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N54L NAS/SAN suggestions

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hello guys,


I hope i am posting this into the correct forum.


I want to make a home lab environment and i have a lot of unclarities regarding the design i should choose. I have knowledge in networking but very little on storage, virtualization, etc

My hardware is:

1U home made server Esxi host on which i have virtualized 2 firewalls (front end and backend)

1U server Dell R210 II Esxi host for VMs (plex, monitoring app, domain controller, etc)

1 switch Cisco 2960S 48 ports with 4 ports capable of SFP.

1 Hp microserver N54L with 16 GB ram and 3 x WD red 3TB each (i will add shortly another one), with a P410 raid card.


Background: i used my HP as it is in the description with a raid 5 and esxi on it, with some VMs. 

Problem is that the CPU is too weak; plex for instance coughs a lot when transcoding a full HD movie. For this, i want to transform the HP on a bare metal NAS or SAN, only for storage purpose and move/host the VMs on the Dell R210 ii.

Maybe offtopic, but on the HP i tried the modded BIOS and enabled the 5th sata port for 3gb/s, but the performance for me was horrible. i added a SSD on this sata port and presented it as a datastore for the esxi to host the VMs on it; the disk reading and writing on it had wayyy to much latency and the VMs were bearly working (one click reacted in at most one minute), so i gave up this SATA port and moved the data store on the existing array from the WDs red.


Future plans: 

Both 1U servers will  have esxi and VMs on them (firewalls, plex, monitoring, etc etc). The storage for these VMs i am thinking to have it locally stored on each 1U host, maybe to make a VSAN between them.

HP microserver N54L - i plan to make it pure storage and was thinking to Freenas. This means that i will remove the raid card (leave FREENAS to make the raid, as it is best practice to do so and not to involve any raid card) and replace it with a quad gigabit card or maybe fiber card. This HP will hold all my personal media files (music, films, photos, OS images, lab files, etc).


Questions having the mentioned setup above:

1. Is the Freenas appropiate to install on the HP, or are there other better suggestions?

2. both 1U servers will have local storage for VMs; in this case, do i still have to make a datastore on the HP and present it to the 1U servers? Thinking of this from the perspective of plex for instance; plex will be on the Dell, but its storage will be on the HP.

3. If i need to make a datastore on HP and present it to the Dell (let s say via iSCSI), do i have to connect the HP directly in the Dell server, or pass it through the switch? Or one connection HP-Dell direct and another connection HP-switch (for the rest of the LAN to access directly the HP storage) ?

4. Whatever the connectivity design will be, should i use fiber cables? If yes, how many fiber cables and speed, between which devices? Or should i use gigabit UTP cables and make portchannels on all physical devices (assuming i will have let's say quad gigabit NIC in each server) ?


Any help on this would be highly appreciated.

Thank you.


Edited by panicos

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I had a play with my N40L and dropped FreeNAS on it, it was ok, but I ended up dithcing it for a simple Win10 install as it wasnt for me and FreeNAS was too complicated for the guy who I gave the box too.


Any NAS software that will give you an iSCSI target should be fine for a storage location, you can do it either way, but if you have more than one host then I'd put it on the LAN rather than directly into the hosts.


btw, my N40L was fine running a single stream from Plex, just use directy play, the client device does the grunt work rather than the PMS box.

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