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I've had a project lately: I've been building up my home network.  The first thing I wanted to do was replace my home file/web server.  It's an old Pentium II 233MHz I've had since the late 90s.  It's even running Debian Potato.

But then my coworker Joe gave me this really nice, 1U case with a Pentium 4 processor in it because he was moving into a smaller apartment and he was trying to get rid of some junk.  Considering I'm currently keeping my P2 tower in the rack that houses my (as yet) unused Alphaserver 2100, I decided that a rack mounted server would be perfect.

However, a Pentium 4 wouldn't be enough power for what I wanted to do.  One of the things I've become enamored with at my current job is our use of virtualizing technology.  If we need a server to do something, we just set up a virtual machine to do it on our server farm and be done with it.  I've had ideas before that I wanted to try, but I didn't have a spare machine to dedicate to it, so I wound up not doing it.  If I had a server that allowed me to create VMs, however, I could just create a new VM for anything I wanted to do and not interfere with whatever else my primary server is doing.  I also wanted to be able to handle a lot of disk space.

I spotted a deal on Newegg for $99 2TB SATA disk drives, do I got myself two.  Then I grabbed a new motherboard with an AM3 processor socket, an AMD Sempron processor and 4GB of RAM.  If I find I'm running too many VMs, I can always replace the processor with a dual-core or quad-core Opteron or Phenom and stuff in some more RAM, and my machine will get faster.  :)

With all the hardware in place, I had to make a software decision: what OS I was going to run on the machine.  Since I wanted to build my user-facing servers in VMs, it didn't really matter what OS I was running underneath on my VM server.  I knew I wanted to run VirtualBox because it's pretty much the best open source virtualizing solution out there (if you're an über-geek and wondering why I didn't pick Xen because I don't really trust/grok Type-1 hypervisors), and I wanted to have my disks managed by ZFS, because I wanted to be able to add disk space later and have it seamlessly available to my system and not have to shuffle files around.  That left me with pretty much two options: FreeBSD or OpenSolaris.  As much as I wanted to play with OpenSolaris, I didn't trust the games Oracle was playing with its licensing after their purchase of Sun Microsystem (and besides, with my machine depending on VirtualBox and ZFS, I was already pretty beholden to enough Oracle née Sun technology), so I picked FreeBSD.

Which brings me to the end of part one of my adventures.  I've got my machine built, racked and running FreeBSD with 1.8TB of mirrored ZFS storage. My next step (which I'll be writing about almost immediately) is getting my old file/web server virtualized so I can ditch the old machine.  Which brings me to my next post, which will be about writing a rc.d script to automatically start my VirtualBox VMs when my FreeBSD host boots.

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