I’m a pretty diehard Azure guy, been so since PDC09 when I was trying to get storage tables\queues and VM’s implemented at my job at the time. Almost all of my projects and stuff I land on Azure, it’s just the easiest place for me to do so, if not a little bit spendy.

I wasn’t always an Azure or cloud guy before I was a developer I was a systems administrator, responsible for servers ranging from SQL to Exchange at a small company. We 4 full racks of servers with a bunch of others with network equipment, firewalls, UPS’s and the like. During those days I couldn’t imagine a time not having control of the metal, and there almost nothing like unpacking a new piece of equipment, setting it up and getting it racked.

Back in those days, I had rack and servers all over my place. All the old stuff we decommissioned from the office. When I had all those up and running the noise was insane, but I was used to it from working in the server room most of the day.

Oh how times have changed, besides a beefy workstation and some other small devices and systems everything else I do is Azure based and has been for years. But try as I might there just are some things that I need on-prem at my house. So I will take you through that thought process.

First, where I live doesn’t have the best Internet. I now pay for business-grade Charter Spectrum, but the upload on that service is still pathetic, only 10Mbps. That may sound like a lot, but I plan on having some cameras installed at my place and each one of those requires 2Mbps. I used to use CrashPlan for my backup solution but with them going business only I took a hard look at what I was backing up and $100 or more a year and the cost in resources (upload) was pretty steep. Backups just made sense to have in-house with occasional syncing to OneDrive or some other storage provider.

So I looked into NAS options, finally settling on a Synology one, but when pricing it out it was pretty ouch, $500 for the unit and + the drives I wanted to add to it (with the expansion frame). Pricing that all out it would be about $1,500 for the NAS and storage (with fault tolerance i.e. RAID5) that I wanted. That’s a lot of money!

Recently I’ve started to work on other skills, mainly Containers, and non-Microsoft development stacks. Although I could use Azure for this, spinning up and keeping that stuff in the cloud could get pretty expensive, do I want to spend $300+ a month for some VM’s and serverless resources?

So I decided a local server would solve a lot of my needs. I could use it as a NAS, server to test deployments and any long running processes (like a Team City build server) and the like. So I will need a system with enough cores, ram and disk space for all those workloads.

An off the shelf system is also going to be a little on the big and loud side. I’m not too interested in having another jet turbine in the office. So based on that and the price for a system with enough core’s I’m going to have to build it myself.

I found this blog post, Build Your Own 32 Core Home Lab Server and it pretty closely matched my needs, so I decided to give it a go. The post is over a year old now so I will chronicle my experience buying the gear now, the cost and the setup.

So here are my targets, ideally Id like to get a 48 core system, but just a quick glance at some of those procs they seem pretty expensive. I want to be able to support 6 decently spec’ed VM’s, I’m equating those to D4MS Azure instances which are 4 Core, 16GB of RAM, which cost about $167/mo.

CPU 40 Core
RAM 128GB
HDD 32TB RAID 5

My goal is to keep the cost below $2,500 (which would be 1k above a fully loaded NAS). Which would start paying for itself after 14 months. As much as I can I’ll be trying to buy the parts new from Amazon, and then fallback to eBay when needed (for cost or availability).

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