Into the Vault – Hodoka and Nagi

Times have changed.
Most of us got a lot more of it on our hands.
The Vault’s changed.
And then it changed again.

Welcome Back to the Vault

I set aside a LOT of things in the crowded, dusty basement to put up on eBay. I was really just sort of over having quite so much excess and moreover, the parts were starting to age out. Things that had been worth keeping around for a while just were growing too aged, too inefficient.

Just for something to do, I threw together some old parts into a machine and while I was testing it out, I realized that its performance versus its power consumption, at least for my purposes, meant it wasn’t even worth turning on anymore, let alone leaving it running for a protracted period of time. That system, in turn, spoke for a lot of the other parts lingering down here. Whereas once they had value greater than their resale, they’ve been kept around so long that I will consider myself lucky to make enough to make much of any money on their sale at all.

Is rubbish… oliv’it

A waste, perhaps.

The organization efforts, and the construction of the Most Pointless Server (so pointless I scrapped its write up and then scrapped it itself), led to the aforementioned cleanup and part of the effort was ending up with a giant stack of old hard drives. With Hina humming along quietly, contentedly, in the background, I didn’t see fit to jam any of the comparatively ancient, low capacity devices inside my fresh, clean, new server, nor did I feel it was quite time to just discard any of the dozens of low density drives (they still worked after all) there was only one thing to do.

I started pulling down parts and building up a system—a server—straying even further from the wisdom of the Server Discord, with the intent of just using as many of the old hard drives as possible. I knew I could put up to twelve in my largest standard case, and I’d only make it up to fifteen by breaking open my suddenly-rare spare server chassis so I didn’t bother with that. Also, there was a fairly definitive divide among the hard drives—there were ten assorted capacity high performance 7,200 rpm drives, one drive that was definitely a power saving 5,900 rpm drive, and then eight assorted capacity drives that were the “green” class of drives—drives that claimed to balance performance and power savings but were really just low powered hard drives and that was that.

Too many to fit in a single system.

I could cram them all into…
two systems…
…not like I have anything better to do.

The first server was intended to be as low power consumption as possible—centering around the 2nd generation Celeron G620. I was hoping to offset the inevitable high draw of the ten or eleven performance hard drives I’d be connecting to it, which was completely acceptable since file serving was not a CPU intensive task and I couldn’t think of anything else a computer with eleven hard drives should really do. I used an old favorite drive carrier to convert two large 5.25” bays into three suitable 3.5” bays, and my long since discontinued favorite case for capacity: the NZXT Source 210. The system had a performance mainboard, featuring the old x68 chipset, but that was simply because all of my 2nd and 3rd generation Intel based hardware happens to be as such.

So many drives commanded usage of all three of my available four port SATA controllers, but I had enough slots so in they went. This was basically the same scheme I used in Serverus, my previous primary file server, except Serverus had been recently decommissioned and broken down for inventory. This, of course, was intended to stick, except for the fact that as I shuffled things around and organized them, I basically took most of Serverus’ older hard drives and just basically rebuilt it, minus the four modern, high capacity drives that went into Hina, and added some disused, low density drives to fill out the drive bays. Still, different core warranted a different name, as far as I was concerned. I used the Unraid operating system again, since it just truly is so easy and effective at creating a usable pool of disparate hard drives with little to no effort.

An absolutely, unarguably absurd expense for a pointless server but, well, boredom affects people.

Unraid also has a handy feature in that it will be very up front with you if there’s anything wrong with any of the hard drives it’s managing.

This experimental server turned up three drives with serious sounding errors. And all of the drives were just outright listed as “old”. I knew they were old, but I did not know three were that close to imminent failure. Two came out almost immediately – there was no point in introducing that kind of risk even into a purposeless system – and one I decided just needed to have an eye kept on it, to ensure it didn’t rapidly worsen at any point. Unraid’s implementation of a parity drive or two would also protect against data loss in the event any single device failed.

This is not an ad.
I’m just a newly converted fan.

The new system now had nine drives—eight high performance drives and since I had space I tossed in that one middling 5,900 rpm drive. Setting aside the largest capacity drive as parity (a thing you just have to do under Unraid) the pointless server totaled 17 terabytes of usable space.

In spite of having no intended usage case, it was really just nice to have that physical bench space back now that so many drives were in a tidy package. And sufficed to say, I eventually thought it was absolutely ridiculous to not throw in my spare Ivy Bridge i5. It was better to have it working than to just have it sitting on the bench. If I do finally make good on selling some things, I can always change it out later.

All that was left was to name it, and I knew that as long as I’m the absurd obsessed fan that I am, I already had a name ready.

Hodoka server standing by

Thus, Hina was joined by her Hodoka, the other main character from Weathering With You.

