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Questions on Planning and Preparing for a N54L


darkarn
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Hi guys, after months of looking around for a better home (or mostly personal depending how you look at it ;) ) storage solution, I have decided to go ahead with a N54L! Here's what I have planned for and prepared so far with some background details on my use cases and setup:

 

Current Setup

Computer(s): 1 Sager NP8170 (HDD changed into a Crucial M550 256GB)

Main Storage: 1 HGST 3.5" 3TB Deskstar HDD in a Hotway USB 3.0 external enclosure. Connected to my laptop as Windows 7 local drive via USB 3.0.

Backup: 1 3.5" 2TB HDD, 1 3.5" 1TB HDD in a shared PC. Connected to my laptop as Windows 7 network drives over the home network (i.e. PC to router, router to laptop).

Router: Asus RT-AC66U

(All drives above are formatted in NTFS)

 

Planned Setup

Computer(s): 1 Sager NP8170 (HDD changed into a Crucial M550 256GB)

Main Storage: 1 3.5" 2TB HDD, 1 3.5" 1TB HDD in a N54L. (N54L to switch, switch to laptop, switch to router)

Backup: 1 HGST 3.5" 3TB Deskstar HDD in a Hotway USB 3.0 external enclosure. Connected to my laptop as Windows 7 local drive via USB 3.0.

Router: Asus RT-AC66U

(Not sure if should stick with NTFS due to OS choice in the N54L. I prefer not to reformat if possible.)

 

Use Cases
1. Storing my data in my HDDs and being able to access them (i.e. NAS) (High priority)

2. Monitoring HDD health with real-time alerts (High priority)

3. Media streaming (in home network mostly, but if can be done ) (Medium priority)

4. Production server for web projects e.t.c. (LAMP setup maybe?) (Medium priority)

5. Media transcoding (then again, I think my devices can handle untranscoded stuff...?) (Low priority)
6. Creating an environment where I can learn the usage and deployment of servers for fun and for career (yes, I know, this sounds naive at best...) (??? priority)

 

Items to Get/Prepare

N54L itself (need to choose between 250GB HDD/2GB RAM and 500GB HDD/4GB RAM)

DDNS Hostname for router (done!)

Switch

Thumbdrive with OS and BIOS mod if need be (need to decide OS first)

Extra Ethernet cables for the setup

 

Questions

Despite looking around at many forums (especially the threads posted here!), I am still having some doubts and questions in planning and preparing its deployment. So, I need help in understanding more of the following:

1. Should I be expecting slower read/write speeds than my USB 3.0 connection but faster than those HDDs in the PC? (Expectations)

2. What should I take note of in maintaining such servers instead of my current setup? (Expectations)

3. Will a unmanaged switch do? (Hardware)

4. What PCIe cards should I prepare for? (Hardware)

5. Will I need dual NICs? (Hardware)

6. Will I need an USB 3.0 card on the N54L, or should I just use the USB 3.0 ports on my laptop? (Hardware)

7. Which OS I should go for? Or will hypervisors (i.e. ESXi) be more suited for my use cases? (Amahi, Ubuntu, WHS/Windows 8 are my top choices currently) (Software)

8. If I were to go for a hypervisor, what should I look out for? (Expectations/Software)

 

 

I hope this is not too much... Thanks!

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lots there, a few thoughts while you are waiting for more:

 

