Windows Home Server! Different Versions

WHSsm

I have been talking about Windows Home Server for some time since I have been using it since the original version. At first it seemed like a pet project from Microsoft thats on the side and has a cult following, seeing that a lot of people really do love it they have developed it forward and its only getting better. You can use it in different forms, in simple hardware setups to complex 20+ TB Storage as I have. Some people use it to control other machines throughout the house, to control the lighting system throughout the house, streaming movies and music to every location.

Now this is the best comparison I have seen yet of all the possible versions, for a prosumer WHS Vail is your best bet which is coming out in the next few months, I’m hoping at the end of the year at the latest. The Original WHS was based on Windows Server 2003 and has its limitations, and now with WHS Vail those limitations have been passed since its based on Windows Server 2008. Aurora is the more business oriented version with features that Admin want but its not Windows Server 2008, not that much. I can’t wait for Vail, I’m honestly waiting for it since I’m facing a few hiccups with my current setup since I have advanced it so much, as soon as its officially out I’m installing it and moving the data all around.

Link: HomeServerLand

WHS @ 30+ Terabytes

This is one of the most complex Windows Home Server systems that we have built yet, and it drove us nuts. We started this project out in June of 2009 and didn’t finish it until March of 2010. We have reinstalled this system probably 4 times to have a clean install, its sensitive to install any Windows Home Server Ad-Ins once its working. We wanted the ultimate WHS Storage with the large capacity all in one unit, it would take a certain hardware setup to achieve this and thats what we aimed for. We suffered set backs, my system at one point just had a black screen, we switched out the motherboard, and nothing, we switched graphics cards, still nothing, changed the ram, and at the end it turned out to be a faulty power supply. Luckily my friend and myself were building the same system together so we just kept on testing as we went along, we got busy towards the end of 2009 but this was one difficult machine to get fully stable. I slowly kept gathering more and more 2 TB Hard Drives, we started off with 10 x 2 TB Drives and I just kept ordering a few when I saw a deal for them. Now that the system is operational it fantastic, we are doing some stress testing, its looking good with transfer speeds of 78 to 90 MB/s over the network which is the fast I have seen.

HW Configuration:

  • Norco 4220 Case
  • ASUS P3S WS
  • Intel Quad Core Q8200 2.33 Ghz
  • OCZ Vertex 120 GB SSD (Main HD)
  • G Skill 4 GB
  • 2 x Sata SAS Controllers (To Control 20 HDs)
  • ATI Radeon 7500

With the Sata SAS controllers we could use the extremely effecient and powerful SF8087 connectors to connect to each one of those back planes. Each back plane held 5 drives with 4 back planes for a total of 20 drives. Overall I installed 17 out of the 20 drives with e Western Digital 2 TB Drives to get it up to 30 + TB, and I have a little bit more room to go, I think I can get it to 36 TB with the last few drives. Going overboard with the storage is understatement in my case, but it has been a long and arduous trip with this machine but with a clean install and the right setup its very solid.

Now with Windows Home Server running on Windows Server 2003 it has taken a lot of steps forward Power Pack 3 and all the patches. Now I have two WHS servers running, one is extremely solid and this new one, planning on running one as back up to the other so I have two complete back solutions for the other. Now I’m just waiting for Windows to release Vail which Windows Home Server built on Windows Server 2008 which is a huge step forward. When that is out I’m going to just format and reinstall one of the systems and test it out.


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Storage – 2TB Madness


At some point I think we have gone overboard with the amount of space we are consuming, but the best part is space keeps getting cheaper. There is about 24 TB sitting on the table destined for two servers, for K’s & myself monstrous server that we are building. This time its a server with a 20 HD slot WHS so it can be maxed out 40 TB and my current solution is running with 22.1 TB, so the numbers keep jumping up. The only large storage I trust is Western Digital Caviar’s, the Green are great for lower power consumption and lower heat, heat is very important because it affects the life of the hard drive and with that many in the same proximity that is a lot of heat.


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One Thing

It just takes one thing for a domino effect to take place when it comes to hardware, I had a failure with one of the tower raids so only half of it was working. So four drives were missing from the WHS and it was issuing warnings left right and center to my computers. I wasn’t sure what was going on but luckily I was able to isolate the location of the drives because that’s another issue and I transferred them to the new TowerRaid, but only three out of the four available were working so one drive was still out. Luckily I had duplication running and everything was safe and dandy in the WHS, at least I didn’t lose any data with a port multiplier failure resulting in four hard drives going missing. That took a little time but I managed to unravel the issue but coming to a full solution is a little bit a head when I butcher the Bunker Server, and that deadline is coming closer and closer.

NetworkCables

After that I went ahead and trying to configure my APC 5000 XLI UPS with a network address but turns out it was having issues. But luckily at the end I managed to configure it correctly and access the wed control panel to see what makes it tick, and it has so many features to mess around with but I will make full use of that when I install the servers over the next two weeks.

Hazmat – WHS – Expansion to 22.06 TB

Due to the urgency of my hardware capacity expansion I needed increase the amount of space available on my WHS Server. The steps were simple, I ordered the Sans Digital 8 Disk TowerRaid for the fast expansion and I already had a eSata controller in my Hazmat server which had two spare ports, so that worked out perfectly. It just took 10 days to get all the hardware I needed, at first I only ordered two 2TB drives, but then I ordered two more and the replacement to the damage one came as well.

I took some snaps of the Sans Digital TowerRaid which looks great and ready to go, I plugged it in without any hard drives and started it up. No problems with the hardware, everything was working as it should. I tend to be a bit paranoid when it comes to installs such as these, I take things step by step and install one item at a time and I perform a restart every time to make sure nothing goes wrong and if it does I know where the problem originated from, finding the problem is half the issue.

