30-3-2015




by Audio Dandy




Part 4 -
"
Why Windows Storage Server 2012 R2
is best operating system for your Audiophile streamer!"

This article will explain why I think that Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 is a much better choice than a regular Windows destop operating system like Windows 7, 8.1 or 10 for your High End audio streamer.



The advantages of a server operating system



The big difference between an desktop and an server operating system is it's goal.
A desktop is designed to give the user a desktop experience and therefore it contains a lot of programs and unnecessary services that are not needed for playing back high quality music.

A server is a stripped down operating system, designed to be reliable, day and night (24/7/365 )
working conditions.
The server does only what you tell him to do, by configuring it.
A server operating system is also more stable and has a much longer support than a desktop operating system



You also can enable or disable multiple different services or tasks, and everything can be managed.
For the role of Audiophile AV Streamer only the following tasks/services are necessary:

Hardware related:

- enabling the Pink Faun i2S Bridge in such a way that the music is transported bitprefect and
untouched to Pink Faun i2S Bridge.
- enabling the videocard driver, so that movies can be played perfectly.
- enabling a the Host Bust Adapter (HBA) for your Storage Pool
(This is the place were you can store your movie and music files)

Software related:

- running the JRiver Media Center software
- running Asio4All


JRiver Media Center 20 runs perfectly on Windows Storage Server 2012 R2




"I2S" for the best possible sound quality

So you see, this is not so much, all other processes and services are not neccesarly
for listening to high resolution music, so they all can be disabled.
The Audio Dandy AV Streamer uses the Pink Faun I2S Bridge for the best possible sound connection to your DAC.
(For more information about this product read my review: "PinkFaun I2S Bridge ST Review" )


The Pink Faun I2S Bridge PCI-E card is automatically reconized by Windows Server 2012 R2!
The card is operational without installing any drivers!

 



Now 32bit 192 kHz quality is possible!



ASIO4ALL - For the best possible quality

For the best possible quality the software should be able to communicate directly with the hardware.
Unfortunatelly is this not so easy, because the operating system is not designed this way.
Between the hardware and the operating system is the bios software of your motherboard.
And also the operating systems want to control your hardware by using the driver software.

To overcome this problem a diferent route has to followed.

Luckily there are multiple different options to configure the Pink Faun i2S Bridge.
From worse to best the possibilities are:
Direct Sound - Kernel Streaming- WASAPI - Asio4All

"Direct sound" should be avoided because the music goes through the Windows Media Mixer and Windows OS and therefore it's not the shortest path.
It also resamples and modifies your music! even before it is transported to your DAC!

"Kernel Streaming" is an better choice but it doens't always work...

"WASAPI" is not a bad choice, but for the best possible quality I recommend to install "Asio4All".

The ASIO4All driver can be downloaded at their website:
http://www.asio4all.com/

With this driver your Audio Dandy AV streamer will sound even better!

In the "option" menu under "audio" can your select ho the Pink Faun i2S Bridge should
be connected. for the best quality select ASIO4ALL !
 

 

Disabling the Windows Audio Service

Servers are normal computers that delivers a "service", therefore they are called "servers" :-)
On of the big advantages is that Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 is made in such a way
that services can easily be stopped, started, or disabled.
The "Windows Audio Service" (Audiosrv) is definitelly a "service" that an Audiophile doesn't want,

To make sure that the Windows Audio Service cannot interfere with the Pink Faun i2S Bridge I have disabled this service"

Now the music has only one route, and that it through ASIO4ALL to the Pink Faun i2S Bridge!


 

Storage Spaces -
Keeping your music and movie collection safe
 

In 4-12-2014 I wrote an article "The real truth about High resolution audio"
At that time my total music collection was not so large only 2 Gigabytes

But recently I noticed that SACD-ISO music files are getting more and more popular!
I prefere the 24/32bit 192 KHz PCM WAV and DXD WAV format myself, but the market is evoling towards DSD side anyway...
Because of this increase of populairity, also my High Resolution Audio SACD-ISO collection has also grown to 280 SACD-ISO Albums, together they are 1120 Gb in size! (1,12 Tb)
And this is only my DSD (SACD-ISO) collection, I also have an PCM and Blu-ray Pure Audio collection!

This is an growth of almost 280% in four months time!

The storage space for your high resolution
music collection will grow fast!



If your switch to collecting High Resolution Audio, expect a massive grow
of storage space!



So for the High Resolution Audiophile managing the storage of your music collection is becoming an very important aspect.

Normally people store their movie and music collection on special storage server called NAS (Network Attached Storage)
This are usefull storage devices for medium sized movie and music collections, because they only can contain a few number of harddisks. (2 - 8 disk max) so the storage can grow to 2 TB - 32 TB max.

So for now this seems to be enough, but If you look at the sizes of the current High-Resolution audio files
it's very likely that you want more storage sooner of later, and then a different storage solution has to be choosen.
It's very important to choose the right solution in the beginning because when you are going to start collecting
you cannot swith so easily to another solution anymore.

Therefore the Audio Dandy AV Streamer uses a HBA controller that connects to an external storage chassis that
is specially build to store as much harddisks as possible.
You can place the external storage chassis in an other place, so that you cannot hear it from your livingroom.


Now we come with one of the big advantages of using a server operating system instead of using
a desktop operating system.
Because the Audio Dandy AV Streamer can also store your entire music and movie collection!
and your collection can be easily expanded if required.
By adding an external storage chassis and connecting it with ISCSI to your Audio Dandy AV Streamer.

