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WHS 2011, HTPC, and Virtualization Questions


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Hi all!

 

Been browsing around on the forums for some time now trying to figure our the best route for what I'm trying to accomplish, but can't seem to quite get settled on the best solution, so definitely looking for some advice.  This is a little long, but here goes:

 

I have been using WHS v1 for a long time now as a simple file and media server (HD vids, music, pics to HTPC and mobile clients) and as a client backup solution.  Not really doing much else with it at the moment, so its just on an old Athlon 64 box with just 1 GB ram.

 

I've decided to build a new box to upgrade in a big way so I can do some other things with the new server.  I plan to change to WHS 2011 for this new box and use (most likely) FlexRaid for pooling/parity for starters.  I'd like to run a Plex server (with HD transcoding) from the new box.  I've got a Hauppauge Colossus capture card in my main HTPC that I also want to move to the new server box, using it to capture HD from my DirecTV STB in the room where the new server will live (to keep from tying up my main DirecTV STB in the family room).  I'd also like to use the server box to be my main box for re-encodes of various video files, including BD rips, probably using a combination of Handbrake and MakeMKV or something similar (if feasible).

 

So with all of that in mind, I jumped on a combo deal at Newegg last week for a new Z87 board and i5-4670k, which should give me plenty of horsepower hardware-wise to transcode from Plex and do all of the other tasks I listed above (if feasible).  I have 16GB of RAM lying around, plus a spare 250GB SSD (and could repurpose another 128GB model if absolutely necessary).  Storage drives (3 x 2TB) from the old box will be re-used.  Now here's where it gets fuzzy for me.

 

This box will also happen to reside in our rec room, which is our 2nd most used area for watching vids, listening to tunes, etc.  I know most will probably advise against this route, but I'd really like to leverage the horsepower of the new box to be dual purpose (I know, I know) and perhaps act as a 2nd HTPC for the rec room (running XBMC as the media center).  I might even consider using it as a general use desktop PC (again, I know many would advise against it), at least when all my other boxes are otherwise occupied.  So to summarize, in a perfect world this is what I would love to do from the new box:

 

A.  Run a Plex server capable of transcoding/streaming 1080P HD vids. Transcoding is a must due to some mobile clients.

B.  Capture HD video from a DirecTV STB via an installed Hauppauge Colossus card.

C.  Re-encode videos, including full BluRay rips, to compressed files as needed (Handbrake, MakeMKV, or other combination of converters).

D.  Use WHS 2011 as a client backup solution and to serve files and media to several clients from pooled storage (with FlexRaid or similar).

E.  Run XBMC to create a "2nd" HTPC in the rec room (I know noise could be a problem, not an issue in this room).

F.  Perhaps just make the box fully "dual purpose", using it as both a file/media server and a general use PC that can also do 2 through 5 above plus "normal" tasks (web, email, productivity, etc.) as needed.

 

I'm just not sure of the best strategy to accomplish this (or if I should even really try).  Here are the options/questions/concerns that I'm trying to sort through:

 

  1. Should I simply install WHS 2011 on the bare metal and attempt to accomplish all (well, most) of my desired functions natively in WHS 2011?  I realize this probably makes "F" above pretty much impossible and I would be perhaps limited to the Plex/HTPC functions.
  2. Should I install WHS 2011 on the bare metal (keeping it clean for only serving files and backing up) and then run Win 7 in a VM (VirtualBox or other?) to accomplish all of the other functions (or part of them)?
  3. Should I do the reverse of number 2, running Win 7 on the bare metal and run WHS 2011 in a VM instead, passing through the disks for the storage pool?
  4. Should I just forget WHS 2011 and just run Win 7 (or 8) instead and use it as an all-in-one solution (with a third party backup solution)?
  5. OK, here's the biggie and the one I'm struggling with the most:
    Should I install a type 1 hypervisor on the bare metal and run BOTH WHS 2011 and Win 7 in VMs?  If so, which hypervisor?  I understand Hyper-V
    Core has 2 limitations that might be deal breakers for me - (1) can't pass USB through to the VMs and (2) must have at least Win 7 Pro to manage remotely (I only have Win 7 Home Premium on my other PCs).  If Hyper-V Core isn't the right solution, what about VMWare Vsphere/ESXi?  I have played around with type 2 virtualization in the past, but I am very green on it in general.  Running a bare metal hypervisor sure sounds like a possible win-win solution for what I'm trying to do, but I'm not sure how confident I am that I can pull it off.  I'm NOT willing to sink the cash into WSE2012, so that's not really an option for me.

