My Homelab – wtf happened

What I started with

What I started with wasn’t actually this QNAP 4-bay NAS but two old HP Proliant DL380 G5. Those were some noisy motherf*ckers. I found them dirt cheap somewhere on ebay and decided I “needed” some of these servers. When I’d lived with my parents, they would have hung me for the noise and the energy costs of these machines. But – I had just become “independent” in my own little one-room apartment and I decided that some humming servers would be the best fit for me to experiment and host some gameservers while studying computer science.

The two servers arrived and were installed by me right beneath my desk. I was a little “surprised” when it turned these beasts on and I had a howling tornado siren in my apartment. But thank god – after the self test the servers were just as loud as a landing helicopter and maybe just a little bit noticeable after I put my headphones on. ( I had some interesting discussions on the Teamspeak Server if i should use Voice Activation). So I started experimenting and using these devices 24/7. I started with Hyper-V and some Windows “Server” administration (yeah – I now know better). Initial steps in creating VMs and Replication were done.

The Expanse…

I was already infected with the Homelab-Virus and in the meantime I bought the already seen QNAP NAS – which I quickly grew out of. I planned to use it as iSCSI Target and using it as a space to put my files, while still running my HP servers. I looked on Ebay for interesting findings and quickly became aware that I wanted servers that weren’t as noisy as the HP DL380 G5.

I found a reasonable priced 24U Rittal Rack and filled it with some Chenbro Cases. These were outfitted with custom hardware and were a lot quieter and then my old HP servers. They quickly replaced them. I also experimented with pfSense and flashing a WatchGuard x750 to use this Firewall Distribution.

Lucky findings on Ebay

While always looking for interesting, quiet and not so energy hungry servers, I came across the HP N40L Microserver. This was, what I should have bought instead of the QNAP NAS. It would have fitted my requirements better than the kind of unflexible NAS. Please don’t get me wrong – Network Attached Storage Systems (whether from QNAP or f.e. Synology) are quite useful – but not if you want to learn, customize a system to your needs and fiddle around with it in inappropriate ways. These things are not the servers I needed them to be.

The HP N40L is small but efficient server gear. I should have bought two and let them run in a Cluster and everything would habe been fine.

But I stumbled upon a Storage Server with an odd naming. Knowing from my long nights on Ebay – this was a Supermicro Case – i bid on them and got a 3U SC843 Case with Mainboard, 32Gb of ECC DDR3 ram and two Intel Xeon X5650 dirt cheap for less than 100€ (some when in 2013) .

It has grown …

I started planning projects, Exchange Server, Active Directory, Offsite Backup, additional JBOD Case, Webservers, Reverse Proxy, Nextcloud. A network infrastructure started forming in my head. I didn’t check with reality and was still acquiring hardware. I was a little bit too euphoric and excessive, sold the 24U rack and upgraded to a full size 48U rack.

This would not been possible if I hadn’t made some deals with mit girlfriend. She would get a full size shoe cabinet while I was getting my rack.

Current state

The current state of the Rack is the following (from top to bottom)

  • 1U TP Link Smart Switch
  • 2U -Hyper-V Server
    • pfsense
    • several webservers
    • is on 24/7
  • IP KVM
  • 1U Supermicro Project Server for Puppet
  • 1U Supermicro Server for Software Development Projects
  • 1U Supermicro Server (will become my offsite Backup)
  • 2U Supermicro Server (will become my onsite Backup)
  • 3U Supermicro Server (mentioned above)
    • 3x 4TB, 8x 2TB WD Red
    • 4x 256 Samsung Evo SSD
    • 96Gb RAM
    • Main File Server
    • Is also used by my girlfriend for gaming
  • HP DL 160 G7 – No CPU / RAM / HDD – needs to be sold
  • 2nd 3U Supermicro Server (Project still open)
  • APC 750 USV
  • APC 1500 USV

In the back is an full height APC metered PDU

Project Outlook

I’m actually trying to reduce energy costs as a kWh costs me around 29 Cents. So I won’t expand the amount of servers anymore. Maybe I’ll start to replace the old Hardware inside some server cases with some newer generation stuff. Replacing the power supply units to the SQ Models to reduce the noise would be a good idea too- I might be at the noise level I started with.

So – in the end there are still some projects left. As always.