Return to Level1Techs.com

Mobile ingest station/part time file server

#1

Kind of an unusual use case has presented itself and I wanted to get some more opinions on my proposed solution.

I’m not sure if it fully qualifies as Enterprise Gear but there is a good amount of crossover so hopefully I’m in the right place.

Essentially, I work in a creative department that has little to no tech knowledge. They collaborate on projects by passing around external hard drives. There is not a proper network setup and there is not a proper file server or anything of the like.

The only gear they really have is a G-Tech Shuttle that they treat like a DAS and backup solution. It’s running 6 or 7 HDDs in RAID5.

When I started I kind of floated the idea of setting up a 10Gb switch and getting a machine to run as a file server so we could stop handing off hard drives and actually maintain a consistent version of our projects, implement a real backup solution, and overall be more efficient.

I also tried to inform them that RAID isn’t really a backup and we need proper data management practices since we are dealing with mission critical data.

This has gained some traction.

However, they also want a machine that’s portable so that we can utilize it on location for tethering and ingesting data.

I realize it’s probably much better to have a static setup in the office and something separate for mobility but given the budget that I’m working with I’m trying to squeeze in as much functionality/modularity upfront to make it an easier sell and to allow us to pivot into a better structured setup in the future.

Anyways.

My current plan is to build a legitimately mobile server in a Cerberus X chassis running Linux with ZFS/Samba for file sharing/editing/working and while on-location I want to be able to spin up a Windows VM to run Capture One for tethering.

I also want to ingest video footage on location and possibly even use FFMPEG on the machine to render proxy files to offload that task from one of our few machines.

Also plan to pick up an Ubiquiti 10Gb switch to get everyone on a 10Gb connection.

My current proposed hardware for the server:

Cerberus X Chassis
Intel Xeon W 2133
ASUS WS C422 Pro/SE Motherboard
64 GB ECC RAM
ASUS Hyper 16 M.2 Card with 4x 1TB NVMe drives + 1 TB NVMe for boot
Radeon Pro WX3100
Thunderbolt 3 AIC
Intel x520-DA2 NIC
Corsair SF750 PSU

I’m going with NVMe because this machine doesn’t need large capacity but a lot of speed. Also they’re a lot smaller form facter than four 2.5" SSDs.

The TB3 card is to host the DAS (which will still be our ‘bulk’ storage) and allow a direct MacBook connection to the server.

The Xeon platform because I want the I/O and the ability to be able to upgrade long term.

If we get a bigger budget in the future I can just toss in an HBA, upgrade whatever, move into a rackmounted chassis and load the system down with drives for a more robust storage solution.

This is my general plan and I’d like feedback on how good or bad of an idea this is.

My formal education is in IT/Networking but I don’t have any real world job experience in the field. So while I know about some of the tech and some of the theory, my only experience is in the classroom and personal projects.

Thus, I’m comfortable with the technical overhead a DIY solution brings but I don’t want to implement a shoddy solution. I have a personal server that’s similar in configuration to what I want to do so I do plan to test some of the functionality and compatibility with our workflow and give everyone an idea of how it would function.

I just wanna consult more knowledgeable people and get some insight.

Thanks!

2 Likes

#2

Simplest thing in world is get laptop or raspi or even see if your modem has nas builtin for its usb port(mine does) but just mount your shared hdd as shared network drive(public folders/ right click hdd and select share if windows)
Old pc with decent cpu can run 10gb nic expansion cards and pcie sata expansion cards so office side rather easy to solve
Your travel setup is totally unique for every users needs but can easily stuff laptop with usb3 hub and few hdds in car and power from car batteries for portable server node which can have local cameras offload to via wired(ethernet/fiber/coax) or wlan
Again could stuff u2 server in car trunk inside climate enclosure as well

0 Likes

#3

Threadripper has lots of I/O, in case of the 1900X, for a very affordable price.

I would also include an option to backup the NVMe Drives like HDDs in RAID1. You do not want to loose project data.


One idea for a system as PCPartpicker

Part Note
TR 1900X 64 PCIe lanes
NH-U9 TR4-SP3
ASRock X399 Professional gaming 10G + 2x 1G LAN on board
G.Skill 4x 16GB
Samsung 970 Pro 1TB 5 of these total
WD Gold 4TB 2x for backup
AMD Radeon Pro WX 3100
SeaSonic FocusPlus Gold 650W
Intel X550-T2 NIC
Thunderbolt AIC Choose the ASRock one for no reason
M.2 Rise Choose one, if you get the HP one, you have a name brand to cover your back
Cerberus X As specced in OP

Cost: $4000

0 Likes

#4

I really would like to use Threadripper but it’s my understanding that you must have a TB header on the motherboard to support an add-in Thunderbolt 3 card. The Intel platform has this. To my knowledge the Threadripper platform doesn’t officially support this. I know that you can get it working but I need the stability of official support.

