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The Perfect Home Server - It does it all....


edamiga1
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I think a few people have started to go down this path, but I wanted to through my thoughts and experiences out there to get input from others.

 

My Needs/Wants:

One Physical Server that does it all.

Data Centralized and all machines backed up.

All media served to other devices XBox360, etc..

 

So to do this I have been using windows home server v1 and a Media Center Windows 7 box and HD HomeRun Network tunners. This has worked ok, but was not ideal.

 

Enter Hyper-V core and a new box that rules them all.

 

Now I have one i5 server with 8GBs of Memory, 12 HDs, 3 Network Cards, 2 500GB Black WD drives in RAID 1.

I have 4 vms on this on box.

Windows Home Server V1 - I used disk2vhd to convert my existing home server in 2hrs.

Windows 7 Professional as my Media Server with WMC

Windows Home Server V2 - pending.

Developmen VM.

 

I should be good for a long time and can migrate data from one WHS to the other ones, without hitting the network or touching the hardware.

 

Life is good.

What are others doing and what else could I want or need? Time for the next project.

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I think a few people have started to go down this path, but I wanted to through my thoughts and experiences out there to get input from others.

 

My Needs/Wants:

One Physical Server that does it all.

Data Centralized and all machines backed up.

All media served to other devices XBox360, etc..

 

So to do this I have been using windows home server v1 and a Media Center Windows 7 box and HD HomeRun Network tunners. This has worked ok, but was not ideal.

 

Enter Hyper-V core and a new box that rules them all.

 

Now I have one i5 server with 8GBs of Memory, 12 HDs, 3 Network Cards, 2 500GB Black WD drives in RAID 1.

I have 4 vms on this on box.

Windows Home Server V1 - I used disk2vhd to convert my existing home server in 2hrs.

Windows 7 Professional as my Media Server with WMC

Windows Home Server V2 - pending.

Developmen VM.

 

I should be good for a long time and can migrate data from one WHS to the other ones, without hitting the network or touching the hardware.

 

Life is good.

What are others doing and what else could I want or need? Time for the next project.

 

I am certainly not opposed to VM but I have always believe that the complexity of whole item ifdgs greater than the sum of its parts if that makes sense. I am a believr in VM but under the right conditions none of which ahve the word WHS in them. It is OK for testing but to me is just not suitable for a production enviorment and should not be used. This is of course my opinion but adding more vairiables is not for everyone. I would advise anyone going that route to do so with caution and certainly not for the faint of heart. Gook luck and look forward to your next project.

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I am not sure what your concerns are. Hyper-V and ESX hypervisors have been around for a pretty long time. I used to work for a large software company and we did everything in a virtualized environment, except the developers machines, they just liked having bare metal. I now work for one of the 10 largest companies in the world and we just finished virtualizaing our production environments last year. They use ESX server and it provides more redundancy. The physical machines can die and the hypervisor will just spin it back up on another machine. You can actually live migrate it from one server to another one, without even shutting down the server. The technology is pretty amazing.

 

In regards to the specific question about what I will do when the motherboard or controller go down, it is simple. Just bring up a new box, install HyperV, and put the existing drives in it, copy over the vhd from backup and power on the vm. I can even move from Intel to AMD if I want with no changes. The machine is virtualized and doesn't care or know what physical hardware it is running on. The beauty of this technology is that you are isoloated from the physical hardare.

 

Is there a specific concern that you might have and I will try to answer it.

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I'm jumping on the virtualization bandwagon as well. I've used it for testing and development purposes before and I think it's going to work out quite fine for WHS Vail. In fact, my company has all of our production web servers as Windows Server 2008 R2 VM instances. This is essentially the same platform as Vail, especially now that DE has been removed.

 

My new i5-2400 is simply too powerful to just run Vail; I paid for those cores and I'm going to use them. My current plan is to simply run one other VM, likely Windows Server 2008 R2. This way I can set up a server that can host various services I always want running, while leaving my WHS free to focus on backing up computers and sharing media. This gives me more utility and greater protection for WHS by reducing the software installed on it. Additionally, I get the benefits of being able to easily backup the system drive since it's just a VM file.