  • first of all, given you have only one pc, it seems your goal is not only to improve the storage setup but possibly to enable playing around with multiple VMs, right? So your final solution should make sure to backup both the 'server' and its VMs as well as the laptop.
  • this will be an opportunity for people to chime in and say a NAS like qnap etc. could do this all too. but I will continue assuming N54L...
  • In my N54L, I use a usb3 card because it speeds up my server backup process significantly to my usb3 capable external drive. 
  • with so few devices I can't imagine needing a managed switch. if you like statistics etc. that a switch can give you, a 'smart switch' can do that inexpensively. So far any use of special features on 'smart switch' devices never turned out to be critical for me although I have played with them. Given I had more than one smart switch, if one of them were to somehow revert to factory settings, there would be turmoil in my castle. 
  • certain OS like server r2 (any variant with essentials) also get DNS names, mine is in the '.remotewebaccess.com' tree.
  • if you are hosting multiple small or even a single large VM you should consider the memory needs where you are hosting...
  • on my server r2 + essentials I set up NIC teaming just because it was so easy (and it has an option that doesn't even require a smart switch with LAG). Yet I am not sure I really need it. (it did remove an item from the best practices flogging list)
  • where I have gone feature-rich is in my "router", using a full blown PC running sophos UTM (free). With it I implement the multiple LAN segment aspect, mostly to separate my outdoors/security traffic from my inside traffic. Your setup is so much simpler.

sounds like you are in for some fun!

nrf

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lots there, a few thoughts while you are waiting for more:

 

  • first of all, given you have only one pc, it seems your goal is not only to improve the storage setup but possibly to enable playing around with multiple VMs, right? So your final solution should make sure to backup both the 'server' and its VMs as well as the laptop.
  • this will be an opportunity for people to chime in and say a NAS like qnap etc. could do this all too. but I will continue assuming N54L...
  • In my N54L, I use a usb3 card because it speeds up my server backup process significantly to my usb3 capable external drive. 
  • with so few devices I can't imagine needing a managed switch. if you like statistics etc. that a switch can give you, a 'smart switch' can do that inexpensively. So far any use of special features on 'smart switch' devices never turned out to be critical for me although I have played with them. Given I had more than one smart switch, if one of them were to somehow revert to factory settings, there would be turmoil in my castle. 
  • certain OS like server r2 (any variant with essentials) also get DNS names, mine is in the '.remotewebaccess.com' tree.
  • if you are hosting multiple small or even a single large VM you should consider the memory needs where you are hosting...
  • on my server r2 + essentials I set up NIC teaming just because it was so easy (and it has an option that doesn't even require a smart switch with LAG). Yet I am not sure I really need it. (it did remove an item from the best practices flogging list)
  • where I have gone feature-rich is in my "router", using a full blown PC running sophos UTM (free). With it I implement the multiple LAN segment aspect, mostly to separate my outdoors/security traffic from my inside traffic. Your setup is so much simpler.

sounds like you are in for some fun!

nrf

 

Thanks for your reply! :)

 

1. Wow, I didn't factor in backing up the VMs, looks like I should think through that a little...

2. Yes, a NAS can solve most of my use cases too. But a 4-bay NAS cost way more than a N54L...

3. Alright, looks like I should go get a USB 3.0 card for the N54L, but maybe a few months after getting the N54L

4. I'll stick with a simple switch then

5. Not sure about those DNS names from the OSes, looks like something I will keep an eye for during setup

6. Hmm. Maybe multiple OSes are more for better speced servers rather than the N54L?

7. Not sure what is the best practices flogging list :X

8. Well, we have to start from somewhere simple right? :)

9. Thanks, I know I will be in for some fun, that's one of the many reasons why I decided to go ahead for a N54L!

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I'm surprised there isn't more chatter here. I like my N54L and in one experiment running a VM on it, it worked great. I have 8gb and the cpu in it works with the version of hyper-v that goes with 2012r2. To me it is only minimally distinguishable from a NAS box - 4 slots, hot swap (with the hacked bios), small form factor, pretty quiet.

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I'm surprised there isn't more chatter here. I like my N54L and in one experiment running a VM on it, it worked great. I have 8gb and the cpu in it works with the version of hyper-v that goes with 2012r2. To me it is only minimally distinguishable from a NAS box - 4 slots, hot swap (with the hacked bios), small form factor, pretty quiet.

 

Thanks, that's one setup I can follow. Just that I need to read up on Hyper-V...

