Rockstor on the Intel NUC

Here at Rockstor, we’re always looking for new devices to test our storage product. This round, we settled on putting the compact, powerful Intel NUC to the test. It seems like a great choice for running a Rockstor based personal cloud. Intel offers a wide variety of products in the NUC lineup ranging from the NUC with an Atom processor, which is a small business storage solution, to the NUC with an Intel Core i7 processor, boasted as a home theater PC as well as an immersive gaming solution. We decided to test out a lower end model (found here) which is described as a home media cloud storage solution which is exactly the use case for my needs.

Visually, it’s a pleasant looking, sleek piece of hardware. Measuring 4.95″ x 4.41″ x 2.03″ (or 12.57 cm x 11.2 cm x 5.15 cm) with 1 USB 3.0 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, as well as a 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN jack, this device has plenty of connectivity as far as home media is concerned.

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The front of the device.
The rear of the device
The rear of the device
Banana for scale
Banana for scale

It should be noted that you’ll need to pick up your own hard drive as well as memory as the device doesn’t come with them. Have no fear, Intel has made putting these components into the device incredibly easy. For our box, we chose the Crucial SSD 250G hard drive and a 4 GB card of RAM for the memory. To install the hardware, opening the box required just a simple screwdriver.

The bottom of the box taken off, exposing where the SSD will be inserted.
The bottom of the box taken off, exposing where the SSD will be inserted.

You quickly notice that Intel made the box with hardware customization in mind as the connectors are neatly wrapped to the side and safely soldered. To put our memory card in, we simply lift up one side of the metal shelf that separates the SSD from the rest of the components as you see below.

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The NUC comes with pictures describing this entire process. For the memory card, you push the card in at an angle and then just push down and the card latches into place. I struggled with this for a few minutes until I realized how much engineering went into easing my pain.

 

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The SSD is then inserted as seen directly above. At this point, I need to transfer the Rockstor iso to a USB drive. The directions for this are available in the Rockstor quick start. I’m on a Macbook so I had to find my disk namespace by using diskutil list. After this task was completed, I plugged the USB stick into any one of the USB ports on the NUC and started up the box.  The installation steps for Rockstor can also be found in the Rockstor quick start. It’s a straightforward process which ultimately results in a simple command line prompt with the IP of your device to navigate to from your favorite browser in your local network. Pictures of the installation process are found below.

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Rockstor splash screen
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The view after after the splash screen showing the operating system installing
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Configuration dashboard for Rockstor
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Part of the required Rockstor setup – choosing your time zone
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What success looks like. You can see the IP address for my home network followed by a command line

And we’re off to the races! Start to finish the whole process takes about an hour. Just insanely easy to put together. Since I had a spare 1 TB drive lying around I figured I would attach it, create a pool within Rockstor to partition into shares for me and my roommate to use as time machine backups.

The finished product
The finished product

To accomplish this, I plugged the SSD into the NUC, navigated to the Storage tab, clicked on Disks on the left hand side, pressed the blue Rescan button and the drive appeared under the NUC drive. Pictures of this process are found below.

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There’s our disk!

After this, I navigated to the Pools tab on the left, clicked the Create pool button, and filled out the appropriate setup boxes for my pool (choosing only the new disk as it was my only disk to select).

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Now let’s create that pool.

 

Success!
Success!

Overall, the NUC was a surprisingly painless experience. There is no OS that comes with the device (since there isn’t a hard drive), so the assumption is that people that purchase the hardware have some idea about what they’re doing when it comes to jumpstarting a home cloud network but have the desire to customize the pieces of the puzzle. This device really is excellent for a Rockstor box for this reason.

My plans with this box, as I mentioned previously, is to create shares that will be converted into Time Machines for our Macbooks for both me and my roommate (details on how to set up a Rockstor box as a Time Machine). Ultimately, this will be my personal cloud server set up for access from anywhere our newest feature, Rock-ons. If you are a prosumer, please read the overview of Rockstor as a Open source Personal Cloud and NAS server.

In my next posts, I’ll demonstrate personal cloud features of Rockstor using BTSync, Plex, and Syncthing, connecting to your personal cloud using the OpenVPN Rock-on, streaming movies from your Rockstor box, and much more. Stay tuned.

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