Combined NAS and Media transcoder

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by ensamgud, May 6, 2012.

  1. ensamgud New Member

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    ensamgud, May 6, 2012

    Hi, I'm currently looking into centralizing all my spread out USB and internal drive storage and am putting together a new box. Planned to use a NetGear NAS Ultra first but I changed my mind and will go with custom box + FreeNAS. (mainly to even out the costs over a couple of months, but it also seems more future proof, plus I want something to build)

    At first I planned to have it as a strict NAS, handling only storage, but as I frequently stream and transcode video to my entertainment room from my desktop PC (currently), I am now thinking if I could put some more (or at least better) hardware into the NAS box and perhaps give it the role of my video transcoder as well? Currently I am using PS3 Media Server for this and it works very well for my purposes.

    What kind of hardware would be required to have FreeNAS running smoothly (quite large torrent throughput, running basically 24/7) and have it transcode full HD videos (using for example PS3 Media Server) a couple of nights each week? I know transcoding is pretty heavy stuff, especially 1080p, and my desktop PC currently doing it has good hardware and lots of RAM so I'm not really sure abot the lower limit.

    Is it unwise to combine FreeNAS with transcoding?

    The box needs high wife approval factor, so I'm going for a fanless power supply and a micro ATX card and a decent looking, probably "box-like", silent case. For storage I'm thinking up to four 2-3TB drives in RAID5.
    I really want to avoid a GPU because of the noise/heat, will a decent CPU be enough to run the FreeNAS and do transcoding of 1080p?

    The alternative is to build my new box for storage only, (a bit cheaper/less hardware) and keep using my desktop PC to transcode the movies - eventually get a Boxee or something that can replace the PS3 Media Server desktop.

    Also, will I lose the stored data if I start with a single drive (say a 3TB disk), fill it up and then buy another one and decide to create a RAID configuration?

    Thanks
  2. joeschmuck Old Man

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    joeschmuck, May 6, 2012

    As-is the FreeNAS does not transcode at all. You can get it to support DLNA but again that is not transcoding. I have read that some people were able to add MediaTomb to get transcoding to work but I personally haven't gone down that route. One problem you might run into with adding a second disk later to create a RAID is you will lose all your data from the first drive when you create a RAID when adding the second drive. That is pretty much true on any system.
  3. Bever New Member

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    Bever, May 6, 2012

    I wanted to do the same thing as you. But after some reading, I decided it was best not to clutter freenas with too many packages. So I installed ESXi, and created one virtual for freenas and one for an ubuntu 12.04LTS with running Plex for transcoding.

    This is the hardware I am using (plus a WDC Black 1TB for the ESXi install):

    Asus P8Z68-V LX iZ68, SATA600
    Fractal Design Midi Tower Define R3 USB3.0 ATX, No PSU (zwart)
    Intel Core i3 2120 3.30GHz 3MB Box
    Kingston 2x4GB, DDR3, PC10666, CL9
    Nexus Voeding Value 430 430W
    3 Western Digital Harddisk 3.5" 2TB, SATA600, 64MB, WD20EARX

    Looks to be around 40Watt and is really silent (even with the fan on the power supply).
  4. ensamgud New Member

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    ensamgud, May 6, 2012

    Not familiar with ESXi, but virtualisation sounds like a good option. Do you know if that i3 transcodes 1080p on the fly, while keeping freeNAS happy?
  5. Bever New Member

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    Bever, May 6, 2012

    If there is anything in particular you want me to test, let me know.
  6. joeschmuck Old Man

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    joeschmuck, May 6, 2012

    Could you provide a link to this Plex software you mention? I have never used ESXi but it's a very interesting concept. I'm also curious how much hard drive space is required for ESXi and your Ubuntu and FreeNAS VMs. I realize this is an extra drive that must be booted from. I imagine I could fit it into a Flash drive but performance might be impacted.
  7. Bever New Member

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    Bever, May 6, 2012

    Plex is based on XBMC (http://www.plexapp.com/). You can think of it as XBMC in a client server model. You run the Plex server on your media server (you can even run it on some higher end dedicated NAS devices from Synology and Qnap). The client can be installed on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. So generally you put it on your media center PC and your mobile devices. On those mobile devices you need transcoding if you use a codec that is not supported by the mobile OS (so most codecs). That's why in the end I didn't opt for a Synology NAS with Plex capabilities (they are usually Atom based), but went for a PC with FreeNAS based on Intel Core i3 for the transcoding.

