This is a full rackmount storage server, also known as a NAS (Network Attached Storage.) This hardware and software is enterprise-grade and is built with redundancy and fault tolerance to preserve the data even during hardware failure.
The case is a 2U server chassis with a SATA backplane for 12 3.5″ hard drives that are in hot-swap trays.
The System is a SuperMicro X8DTN+ server motherboard with 24 GB of ECC DDR3 RAM and Dual Xeon L5630 2.13ghz quad core processors for a total of 16 processing threads. It has dual redundant power supplies as well.
There is a built-in ICH10 SATA controller on board, but the ZFS file system (an enhanced file system instead of RAID) works better with a SAS controller in non-raid (IT) mode. The controller selected is an IBM M1015 which has been flashed to an LSI firmware in IT mode. The two 8087 ports output to two 4-SATA breakout cables to control 8 SATA disks.
There is a special daughterboard installed, called an IPMI board. This operates even when the system is powered off but still plugged in. It has a separate LAN (network) connection which allows you to have direct remote management to the bare metal of the machine, including the BIOS, and mount disk images to it from anywhere to install an operating system or turn the power on and off.
There are 3 gigabit LAN network ports in addition to the IPMI port which can be aggregated (teamed) together for more network bandwidth. This would require a Managed (Level 2) network switch. Not currently needed for this application.
The OS runs from a 16GB SSD running from the on-board controller and velcroed to the inside of the plastic cooling shroud over the RAM.
The Hard Disk storage array is 7 Western Digital 4 TB Red SATA Hard disks in a RaidZ2 array. RaidZ2 is a ZFS designation for 2 drives worth of parity (error-checking.) This means that one or two drives can fail and be replaced without the data being affected or even taken offline.
The 4 TB drives actually are 3.73 TB usable. This means that 7×3.73 TB = 26.11 TB total, but 7.46 TB is used for the parity information. So you end up with 18.65 TB usable.
The operating system is FreeNAS, which is a project designed specifically for creating a secure, enterprise-class storage system using ZFS fault-tolerance. It is based on FreeBSD, a unix operating system known for its security and reliability, even more so than Linux. FreeNAS provides a nice web-GUI for remotely managing and administering the server as well as an easy way to add functionality to the server.
This server has a few important functions that it performs on the network:
Plex Media Server – all of the video and music files stored on the server are being provided to devices around the home including Roku3, iPad, and Android. The Plex library is also shared to friends and family outside the home.
File Storage and Backup – several PCs in the home are using Acronis True Image to back up their entire OS as well as important documents, files and folders to the server. Commonly used and shared files are also stored there for easy backup.