by Guest Author

Home Lab Deep Dive: Hobby To Obsession

Homelabs come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re running a business out of your home or simply are addicted to computers and related server hardware, the amount of joy it brings the individual can be limitless and forever lasting. For me, it’s purely a hobby, though I do serve some applications and media to friends and family. And that’s honestly where I get a lot of enjoyment, as top end equipment cannot possibly be more satisfying as sharing it with others who are close to you.

My homelab started years ago with an old DDR2 server with fourCPU sockets. While it was ancient hardware, I had a group of friends at the time who wanted a host for our Arma 3 server. Although it sounded like a jet engine in my house, and generated enough heat that I didn’t need to turn on the gas in the winter, it was amazing. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this 4U beast, as I didn’t photo document my hardware nearly as much back then.

Fast forwarding to about 7 years ago, I was getting really into the hobby. I wanted a proper media server. But before I could do so, I needed a proper rack to house it in.

A company I worked for at the time had this lying around and gave it to me. It was incrediblydifficult to get upstairs. It took 3-4 people to get it in place, but I was overjoyed. Now the question was: What in the heck should I put in this rack? I had an idea for a 4U server and at the time, Flexraid seemed like a perfect option for me. Simple, used windows (all things Linux were quite unfamiliar to me at the time unlike these days), and had redundancy with a parity drive. Seemed perfect!

I bought about 13 drives to put in my new shiny case, and started loading them with every piece of media I could find in the house. I had bins and bins of DVDs that I hardly watched, and I decided to rip them to this server. With 4 or so DVD drives, I was through my collection in a few short weeks and from that point, I was off to the races. Homelab: complete….right? I have everything I could possibly need at this point.

Little did I know the addiction would take over my free time. If I wasn’t working or gaming, I was researching used/refurbed hardware trying to develop my homelab. This was my new obsession. I cannot stop tinkering with my homelab…even today. 

Let’s fast forward some years and a few HP DL380s later. I’ve gone through multiple racks and finally have landed on a perfectly sized 24U APC Netshelter I found used on craigslist for $100. Looked to be in great condition, and it was also able to be moved and fit in a room with ease. Perfect! At the time, I was building a new house and I put a lot of time into the “server room” where my new homelab would live. I made sure the builder put in ~30 runs of conduit to both inner rooms and eves on the outside of the house (for security cameras later). This was criticalwhen it came to wiring the home. 

While under construction, this was where all of my conduit returned to. While I would have preferred 1” or greater in diameter, the builder left me with 0.5” conduit. Better than stapling Cat6 down any day! This gave me the freedom to put whatever cables I wanted throughout the house, and change them later when standards update.

While it wasn’t the cleanest when it was all done, it has and continued to serve a purpose in my server room as an easy way to route wires throughout…95% of which dump out into my server room.

Fast forwarding to today, I’ve made 1001 changes to my lab from a hardware (and software) perspective. I now have three switches: A 10G fiber switch for servers connected via OM3 fiber, a POE switch for cameras and APs, and a 1G Ethernet switch for all other PCs and IOT devices (on their own VLAN of course). My main server is running Unraid, with 10 (of 12) bays populated with 8TB Whites, Dual E5-2687Ws, 128GB DDR3 ECC, P2000, and some SAS cards. I also have a series of whiteboxes running PFsense, Unifi Video, and some VMs. The next addition to my homelab will likely be a dedicated gaming server, and or some other automation to add to my home assistant addiction. Here is my rack in its (almost) latest state:

For the future, I’d like to clean up some of the spacing including the shelf where my modem and TV Tuner reside. And possibly change some of the trunk wires to look cleaner. Otherwise, it’s been a long road…but it’s FAR from over! More updates to come.

-u/schwiing

This post is part of an ongoing series of user-submitted content dedicated to exploring the fun and challenges of building, maintaining and sometimes building again a home lab. This series is in partnership with our friends at /r/homelab. If you're interested in sharing your set up, please send an email to info@storagereview.com

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