NAS & HTPC hardward/build feedback (up to 30 TB)

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Mr. Bungle

Sep 5, 2011
I'm new to FreeNAS, ZFS and RAID-Z, but I've been doing some research on a first build and would greatly appreciate some feedback.

My ideal system would be a combined HTPC and NAS box with up to 30 TB raw disk space, running Windows 7 and virtualized FreeNAS. I'm not sure if this is all possible - just an ideal that I'm shooting for. My budget is flexible - trying to stay on the cheaper end, but I don't want to skimp.

Here is the list of essential hardware that I've put together:

- Asus E25M1-M PRO motherboard (AMD Zacate E-350 APU, 1.6GHz dual-core) -
- (8x) Hitachi Deskstar 0S03230 3TB 5400 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s HDD - (will probably add 2 more drives within a few months to end up with 30 TB raw, ~24 TB in RAID-Z2)
- G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1333 (Model F3-10666CL7D-8GBRH) -
- HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL SATA/SAS controller card -

Some notes about intended usage and concerns:

- I'm confident that this hardware is more than capable of handling my HTPC needs (up to 1080p smooth Blu-ray playback). As I understand it, the GPU has hardware decoding that will keep the CPU mostly free (worst-case, ~25% load). However, I already own a sufficient HTPC, so using this build for double-duty (HTPC & NAS) is just gravy, and would serve to simplify my home setup. I want this to be a capable NAS first-and-foremost, so I can scrap the HTPC plans if needed.
- I'm overwhelmingly concerned about data integrity above all else. Performance, compression, and other features aren't very important to me aside from that. I'll be more than happy if I can just get half-decent file transfer speeds over the network. Downtime is completely unimportant. I just don't want to lose any data, so I hope to run RAID-Z2.
- I plan to use this mainly for music, movies, and photos, but also Time Machine backup for 2 Macbooks and a Mac Pro. From the HTPC front - Netflix streaming and watching DVDs and Blu-rays. It doesn't need to interface with Windows except for the HTPC's OS within the same box.


- Am I trying to do too much with too little hardware? Do I need to move up to more RAM and a more powerful processor?
- Will 8 GB RAM and the E-350 APU be enough horsepower to run ZFS/Z-RAID2? If so, is it close enough that I might want to avoid dual-tasking as an HTPC?
- I chose this motherboard/CPU combo mainly due to its low power consumption and supposed ability to handle 1080p video on the cheap. The form factor is unimportant, though. This thread ( suggests that the CPU might be a bottleneck with this motherboard. If that's true, should I consider a motherboard and a more powerful discrete CPU? This may be a dumb question, but since the system will usually just be idling (I plan to leave it on 24/7), am I going to save much power anyway - or would a more powerful CPU still use little power at idle?
- I'm assuming that I can use any low-cost HBA/RAID Controller since I won't actually need it for its RAID capability (since I'll be using RAID-Z2). Is that correct? If so, is there a cheaper option even than the HighPoint 2720?
- The drives I'm using (I've already bought them) are SATA 6.0 Gbps, so I originally intended to buy other hardware with support for that. Will that even matter, though, assuming that all traffic in & out of the system will be via gigabit ethernet (i.e., will the latter be my bottleneck anyway even with SATA 3.0 Gbps)?
- Following up on the previous question, would even a couple of PCI 4-port SATA HBA cards (e.g., or even a port multiplier card (e.g., be sufficient to not cause a bottleneck with network transfers? Do I need to worry about FreeBSD compatibility if I'm just using them for extra SATA ports (no RAID other advanced features)?
- Will I have any issues creating a RAID-Z2 setup with 8 drives, then adding 2 more identical drives in a few months? Or am I better off just buying 2 more now to start with a 10-drive setup from the get-go?
- If I ultimately go with the HighPoint 2720SGL and need/want the 6.0 Gbps capability, do I need special cables? Will some cheap cables from MonoPrice do the trick (e.g., or do I need to get ones built to a certain standard? Unlike with SATA cables, I don't see any SFF-8087 breakout cables specified as SATA II/3.0 or SATA III/6.0.
- Any recommendations on USB thumb drives for the boot volume (brand/size/model/USB 2.0 or 3.0), or does it matter that much?
- Anything else I missed, or gotchas to be aware of? Would anyone recommend different hardware or a different approach?

Sorry for the barrage of questions... Hopefully based on all this info, you can get a feel for what I'm looking for and what I'm still unsure about, and help to narrow the scope of my research a little further. Any help would be very much appreciated!

Bohs Hansen

- With the size you plan on building, I'd recommend you spring for a Llano instead of a Zacate. Doesn't cost that much more, and brings the same benefits and doesn't use that much more power.
8GB ram should be fine.
- With additional sata cards, you can pick pretty much any (where the chip is supported in FreeBSD8.2) as long as it has the proper bus. You should be on the lookout for one thats atleast PCIe x8 and use it in an according (or faster) port. Otherwise the bus will end up a bottleneck. Don't get a multiplier card if you can get around it.
And yes, don't use hardware raid below the zfs, creates more trouble then anything else.
- Sata3 is only important if you are going to use SSDs. A normal HDD rarely even breaks sata1 speed. Same goes for cables.
- USB drive, any bootable should do fine. USB2 will do more then fine, not much activity on it. If you can find a Motherboard with an internal usb port, thats nice for freenas builds.

For the rest, other ppl might be able to answer that better.

Mr. Bungle

Sep 5, 2011
Thanks very much, Bohs!

That was very helpful info. I've used that - along with other advice I've accumulated - to refine my build to a NAS-only box (I gave up on trying to combine it with an HTPC). I'm about to post a separate thread on that shortly.

Thanks again for your feedback!
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