New, simpler server - need suggestions


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tl;dr

I'm looking for advice and suggestions for building a new Unraid server - medium-high capacity, low performance, low maintenance (I enjoy computers, but don't like spending 10-15 weekends every year just dealing with server issues).

 

Background (you can ignore this if you want - please don't try to troubleshoot - I've spent hundreds of hours trying to get this system stable):

I've been running an Unraid server for many years, and during that time, I've continually had unidentifiable gremlins in the system. A couple of times a year, I have drives that appear to fail (all accesses return errors) and Unraid drops them from the array. I can then remove, re-add, and rebuild on the same drive, and everything is fine again. I also regularly see ata bus resets, command failures, etc. Over the years, I have replaced/upgraded the power supply (and cables), SAS cards, SATA/SAS cables, added a second parity drive, reseated drives (Norco 20-drive rack case w/SATA backplane - currently have 16 drives of mixed sizes), moved drives around, etc. And still, the system is extremely fragile, and I don't really trust that my data is safe, or even correct (the random hardware errors are really a concern). Also, throughout this time, most of my drives have starting reporting multiple SMART warnings/errors of all sorts (no reallocated sectors or anything that Unraid reports as a serious problem). Every time I try to address a problem, something else goes wrong. Right now, after a power failure on Friday and multiple drives reporting failures (probably glitches, not really failed drives) during the parity check, I have one drive being emulated, and one of the parity drives marked "bad" - I'm unprotected and don't dare try to rebuild. I get nervous every time I restart the server that a drive won't be recognized.

 

At this point, I think it's time to retire that machine and start fresh. With the availability of larger drives, I want to build the "simplest" system I can, with fewer drives and the fewest number of failure points.

 

My current "ideal" system would be:

i5 or comparable processor - this is mostly just a file server, with a single VM for Home Assistant (very low processing requirements) and an Airsonic docker container for music serving.

Standard CPU fan for cooling - no water cooling.

10 - 12 onboard SATA ports - don't want to buy/deal with add-in cards, SAS->SATA connectors, BIOS flashing, etc.

16 GB RAM

Onboard video -- although there's a monitor attached, it's basically headless.

Tower case with lots of bays (10-12) - I don't want the uncertainty of drive sleds or a backplane.

I have a 750W power supply that I'd like to use, but could buy a bigger one if it seems prudent.

I'll be using all 8 TB drives (that seems to be the sweet spot for price and build/verify times) and a small SSD (128 GB) for a cache drive.

 

The plan:

I have two brand new 8 TB drives, and my current server has four 8 TB drives in it.

I want to start with the two new drives, plus the currently-offline parity drive from the current server. Using 1 for parity and the other two for storage - no cache initially (I'll move the 128 GB SSD from the old server to the new one at some point). I'll then take the individual drives from the old server and individually attach and mount them on the new server (not part of the array), and copy the data to the array.

I'll probably start with a few of the smaller drives to "shake down" the new system and make sure everything is working. Once I'm confident, I'll move on to the 8 TB drives that are in the old server, so I can add them to the new server array as I empty them. The smaller drives will go in the "old drive" stack.

 

Edited by dnwheeler
Fixed typos.
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Hi, I am not an expert but I try to learn before my first build. So I am asking myself some of the same questions.

 

One thing seem problematic : motherboards with a high number of SATA ports are rare and generally for high end systems or server grade. This will not be compatible with a cheap i5.

 

As for cases, not so easy as HDD slots are becoming a rare thing. I was looking too, and maybe a Fractal Define 7 XL could match your need.

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