BrontaStor, a brawny little beast for home server enthusiasts?

Posted by Paul Braren on Sep 18 2013 in
  • ESXi
  • Hyper-V
  • Reviews
  • Storage
  • Virtualization
  • E4-HJB-internal-top-view_0

    See the BrontaStor 822R-E4/SNU at Armari Performance In Computing. Other models announced Sep 18 2013 to follow, seen here, with a full review at, and product overviews at the BrontaStor YouTube Channel.*

    If you've been following my site for a while, you know that back in the summer of 2011, the sensible approach to running a hypervisor in a home lab meant starting with a Z68 consumer grade motherboard, Intel Core i7 2600 processor, and 32GB of cheap DIMMs. Had I gone with Xeon/ECC memory, I'd be spending a lot more money. I chose to invest those savings in my LSI 9265-8i RAID adapter with SSD read and write cache. I have no regrets about how my efficient vZilla system came out. Still running strong today, with 32GB of RAM, and the free ESXi 5.5 hypervisor.

    Flash forward to today's announcement of the BrontaStore 822R-E4, and you realize that there continues to be a variety of ways to sensibly handle the IT Professional's home lab needs, and the price delta to step up to server class mobos is smaller, with a reasonable ~100 watt burn. That's what UK's Armari Performance In Computing is setting out to do, as they set their sites on reaching out to IT Professionals/PC Enthusiasts on this side of the pond, here in the United States.

    Dan Goldsmith, the Technical Director of Armari, recently found me on the web. A brief email or two later, and found ourselves on Skype. Turns out Dan worked at IBM. I work at IBM. We both have experience with a variety of server-class systems, from multiple vendors. But when it comes to home use, quiet, efficient, and powerful systems become much more appealing than a watt-guzzling, hand-me-down server from the datacenter. A diversity of hardware experience can only help an IT Pro's consulting skill set, professionally, and personally.

    I've met dozens of IT Pros during my years doing VMware consulting, who are rather keen on getting something that can be left running 24x7 in their home, and that works well with VMware. Lately, there's interest in Hyper-V as well, native or nested. A vendor-agnostic approach to handling home labs can be beneficial. Build your own whitebox, or buy a box, pre-made. Armari has chosen to adopt mostly easy-to-get, easy-to-replace Intel motherboards, and occasionally ASRock branded boards, like vZilla, with VMDirectPath support. Here's some of what Dan seems to agree a home server should be:

    • Efficient chipset that don't burn excessive watts, yet can juggle a lot of active VMs.
    • Quiet cases, with larger diameter fans than spin slower and put out less noise (some models use liquid cooling)
    • ESXi compatibility. While I'd hope to see BrontaStor on the VMware Compatibility Guide someday. But based on Dan's comments, ESXi does seem to be a focus of his testing efforts, given it's such a big part of  many IT Pros work life.
    • Fast SSD accelerated RAID Storage, can be used as a fast NAS.
    • Many front accessible drive bays, for a lot of versatility, handling SSDs and 3.5".
    • Very fast local storage, and we've both chosen to cache reads and writes with SSDs since LSI got there first. Right after Dan and I wrapped up the impromptu video recording of our first time meeting over Skype, he mentioned that many LSI RAID and ESXi searches came up with surprisingly popular TinkerTry articles. He too has spent a fair bit of effort to get MegaRAID and CacheCade 2.0 Pro SSD caching to play along nicely. We agreed it's been worth it!

    Figured I'd record and share our technical banter for your enjoyment as well, since it seems folks who found my site might also be on the lookout for a system that somebody has put together lovingly for you, the home server enthusiast, instead of hand-assembled by you. If somebody out there has experience with a BrontaStor, please share your first experiences. Who knows, perhaps we'll see Dan and a BrontaStor at The 4th Annual Home Server Show Meetup (in 2014), now that he's heard from me about how interesting this year's The 3rd Annual Home Server Show Meetup is likely to be.

    What is a Brontobyte?

    A Brontobyte is 1024 Yottabytes which is about 1.24 * 10^27 bytes.

    Dan confirmed this storage related term is the inspiration for the product name, despite the vZilla-like dinosaur-ish name.

    What is a BrontaStor?

    Built using Intel® Xeon® server technology means the BrontaStor ® 822R is powerful and flexible enough to support what you need to run for your business., wither it be a high performance Enterprise storage O/S like Open-e, Windows Server, FreeNAS or Bare metal Hypervisor allowing you to run multiple operating systems and appliances from a single box.

    *This article receives no commissions or affiliate links from Armari or Hexus. I'm really just posing the following question.

    Do you feel UK's Armari Performance In Computing should sell the BrontaStor in the United States? How about rest of the world?

    Please consider dropping a comment below, to help Dan gauge interest in getting this roughly $1000 to $3000 (US Dollar) product line into your neck of the woods.