New Homelab Questions

Hi All, I am looking to build my first homelab server shortly and just want to run a few questions by you all to get an idea if I’m headed in the right direction, as well as some suggestions for anything I can improve.

My plan is to run XCP-NG and Xen Orchestra as the hypervisor, using 2x M.2 drives for the boot in a ZFS Raid(?) or Raid 1 configuration for redundancy. I’m also planning to run 2x 1TB SSDs for storing the VM images / VHDs etc. in a similar configuration to the M.2 drives for redundancy.

I’ll use 5x HDDs in a ZFS Raid to hold backups, personal data (photos/files), movies, tv shows, etc.

The GPU will be used so I can play with passthrough to Plex for hardware transcoding. I don’t anticipate more than 2 streams needing to be transcoded at once if even 1 most of the time, so no need to splurge big here right now.

Hardware List

  • Mobo: ASRock AMD Ryzen X470 Taichi Ultimate
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700CPU
  • Cooler: Bundled Wraith Spire
  • RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX Black 32GB 3600MHz DDR4 (AMD Ryzen Tuned if that matters all that much?)
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GT710 2GB
  • M.2 Boot Drives (x2): Corsair MP510 240GB NVMe
  • SSD VM Storage (x2): Samsung 860 QVO 1TB SSD
  • HDD (x5): WD Red (currently own 4x 3TB - thinking of increasing this to 8TB or 10TB drives)
  • Power: Corsair 750w HX750i Fully Modular
  • Case: SilverStone CS350B 4U120mm
  • 120mm Case Fan: Noctua NF-F12 PWM Cooling Fan
  • 80mm Case Fan (x3): Noctua NF-A8 PWM

Planned Initial Use Case

  • Plex
  • Sonarr/Radarr/etc.
  • Virtual PFSense (initially to tinker with, maybe replace my Unifi USG later on)
  • Virtual NAS to replace my ageing HP Microserver
  • Remote development VM
  • Backup services / NextCloud
  • Bitwarden Password Management
  • Misc Linux/Windows VMs for tinkering and certification training
  • Unifi controller
  • Monitoring
  • Hosting a website

Future Expansion/Use Ideas

I may move my GTX1080 into this machine to replace the GT710, or purchase a GTX2080, for use with Kaggle / data science type work once I feel more comfortable with this and move into bigger data sets.

Installing a quad NIC for PFSense if it’s going to replace the Unifi USG.

A VM for handling some security cameras around the home (undecided on Unifi or Ring).

Questions

  1. Would a 750w power supply be enough for this build, taking into account the future planned use (quad NIC + newer GPU)?
  2. Does the wraith spire cooler come with its own thermal paste? Or am I best buying this separate?
    1a. Any other suggestions for coolers? If you have had any negative performance from the stock cooler.
  3. Are the Noctua Fans I have chosen suitable for keeping the system relatively quiet?
  4. Are there any other suggestions or advice you can provide based on the above?

Thank you for any information you can provide!

Overall that looks like a pretty robust build. A few things to think about.

  1. A raidz1 would be okay with 5x 3TB drives if it’s not critical data. Going up to 8 or 10TB drives you should look at raidz2 or higher with 6 drives minimum if you don’t want to loose most of your space to mirroring. You need to think about how long it will take to resilver the array if a drive fails and the odds of loosing another drive during that time.
  2. Using SSDs for the OS pool is great, but the performance of QLC for that application is questionable depending on how many activity there will be. Do some reading on that before you buy it and are not happy with the performance.
  3. GPU isn’t needed for transcode of one or two streams on that CPU. You can probably do 3-4 4k transcodes.
  4. Off the top of my head the PSU sounds good, but use something like this calculator to double check stuff like that.
  5. Long term I think you’d be happier building a dedicated pfsense box. Tom has mentioned the rational on that a few times in his videos, and I agree. Plus it’s just fun to build more stuff.
  6. Almost forgot. My experience with the bundled coolers is that they work well. The reason I replaced the one on my 3700x was the fan noise. Maybe I could have corrected it by adjusting the fan curve. It wasn’t as much the pure level of it as much as the quick fluctuation being slightly irritating. Not sure if you’d have anything similar with a 2700. The 3200G in my HTPC doesn’t do it. Also the stock cooler does have paste on it.

