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get more server-grade features from desktop-grade hardware


p3x-749
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I did a lot of research in the past to get the "most bang for the buck" for my setup.

Sometimes I am on a tight budget or the UseCase does not justify the spending (like employing a "real" server for a backup array, that would run a couple of hours a week only).

 

Well, what  is on my shopping list for a (file-)server, are these two features....always:

 

- ECC memory support

- AES-NI (Hardware Encryption in CPU) support...I need/want full-disk encryption and performance as well.

 

But with Intel based CPUs, this is *only* available with XEONs, which are quite expensive and ECC-RAM support only comes with server motherboards here.

 

With AMD, things are a bit different though.

 

- Almost all AM2, AM3 and AM3+ socket CPUs support ECC memory

- all AM3+ CPUs support AES-NI instructions

 

...and almost all ASUS AM3+ socket based motherboards support ECC RAM...officially...check the specs!

 

I am running a system based on

 

- ASUS M5A78L-M/USB3 (cheapest with 4x DIMM-Slots, USB3, onboard GPU and microATX)

- 4x ECC UDIMMs (this is unbuffered, unregistered memory)

- AMD Opteron 3350HE (Opteron AM3+ socket based)

 

with great success.

ECC memory is confirmed to work and I see no performance penalty from using encryption on the array (7 disks curently) as I can easily max out the GBit connection.

Costs were about 50% of the comparable Intel based setup/combo (35% if I would have gone for a FX-CPU instead of the HE-Opteron).

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That's great to know, actually!

 

Now, does that motherboard have a built in TPM module? Because that would remove the USB/password requirement for the system drive, under BitLocker. :)

 

But yeah, I'm not surprised, Intel tends to use different CPU sockets for server grade hardware, whereas AMD doesn't.  And ASUS has always been more of the higher end boards. So, this doesn't suprise me. But this is definitely something to keep in mind for future purchases.

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That particular Board does not have a build-in TPM or a socket for one.

I *think* you'll only find these with the more advanced AM3+ chipsets.

 

Like with this board ...it is Win-8 compatible, has ECC support and a TPM socket/: M5A99FX Pro -> http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/M5A99FX_PRO_R20/#specifications

But you'll need a GPU card for it to POST since it does not have one on-board...and it is quit expensive compared to mine with the "older" chipset.

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I think only the full sized ATX boards have the header for it. But considering I found an ASUS TPM module for $25 on Amazon... I think it's worth it, in my opinion. To the point, that I may be migrating away from my ASRock 990FX Extreme3 board to a comparable ASUS board. :)

http://www.amazon.com/Asus-Accessory-FW3-19-Module-BitLocker/dp/B0085E4WQQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382069624&sr=8-1&keywords=tpm+module

 

 

Though, that board you listed, I'd avoid it. Namely, because well, Technogod can confirm just how flaky ASMedia USB3 drivers are... (right?) 

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I think you're right...only ATX full-size...but not for all AM3+ chipsets and all boards.

Looks like all boards that claim win-8 compatibility and that are in full-ATX size should have a TPM header.

 

This one is -at this time- the cheapest ASUS with ECC Support and with

a TPM header around my side of the pond: http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/M5A97_EVO_R20/

 

...regarding USB3, well I never relied heavily on that feature, as I am doing my data on-/off-loading

via iSCSI to my main NAS (which is also build based on the ASUS+Opteron combo from my first post ATM, based on ZFS and Linux).

I see currently avrg. of 120MB/sec from my little Celeron-847 that is housing the StableBit Pool to that NAS ...nothing to complain about, I'd think.  :D

 

Edit: ...you're right...TPM module from ASUS is easily available with a decent price-tag....should make a nice combo with Bitlocker....I'll consider this in a future build  B)

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HI p3x,

 

One thing that's important for folks to consider when building a server is future use.   The system you've described above is a decent file server but people should think about what will happen if they start adding services to their "home server" and pushing the envelope of their hardware (should they go the low powered route).  For some cost (initial and over time) are key considerations.   It's just important to know that you'll find that limiting expansion down the road.  

 

For example I use Plex, SickBeard, SABnzdb, and a couple of different DNLA type servers as well as serving 3 HTPCs in the house.   As those services work, particularly on a server with a lower performance processor and non-hardware assisted sata controller (raid or otherwise) you'll see slowdowns that will affect delivery of video streams, for example.

 

That said if you aren't playing blu-rays from your server while the server may be transcoding or moving a lot of data around like I am you probably won't have an issue, but it's something to keep in mind.   I went the higher cost route (I went i7 but i5 would work as well) including an Intel t350-2 gigabit nic (to team to 2gb) and a hardware raid controller... even though I'm using drive pool... to have some headroom for expansion, both hardware and software wise.  

 

A quick note:  For those that don't know the TPM does not provide hardware encryption assistance it only provides hardware level protection of the Bitlocker keys during startup.  But having a TPM is important if you want to be able to use Bitlocker without having to have a flash drive "dongle" plugged into your server to unlock Bitlocker.

 

Otherwise your system looks like a good deal and as long as you are happy with it that's all that matters.   Some of us spent a lot of time getting to our server "nirvana".   I can tell you it took me ages! 

 

Anyway, why don't you post your system in the systems thread as well.

 

Cheers,

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Future proofing is ALWAYS important. 

And ECC RAM is definitely worth the money, especially for a server platform. 

 

And I'm not sure what point you're trying to get to here. Aside the future proofing thing.

 

Personally, I'm running an AMD FX-8120 for my server. And it's a great CPU. But the board is only okay (was a gaming system from a friend that needed the money more than the computer). It works great for what I want, but I'm seriously considering getting a new motherboard that supports the ECC RAM, and has a TPM module. 

 

And yes, the TPM module basically just holds the key for the encryption. There are a few other encryption products can use it as well. But it's nice to not have a key to encrypt the system disk.

 

 

And yeah, as long as your happy with your hardware, and what you can get out of it, that's what really matters.  Each of us has their own preferences and needs for their servers. Some of us are fine with running it 24/7, while some want it as power efficient as possible. :)

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I've never really given ECC memory much thought, to be honest.  Why the importance?  Does it help assure the integrity of the data?   I can't say I've ever noticed a difference without it but I'm also a bit ignorant of it's practical use for a home server environment for example.

 

I think it's time for me to do some research! ;D

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECC_RAM

 

 

 

Error-correcting code memory (ECC memory) is a type of computer data storage that can detect and correct the most common kinds of internal data corruption. ECC memory is used in most computers where data corruption cannot be tolerated under any circumstances, such as for scientific or financial computing.

 

 

ECC memory maintains a memory system immune to single-bit errors: the data that is read from each word is always the same as the data that had been written to it, even if a single bit actually stored, or more in some cases, has been flipped to the wrong state. Some non-ECC memory with parity support allows errors to be detected, but not corrected; otherwise errors are not detected.

 

Basically, you're a lot less likely to have memory related issues. Hence, more stable.

Ideally, you'd want registered or buffered, and ECC ram, for servers. But for "home servers", just regular, unregistered ECC would be a good idea.

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