1 Like

#5

Get a NAS for your office and a laptop with a big hard drive for on-premises ingest.

Don’t build the NAS unless you want to support it. Buy a Synology and use its built-in backup software to backup to external drives or a second NAS.

Then take the laptop back to your office and sync it up to the NAS.

2 Likes

#6

I actually do want to support the NAS and that’s partially my reasoning for building. I would like to demonstrate my skillset and contribute something useful. This could allow me some mobility.

We do currently use a laptop for ingest but due to some short sighted thinking the internal drives are only 256GB. So we ingest to an external spinning disk.

This entire process takes an eternity with 100+GB of data. Then that’s copied to 2 more external spinning disk for redundancy.

The ecosystem is all MacBook. Everyone does all of their work on a laptop + external spinning disk.

My rationale for the mobile NAS is we ingest/tether once to a system with redundancy, kill the need for external drive hand offs, kill multiple versions of files and then have extremely fast throughput back in office to sync it with our ‘archival’ DAS and allow people to work over the network.

A laptop + a static NAS does make sense. Maybe it’s the better choice.

I just really dislike always having to carry around an external and maintain 3 versions of everything on everyone elses externals. I want to simplify everything down to one redundant box that serves multiple purposes.

1 Like

#7

Is this like a photography thing, where you’ll be out in the field somewhere for a couple days shooting footage, then take it all back to the offices to process and edit? If so, laptops and a stationary NAS at home makes sense.

Or do you actually take your editors out in the field for extended periods? In that case, you will want to build a local network wherever you’re hanging your hat, and that does include a smaller portable NAS for working data. I would still keep a large stationary NAS at HQ.

0 Likes

#8

Hi,

I’d like to know more about the specifics of this build. Particularly:

  • what volume of media will be ingested? (obviously you have 4x 1TB drives, but I’m interested to understand more about volume if that’s ok)
  • what proxy format will this machine deliver?
  • where will the media be coming from? REDmag? SSD? Cards? Direct from camera via some special connector?
  • What type of footage is most of it? RAW?

Your computer build itself seems versatile for many challenges. Knowing the answer to the above information could allow for optimisation of ingest, conversion etc.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional film maker but do create things rarely, often shooting RAW with what I ‘consider’ is an indie/amateur workflow.

0 Likes

#9

For stills, our Capture One sessions are usually 50GB+. I’ve brought them around to tethering instead of capturing to card so I hope to be able to directly capture to a Windows VM on the build.

If the VM doesn’t play nice with that then I plan to just tether to a laptop and connect to the NAS via TB3.

For video, I believe it’s 10bit 4:2:2 V-log. Proxy to ProRes Proxy from SD cards. Usually a days worth of capture is 50 to 100GB sometimes more.

If we are able to upgrade our kit then that’ll probably be CFast or SSDs in the future.

We have external card readers for ingest. That’s still a bottleneck in terms of throughput but they do not want to directly capture to a machine. I floated the idea of a capture card but they didn’t want the additional overhead in terms of setup and all that.

Initial capacity is pretty low but should be sufficient for several live projects of stills and video.

The main goal of the project is to stop the hard drive hand offs, speed up file transferring and sharing, consolidate our data in one redundant location, and make everyone’s job easier.

Some of the fringe aspects of the build i.e. rendering proxy files are just added benefits until we have better infrastructure.

1 Like

#10

I just wanted to say thank you for posting this, I cant add to this conversation, but I LOVE the whole plan. Also, I had never heard of this case, this chassis, Cerberus X… I am in love with it now!

0 Likes

#11

I’m thinking about a solution where someone would ingest data onto their laptop, use it for editing there, and it would backup onto this shared machine in the background, local editing on nvme on local filesystem can be really really comfortable.

You can find thunderbolt 3 to 10G ethernet adapters based on acquantia chipsets for about $100 and get one for whoever needs to connect and wifi is too slow for them. You can get them in either fiber or copper variants. (Mikrotik sells cheap css317 if you just need a bunch of sfp+ ports and fiber might use less power and might support longer distances).

I don’t think you’d be missing DAS much if your network is quick enough… Making it quick usually depends on how good you are at configuring samba, or how much MacOS sucks at being a samba client for your use case.

0 Likes

#12

Depends how many editors you guys take into the field. If you don’t need multiple editors simultaneously working on the same content that would work fine.

0 Likes

#13

I ended up building this system and so far it’s been rock solid.

Not as good as an office server + mobile ingest but it hasn’t handled everything so far like a champ.

0 Likes