Hope that helps.

You might want to do some research on setting up xcp-ng either in RAID or ZFS configuration. The ZFS stuff is kind of new so I’m not to sure how much its limited. I’d definitely double check on the xcp-ng forums how to do this.

Thanks for the detailed response!

  1. I’m going to look at converting the 5.25" bay into a 3.5 bay to expand the storage pool up to 6 disks as you suggested, there will be some data like photos and the likes I definitely don’t want to risk losing. The time to rebuild will be a pain regardless, but I will take that risk.
  2. I’ve read up on QLC (thank you for pointing that out) and I definitely see what you are saying, I’m going to swap the VM storage out for some 1TB Samsung 860 EVO Drives instead.
  3. Excellent, that’s another cost-saving then in the long run, I’ll just use the GT710 for booting and connecting to a monitor for troubleshooting etc. in that case and save buying anything else for transcodes.
  4. Thanks for the link, looks like I’ll be covered with my PSU choice. It’ll still have about 100w to spare with all future upgrades and 100% TDP utilization, and anything else I throw at it.
  5. I’ll look into this if I do go down the route of replacing my current Unifi USG, like you say it’ll be another fun project to build out :slight_smile:.
  6. Thanks for the info once again, I think this is something I’ll need to try out and see how the noise levels are, I don’t expect the CPU to be utilized too heavily in the early days so the fan may suffice until I start throwing more load at it. Good to know about the included paste too!

I’ll definitely research setting up xcp-ng in a RAID to begin with, to be honest, ZFS is something new for me that I’ll need to learn as I go, but I think it may work better for me with the larger storage pool and just sticking to RAID1 for the two other pools.

Just another thing to think about. You could look at putting the hypervisor on ssd and the OS pool on NVMe. If time line and budget allow, you might be able to find a good deal on enterprise U.2 drives on eBay (Intel DC P**** drives). There are M.2 adapters, so you would just need space to put more 2.5" drives. I’m using a PCIe adapter card for the one I’m playing with in my desktop. Good prices seem to be $100-150/TB.

There is a nice jump in performance between the P3*** series and P4*** series but this Intel DC P3520 will still run circles around a 860 EVO in pretty much every category. Here are the specs.

The wraith stock cooler should be fine for your build unless you plan to overclock this system, but from the sounds of things, that won’t be the case. Thats what I’m using in my home lab server, and I didn’t bother with extra thermal paste, there is a small amount on the wraith cooler. If you plan to make the CPU sweat a bit, then maybe step up the CPU cooler to something aftermarket. Also the Notcua fans will be nice and quiet.

@IrTaki

Just a question are you going to connect the 10 GB Nic of your mobo to a switch that supports 10 GB SFP copper and the 1 GB Intel NIC to your modem directly or you will just connect the 10 GB to switch with sfp and connect everything else to the switch?

Just

@mouseskowitz
Good suggestion actually, the SSDs probably won’t see much use once the system is fired up and running. Would be better to have the NVME doing the lifting and at a faster speed.

The P3/P4 series Intel stuff looks really good, but I might stay away from that just now depending how budget goes. Already pressing past the £2500 range!

@Manipulate
Thanks for the info, I definitely won’t be OCing the system at all as I’d like it to last as long as possible too!

@reymond070605
I’ll be connecting the 10GB Nic to a Microtik switch which I believe supports the SFP copper. The 1GB will go into a switch as well, I’ll probably end up moving the PFSense stuff to a separate box now so won’t need to go directly into the modem.

The 10GB stuff will be more for the future though once I’ve had time to look into it more and research what I’d need.