Home Server Choices

#1

I recently repurposed my home server for my wife to use as a photo editing machine as it was just a wasted beast doing file serving and home automation. I dragged out of the garage my old X58 system to serve as my home server, after blasting all the dead cockroaches out of it I was surprised it started after 3 years of non use and 10+ year old hardware (Props to Gigabyte and Corsair).

After doing some testing for reliability and performance and power consumption, I thought it might save me a few bob till we renovate the house (then I will set up decent servers in my rack dedicated to specific requirements line HO and FS). After loading everything onto it and also creating a Hyper-V VM it has had the odd freeze up, this has led me to the conclusion I am taking a risk with the old hardware even though all data is in Raid and can be shifted to another system if this fails, its still a pain setting up OH2, MySQL, MQTT etc. though.

I have been thinking of just separating the Home automation for the time being onto a separate system and have contemplated using RPi as they are cheap/low power and seem reliable enough.
The filesystem I am not greatly worried about as I have all sensitive data backing up to cloud storage and if it fails I will just get a $3-400 NAS to house the drives till I upgrade to a larger system.

What’s your thoughts, Is an RPi3 a good option, with OpenHab2, MQTT broker, and even for a LEMP stack?

#2

I’m personally unimpressed with the whole RPi fad.

For my automation server, I’ve gone a little overboard & built a dedicated VM on one of my proper servers (They all run ESXi) & installed Linux Mint.

For a simpler setup that I’ve done for a few people I have basically duplicated it on leftover HP WHS machines & they seem rock solid for reliability. Nothing wrong with using older hardware for the purpose. It’s not a heavy load for the machine & as long as you take reasonable care of them, they’re not going to just wear out & die. (But DO keep them properly backed up…)

As a side benefit, running Mint on the server means I can connect remotely with either VNC or RDP & the user environment is identical to my regular desktop.

#3

That sounds a pretty cool setup @Tinker, I am liking more and more using Linux, I was apprehensive, to begin with but I understand the power and reliability a lot more now.

Another option am weighing up is just building a new server from scratch, maybe a Ryzen 5 or similar and run ubuntu server with a VM software like ESXi (probably the free vSphere Hypervisor version), just have to weigh up costs and reliability.

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#4

@DavidRK I am with you on this. I am not sure how crazy I want to get with the server environment as I don’t know enough about it. Linux is a whole new world as I have been stuck in Microsoft’s icy grasp but that has to end. I am using a RPi 3B for my automation server at the moment and once I think I have a good grasp on it all, I may port everything over to a much more powerful server option. I own an HP DL380 Gen 7 enterprise grade box that is doing squat right now that I would like to use at a later date but I am not sure how it will fit into my network needs at the moment. That thing is a beast and a power hungry one at that. For now, the Rpi will be plenty and I don’t have enough stuff going on to worry about stability though I understand they do a fine job for running OH2 and what not. This remains to be seen for me though.
@Tinker I am not so sure about the Rpi fad either. They do quite a lot for what they are but I have been fighting power issues with mine and I am not sure the frustration is worth it long term. Not having a deep understanding of them is handicapping as well.

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#5

This is kind of what I do for a living, and I have actually gone down the path of using FreeBSD.

I have decided that I don’t need a full server rack at my house (I was tempted) and opted instead for a decent Intel based computer that was nice and quiet running a distribution called FreeNAS. This gives you a web interface to what is effectively a really nice NAS sitting on a ZFS filesystem (this is awesome), but also allows you to set up “jails”. A BSD jail is like a really lightweight virtual machine and I have most of the things I need set up on it.

Caveat: I was thinking of using a RPi for the OpenHAB component just to keep it seperate, but I haven’t actually gotten that far.

Hit me up if you need some specific advice.

Alex

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#6

Thanks @professor_alex,

Thats kind of what I was thinking, but I have a server half rack in the office anyway.

I would like a more cleaner, easier to maintain setup and contemplated on getting a Rack NAS and having a new AMD machine just for home automation and other virtual machine tasks.
I use a lot of my setup for work so any upgrades can be justified under my company, so I don’t mind spending a few extra $$ if it will benefit my work.

#7

I have a RPi 3B+ that I use as a headless automation server. Raspbian Lite, running Home Assistant and Node Red in Docker containers. That way if I want or need to transfer to new hardware, I can just run those 2 containers, copy over my config backups and be back online in minutes.

I don’t have a need for a commercial server. I have the aforementioned Pi for my dedicated automation controller, and an A8-7600 based box that was originally my HTPC that I re-purposed into a rack box and is primarily a Plex server.

