Final Upgrades Completed – Only Tweaks Left

As it finally started warming up I noticed that our electric bill was not going down as expected. We use electic heat (for hot water as well and we have a heat pump) so one would expect that as temperatures increased the power bill would go down. After some thought, I realized that I had two things in the rack that while helping keep the office warm during winter were not helping at all during the summer.

The lesser of the “problem” children was the HP DL360 Gen7. I used it only for testing – and that utility was greatly reduced when VMware ESXi 7.0 was no longer supported on its architecture – and it was only on for brief periods (it had not been on for over 45 days). While it was powered off, there was still power usage as it was not truely off but in standby mode.

The biggest problem was my Supermicro TrueNAS (FreeNAS) server. That server is a beast with old technology. The specs were:

  • Chassis: Supermicro SuperChassis 825TQ-R740LPB 2U 8 x 3.5″ Drive Bays
  • Power Supply: 2 x 740 Watt PWS-741P-1R Power Supply Platinum
  • Backplane: Supermicro BPN-SAS-825TQ 8-port 2U TQ (W/ AMI 9072)
  • Motherboard: Supermicro X9DR3-LN4F+
  • CPU: 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630 V1 Hex (6) Core 2.3GHz
  • RAM: 32GB DDR3 ECC (8 x 4GB – DDR3 – REG)
  • Storage Controller: LSI 9210-8i 6 GB/S
  • Boot Pool: 2 x Kingston A400 120 GB SSD Mirrored (using motherboard SATA 6 GB/s)
  • Pool_1: 5 x WD Red 3 TB RAIDZ2 (CIFS and PROD VMware VMs)
  • Small_n_Slow Pool: 1 x Western Digital Blue WD3200AAKS 320GB and 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 300 GB (DEV VMware VMs)

I did not need dual Xeons running at up to 95W each. The dual 740W power supplies were not helping either. (Yes, I know that they don’t always draw 740W)

I really love TrueNAS. It has amazing flexibilty and stability. The first plan of attack was to see about swapping out components but even on the used market this would have been costly because, well, it is a server – you can’t easiy swap out the motherboard and put in a single processor with lower power requirements. And that doesn’t address the issue of the dual 740W power supplies. Even the RAM is relatively power hungry compared to modern components. So, that would not work.

I briefly thought about going to an iXsystems TrueNAS Mini but that was not inexpensive either and there is no rackmount model (yes, a little “vanity” on my part). The rackmount TrueNAS systems ain’t cheap either.

After additional thought, I started considering Synology (again). About 10 years ago, I purchased a Synology DS211j. A nice little unit that intoduced me to DSM. Over time, the ability to transcode was degraded by the march of technology. I then purchased a QNAP TS-219P II just to server as a media server. With newer releases of DSM, the perfomance of the 211j became painful. I then upgraded to a DS216+ II and retired the DS211j. Over time, the 1TB drives were upgraded to 2TB drives and then 3TB drives with the older drives being handed down to the older NASes.

Finally, the limitation of the two bays became evident as I increased the number of VMs I had. I had started using iSCSI to increase my storage space between the ESXi server(s) and the NASes. I was then on the quest to upgrade to something that was four-plus drive bays and was rack mountable. I looked at Synology but the four-bay unit was overpriced (in my opinion – yes, I know that rack mount adds about 25% or more for the price as the cooling requirements in a rack has implications and, well, they always seems to charge more for rack gear because they can…). After doing my research, particularly from information from Tom Lawrence of Lawrence Technology Solutions I decided on FreeNAS. After looking at price (including shipping) I ended up with the aforementioned Supermicro server. (Which came with rails. <rant>Why do used server vendors charge for rails? Average $100? What do they do with the ones they can’t sell? Argggg!!!</rant)>

So, I was back at what to replace the TrueNAS server with? Well, I’m back to Synology. A RS1221+ to be exact. It is a nice little box:

  • AMD Ryzen V1500B (64-bit, 4-core 2.2 GHz)
  • 4 GB DDR4 ECC SODIMM expandable to 32 GB (16 GB x 2)
  • 4x RJ-45 1GbE LAN Port
  • 1 x eSATA which I can use for the 4-bay RX418 expansion unit if needed
  • 1 x Gen3 x8 PCIe slot (x4 link)

The RX1221+ is not perfect. At this price level:

  • It should have 10GbE ports by now
  • It only has eSATA expansion for four additional drives – why no SAS or InfiniBand?
  • Only one PCIe slot – it has room for two
  • DSM’s approach to VLANs definately needs work. There is a command line hack to allow multiple VLANs to an interface but the GUI does not easily let you know which is which. Obviously , if you can do it on the command line it can be done in the GUI. This is Linux-based after all. I have a feature request in for that
  • NFS cannot be bound to a specific NIC (or subnet/VLAN). I had my TrueNAS NFS shares split off on a different interface to segregate it from the rest of the network traffic. I like the flexibility of NFS but I am now back to iSCSI. Some say that iSCSI is a little bit faster but it is nice to be able to go directly to the share without having to set up an iSCSI initiator on another device
  • No rails included (see previous rant)

I also added five new Seagate IronWolf 4TB drives. I’m not happy with the shenanigans Western Digital got up to with their Red line. Three of the old WD Red 3TB drives are moved from the old TrueNAS server to the RS1221+ as another pool (SHR2 for the 4TB pool, SRH for te 3TB pool) for backups, additional capacity if needed. The remaining two 3TB drives went to the RS216+ II. That leaves two spare 2TB WD Red drives. I’ll have to figure out what to do with them. Maybe I’ll sell them with the Supermicro server.

The second part of my upgrades was the start to redudancy. While we’ll likely be going back to the office (or maybe not) and classroom by the fall, work/learn-from-home is likely going to stay. And if you are at home you need to ensure that you have connectivity. I added a UniFi SW24 G2 switch as the new core switch leaving the old SW24 as a backup. I still need to figure out what to have as a redundacy for the pfSense firewall. I’d like something rack mounted (with the same number and type of NICs so that I can simply restore the configuration). These are items you can’t just drop down to BestBuy and pick up here.

Anyway, here is what the rack looks like now (all cleaned up):

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