Thursday, May 6, 2010

Media Nirvana Versus the Lack of Disk Space

One of my past projects (that I will outline as I revisit it in the future) was to build a home theatre PC that would serve up all my TV and stored media at my main viewing location. That project went very well and my family has been thoroughly enjoying it ever since. And that is my problem. It has been so well loved that in order to make full use of it, I need more disk space. A lot more disk space. This presents several problems, least of which being a lack of available drive slots in my chassis.

Every problem has a solution however, and mine is usually to throw hardware at it. This problem opportunity would finally give me the chance to justify a network-attached storage device. As with any other project, a plan is required; so keeping in mind my immediate needs and those that might arise in the future, I have come up with a list of features my NAS should have.
  • Must support at least 3 hard drives
  • Must support JBOD and RAID levels 0/1/5
  • Must support RAID level migration and RAID expansion
  • Must have at least 1 Gigabit ethernet port
  • Must be networkable with Microsoft OSes
  • Must support headless operation
  • Should support HDD SMART
  • Should provide a DLNA/uPnP media server
  • Should provide web server capability
  • Should provide a print server for my Lexmark X1110 (unless I buy a network-attached printer)
  • Should operate in a low power envelope
  • (Option) support RAID level 6
  • (Option) 2 Gigabit ports and IEEE 802.3ad (aka IEEE 802.1AX-2008) Link aggregation
  • (Option) Hot-swap support
  • (Option) support for automated backup from network machines
  • (Option) support for FTP, iTunes, and BitTorrent servers
  • (Option) run VMWare ESXi for this server and other virtual appliances (firewall, VPN, DHCP, DNS, Active Directory, etc.)
Not too much, right? Aside from the last optional point, a lot of NAS devices on the market can meet most of these needs. For quite a while I was sold on the QNAP TS-409 and nearly just went with it until I realized I could build one myself for about the same price. Yes, I lose out on their software package; but I can do anything at all with my hardware and get the satisfaction of doing it myself.

Next time, I will outline the parts I have acquired and what kind of money this will involve for those following along. In the meantine, I have decided to name this Project: Hydra to represent the many heads my hardware will have whether they all exist in a single install or if I use ESXi to run multiple virtual machines.

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