    I think 10GB should be enough for ESXi. Ubuntu server edition doesn't take much space either, and neither does FreeNAS. Adding a small extra disk for all this should be sufficient. I haven't got any experience putting all this on USB storage. Be careful though with the hardware you chose. ESXi is rather picky. My onboard USB controller is not recognized by ESXi. Not a problem, as I don't need it, but if you want to install on USB, you might have to insert an extra USB controller.

    One disclaimer. My setup is only a few days old. So far everything works fine, but problems might arise further down the track. Worst case I'll have to go bare metal.
  8. Stenull Member

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    Stenull, May 7, 2012

    Hi Bever. Sounds really nice, this is kind of the thing im looking for :)
    What iDevices do you transcode to?
    Your 3 disks, are they in RaidZ1? And how does ubuntu find them, through a share? are your media in the Freenas realm?
    If you max out your torrent does 1080p transcoding run smoothly, no stutters or framedrops?

    40W is about what i have now on an AMD-350 and 4 disks...
  9. Bever New Member

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    Bever, May 7, 2012

    I have only transcoded from my Media Center PC until now. An Asrock ION 330HT. The playback was not OK for a blu ray rip. However, that was with the old NAS (DNS323) and with a limited Atom CPU in the Media Center. Streamed to an iPad3.

    I am in the process of upgrading the network to gigabit, the wireless network from 54Mbps to 450Mbps, and placing a new NAS. I will let you know the results when I have finished.

    My three disks are in RAIDZ. Ubuntu connects to them over the network, using CIFS. As this goes over the virtual vmware switch, it happens at high speed (iperf gives me 3.3Gbit/s, so network is not the bottleneck - http://forums.freenas.org/showthread.php?5801-VMXNET-3-Driver). All media is on the freenas.

    If you consider using ESXi, you will need to use a trick to be able to use your local disks as RDM: http://vm-help.com/esx40i/SATA_RDMs.php
  10. Stenull Member

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    Stenull, May 7, 2012

    Thanks Bever, sounds really interesting.
    For now im running FC media center on an apple tv 2, But plex is much more appealing. Plex can do airplay to aTv from iPad 3 with out any JB involved.
    And to use my iPad3 to brows my media library in plex style is just KILLER :)
  11. joeschmuck Old Man

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    joeschmuck, May 7, 2012

    Thanks for the information. I like FreeNAS 8.0.4 and it runs stable for me for my uses. If I could add transcoding that would be a huge plus to my setup.
  12. Bever New Member

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    Bever, May 7, 2012

    For the record: I do not want to push anyone into the virtualization direction. I wouldn't be surprised if you get more performance out of a bare metal installation of freenas. For my use however, it is a really nice setup, as I can throw in vituals when I need them for testing, and I can keep freenas clean without any additional services or packages.
  13. ensamgud New Member

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    ensamgud, May 7, 2012

    Good info here, thx.

    I'm gonna start out buying the hardware and assemble the box, make it silent. Meanwhile I'll consider software options, whether to run FreeNAS or unRAID.
    Not a fan of virtualisation and unRAID has a well spoken of Plex addon, and the ability to extend with new drives at will. FreeNAS has better protocol support, probably more stable and better community... Tough choice.
  14. joeschmuck Old Man

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    joeschmuck, May 7, 2012

    @ Bever

    I run VMWare on my main computer so I was looking for the transcoder mainly. I doubt I'll actually convert my FreeNAS box into running on VM however I have run a VM of FreeNAS and that is where I do 99% of my testing as well. Breaking a VM is okay compared to breaking something with all my backup data. I might give ESXi a hard look as well when I have some free time.
  15. Bever New Member

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    Bever, May 9, 2012

    Network, wireless and NAS are ready. I downloaded this: http://isohunt.com/torrent_details/328763465/scarface 1080p amiable?tab=summary and played it through Plex. Went flawless. No stutter.
  16. Brand Moderator

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    Brand, May 9, 2012

    That is not entirely correct. With ZFS it is possible to convert a single drive to a mirrored drive setup without loosing data.
  17. joeschmuck Old Man

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    joeschmuck, May 10, 2012

    If you are going to quote me, do it right as you make it sound like I said it can't be done without loosing data. I did say he might have this problem. I personnaly don't know how to add a second drive to create a mirrored ZFS but I didn't think it could be done from the GUI, but I could be wrong.
  18. Bever New Member

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    Bever, May 10, 2012

    I measured it today with an energy meter. System turned on with no special activity: 46W. Under heavy disk IO on all 3 data disks in the pool: 56W. I doubt it the disks spin down when idle in this setup (is next on my list to investigate), so 46W is probably the lowest I will get.

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