But. Serverus’ system core was just hanging around inside another NZXT Source 210, and there were still eight hard drives left over. There just weren’t nearly enough SATA ports in it anymore.

I quickly reconfigured Hodoka, which is just an infinitely better name than “the Pointless Server”, which could function with its six onboard SATA ports plus one four port SATA controller card. Since I’d only used the cards over the onboard ports for aesthetics, and the case doesn’t even have a window, this was not a difficult decision. The two cards went into old Serverus where they’d really only just been pulled from days earlier, and then in went the eight “green” drives.
I already knew this one would be named Nagi, after Hina’s younger brother.

Nagi server—featuring the soul of Serverus

While it was absurd to drop the cost of Unraid on Hodoka, it would have been absolutely ridiculous to buy another copy to put on Nagi, so, ironically, Nagi is running all of its drives discreetly, instead of in a pool, under Windows 10. A small 120 GB boot drive is crammed in to hold the Windows installation and I have more research to do on pooling software like Drivepool or SnapRAID or MergerFS, or some combination of them. Truth is, Nagi server has even less purpose than Hodoka server so it will likely not even be running unless I’m just messing around with its configuration, so a lack of things like data protection don’t particularly matter. There’s no data. Nagi server is also just nice to have instead of a work bench covered in hard drives.

They are handsome boys though, cable managed within an inch of their lives.

Hodoka did manifest one unexpected issue where, for some reason I never quite understood, its fans stopped responding to system control and just started running at full tilt, making it very suddenly very loud. With only a moment’s reluctance, I went ahead and swapped out its three 120 mm system fans for the last three of my high quality Arctic series fans and now the subtle hum of its drives is far louder than all of its cooling combined.

Also not an ad. But Arctic fans are kind of amazing.

Hodoka-server, beating with the heart of… Marlon

Honestly, I do not remember if the fan issue was before or after I made the decision to actually swap the “Dixie” core out of Hodoka (my stalwart Gigabyte Z68MA-DS3H) for the “Marlon” core (the Gigabyte Z77-D3H), but I did do that too because shortly after I fully finished configuring Hodoka, I decided I could better use the Dixie core in yet another boredom fueled bout of inspiration so out it came and in went Marlon. However, this time I decided the name had to stick.

Blessedly, Unraid does not care at all. It just boots right back up, drive configuration intact.

As for Dixie, well, Dixie is its own story.

Right now, I have two empty file servers, one ready to offer up its 16.5 terabytes of usable space and one with almost 10 more terabytes of its own. Both are filled with marvelous potential and I can’t even imagine the things I could do with them.

I literally can’t. I don’t know what to do with them.

Got an old computer or a new computer you like or hate or are indifferent to and want to talk about it? What would you name your second and third servers if you were weeb trash?
I’m @geekadematt on Twitter and this has been
Into the Vault – Hodoka and Nagi

Hodoka server is based around an Intel Core i5-3570k and is paired with 16 GB of DDR3-1600 MHz system RAM in a 4×4 GB configuration. There’s no reason it should have this much horsepower except for the fact that I just had it lying around waiting to be implemented. Hodoka is actually running on the “Marlon” system core, a combination of CPU and a Gigabyte Z77-D3H which was a hand-me-down/gift from my friend Marlon. The Z77-D3H is remarkably unreliable but generally stable as long as you keep mSATA devices far, far away from it. The Unraid operating system has efficiently pooled its many hard drives (3x 3 TB, one reserved for parity protection, 2×2 TB drives, 3×1.5 TB, and 1×2 TB running at a 5,900 rpm spindle speed) into a single 16.5 storage volume protected against up to one drive failure. Hodoka is housed in an NZXT Source 210 chassis and is powered by a Corsair RM550x power supply. The CPU is cooled by the Zalman CNPS9000, which I don’t even know what to tell you about it. It’s beautiful.

Hodoka roughly translates to “high sail”.

Nagi server is based around Serverus’ old core of the AsRock Q1900m embedded mainboard powered by an Intel Celeron J1900 CPU. It is still maxed out with 8 GB of DDR3-1600 RAM and two of its PCIe x1 slots are populated with four port SATA 6.0 Gbps controllers which support its eight connected hard drives (2×2 TB drives, plus 6×1 TB drives) all of which are Wester Digital “Green” class drives running at, truthfully, 5,400 rpm even though sources vary in their reporting. These eight drives are complimented by one 120 GB Inland Professional SATA SSD holding Windows 10 Professional. Nagi server is housed in an NZXT Source 210 and is powered by a Corsair CX430 power supply.

Nagi roughly translates to “calm”, which does make sense since this is a very quiet server.

Matt Mutch

Image Acquisition Specialist and Computer Enthusiast. I like Sad Anime.

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