Virtualization Fun

June 23, 2018 1:15am
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So after a handful of learning curves over the last couple of weeks, my Plex server officially has a new home!

Although my hope was to this summer be able to afford the new Synology NAS that I’ve been eyeballing for a couple of years now, I recently found myself in a position to instead upgrade pretty much everything else at a price far more affordable than that NAS, so here we are. 😉

Almost two weeks ago to this day, I discovered /r/homelabsales – a swell subreddit where fellow computer geeks are looking to offload old computers … particularly server-grade hardware that they themselves have acquired on the cheap to play around and learn on. Surprisingly enough, the same night I found the subreddit, I also found someone here in Tampa looking to get rid of a nice, little rackmount server – a Dell R10 with dual CPUs and a small amount of RAM that was still 6x what I was running in my old server!

The cost of $140 seemed pretty good at a glance, so the next day I met up with the guy and drove home with a new-to-me server whose box filled almost the entire trunk of my car… 😯

Since last week, I’ve given myself a bit of a crash course in virtualization – I’ve used plenty of VMs over the years myself, but I’ve never administered one, so I picked up a free copy of VMware’s free software and started tinkering with it. I definitely made a few mistakes along the way, mostly with regards to oversubscribing resources, but I think that’s mostly all behind us and as I type this now, I’ve migrated the Plex application itself over to its own new VM on my new server and I’m working on moving the various download tools that I use to get my media into their own VM as well.

The plan is basically to turn my old server into a de facto NAS – because its only role going forward will be to house hard drives – which will hopefully help to extend its life a bit longer by offloading all of the downloading and transcoding onto the newer and more robust machine, at least until I’m able to pickup that fancy NAS and retire my old desktop hardware turned home server altogether.

It’s crazy to see how far that thing has grown in only a couple of years! When I first started using Plex back in the fall of 2014, I think I had about 1.5 TB of media almost immediately. Six months later I was up to 20 TB, though things admittedly slowed down a bit from there … at least temporarily. Now 3.5 years later, that storage array is up to about 42 TB across 8 disks – two of which are external USB drives because I physically ran out of SATA ports in the box and the last time I messed with adding a new drive on an expansion card, it wiped out a 4 TB disk without a second glance, so I’m rightfully so a little nervous to touch anything else inside until I’ve started migrating data to a better solution!!!

But really, what I’ve got now has been serving me great – the few TB I still have free should last me until I’m ready to make that move and at this point there really isn’t that much more for me to add … or at least not stuff that can’t wait until space isn’t an issue again, anyways.

As for the new server, it’s admittedly pretty neat to watch 16 cores handle more Plex transcoding than I have kids and friends combined right now! The other day I did a test run and started streams on every device I could find in the house – three TVs, my phone, Christopher’s iPad, and my PC – and even with a couple of them transcoding, there was still plenty of overhead to spare, so that makes me happy. I’ve actually been able to use some of the new horsepower to convert 4k videos into encodings that my TV can actually handle, so it’s been neat actually getting to watch some 4k content for a change, too!

If anything, it gives me something new to play with while I save my pennies for the next upgrade.

…and figure out where I’m going to fit a server rack in my bedroom closet…

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