A home server using VMware ESX and ZFS

February 16, 2011 Comments

Server CaseIf you are like me, and you like technology, you probably find yourself wanting to try the latest operating systems and software. You also likely have a router for your network, a NAS device for your storage, and maybe a web server for a blog or wiki. After a while, you end up with the situation shown in the picture below, a closet full of servers.

The picture below is of my server closet from 2004. I had a custom Linux router, a NAS box, a VoIP server, and several other computers for trying out operating systems and software.

Old Server ClosetMy setup continued that way for several years. It took up a lot of space. It was loud. It was hard to upgrade because I needed to physically sit at the computer to reload the operating system. And it used a lot of power.

In 2007 I started to use virtualization to cut down the number of computers and make controlling and upgrading them easier. I was able to get the number of computers down to only two: A NAS for storage, and a Linux computer for running VirtualBox. Everything else I needed could run in a VirtualBox guest.

This worked well until 2009 when I started to run out of storage on my 3 terabyte NAS server. As I was planning to replace it, I decided to try combining the two servers into one. I wanted a server that would have plenty of disk space for my NAS and be able to run any operating system and software that I wanted to try out.

I called this my One Server project. The next several posts will cover this project. These posts describe the hardware behind the server, using VMware ESXi to replace my aging Linux VirtualBox server, setting up a FreeBSD ZFS NAS fileserver under VMware ESXi, and all the issues and solutions I discovered along the way.

  1. One Server: What is needed?
  2. One Server: Researching the hardware
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