I’m considering more Pi units for my VPN gateway and my Google Assistant webserver. It’s probably silly, but I like the assurance of dedicated hardware. If one system dies it doesn’t wipe my whole house out. It’s the same reason I’d never buy an integrated DVD player/AV receiver, or washer/dryer combo. Plus if I break something majorly on one machine, I can just swap out a clean install on another SD card. I know I could do this with virtualisation, and I put a bunch of hours into trying to set up a KVM environment on a test machine, but be buggered if I could get even close to spinning up a working 18.04 Server VM.

#8

I’ve Stared using Home-Assitant on a Rpi3 moved to a docker container on Synology Then back to a Pi util my add-ons got too hungry or until i had too many add-ons… i now have a intel NUK with ESXi running. I could also have only ubuntu with Hassio on top

#9

In production I use a Linux distribution called Proxmox VE as a virtualisation hypervisor. It allows you to do full virtualisation (much like VMWare) and LXC Linux Containers (much lighter weight). It’s free and very powerful.

I can highly recommend it.

#10

I personally use 3 servers,

  1. pfsense firewall/gateway
  2. freenas for general storage, torrent jails, and iSCSI
  3. ESXi for vm’s ie. Openhab1, Openhab2, several debian vms for different services like mosquitto, apt-mirror for my most used linux distros, mysql, etc…

I know u can run all the esxi stuff on freenas but I prefer to snapshot my changes in vmware so I have instant rollback options and the ability to clone my openhab for several “testing” instances so my house doesnt go wonky when I add/develop new devices/plugins…
Hope this helps!!!

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#11

Wow what a setup @JacobJohnson, any reason you separated your services like mosquitto and mysql? is it more for flexibility when changing up openhab and plugins?
Also do you use just vSphere Hypervisor or the paid version?

I think I have come to a conclusion on my upgrade, as I have been using VM’s more and more I am going to pour a bit into a new server and possibly a separate NAS for the data.
Have never bought AMD before but looking at their Ryzen 7 2700 chip coupled with some 32GB of ram looks plenty for running VMs for OpenHab, Laragon etc.

AMD seems good value for an 8 core chip in compared with Intel :money_mouth_face: I have always bought/built Intel, but my servers have always been rolled down from a previous workstation.
This time when I would normally upgrade my WS, the lack in performance jumps since 3 years ago, and my lesser involvement in CAD software (and more involvement in less CPU/GPU tasks like programming) has left me hanging onto my current WS as it hammers everything I throw at it.

#12

Proxmox is what I am currently running on my big server box.Well, it is installed but the box is shut down until I have time to figure it all out. Looks like a great setup though.

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#13

If you want to know anything about how Proxmox works, I am happy to help.

#14

I use the free version esxi (only because it’s old tried & true software) (hyper-v isnt bad but MS storage spaces lost 64tb of my data over a driver update so I’m anti MS as much as possible… I have all of my services in separate VM’s to simplify recovery in case of a failed updates or other unforeseen problems (I snapshot every time anything small changes)… I use pre-ryzen era 8 core AMD for a few years now with zero issues…

#15

As I was about to drop some big $$$ on a new server setup, I went through and done some diagnostics on my current X58, mainly to see if I can extend its life till at least the storage is closer to 80% full and I have more devices around the house to warrant an upgrade. And I hate wasting things that still have a little life left.

I found a doggy ram stick and a leaking capacitor on the MB, lucky I have a ton of reasonably good condition old hardware for parts (a good “I told you so” moment for my hording with the wife). What do you know, had it under 100% load for 48 hours without any issues. I am limited on VM’s as it only has 4 cores and 20GB of Ram, but I only have the host OS dealing with storage and home automation and a VM with a VPN.

If I really get the shits with Windows I may load FreeNAS up as I spent a bit of time looking over it on the weekend and I am pretty impressed, just not sure how it may cope with running several VM’s to split off the home automation.

#16

Freenas is awesome… heck spin it up in a vm with some small virtual drives and play with litterally removing and re-organizing the drives… surprisingly hard to loose data as long as u dont have physical problems… also check out zerotier as an alternate vpn… so much less host overhead and way easier to set up new devices…

#17

Good idea @JacobJohnson, get me used to the UI. Never heard of zerotier, looks a really interesting project.

#18

I really like FreeNAS, and if your service can fit into a jail, it is very lightweight. It will work with older hardware, just make sure you have a minimum of 8GB of RAM.

I can second @JacobJohnson in that the ZFS layer on FreeNAS makes it very hard to lose (or corrupt) data. You can configure regular snapshots (I do hourly and keep them for a month, weekly and keep them for 6 months) which work really well as it is a Copy-On-Write filesystem.

ZFS is why we can have nice things.

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