In the previous post in this series I mentioned the ProLiant DL380 G7 and how it has become the new work horse for my Home Lab, in this next part I am going to discus the operating system being deployed and some of the reasons why.
When initially delving into server operating system I had only ever uses Ubuntu Server 16.04, and while this is an ideal server operating system I required a OS that would allow for me to manage numerous elements with very little effort.
This lead to a hunt around the depths of the internet and I kept coming across a number of different options, the top three where UnRaid, FreeNAS and Exsi. Although each boast different features and use cases they all became very viable options.
With the initial intention to deploy everything as a virtual machine Exsi was at the top of the pile, it is an industry standard and partnered with VMware’s vSphere it has remote management capabilities. This would allow for simple deployment of numerous virtual machines. The benefit of this is the ability to throw a new virtual machine up every time I required one.
Although this solutions would cost money I am able to receive it for nothing due to a deal offered by my University. Excluding Exsi there are a number of other solutions that allow for the deployment of virtual machines, Proxmos appears to be a popular solution and due to it being open-source is free to use.
FreeNAS is a solution based on the FreeBSD operating system, once deployed on a system it allows for network attached storage to be utilized across your network. It also offers back up services for Windows, Mac and Linux meaning that as a NAS solutions it is very effective.
But aside from offering the previously mentioned features it also boast a number of plugins ranging from Plex Media Server to OwnCloud. This allows the the NAS to be used in a slightly more beneficial manner than a simple storage and back up solutions.
Although eventually FreeNAS was not deployed onto my main system, I do have a project to utilize the back up and storage abilities it offers.
UnRaid is a very intriguing service as the name would suggest it allows for you to “unraid” your devices. In my current system I have 8 146GB SAS drives all in raid 5. This allows for no data to be lost in the case that one drive fails.
UnRaid however allows for a software based solution to manage a similar system, with drives of varying size and speed. While I do not personalty utilize this features I can see the benefits if someone was to throw a server together using parts they had laying about.
UnRaid allows for both Virtual Machines and Dokcers to be used, this features is something that I have found very beneficial as the docker repository has hundreds of items that range from personal cloud storage to Plex Media Server. This is an easy and effective method to deploy software onto the server with very limited interaction from the user bar setting some parameters.
The use of Virtual Machines within UnRaid is also a huge benefit as it allows for virtual labs or mail servers to be deployed and easily managed from one window.
I finally settled on UnRaid as it appeared to hit all the criteria I was looking for and after having used it on my previous server I felt confident that it was the solution that would benefit my home lab the most. While it is not the free option and in some cases could be perceived as somewhat limiting I have found that if you tweak around with it enough there wont be much you can not do with it.