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Hardware Recommendation - Low Power Rackmount Used

Western Digital Drives - The Preferred Drives of FreeNAS and TrueNAS CORE
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night_rider

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Jun 4, 2011
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I've been testing FreeNAS on an old PC. I'd like to move to new hardware with some of the following qualities:

rackmount
hot swap drive bays
low power consumption
able to use commodity drives

I was thinking of buying an old Dell PowerEdge off eBay. They seem to be relatively cheap though the Xeon's don't fit the power profile I'd prefer. I have no experience building a rackmount but would certainly consider it if the case would not inflate my budget.

This mostly serves media and files at home. I'd appreciate any suggestions. I'm looking for nudges in the right direction.

Thanks.
 

cyberjock

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Mar 25, 2012
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Why don't you put together a configuration and we'll critique it? What you are asking for is like asking someone else to pick out a car you'll like. There's plenty of builds in the forum for you to look at for examples.
 

louisk

Senior Member
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Aug 10, 2011
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You should think about how many drives you're planning on using, and how you're going to hold those drives in a rackmount server.

Rackmount is probably the antithesis of low-power. Most rackmount gear has redundant power supplies.

You shouldn't have any issues with hot-swap or commodity drives, although you're likely to get longer lasting drives if you go with server class drives.
 

cyberjock

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For 99% of rackmountables, louisk is right. But, I have two of the 24 drive cases at 2 locations and they work very well. You get to choose the power supply(aka as much as you want to pay for efficiency) and they are NOT designed for redundant power supplies. They aren't the super high grade ultra durable, but they work great for home use or a small office environment.

http://www.newegg.com/Store/Brand.aspx?Brand=10473&Tpk=norco
 

jgreco

Resident Grinch
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The "super high grade ultra durable" rack mount power supplies are nothing of the kind, I've got a pile of fried power supplies and they all tend to be redundant ones. Interestingly, I find we get few failures around here just buying halfway decent regular power supplies. Some of our ESXi nodes have the fantastic (but expensive) Kingwin STR-500 fanless 500W supply, running a Supermicro X9SCM-F board, 32GB RAM, and a Xeon E3-1230 for about 45 watts idle consumption, 90-100 under full load, or something like that.

The real enemy of computers is heat, and so one of the things we did with these ESXi nodes was to carefully look for the ideal parts. We have a small pile of 4U rackmount cases that are really nice and generic. Inside, two 4-wire 120mm fans are the exclusive cooling for the system, uses less power and keeps heat down. The power supply has no fan and is rated up to 500W, but we run at 10-20% of that, so cooling it isn't an issue. We have a massive passive cooler on the CPU, and these things wind up having the interesting property that they never rev up their fans (and actually had to have their BMC values tweaked down to reflect that) and run just about silent. I never expected the switches at the top of a rack to make more racket than the servers in the rack. ;-)

Now, I'm going to impart a little wisdom from years of experience. noobsauce80 and louisk are right, in a certain way, that many of the rack servers that are out there are not designed with power efficiency as a consideration. AT ALL. That's not at all because the servers are rackmount, but rather because IT departments like to buy servers big enough to make sure "it's never a problem" and service providers in data centers don't like paying $1500/month per rack and then not filling them with as much density as possible. So in both cases there's a bit of incentive for manufacturers to place as much power as they can into a server, and those models sell QUITE well. But you can - if you know what to look for - find prebuilt energy-efficient rackmount servers. And you can - if you know how to do it - build them yourself.

If you want to build your own, and are familiar with building desktop/tower? Here's the big secret. Many of the 4U chassis would be nearly indistinguishable from a standard tower on the inside. You lay them out similarly, you design them similarly, you wire them similarly. You can choose your parts for energy efficiency. SO USE A 4U CHASSIS. I haven't actually seen one of the Norco's, but those look kind of promising for inexpensive builds.
 

leonroy

Member
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Jun 15, 2012
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Thanks for the info jgreco, fascinating post.

To add to this, we have a range of servers in our server room from custom builds to Supermicro to HP. We find the HP G6 DL320 to be very efficient, pulling 55W idle and 110W load. They also have 9 DIMM slots vs 4 in the Supermicro X9SCM boards and allow the use of cheaper Registered ECC memory, so all in all they make better, cheaper ESXi hosts than Supermicro based servers.

For storage we've used Synology Rackstation boxes with 10 disks per 3U chassis. These run lower than any box we've ever been able to build at 36W Idle and 110W Load.

For our FreeNAS builds we use Supermicro 3U 16 disk chassis with redundant power. As already mentioned above, rack mount cases aren't normally designed with power efficiency in mind. Each fan in that Supermicro chassis sucks 10W of power and sounds like a jet engine. The power supply and backplane doing nothing also suck nearly 70-80W of electricity. So not very efficient at all since doing absolutely nothing that box is drawing just over 130W Idle (220W Load)!
 

Rural

Neophyte
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Jun 10, 2012
Messages
10
This thread is fascinating and, from my perspective, very timely. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences. I'm pouring over the details of building a 4U 24-bay storage server and now have plenty of food for thought. Please, feel free to elaborate (or brag) on any clever solutions you've come across.

I was leaning towards the 4U Supermicro chassis, but this thread has caused me to question whether that is the best solution... Especially when power, heat, and noise are factors. Getting SATA connections for 24 hard drives is the area that is most outside my comfort zone.
 

leonroy

Member
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Jun 15, 2012
Messages
77
Hi Rural, I'm not one to brag (too much) :)

Tips wise I'd recommend ensuring PowerD (FreeNAS) or cpufreq (Linux) is on and that CX states and SpeedStep is also turned on in the BIOS. This will ensure the CPU is at the lowest power state when Idle. For each high speed fan in the system expect a power draw of 10W at full speed. However most new Supermicro chassis have PWM support for fans. This offers more sophisticated fan control and keeps them spinning at lower speeds when the system is running cool and idle. Buy redundant PSUs IF you need them since there is an overhead of 10-30W per extra PSU in inefficiency.

I contacted Supermicro last month asking for figures on their latest SC836 (16 bay) chassis and its power efficiency. It's a lot more efficient than the older version of the chassis which I have, they quote:

--------------
Please see our test data below for power draw:

PWS-801-1R: standby 24.25W;
PWON without load 37.4W.

PWS-501P-1R: standby 4.5W;
PWON without load 16.75W.
--------------

I personally would buy Supermicro all the way for 16 to 24 bay units. NORCO seems too cheaply constructed by comparison (but it is HALF the price!).

If you want the lowest power unit though Synology make 10 bay units which at $1000 per box including backplane, storage controller AND software run idle 36W and 110W load. They offer very good value for money, but of course whilst their GUI and usability is a LOT better than FreeNAS their performance is lower (when using 10Gbit) and they also don't offer ZFS.
 
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