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Just an opinion,

 

The differences between the two platforms are really like the Grand Canyon. Form Factor and size notwithstanding, the similarities really end there. The Gen7 has just a wee bit more peripheral expandability with the Micro Server Remote Access slot also doubling as a 1x Pcie solution. I believe there was room on the motherboard of the Gen7 to include USB3 logic, as the control is hidden in the BIOS but it was just on that roll over cusp of important features and probably would have increased the price substantially as when the N36L would have been first marketted USB3 would have been pretty cutting edge (Although I do have Elitebook 8540's from that same era that have SS USB3 ports so I dunno). The AMD Turion Neo solution was supposed to be the answer to the celeron and really in this form factor as a low cost processor solution for an SMB / SOHO server target it is/was marvelous because one didn't have to worry about battery life, and all it really was is an Athlon X2 on a shrunken die.

 

The Gen8 aesthetically, was a huge jump, even in such a small space HP designers made these units to contend with their ML and DL brethren, just in small details such as room for the BBU cache, the switch to a low profile OD, and tool less design. Don't get me wrong, the Gen7 is sort of tool less, but if you put a Gen7 next to a Gen8 and strip them down one after the other the quality and fit and feel really are a generation apart. Then let's face it the move to a fully executed proliant RBSU and provisioning set up really are HP server class features with a fully functioned out iLO on board too? Pretty hard to beat in a box that can be had for $500-$600 bucks with a celeron that can be swapped out and ramped right up to a multi-core Xeon.

 

Really in almost every respect, the Gen8 is simply a superior device, but one would expect that from Generation of product to new generation of Product. The G8's are Proliant Servers, the G7's were branded that way, but if you put one next to G7 ML110 they are not. They are in a class all their own. The one factor that makes these units still so desirable in my opinion are the acoustics. I have an N54L which are supposed to be quite louder than even the N40L and N36L as an HTPC in my living room because they are for all intents, dead quiet. Mine is built out with an AMD Radeon HD6450, an add-in PCIe sata3 controller for the mirrored 2.5" System drives a slimline BluRay and four 1TB WD RE drives in the caddies. There is no point in challenging a G8 user to do the same because I think it cannot be done. I tried, but I don't think I could get the fan speed any lower than 12-15% no matter how I kitted the unit. But that's the rub, this is a true server platform vs a one off design that the n36l, n40l and G7 were.

 

TLDR

 

if you want a nice quiet unit to do some labwork on that won't drive you nuts sitting on a desk near you the G7 is a good route. If you want true server command and control and the ability to really throw some raw compute horsepower at a handful of VM's the G8 really must be your best route.

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I have been running my Gen8 server on CentOs for almost a year now. It works perfectly now that it is setup, but I had lots of issues from the start, which was hps fault for beeing so extremely unhelpful with distributing firmware and bios upgrades and other stupid limitations.

I would say most users who buys ine of these is doing it to max out the storage, ie use all four slots for data storage and use the fifth as a boot drive. I had to reroute the cables so I am booting from one of the four bays cables and the cdrom/dvd cable goes down to the last drive bay. Further I had a hard time to get it to be quiet, I needed help from tis forum to get the required HP firmware to silent the fan. I was in contact with HP who was of no help and liked me to sign a update contract to fix what was broken from factory.

I am currently selling servers to customers and even though the HP server is an attractive package I dont think it was worth the hassle.

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Just an opinion,

 

The differences between the two platforms are really like the Grand Canyon. Form Factor and size notwithstanding, the similarities really end there. The Gen7 has just a wee bit more peripheral expandability with the Micro Server Remote Access slot also doubling as a 1x Pcie solution. I believe there was room on the motherboard of the Gen7 to include USB3 logic, as the control is hidden in the BIOS but it was just on that roll over cusp of important features and probably would have increased the price substantially as when the N36L would have been first marketted USB3 would have been pretty cutting edge (Although I do have Elitebook 8540's from that same era that have SS USB3 ports so I dunno). The AMD Turion Neo solution was supposed to be the answer to the celeron and really in this form factor as a low cost processor solution for an SMB / SOHO server target it is/was marvelous because one didn't have to worry about battery life, and all it really was is an Athlon X2 on a shrunken die.