I installed the first 2 TB, and added it to the WHS server storage pool which bumped it another 2 TB, then I added another one. Later on in the evening I got a message saying that the Hazmat server is suffering from a Hard Drive failure and that led me to order a replacement hard drive from Amazon. I took it out, and since I got three more hard drives, one of which was the warrantied drive, which I added to the pool it was working perfectly and I went through the same process of adding one by one. This time I waited about three hours before moving any files and this time it seems to have stabilized.

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WHS Full

  • Duplication issues take place so the warnings come out and WHS notifier shows exceptions that files that can’t be duplicated.
  • A warning stating low storage space warning on Hazmat Server
  • Drive Extender Failure due to duplication issues.

All these services on WHS which face issues when you are at capacity, I will have this resolved hopefully by end of next week but I don’t like running at the edge. At this point I think I have become extremely dependent on my WHS server since it houses everything. The only thing that I think they should have adjusted is having a recycling bin in the WHS if you accidentally delete something you would be able to recover it.

WHS @ 98.9% Capacity

I have been on a downloading rampage and the results are aparent, I pretty much forgot about Hazmat Windows Home Server since upgrading it to 14 TB in May. It didn’t take long to fill it to capacity and with only 70% duplication for a few folders. Its really not recommend to reach that high a capacity with all the hard drives, they balance each other and right now very little data can flow between the hard drives to spread the data. So now I’m running on suicide watch, keeping an eye on the server to see if anything goes wrong right now, one of the hard drivers required to be repaired because the data was slighlty inconsistent. I stuck with my other WHS since I think the Motherboard died and I knew it was on the verge of giving up but I have been too damn lazy to perform the transplant. So I have jumped the gun for a quick solution, I ordered a Sans Digital Sata 8 TowerRaid which will connect to the other two eSata connections on the PCI-X card in Hazmat Server. I’m crossing my fingers that the Tower Raid gets here quickly.

WHS Hazmat Upgrade II (11.14 TB to 13.87 TB)

I did something a while back with my Hazmat WHS a while back when I was building it that I forgot about it. I knew the backplane wasn’t full, I just assumed it had all but one slot empty, I plugged in one hard drive and it didn’t show up so I assumed I left the SATA connection empty inside the server which was the case. When I went to plug it in, I found out that I had another slot in the backplane open so out of 5 only 3 were being used and only 3 were connected. I plugged the two but I still had one slot empty. And at the same time I have received the replacement drive for the 2TB which worked perfectly, I was surprised Amazon dispatched it so quickly. The only extra cost I had was spending a couple of KD sending the damaged hard drive back to the states.

After adding the hard drive in the WHS console to the collective of the server I managed to bump it from 11.14 TB to 13.87 TB and still a lot of room for expansion. Now all I need is to get the port multiplier and a few other parts to continue my expansion.

WHS Hazmat Upgrade (7.5 TB to 11.14 TB)

This is the Windows Home Server (Hazmat) sitting next to my 24U Rack which houses the Netgear 24 Port Gigabit Switch, ReadyNAS 1100, UPS, Access Point, and soon to be rack mount server. Sitting next to the big Lian Li case is the eSata attached Storage Tower, which takes up only two eSata ports on the PCI-X card, which has two more eSata ports for later expansion if I wanted to add another Storage Tower.

I have been dumping more and more data into my second WHS Server, Hazmat, for a while now. I had about 7.5 TB of space available without duplication, and after a couple of months I have reach 94% of the capacity and I didn’t want any of the files being stored on the OS drive, and I haven’t even switched on duplication for the files which makes the total space needed about 15 TB. I took snap shots of the WHS Console, and by clicking on the smaller images you get the larger images to see all the details.

Luckily I ordered a couple of 2 TB drives to bump up the amount of space by about 6 TB, so to about 14 TBs which would be the equivalent of 12.9 TB of logical data. The setup I have is pretty simple, I have one backplane in the Lian Li case which I plan increasing once I cannibalize the old WHS server which has two extra backplanes fill with 1 TB drives, which adds up to another 10TB worth of space. Instead of plugging in more backplanes I decided to take advantage of the PCI-X slot in the mother board, so I plugged in an eSata controller to integrate the 8-HDD Raid Tower which housed all the other disks. You can even tell the ones that are mounted by the Disk Management screen on the Console where the drive temperatures that can’t be read, and say “n/a”.

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WHS – Hazmat Server Setup


We had to start off with a clean install and a few items to work on. We put the basic hardware together to make a clean server install.

The Skeleton Crew:

  • Lian Li – PC80
  • ASUS P5Q WS
  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 Quad-Core Processor 2.66 GHz
  • NVidia 7200 GS
  • (2x) 2GB G-Skill DDR2-800 Ram
  • Sata/Raid Card PCI-X
  • (2x) Seagate 250 GB Slim
  • (8x) 1 TB Drives
  • (1x) Back Plane
  • Tower Raid 8 Slots

 

After installing just the backplane and main hard drives we started up the machine. After a few tries nothing came on the screen but everything was working. We switched graphics cards from other machines, and tried it multiple times but something wasn’t working. Turns out we forgot to plug in the PCI-Express power cable into the motherboard so thats why nothing was coming out into the screen, after finishing that little problem we proceeded with the install which went smoothly.

After the basic install was complete I proceeded to install the mobo drivers, then connected to the internet for the rest. Basic rule of thumb with us, not to install drivers from the CD but to perform a Windows Update with the optional items checked so that you can get the latest versions of the drivers compatible with the OS. And this the point we have reached, I tried using the tower raid with eSata connections on the mother board but that didn’t work out very well, requests to those hard drives kept timing out, so I have to take a different route. Nothing feels better then working on a clean installation.