Redesigning my Infrastructure.

For many years I’ve had many servers. I had like 19 servers (OS wise) on 5-6 physical machines.

I had 5 rack servers and a desktop PC with 6 1TB drives in raidz2 (Raid 6) for iSCSI storage to a three node vmware cluster. And then there was my workstation with 2x R9 290 GPU’s. ALOT of power consumption.

Since i now live off the grid and rely on solar power, I can only power one device at a time, maybe two on a good sunny day.

I’ve been playing with the thought of building a multiuser PC since 2013/2014. When I saw Linus tech tips 7 gamers 1 CPU, that idea was reignited.

I have one requirement:
Storage MUST be on ZFS.

I have a mainboard with 8 on mainboard SATA connectors and 2 eSATA for a total of 10 drives. I have 5x 2TB Enterprise drives and 1x 1TB desktop drive aswell as a 250GB SSD available.

The mainboard is capable of creating a 6 drive raid 5 array. But I dislike onboard raid cards as I cannot move the array away from that mainboard and would have to get a new one in case of a defunt on the mainboard. ZFS does not have that limitation. But I wanted Debian to boot from ZFS as the host operating system for a KVM platform. This had previously proven to be quite difficult back in 2013 and 14 hence i ditched the idea.

Linus brought me “unraid” which had the ability to create redundant storage pools. Easily imported on a different machine. I played around with it but quickly got anoyed with all the small quirks and  bugs such as, all vm’s vanishing from the management interface on reboot…. I then installed vmware which worked. GPU passthrough worked but cpu performance on my 6 core FS 6300 wth 16GB ram. I then gave unraid a shot again and dropped it again, back to vmware must work somehow! It did not. Eventually I got pissy and left the pile standing for a week. I had wasted three days of my time already…

Yesterday I decided to go “the detour” and attempt to do what i want with KVM on a Debian system.

I used this guide to make debian boot from a raidz2: 

For once a guide that works without a hitch. (Apart from my own typo’s hehe)

Subsequently I created a zfs snapshot for temporary backup and installed LXDE on the machine for a desktop environment. It failed. I didnt care. I reverted the zfs snapshot, rebooted the machine and tried again. This time it worked. Odd.

I don’t know what has changed in the linux world, but with Debian 9.1 I had to do very little troubleshooting and fiddling about in order to get things to run The only thing I had to do was install LXDE twice. I am used to having to fiddle about with stuff… kinda cool that things work now!

I used this guide to configure passthrough and exclude the drivers from being loaded.

I can now pass through the gpu’s to two win10 machines and game with friends when I have visitors. Technically, I could dump in 4 more GPU’s but the sun doesnt shine enough for that :/

A friend of mine is getting a similar system once he goes to buy that CPU that can entertain him for years to come instead of going to “the office” and wasting an equivalent amount of money for single-day entertainment.

He will be happy the system though 🙂 He will find it quite cool to be able to install linux or a different windows machine for his development work while having a different computer for gaming, browsing and virus dangerous activities. The two machines are not connected. one machines virus will not affect the other.