 

As for data storage, I intend to give my WHS VM full access to two or three hard drives. I don't want to virtualize those and don't want a data drive used by more than one VM. My exact drive configuration will depend on what Microsoft has in store for us post drive extender.

 

Of course not everything is perfect. It seems that at least right now, I'm unable to take advantage of the new Quick Sync video encoding features of Sandy Bridge due to virtualizing the video card. This isn't a show-stopper, but would have been nice to have. I also need to confirm that I can use USB passthrough to connect various devices to Vail such as my UPS and an external drive for backups.

 

I'll report back, but so far it's been smooth sailing.

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I have to agree, with both of you guys.

 

First with pcdoc, virtualization does add some complexity to the setup and is not for everyone.

 

But for most of us here, virtualization is an incredible tool and is an enterprise class OS more than capable for our home use. Therefore, it is very well suited for the production environment ad not just for testing (well Virtualbox may be just for testing).

 

As edamiga1, mentioned above, a VM in Hyper-V (or Xenserver or ESXi) may be better protected than a physical machine. I have been running my router and UTM on a virtual machine for about a year now. In that time, I have replaced the hard drive twice (kept using old small drives) and each time it was a simple process to bring the VM back from the backup. I also screwed up the VM's on an number of occasions at first and since I had taken snapshots along the way, stepping back to a point prior to the change was simple. Both restoring from a backed up VM and reverting to a snapshot is so easy and quick, it makes a WHS restore look like something from the 80's. I think my virtual WHS is more protected and ready for production than my stand alone system. Once you start using virtual systems, it's hard to go back to a physical system.

 

With that said, I would not use virtual drives for the WHS data drives. I give WHS full access to the actual drive.

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I think now, especially that Drive Extender is dead, that VM's may be the way to go for any new version of WHS. With both VMWare and HyperV you can pass thru external drives for the "core storage" and network devices for backups of the server.

 

Agreed, the product begins to mimic some sort of Enterprise devices but for the non-novice user/tester/developer, this could be an ideal situation. The only drawback is that you do add one more layer with the pass thru drives but with the advent of USB 3.0 and E-Sata I think this will negate any slow down in performance over using an internal physical drive.

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It has allot to do with the target audience. I like VM's too but I would not want one for a WHS. I prefer the straight forward approach of a low power single box that I can toss in the closet and not worry about. Not that it is not cool technology as I use as well, but rather it is more limited to enthusiasts. I do not believe that anyone will dissagree that it does add complication for the user in the event of failure depending on what failed. It is also something that you would probably not recommend to family or friends unless you where close by to support them. All in all it is a great tech but only for enthusiasts and I still believe better suited for specific needs.

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Guest no-control

Let me know what happens when your motherboard or disk controller craps out.

 

 

 

uhhh nothing?

 

You would just install a new motherboard. Set up another VM same specs as before then use the system .vhd from the previous machine and fire it up. It will work as if nothing ever happed. The VM doesn't care what hardware it runs on as long as the Hypervisor is up an running its a non-issue.

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I am glad to see the interest on this topic. I definately agree this is NOT something I would setup or recommend for a family member, but for an enthusiast that wants to build out a single hardware platform to do it all, this is ideal. If you did want to build this out for a family member I don't think it would be impossible, but it would take some thought on how you would want to recover the hypervisor. Everything else would be straight forward, with the vm backups being even easier.

 

I would be interested to understand what others are doing for the following:

UPS backup. I would think I need to manage this at the hyper-v layer, so it properly shuts down all of the vms. Any recommendations on this. I have an APC 1250 and I am not sure that the software will work on hyper-v

Live VM backups. Currently I shutdown the VM to back it up to a spare drive. Any recommendations on if this can be done without shutting down the machine. This is currently not a big risk, since the vm is running on RAID 1.

Network cards. I currently have three network drops, 2 on motherboard and one intel. Currently I dedicate one to hyperv and one for my home server and the other one is shared by the otherones. Has anyone set up a shared network card and how well does this work, also is it worth while to set up a virtual nic for the media center to talk to the home server directly, whithout having to go through the physical nics.

 

Other enhacements

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