Virtualize NAS/seedbox/pfSense/desktop in the same box


Sep 21, 2012

I'm currently running a NAS+seedbox on the same mini server
Motherboard: Asrock z87E-ITX/AC
CPU: pentium g3240
RAM: 4Go corsair LP 1.35v g3240
OS Drive: 250GB SSD m.sata
Storage: 3x3Tb ext4 + 1x3Tb ext4 (for parity with snapRaid)

But my needs have changed, and I need to face 3 new goals:
  1. virtualized desktop
    I only have light ultrabooks at home, and some tasks such as video encoding (handbrake), heavy CAD (SolidWorks) or Adobe Lightroom exports are too CPU consuming for the laptops!

  2. Media transcoding
    I'd like to share our media library to my children's smartphones and tablets.
    But the WIFI bandwidth is not fast enough for uncompressed bluray rip (and unsupported h265 media), so I'd like to transcode using PlexMediaServer or Emby, depending on which will support hardwar acceleration on VM

  3. pfSense
    Use pfSense is a long time thinking. I'd like to take the step, and virtualize the firewall, router and DHCP server.

I'm not an expert for all the virtualization stuff, so I'll need some advices.

Hardware upgrades:
  • CPU: 4460 enough or go with 4790 ?
  • RAM: 8 or 16GB ?
  • Network interfaces
    • I only have one ethernet port on the MB. It will be plugged to the internal LAN network (Netgear gigabit switch).
    • so I need to buy a pci-e ethernet card, that will be plugged to my xDSL modem (WAN).
    • need other interfaces? (depends on hypervisor?)
Software upgrades:

  • Hypervisor choice: hyper-v, Esxi, proxmox...
    • 3 VMs: pfSense, Ubuntu Server 16.04 (file sharing + seedbox + media transcoding?), Windows 10 (desktop apps + media transcoding?)
    • memory footprint
    • performance
    • Hard-Drive spindown
      • I want my media disks to spin down when not accesed (95% of the time)
      • so does it implies direst access/passthrough ?
  • Media transcoding
    • possible to use some hardware acceleration ?
      • CPU: intel quick sync (windows or linux)
      • GPU: windows or linux? need GPU passthrough or RemoteFX ?
    • Emby vs PMS
    • Windows vs Linux
  • Windows 10 desktop
    • CPU that supports remoteFX ?
    • RemoteFX vs Esxi passtrhough?

I'll complete my posts as soon as I found more information/answers.
Any help or advice is more than welcome :)

I would prefer ESXi 6.5d
It has the smallest footprint (fastest) with the best OS support especially for non Linux guests like OSX or Windows and it has perfect pass-through capabilities for a virtualised NAS (for this you may try my napp-it ZFS storage server template based on a Free Solaris)

One physical nic is enough if you use port based vlans (ESXi and even cheap switches support this)

I would use 16GB RAM, a small SSD for ESXi and a storage VM

For storage itself, you should use a second nic (use a LSI based one ex Dell H200/310, IBM 1015, LSI 9211) in pass-through mode (requires a mainboard and CPU that supports this feature, usually this is possible on boards with an Intel serverchipset)
Without a second HBA you may use a small NVMe for ESXi and a storage VM and pass-through Sata

If best GPU performance is the critical point, Windows as base + Hyper-V is easiest from setup.
While ESXi supports GPU pass-through (with Nvidia, you must use the pro line), this is not as trivial