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Home Server Streaming video through VM


amlwwalker
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I have been looking at getting a server for a while now. I just really want one...

I use Linux at work about 20% of the time, so Im reasonably familiar.

This is what Im thinking, however bear in mind Ive not done this before, so please comment constructively on the areas that I have either misunderstood or got incredibly wrong! I have read quite a few blogs on line but nothing quite like what Im imagining something like the HP ProLiant G7 N54L 2.2GHz MicroServer

 

I was going to up the ram to 8gb, and put a solid state harddrive in for OS's and use the 250gb as a storage facility.

it would be headless - the idea is that I can have very low powered pc's around the house that connect to the server and RDP into VM's.

Install hypervisor on it to manage VM's.

One VM - Ubuntu server. This will take care of any tasks I set it such as manage downloads etc etc. Whatever I want the server to do

Some of the tasks would be file management (organisation), and in future home automation.

Second VM Windows. Would like a few of these so other people can also RDP into the VM's

Possibly a Mac VM if its possible, as my little sister uses mac.

 

This is where Im not so sure: I want to set up a media center on it but be able to stream the media to any of the devices around the house. I was thinking an XBMC VM which could be RDP'd into. HyperVisor gives that VM access to the file systems that contain media and allows it to read/write to there so XBMC can add artwork etc. I could use XBMCUbuntu. but as far as Im aware the only difference is the GUI is XBMC thats all?

What Im not sure about is whether XBMC will decode the video (lets assume HD - Im on wired network) on the server, then try and stream it decoded, in a VM and all of that has to be passed to the client, or it will be passed as data and handled on the client side. Im worried about a) bandwidth, and B) power of the server.

 

How does streaming/VM's work? how powerful does the server have to be to do the above?

Could anyone recommend me client pc's that are cheap and would cope with the tasks allocated to it?

How many VM's do you think I could run simultaneously?

Could anyone recommend a better server for the job?

 

When in idle mode, the server will be doing things like downloading, organizing (backing up etc)...

i dont want the clients doing much at all, except seamless streaming of the VM's and watching movies/listening to music.

Also Will Internet browsing/watching stuff online be ok in a VM - I dont want jitter jatter....

 

Thanks guys

 

P.S Otherwise any cool, inspiring ideas as to what else I could do with my homeserver, just as ideas?
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Few thoughts:

1) I you're really interested in creating OS X VMs then VMWare's ESXi is a better option as the host. MS's Hyper-V is (arguably) the easiest to use for MS-centric products but still loses out to Xenserver or ESXi with Linux/BSD based OS emulation.

 

2) Linux VMs in Hyper-V require some tweaks (i.e. when you create the VM the NIC has to be created as a "Legacy" NIC in the VM settings) but they do generally work. I have one running as a Minecraft server.

 

3) XBMC can be run on even Android now. I'm sure Linux-heads will say the overhead on Linux is lower than a MS Windows 7, but if you are in a heavy Windows environment, I'd put it on a Windows box.

 

4) XBMC isn't really a server-based solution. It is a server/client all in one. There are many (MANY) XBMC mods that allow this sort of setup but you're better off searching XBMC threads for this. Basically it comes down to where the database is stored and how other "clients": can access it. Much the way iTunes runs. Although I'm not comparing XBMC to iTunes. That would be like comparing the Mona Lisa to my 4th grade artwork just because they both used paint.

 

5) Take a look at Plex. It started out - and still is, really - a user friendly XBMC mod that is set up with a server/client functionality. It's one drawback is the challenge of having the same settings on each attached PC (true of XBMC in general.) It defaults to each attached client has it's own info about what was watched, what wasn't - which may be exactly how you want it. But if you want this info to be the same across each PC that accesses it, it requires some database tweaking.

 

6. Using XBMC as a server/client (ala Plex) has the SERVER do the transcoding. If the server is powerful enough, this is nice as it limits both the work on the client and reduces the network data stream.

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So as I understand it (I did a test for video streaming via RDP at work today) I'll use plex for the video, but what is the best way to run remote VM's? I was getting qutie a lot of lag over RDP just browsing the web. Any better options - or will using esxi be better for this?

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If you enable RemoteFX and the Remote Desktop Service, use the VMs as quasi thin clients. RemoteFX greatly improved the video quality (both speed [FPS] and color depth/resolution) but requires a video card or at least integrated video to work. If you don't use those two services, you're likely not going to get acceptable video streaming while watching in a VM via RDP. 

 

I'd say ESXi is better at this, but even with ESXi watching a video in the VM is passable at best.

 

Why not just run Plex in a VM on the host, and then whatever client you want can watch video via either Plex's player if you install it on the client, or just via web interface. The Plex web interface video player works exceptionally well in my experience.

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