 

The Gen8 aesthetically, was a huge jump, even in such a small space HP designers made these units to contend with their ML and DL brethren, just in small details such as room for the BBU cache, the switch to a low profile OD, and tool less design. Don't get me wrong, the Gen7 is sort of tool less, but if you put a Gen7 next to a Gen8 and strip them down one after the other the quality and fit and feel really are a generation apart. Then let's face it the move to a fully executed proliant RBSU and provisioning set up really are HP server class features with a fully functioned out iLO on board too? Pretty hard to beat in a box that can be had for $500-$600 bucks with a celeron that can be swapped out and ramped right up to a multi-core Xeon.

 

Really in almost every respect, the Gen8 is simply a superior device, but one would expect that from Generation of product to new generation of Product. The G8's are Proliant Servers, the G7's were branded that way, but if you put one next to G7 ML110 they are not. They are in a class all their own. The one factor that makes these units still so desirable in my opinion are the acoustics. I have an N54L which are supposed to be quite louder than even the N40L and N36L as an HTPC in my living room because they are for all intents, dead quiet. Mine is built out with an AMD Radeon HD6450, an add-in PCIe sata3 controller for the mirrored 2.5" System drives a slimline BluRay and four 1TB WD RE drives in the caddies. There is no point in challenging a G8 user to do the same because I think it cannot be done. I tried, but I don't think I could get the fan speed any lower than 12-15% no matter how I kitted the unit. But that's the rub, this is a true server platform vs a one off design that the n36l, n40l and G7 were.

 

TLDR

 

if you want a nice quiet unit to do some labwork on that won't drive you nuts sitting on a desk near you the G7 is a good route. If you want true server command and control and the ability to really throw some raw compute horsepower at a handful of VM's the G8 really must be your best route.

 

Thanks for the vote of confidence, am really convinced to go for the Gen8, but at the right prices though (I know one Germany shop selling at a good rate, shipping is a concern though)

 

 

I have been running my Gen8 server on CentOs for almost a year now. It works perfectly now that it is setup, but I had lots of issues from the start, which was hps fault for beeing so extremely unhelpful with distributing firmware and bios upgrades and other stupid limitations.

I would say most users who buys ine of these is doing it to max out the storage, ie use all four slots for data storage and use the fifth as a boot drive. I had to reroute the cables so I am booting from one of the four bays cables and the cdrom/dvd cable goes down to the last drive bay. Further I had a hard time to get it to be quiet, I needed help from tis forum to get the required HP firmware to silent the fan. I was in contact with HP who was of no help and liked me to sign a update contract to fix what was broken from factory.

I am currently selling servers to customers and even though the HP server is an attractive package I dont think it was worth the hassle.

 

Thanks for your reply, I didn't know that the HP driver download issue I heard from here can be this bad. I understand that for the Gen8, a common procedure for new servers mentioned around here is to press f10 for some urgent firmware download. Does this issue affect these firmware downloads too?

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T

Thanks for your reply, I didn't know that the HP driver download issue I heard from here can be this bad. I understand that for the Gen8, a common procedure for new servers mentioned around here is to press f10 for some urgent firmware download. Does this issue affect these firmware downloads too?

 

Yes. Trick is to make sure you have a valid HP passport, and the very moment you take possesion of the unit to register it with HP. I'm not certain how the EU works, but I probably would avoid buying anything except from an authorized, in country distributor or you run the risk of HP not accepting the serial number from another region as it may be considered 'grey'. Once you have registered the unit, scan your receipt and ensure you can clearly see both the serial number and date of purchase. Immediately start a support case with HP and have them adjust your warranty period to begin from the moment of your purchase as it is HP practice to start the warranty clock once it leaves HP production for distribution (dirty, unfair practice). You will have to e-mail the proof of purchase. This will ensure you get your full entitlement. I believe Gen8 Microservers carry a standard 1y1y1y warranty. I have processed 3 Gen8 Microservers this way. It is a bit of a pain in the butt explaining what you are trying to accomplish when you discuss it with HP support but definitely worth the effort, especially if your Microserver has been sitting for several months in distribution.

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