My humble Potato, erm…I mean NK4
Hi everyone! Been a while since my original build post, but been busy
burning a hole in my wallet I mean building!
Today I wanted to take some time and share my completed build for my NAS Killer 4.0, originally shown in a build log here on the forums, which I affectionately refer to as “The Potato”
4C/8T (Hyper-Threading Disabled) @ 3.3GHz, 3.7GHz Boost
6x7mm 2.5" Bays
4x15mm 2.5" Bays
2x PCIe M.2 Slots
It’s been a bit, and my homelab adventure has changed and morphed a lot since that build log. Back in Jan/Feb, I built The Potato in a Cooler Master Elite 350 case. I crammed as many drives as I could in that box and built a cool little Ubuntu server. The box worked alongside a cluster of Raspberry Pis, an ODROID-N2, and an HP ProDesk 400 G4 to serve Plex (and associated services), Nextcloud, a Grafana/Prometheus monitoring stack, and Bitwarden all in Docker.
The Potato Mk. I
However, as my needs for continually more drive space grew, I realized the limitations of that box. Enter, The Rosewill L4000 (sorta). I re-cased my NK4 into this box and added a GPU, more drives, and a new and improved PSU! I converted to Proxmox from Ubuntu and recreated my docker stack in an Ubuntu VM. Finally some real homelabbing!
The slightly larger, but still very starchy Potato. Mk II.
Re-cased and re-homed in a Startech 25U rack, I then decided to follow JDM’s guide on Unraid Gaming (substituting Proxmox for Unraid) and voila! My NK4 could run Civ 6! Sea of Thieves! However, performance on the Xeon E3-1230v2 and 32GB of RAM was not quite strong enough to run the full set of applications I wanted alongside this. So I started another build with a bit more horsepower (more on this in another post)
But, I couldn’t forget my trusty Potato! This box was my start and so I decided that it needed to keep running and it’s processor and RAM were more than enough to add to a Proxmox cluster. So, after I finished my new build I decided to re-re-case my Potato into a 2U box. The following is that build.
|Case||iStarUSA D-214-MATX||1||$74.99||2x 5.25" Slots|
|PSU||EVGA 600 BQ 600W||1||$35.99||80+ Bronze, 600W, Semi-Modular - B-Stock Sale|
|5.25" Adapter||Icy Dock 5.25" to 6x 2.5" ExpressCage||1||$70.99||Slots are 7mm, actively-cooled, external & hot-swappable|
|5.25" Adapter||iStarUSA 1x5.25" to 4x2.5" SAS/SATA 6.0Gbps Backplane||1||$70.99||Slots are SAS/SATA, actively cooled, and external/hot-swappable. 15mm slots.|
|Motherboard||Supermicro X9SCM-F||1||$49.95||IPMI, Xeon Ivy Bridge v2, 4 ECC UDIMM & 4 PCIe slots|
|IO Shield||Supermicro MCP-260-00027-0N||1||$5.98||Motherboard didn’t come with IO Shield|
|CPU||Intel Xeon E3-1230v2||1||$54.00||4 Cores, Hyper-Threading disabled to mitigate Spectre/Meltdown since this is a hypervisor build|
|RAM||8GB DDR3-1600MHz ECC UDIMM||4||$203.36|
|CPU Cooler||Thermaltake Gravity i2||1||$11.99||Actually has a bit of clearance in the 2U, no CPU overtemp issues|
|Case Fans||Arctic P8 PWM PST 80mm Fans||2||$10.80||Fans are intake|
|HBA||LSI SAS9211-4i||1||$24.95||Used, x4 PCIe 2.0 so 4Gbps per drive|
|SATA Cables||Relper-Lineso 18" Straight SATA3 Cable||6||$7.99||Yellow|
|SAS-to-SATA Cable||CABLEDECONN Mini SAS 36 SFF-8087 to 4xSFF-8482 with SATA power||1||$25.98||SAS Drives need power/signals too|
|ATX & EPS Power Extension Cables||Silverstone Tek Sleeved Extension Power Supply Cables||1/ea||$27.31||Required because of case layout|
|PCIe-to-M.2 NVMe Adapter||MHQJRH M.2 NVMe to PCIe Gen 3 x4 Adapter||2||$23.98||Includes a 80mm heatsink, but with rubber bands for attachment|
Wow! That hurts to look at. Part of the high price for this build was that a lot of these components were purchased piecemeal. If I did this all as one build, would I have spent the extra $$ on certain components?
Initial Rebuild, shortly before adding the power extension cables
So, this build has definitely taken an interesting path. But when I went to actually assemble the box, I found some fun issues. For starters, the case I bought has a couple of flaws that for many of you might be deal breakers:
- The PSU placement puts it directly opposite the common ATX/EPS Power Connector placement on many motherboards
- The 4x 3.5" slots had to be removed, because any attempt to actually fit a real 3.5" HDD in this case would not allow room for cabling - and the drives would hit the motherboard
- The 2x5.25" slots have very little cable clearance with the placement of the PSU
- Finally, the PSU itself can only vent upwards out of the case - there is no room above/below and this is by design (the case has a cutout on top to allow for airflow, but it will prevent you from placing another case above this in a rackmount setting
Additionally, because this build is a re-cased NK4 and not a fresh build, some components were more of afterthoughts - such as the HBA and specific drive cages. I really wanted to use parts I had already bought and not have to buy new. Did that end up costing me more in the end?
The new case, all boxed up
That said, I think it came together really nicely. Here’s some positive results!
- The box has no noticeable temperature issues which I was very much afraid of and the build is borderline silent with the 80mm Arctic fans at 100%
- I was able to add 2 cheap NVMe drives in my Gen 3 PCIe slots, so now I have fast storage for Proxmox VMs
- The HBA and 6 onboard SATA ports allow me to cram a bunch of SATA SSDs and 10K SAS HDDs in this box - at time of writing I have 2x300GB 10K HDDs in my Proxmox root ZFS pool and 5x240GB + 1x120GB SATA SSDs in a ZFS RAID10 pool (not exactly RAID10, but a stripe of mirrors)
Most importantly, I get to add 32GB of RAM and 4 more cores to my Proxmox cluster, which otherwise would just be sitting around - this is what this build was all about!
The Potato Mk. III in its new home
Overall, this build will always be special to me since it was my first PC build ever. I got quite a system for less than my brother spent on a GPU (although that’s not saying much in 2021). This system is capable, compact and most of all it was fun! If I were to do it again, I might change some things, particularly the case, but overall I really like what I got for the money. I can’t wait to share my next build with you all!
Until next time.