2020 Home Lab Upgrade (Unraid 4U)

It’s a new year, and that means it’s time for some home lab upgrades!

The last few upgrades I did were some hardware hacks to my old Thecus N5550’s to support 6 drives and Unraid. Before that I did a SSD upgrade on NAS3 for my VMware VM storage. And finally almost a two years ago exactly I installed a Synology DS1817+.

After using Unraid more and more in my home environment and understanding how it works I have become more confident in using it and can say I am pretty much on the Unraid kool-aid.

So my goal for 2020 is to make a large capacity storage server, and more or less retire most of my Thecus N5550’s that have served me so well.

So the planned 2020 additions are:

  • New 4U Unraid 15+ Drive Storage Server
  • Replace 4-Tier Shelf with a 5-Tier Shelf
  • 10Gbps Pre-Planning

Unraid 4U Server

Using all new hardware this beast will run Unraid with SSD caching and dual parity.

Also designed to be powerful enough to run a few VMs and Docker containers. Eventual decommissioning of my current workstation into a the second Unraid storage/VM server at some point in 2021 to 2022.

Specifications

Hardware Overview

I will briefly explain my reasoning for the selection of hardware.

Chassis: The Rosewill RSV-L4500 is one of the most cost-effective 15-bay 4U chassis on the market. I was not a fan of the NORCO chassis due to back-plane issues, their availability is limited and they are expensive.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2600X. After being a long time Intel supporter I have to say that AMD is knocking it out of the park with their value-to-cost ratio with the Ryzen lineup. An Intel CPU with similar specs would have costed double or more. This is my way of giving AMD a nod in appreciation and is the first AMD hardware in my home lab.

Motherboard: I went with the Socket AM4 X370 chipset. This is because it supports the PCIe bandwidth I need. The X370 chipset allows two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots to run in dual x8/x8 mode allowing both my HBAs to run at full throughput capacity. The B450 chipset in comparison does not have the capability and has limited PCIe bandwidth capabilities.

HBA: I went with the LSI SAS9340-8i ServeRAID M1215 HBA because it supports full 12Gbps SAS/SATA. This is primarily because I will be using a mix of HDD and SSD and I want to ensure it is future proofed. This card is based on the LSI SAS3008 SAS-3 controller chipset and supports PCIe 3.0 specifications with x8 lanes. The controller has 2 x SFF-8643 connectors, each carrying 4x 12Gbps SAS lanes. It’s flashed to IT Mode (Initiator Target) that essentially disables the raid and passes through the disks to the OS for software raid (Unraid, ZFS, etc).

Storage Capacity

  • 15 x HDD Hot-Swap Cages to the LSI SAS9340-8i (3.5” or 2.5” HDD and SSD)
  • 1 x Left over LSI SAS9340-8i cable (8+8=16)
  • 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s) onboard
  • 1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)

Total: 24 HDDs (16 HBA, +8 Mobo) and 1 x M.2 SSD/NVMe
25 storage device capacity! Wow!

10Gbps Upgrade Planning

At some point in the next year or two I am planning to do a 10G upgrade. So any new hardware I add I am ensuring that it will be capable of that.

In this case for the 4U Unraid Storage server the motherboard’s PCIe x16_3 socket shares bandwidth witch PCIE x1_2 and PCIE x1_3 and the PCIe x16_3 slot is v2.0 x16 (max x4 mode).

However in theory the 3rd PCIe 2.0 x16 slot should be usable by a PCIe 3.0 x4 10G card without an issue.

Let’s do the math:

  • 10Gbps = 1.25 GB/s
  • PCIe 2.0 with x4 lanes = 2.00 GB/s

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express#History_and_revisions

This means we should be able to use the 3rd PCI slot for a 10G card. Even at PCIe 2.0 x4. Alternatively we can remove one of the HBAs and use the 8 onboard SATA connections to free up a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot.

5-Tier Shelf Upgrade

To allow room for the new 4U server I need to make some changes to my rack. Essentially upgrading to a 5-Tier shelf will allow the room I need without diving into ta full investment of a proper server cabinet/rack. Something that I don’t plan on doing until we move into our new home.

That’s all for now. I will have another post with pictures once the parts arrive.

Karl Nyen has been involved in the virtualization, server, web development and web hosting industry for over 13 years. In his current role at a managed service provider, he is focused on cloud-based solutions for enterprise clients. His diverse background of sales, management, and architectural/technical expertise bring a unique perspective to the virtualization practice.

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