Home storage refresh

Back on my old blog that I had 10 years ago (yes. it seems like forever ago and it probably is) I did write about building my homelab setup. At that time I used a HP Microserver NL54 (AMD Turion II based dual core) as both VMWare ESXi and ZFS storage. Needless to say that wasn’t and ideal setup in the long run but before hardware started to be limiting the hard drives started to fail. WD Greens will never again be used for anything by me.

So in 2013 I decided that I needed to solve my storage needs first so I built a ZFS NAS from scratch. I required a physically small setup since I don’t really have room for big noisy servers at home at the moment. The result was a small mini-ITX based Debian server with a Intel Pentium G2030 CPU (not at all powerful but can run linux + zfs without problems), 16GB of RAM, a Supermicro SATA controller card (2×4 SATA ports), 2 SSD (one for system and one as SLOG) and 6 WD Red 3TB disks in ZRAID2. All this in a case that is 25cm x 30 cm x 20cm. Brilliant!

Since then I have got rid of the Microserver and replaced some services with Raspberry Pies (PiHole and Unifi controller) and moved some VMs to VMWare Fusion on my primary computer (iMac Retina 27″).

Now it is 2021, the second year of the plague, and my fingers are finally itching to do some system work again. The fact that one of the WD Red drives had errors and kept going offline at times after a pretty decent 7 years of power on time was the decisive factor to do something about this (and that I was running out of space was another). Time to get to work!


So what do I want from a new setup?

  • It must fit in the same size case as that is all the space I have in the cupboard
  • It must have more storage space, preferably at least +50% more usable space
  • It would be nice to have a more powerful CPU so it can run a few VMs or Docker containers
  • It would be nice if it could work as a backup target for my iMac (Time Machine)
  • If possible re-use as much of the old setup to save money

That doesn’t sound that hard does it? It turns out it wasn’t.

What I got

I started off getting some new disks. Two 16TB Seagate EXOS X16 disks to replace the six 3TB WD Reds. Going from ZRAID2 to a simple mirror should also increase the performance quite a bit.

From Tradera (the swedish version of eBay) I managed to get a Intel i5 3550 CPU for 18 Euros. It will fit the current motherboard while giving some more oompf and two more cores.

In order to be able to reinstall the system without trashing the old one (having a rollback option can be very handy, I know this after 25 years in IT) I got a Samsung EVO 870 SSD to be the new system disk.

With this I figured I could get by quite nicely.

Then I thought “if I’m going to work in this small case I may as well do as much as possible at the same time” so I bought two Toshiba N300 8TB disks for a second mirror pair because they were on sale.

Going from 18TB raw disk to 48TB would at least be a significant upgrade. And as it goes from 6 disks to 4 disks I will have two free spots in the HDD cage for easy future expansion if needed. Nice.


Waiting for all the parts to arrive, figuring out what I parts missed to buy and then disassemble the old system and rebuild it a new one. I’ll write about that next.