I recently picked up a Supermicro 16 bay chassis to build my NAS with and now I am trying to determine what motherboard/CPU combo would do well with my requirements.
The system will be used almost exclusively as a file and media server. I will not be running VMs or Plex or other apps on it. I do need it to be reasonably power efficient, reliable, and with room for expansion. I will most likely use 2 PCI slots upfront (HBA and 2.5GbE network card). Having it run reasonably cool would be nice, since it will be located in a garage which experiences temp fluctuations with the seasons). I anticipate having 24TB of storage to start with and potentially grow it to 48-64TB within a year.
The primary question is, should I go with Core or Xeon based build? My friend who built a similar server went with X13SAE-F + i3-13100 (with ECC RAM). I’ve read multiple posts of people using older used Xeon mobos + CPUs, so it can work either way, but do I gain/lose anything by using one platform vs the other? Suggestions appreciated.
The other question is, how much memory should I start with - 64GB?
Since it sounds like this is just going to be a pure fileserver (No VM’s, No Containers, No Plex, etc) then you should probably just go for the lowest cost lowest TDP CPU / motherboard platform you can find.
A 10 year old Celeron can likely saturate a 2.5G network connection if all it needs to do is move files back and forth.
Are you planning on using ZFS? If so I would probably go with 16 GB - 32 GB of ECC memory, which would mean sticking to a Xeon, Celeron, Pentium, or Core i3. (No Core i5, i7, or i9 which don’t support ECC) as well as a motherboard that supports ECC memory (Typically an Intel “C” series chipset (C222, C224, C226, C236, C246, etc)
Otherwise 8 GB - 16 GB of non-ecc memory and any processor / motherboard that is cheap and low power should be just fine.
I would look at the lower cost / TDP platforms from the NK 5.0 guide. Maybe something like an E3-1240L V3 which runs about $30 and has a TDP of 25 watts. If you want to save a little up-front maybe a Pentium G3240 it has a TDP of 53 watts but at idle is probably about the same as the L series Xeon. Both of those processors and the NK 5.0 guide are based on the LGA 1150 platform.
What OS / Filesystem are you planning on using?
Thank you for a thoughtful reply.
I am planning to run TrueNAS Core (so ZFS is implied).
I know I put 2.5Gbe in my message, but it may actually end up being 10Gbe, so the choice of motherboard/CPU should be able to support that. I am not necessarily after the cheapest combination, but don’t also need something overpowered and thus with higher TDP.
32GB of ECC memory sounds like a good start. I read somewhere that with ZFS the rule of thumb is 1GB per 1TB of storage, so that’s why I asked about 64GB for future proofing.
If you think you will eventually want more than 32GB then defiantly go with LGA 1151 or newer (NK 6.0) since LGA 1150 (NK 5.0) maxes out at 32GB.
That said 1GB RAM per TB of data is a general rule and doesn’t really take into account usage. If you are accessing a huge number of small files from many different clients and are looking to max out a 10Gbps link then more Ram is going to be better. If you have a few clients pulling large movie files over the network a few at a time then your bottle neck is just going to be your disks and 32GB will be more than enough for the foreseeable future.
If you want to build something now but leave yourself some headroom to grow over time then I think the NK 6.0 is the way to go. You can get an LGA 1151 board that supports 8th / 9th gen (Coffee Lake) CPUs and ECC memory, 32GB of ECC RAM, and a low TDP Core i3 processor that should be plenty for your current use case, but will be an easy upgrade to expand up to 128GB of Ram and swap in a Xeon E-2200 CPU when the prices for those come down.
I found this on STH forums, does this look like a decent option for me?
The Supermicro X11SSH-GF-1585L there.
That looks like a good find to me. It certainly meets all the criteria you mentioned for your file server: Low TDP processor, 64 GB ECC RAM, enough PCIe expansion for your HBA and NIC, IPMI, and it even has an i350 intel dual Gig NIC which is a nice bonus. The price is not unreasonable for what you are getting.
It has some downsides but given your setup I don’t think you will have any problems.
The CPU is soldered onto the board so you won’t be able to upgrade it, but it is already more than enough to run your file server. It sounds like you are not planning on transcoding so the older iGPU shouldn’t be an issue. If you did want to transcode you would likely want at least a Kaby Lake or newer CPU.
The CPU heatsink will require strong airflow front to back, so it wouldn’t work in a tower, but you already have a rack-mount chassis. It might be designed for some sort of shroud to direct airflow, although at 45 watt TDP you will probably be just fine with the airflow from the fans in your case. Worst case you could make a shroud out of cardboard.
The motherboard takes sodimms which can be harder and a little more expensive to find, but it comes with 64GB already included so that shouldn’t be an issue.
Basically you could probably put together a system that is a couple of generations newer and a little more upgradable for around the same price, but it probably wouldn’t make much / any difference for your use case. I think this is a good fit for you and if the seller was willing to drop the price a little then it would be even better.
The chassis actually did come with an airflow shroud.
Out of curiosity, I looked at NK 6.0 guide. The only motherboard mentioned there with ECC support is X11SCA-F (which is around $110 shipped from China). I think i3-8100 should be fine? That can be had for ~$45. i3-9300 is maybe $110 (pre-owned). Heatsink is another $15-$18. Crucial 2x16GB ECC RAM is $58.
So $230-$290 depending on the processor. Is there another motherboard I should look at? And is i3-9300 an overkill?
The X11SCA-F seller is legit, several folks on here have bought from them; I am one of them. It took about 3 weeks to arrive and I have had no issues with it. They might even take an offer of $100.
I would go for the i3-8100 at $45. The main advantage of the i3-9300 is that it will boost under load, but that will also pump your TDP. I don’t think it is worth a nearly 250% price hike. The i3-8100 should be plenty and as a bonus it has a fairly modern iGPU if you decide you want to transcode with it in the future.
What memory kit are you looking at? The X11SCA-F takes Unbuffered ECC memory (UDIMM) and will not work with Registered ECC Memory (RDIMM)
I haven’t looked at a memory kit yet. Do you have any suggestions? Also, should I look at maybe another motherboard with similar specs?
Sure you need to have ECC?
Any Consumer / Workstation motherboard that supports ECC will require UDIMMs. To use RDIMMS you need to step up to a Server platform.
The best deal I have found for DDR4 ECC UDIMMS is to buy new from Micron: https://www.crucial.com/memory/server-ddr4/mta18asf4g72az-3g2r
The price keeps creeping up, but I think there is a long standing promo code “CRUCIAL10” which should give you 10% off. You might be able to find something cheaper on Ebay.