Whew!  Sorry to throw so much out there, especially on a first post, but obviously I need some advice and help sorting through it.  I would love to hear any thoughts from the regulars!  Thanks in advance!

 

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  • ktide1

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The first thing that struck me is, if it was mine, I would look at keeping both boxes running: upgrade the WHSv1 to WHS2011 and keep using it for client backups & file serving, and use the new box to do the heavy lifting: transcoding, media serving, etc.

 

Also, I would NOT run Win7 on the bare metal and WHS2011 in a VM. If you keep the current box, then Win7 might be able to handle all the other functions, and keeping the current server would retain your backup capability.

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I completely understand your point, and yes 2 dedicated boxes would be ideal, I'm really just trying to find the best path to eliminate the old one.  I may end up stuck with 2 boxes in the end, but I want to see what else is possible (and what the best options are within those possibilities) with a single box first.

 

Just curious, what makes it a bad idea to run Win 7 on bare metal and WHS2011 in a VM?  I've heard other people say the same thing, just trying to understand the issues behind it.

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Why do you think WHS 2011 in a VM is bad?

 

I was assuming so based on ikon's statement in the previous post.  If it is indeed a bad thing to do, why so?  If it is indeed OK to do, why so?

 

BTW, I see you are out of Huntsville.  I'm in Hartselle myself, just down the road, so hello neighbor!

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jmwills

I've run WHS 2011 in a VM now for two years and there is no looking back for me.  The only bare metal boxes in my house are clients that we use for occasional light duty use, EVERYTHING else is virtual.

 

Huntsville, yes, but Afghanistan until next year.

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I've run WHS 2011 in a VM now for two years and there is no looking back for me.  The only bare metal boxes in my house are clients that we use for occasional light duty use, EVERYTHING else is virtual.

 

Huntsville, yes, but Afghanistan until next year.

Hey make sure you stay safe over there and Happy July 4th!

 

So lets assume I run a VM for WHS2011 and another VM for Win7 for HTPC/desktop functions. Would you have a good recommendation for a hypervisor given my goals? Will I be forced to go with vSphere to pass USB to the VMs?

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jmwills

Supposedly, you can do this in 2012E R2, but no one can confirm this.  If this is not available, then I will spend the money on an ESXi compatible RAID Card and move away from 2012 as my Hyper V host.

 

I run 2012E and WHS 2011 in a VM as well as several Windows 7 machines one of which is my SABNzD recorder. The advantage for me in running WHS 2011 is the quick recovery from a disaster, especially being on the other side of the world.

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Let me clarify. I wasn't saying not to run WHS2011 in a VM; I was saying not to run it in a VM under Win7. IOW, it's the Win7 part that I wouldn't recommend. Running WHS2011 in a VM under Windows Server is fine.

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If you are going to use VM's then wait for Essentials R2 as yes, I can confirm it as I am running it right now.  The core OS will handle transcoding, streaming, and if you want Plex server which I am also running.  That leaves you with Hyper-V next gen for all your VM needs.  The only caution I will provide is to review my write ups on the Haswell and the dream of using the memory you have laying around especially if it is 4 banks.  Just a caution.  I will be finalizing on almost the same software configuration you are going to want however at this time,  I am going to build it on a Sandy bridge platform for all the reasons that are in my write up.

 

 

http://thedocsworld.net/haswell-part-3-core-i7-4770/

 

http://thedocsworld.net/haswell-part-2-core-i5-4570s/

 

http://thedocsworld.net/haswell-upgrade-part-1/

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