (Western Digital, 160GB)
Rather than load the OS on a drive meant for data, I purchased a refurbished 160GB. A smaller drive would suffice but I wanted working room and the price for a smaller drive was nearly identical. Any old hard drive should do, but by selecting a 2.5" drive, I ensured myself the maximum possible space for 3.5" data drives (to fit the max number of drives on the removable floor rack, one drive must be 2.5").
Hardware - Supplemental
The remaining initial costs were for SATA cables, shipping, and a rush fee because I wanted my equipment right then. I indicated "initial" costs because within 3 months I had purchased another 4TB Seagate hard drive to bring the server up to its current usable capacity of 12TB.
With all of the hardware in place and the server physically assembled, it was time to dig into the software. Not only did the server need an operating system (obviously) but it needed some way to protect the multiple terabytes of data as well as a way to make that data available for use. The entirety of server software is discussed next in Media Server - Software.