Other Build Bits
Once we had the chassis, CPU, and motherboard aligned, we still had a few more bits to get together.
One of the quirks of using the SilverStone CS381 is that it uses a SFX or SFX-L power supply. These days, SFX PSUs are plenty powerful and quiet, but they are also more costly. Needing a small PSU in a big chassis like the CS381 seems counterintuitive.
As a quick note here, you do not have to use a SilverStone PSU with the CS381, we just did to match.
For memory, this is easy. We are using 2x32GB DDR4 ECC RDIMMs. We would have used simply 2x 16GB but the 32GB modules were already installed so that was easy. We see some people putting 128GB of memory in small ZFS servers like this. Even 64GB is overkill for most when running a few smaller VMs such as a Ubiquiti UniFi controller. Still, we had lots of extra DDR4-2133 and DDR4-2400 because most of the memory we are using these days is DDR4-2933 or 3200. Since it was there, and the slots were open, why not.
For boot media, we would normally use a SATA DOM, but we did not have an easy SATA DOM power source on the motherboard so instead, we are using a small boot drive which again saves cost and power.
For hard drives, we are mostly using Western Digital EasyStore shucks in 10TB capacities. We actually have a great reason for this and it is around the next series we are doing with the HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus after our Ultimate Customization Guide. If you think this is a cool build, just wait. An interesting point about our 10TB drives is that they are actually all from different purchase batches. They were manufactured on different days and months. We actually do this intentionally even on small servers as it helps mitigate the risks of a bad batch of drives.
We also added a SATA SSD (Intel DC S3610 480GB) that we had here simply because we had them and figure we can use for L2ARC/ VM duties.
This was selected because it was what we had on-hand.
Building the FreeNAS TrueNAS Core ZFS mATX Appliance
The build process was extremely simple. A nice feature with embedded boards like the one we are using is that we did not need to even add a single PCIe card to get the drive connectivity nor the 10GbE networking for the build.
We again wanted to reiterate something from our original SilverStone CS381 Review, there are so many screws when building this platform. It is not difficult, but it feels almost oppressive with just how many screws there are in this chassis. Still, it is a one time deal.
Overall, the build process took about 90 minutes. While that is not too long for a system like this, but it is also much longer than using a pre-built solution.
Getting TrueNAS Core Running
Luckily this part was a breeze. One of the benefits of using embedded hardware that has been on the market for a long time is that everything installs. We could put virtually any OS and the solution will work out of the box.
We were originally going to have a big section here on how to setup TrueNAS Core on a system like this, especially given it will not be released for several weeks. Instead, the process was:
- Log into remote iKVM
- Load TrueNAS Core nightly build ISO
- Boot System
- Follow the handful of command prompts to install and set a default password
- Login to TrueNAS Core
Actually, the longest operation, by far, was copying the OS files over the remote iKVM. The ASRock Rack platform we are using is still the AST2400 generation of BMC and sometimes those are not the fastest. From there, setting up a RAID-Z2 array and network shares was very easy:
Again, this is the advantage of using a proven platform for storage. Everything just works out of the box. After the system booted, we set up our array and SMB sharing. Within 5-10 minutes, we were transferring files over the 10GbE network port.
While we had plenty of opportunities to push boundaries, instead we had something that was super simple to set up. If you generally understand NAS basics, you can go from bare system to storing data very fast without using a CLI. Synology, QNAP, and others have more polished interfaces that hide some of the less attractive bits such as the mid-1990s themed FreeNAS installer, but in terms of actual difficulty, this was probably a 1 of 10. The FreeNAS/ TrueNAS Core teams have done a great job making some of the directional decisions that greatly enhanced the user experience here.
Next, we are going to discuss power consumption before getting to some final thoughts.