04 Dec 2023

New Storage Server

I’ve had my current server, a NAS mostly used for plex, for almost 10 years. It has performed perfectly, and in 10 years I’ve only had a single disk failure.

  • Intel Xeon (i5 Haswell equivalent)
  • 16GB ECC RAM
  • 128GB boot SSD
  • 8x 3.5" HDDs (ranging from 4TB to 18TB) which I’ve upgraded and replaced over time.

However, being ~10 years old, it’s only a matter of time before I face issues. Finding replacement parts would be difficult, and if either the CPU, RAM, Motherboard or PSU fail, I’d basically need to replace the whole machine, as they’re all proprietary.

I wanted a rock solid Linux OS for this, as I didn’t want to have to fiddle with it. I just wanted security patches that I could apply without worrying that something would break. I also wanted an OS that would be supported for a long time, as doing major OS upgrades requires downtime, and can be a lot of work. This was especially true as I had an identical server in my brother’s house which I wouldn’t be able to fix as easily if something went wrong.

From 2014 to 2022 my server ran CentOS 7. I never bothered to upgrade to CentOS 8. This ended up being quite lucky as Red Hat abandoned CentOS 8. I upgraded the server to Alma Linux 9 in 2022. I timed this upgrade with a trip to see my brother, so I could upgrade his server too. But ultimately my server is now >9 years old, and stuff on it is bound to fail. I’d rather not have to urgently build/buy/triage/repair my server, as it will inevitably fail when I’m traveling or otherwise busy. And that’s not to mention my brother’s server, which would be even harder to fix remotely.

I decided a month ago to start researching a replacement server. This timing meant I could buy all the parts on Black Friday. I wanted a case that was designed for at least 8x3.5" drives. Ideally with hot swap ability, and decent cable management, without being huge. As I stream media, I wanted a modern Intel CPU with Quick Sync to enable hardware transcoding. Online I kept seeing mention of UnRAID, as a capable solution that handles storage, with a custom RAID solution that supports expandability and different sized drives. Perfect for someone who buys drives either when they’re cheap, or when a drive fails or gets full. The other upside to UnRAID is that it has a bunch of community-supported apps, with simple 1-click install, like Plex, Jellyfin, Syncthings etc.. which is nice.

This is what I ended up getting:

  1. Case: SilverStone CS382
  2. Motherboard: ASUS Pro WS W680M-ACE SE (This is a server grade Motherboard with IMPI and dual 2.5Gbit NICs. Being server-grade, it should get longer BIOS updates).
  3. CPU: Intel Core i5-13500 - This has the best iGPU (UHD 770) at the lowest wattage (65W), so great for Plex hardware transcoding.
  4. AIO Cooler: Fractal Design Lumen S24 v2 RGB AIO. I used the previous version on my desktop, and the cable management is excellent.
  5. RAM: 2x32GB DDR5 ECC Unbuffered Kingston RAM (This was hard to find!)
  6. PSU: be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 550W
  7. SK Hynix Platinum P41 2TB for app-data/cache
  8. SAMSUNG FIT Plus 64GB (USB boot drive for UnRAID)

Now I just need to migrate all my data over.