The Audio Dandy AV Streamer uses Microsoft Storage Server 2012 R2 (standard) as its operating system.
We have choosen for this professional server operating system because it's specialized in handling big
data collections.
Microsoft Storage Server 2012 R2 can join different SATA harddisks together into one big storage pool.
It is possible to add more harddisks later and add them to your storage pool.
If you have more than 160 harddisk in one pool then you can add more pools,
you also can add more virtualdisks for more redundancy.

The storage on the Audio Dandy AV Streamer can be handled in two ways:

Local storage: (fast, cheap, but a bit noisy)
inside the Audio Dandy AV Streamer chassis is place for 4 disks max (for example 4X6TB WD RED
harddisks you will have 24TB of internal storage!)
Of course you can also use SSD's (Solid State Disks) but they are expensive and their current storage capability is limited (they don't have 6 TB models yet)

External storage: (fast, more expensive, very quiet)
It's also possible to buy an external storage chassis for your harddisks which is connected with ISCSI to the Windows Storage Server 2012 R2.
So the storage can be placed in a different room, so you will not hear any noise while listening to your favourity music.
External storage can be expanded infinitely, so you don't have to worry about this!
If the storage chassis is full, you just buy another storage chassis, and you can add it to your storage pool.

So the Audio Dandy AV Streamer is not only a Audiophile streamer it's also a  professional Audiophile storage solution!
And it has many benefits pertaining to hardware NAS servers like (Synology, QNAP, etc)

I shall explain why:

Expandability: Your music collection can grow infinite!

An NAS is fixed and static device and the storage cannot be expanded so easily.
For example when your harddisks are all full, and all your bays
are used, you cannot add another harddisk because there is not room for another harddisk in the small cabinet.
Also the NAS makes one big partion with parity that is not dynamically expandable.

So to exand it, you first will have to copy all your movies and music to another server (?!) and then you have to replace the old harddisks with a newer and big capacity type of harddisk.
After this you have to make a new RAID partition and copy all the data back...
This costs a lot of time, money and work...

We have designed the Audio Dandy AV Streamer in such a way that your will be able to use this device
in many, many years to come.
Therefore we use professional standard parts and software that can easily be upgraded and replaced when necessary.

If your music and movie collection is growing very fast (like mine :-) than it nice to know
that your Audio Dandy AV Streamer can be infinitely expanded!

On one HBA you can connect many harddisks (for example 32 disk) and if you want even more disks just add a second HBA in your motherboard!
This way your add another 32 harddisk to your excisting storage pool.

It is also possible to add a second storage chassis with even more disks, and add this chassis to your existing storage pool!
So your sotarge pool will grow with your music and movie collection infinitely!
Therefore we have choosen for Microsoft Storage Server operating system because it is
fast, relaiable, totally configurable to your demanding needs and it is also easy to use, you don't have to
be an IT Professional to work with it.


Reliability: Forget RAID, Software Defined Storage is the answer

Did you have ever heard of "man in the middle vulnerability" ?
No? it means that if one technical device, for example a RAID controller (of your NAS) should break
you will loose all of your important data!

Therefore we NOT recommend to use a RAID controller in your Audio Dandy AV Streamer, but use a standard (non-raid) Host Bus Adapter (HBA)

The HBA is an computer interface card that is inserted into your computer motherboard and provides SATA/SAS connectivity without RAID functionality.
The redundency is controlled in the operating system itself, therefore it's called "software defined storage"
This is much more safe, and also more flexible.
When the HBA controller should break, it can be replaced very easily without any risk to loose your important data.

Try this with a broken RAID controller after serval years :-)
If you are lucky to find a identical RAID controller, because they change every year...
And rebuilding your old RAID set with a new and different RAID controller can be a very risky undertaking!

In Microsoft Storage Server 2012R2 all of the parity and configuration files are stored on the server, and not on the HBA card.
If the HBA should break you just can replace it, with another one and your Storage Space will be intact.
Therefore the Audio Dandy AV Streamer with Storage Spaces is much more secure than using a NAS!
This called a "software defined storage solution" and we think that this is THE way of the future to store your precious data.
 

We recommend the LSI SAS 9300-8e Host Bus Adapter, this card allows you to place 1024 harddisks in your external storage server. and this card is certified by Microsoft for Windows Storage Server 2012R2
(http://www.windowsservercatalog.com)



LSI SAS 9300-8e Host Bus Adapter
(costs around 440 euro)
Connect up to 1024 (!) SAS and SATA devices with 8 external 12Gb/s SAS and SATA ports
It can handle more than enough harddisks to store and protect you precious music collection!




The advantages of Storage Spaces

Microsoft designed a cheaper, more flexible and and also better storage solution called "Storage Spaces".
It is very easy to manage and to expand.

The advantage is that your can use all of your available SATA harddisks (4Gb or bigger) can be used toghether!
Even when the brand of capacity size is different.
They will be all connected together in one big physical storage pool.
Microsoft Storage Server 2012 R2 is very simple to use, I shall explain in general how it works:
 

1 - First you create a "Storage Pool"

Then select all the available physical harddisks that will become part of the "Storage Pool"
You also can reserve some harddisks for "Hot Spare" to protect your Music Collection even better
You can place max 160 physical harddisks in one "Storage Pool" if have more disks then you just create more
"Storage Pools"


2 - Create one of more "Virtual Disks"

Now we are going to create one "Virtual Disk"
We select "mirror" so that have redundancy, and by provisioning type we select "Fixed" so that the volume uses space from the storage pool that equal's to the volume size.


3 - Create one of more "Volumes"

Now we are going to create a volume on top of the virtual disk. give the volume a name of choice like "My Music Collection"  finish!
You just have created a rock solid and future proof storage pool for your music collection!

 


Example of 5 harddisks with different size used together in one Storage Pool
Mirror has a better read/write performance than parity and therefore
Mirror is recommend.

 

- More coming soon! -

                                                                                
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