Building a NAS – Part 1 – Assembling the server

After owning for a long time 6 external hard disks (one was with a network interface) I decided to buy/build one server and accomondate all of them. Doing some research over the internet I was between the ready made solutions like drobo/synology and a custom built. I liked the low powered and compact design of the ready ones but I was skeptical about what happens when it is out of guarantee and something breaks. In addition being able to install my open source software on the NAS made me decide to go with a custom one.

So my requirements for the custom built NAS server were:

  1. Low powered (around 50W)
  2. Quiet (as it will be on all the time)
  3. Open Source O/S
  4. Upgradable
  5. Not more expensive than the ready ones
After a lot of thinking and googling decided to install esxi which I have worked a lot with in the past and install FreeNAS as a virtual machine. The disks will be passed with Raw Disk  Mapping (RDM) directly to freenas which is very important if you want to attach the disk as it is to another zfs machine and be able to read it. In addition the performance of RDM is almost close to the performance of a bare metal disk. I would then install another virtual with ubuntu server for all the rest of the functions like media/vpn/itunes server that FreeNAS doesn’t support.

The parts of the server are:

  • Coolermaster Silencio 550 Case
  • Corsair TX550M 550W PSU 80+ BRONZE
  • Asrock Z77 PRO4-M
  • Intel Core i3 3220 3.30GHz
  • 4x4GB RAM Corsair PC3-12800
  • Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200.12

The coolermaster case was selected because of the factor that is very silent and it also has a high speed SD reader where the esxi is going to be installed. The removable dust filters and the external SATA dock are also a nice addition. The PSU has a 80+ bronze certification which is good if you want to save power when you leave your server running all day long. Asrock’s motherboard support Intel VT-d which is a nice feature if you want to pass control of devices directly to the virtual machine.

I was more skeptical about the CPU because I knew that choosing an Atom one, would have saved energy but maybe I would have run out of processing power when I would install an ubuntu server media and vpn server. So I chose the Intel Core i3 3220 which unfortunately doesn’t support VT-d but maybe sometime later I would replace that with an i5 that supports it if there is a need in the future

Assembling the server components

Putting all components inside the case was easy apart from closing the side panels. As the case promotes its cable management capabilities, I have to admit that the available space between the side panel and the motherboard’s panel was not much so closing it needed a lot of pushing!

Apart from that I have to admit that after you power it on, you can hardly hear it. The air circulation is not bad and the temperatures are low. Using also only the onboard graphics unit helps to keep the temperature (and power consumption) low

Power Consumption

With 3x2TB, 1x250GB disk and 4 sticks of DDR3 RAM the maximum power consumption while disk write/read and various cpu consuming tasks (like indexing media files) were taking place, is around 70W. When the server is idle the power falls at 50W