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WHS as a multi-purpose server RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hey guys, complete WHS newbie here.  I've been doing some research (and just downloaded the Vail beta) on WHS to see if it might be the right solution for me.  My goal is to have a server that provides NAS functionality and backups, but also can run some server software that I'm currently relying on an old linux machine to run.  The NAS and backup stuff looks like a piece of cake for WHS, but the other stuff I'm not sure about.  

    Specifically, what I'm trying to understand is if I can run some Java app servers (such as Tomcat or JBoss) on my WHS as well as a MySQL server.  Since WHS is built on Windows Server 2008 (for Vail at least), it seems like the answer should be "yes".   (I should be able to run almost anything on WHS that I could on a standalone install of Server 2008 right?)  But after doing some googling on this stuff, I'm finding some mixed answers.  Regarding things like Tomcat, I'm finding some info that says that it can be done but requires some workarounds.  Same for MySQL.  

    Maybe my question is better put this way: "while it may be technically possible to run these types of server-apps (Tomcat, JBoss, mysql, etc) on Windows Home Server, is it a best practice to do so?"  Or should my WHS machine really be dedicated to doing nothing more than the functionality that WHS provides out of the box?  

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 2:38 PM

Answers

  • It's a question of design.

    Windows Home Server is designed to be installed by an OEM, bought by a consumer with relatively low technical skills (think "my brother-in-law the Excel jockey, who calls me when his PC won't boot rather than investigate himself"), and used more or less as is. Desktop access, and all you can do with it, is technically unsupported in day-to-day use, as is anything that you might want to do with a general purpose server.

    The intended way of extending the server is via an "add-in", which installs through the Windows Home Server console application and supplements/adds to server functionality. Again, though, all control (which should be minimal) of an add-in should be through the console or through a purpose-built client tool which communicates with a purpose-built tool on the server.

    You can certainly try what you want. Probably it will work, and if any problems occur you'll probably be able to sort them out. But the more heavily you customize your server through the desktop, the more painful it will be if something should happen to the system partition which would render the server unbootable (disk failure, OS corruption, ill-considered tweak :) ) because there's also no way to back up the system partition. You'd wind up reinstalling everything...


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    • Marked as answer by eagle63 Wednesday, November 3, 2010 8:19 PM
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 5:01 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • You can, in theory, run whatever you like. However, anything that requires desktop access to install is going to be unsupported, at least by Microsoft, and there are risks beyond the obvious: Some components are configured in specific ways out of the box, and changing those configurations can sometimes break Windows Home Server functionality.

    My own opinion is that best practice is to let Windows Home Server do what it's good at, which is back up your client computers and share and protect data. Let another server do the heavy lifting as a multi-purpose server. One option, if reducing hardware is a requirement, is to run Windows Home Server in a virtual machine on a general purpose server. Again, this is unsupported, but it's something a fair number of people are doing for various reasons.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 3:37 PM
    Moderator
  • Thanks Ken, I was afraid that that might be the answer.  :)   Since I have the Vail beta, I'll probably try it anyway just for experimentation's sake.  Keeping in mind that I'm not intending to heavily tax this machine, turn it into a game server or general purpose workstation.  My assumption was that since app-servers like Tomcat and things like MySQL are "server-type applications" anyway, it might be a good fit.  My goal was to kill 2 birds with one stone, but I could always run my 2nd machine to handle the other stuff if necessary.  
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 4:43 PM
  • It's a question of design.

    Windows Home Server is designed to be installed by an OEM, bought by a consumer with relatively low technical skills (think "my brother-in-law the Excel jockey, who calls me when his PC won't boot rather than investigate himself"), and used more or less as is. Desktop access, and all you can do with it, is technically unsupported in day-to-day use, as is anything that you might want to do with a general purpose server.

    The intended way of extending the server is via an "add-in", which installs through the Windows Home Server console application and supplements/adds to server functionality. Again, though, all control (which should be minimal) of an add-in should be through the console or through a purpose-built client tool which communicates with a purpose-built tool on the server.

    You can certainly try what you want. Probably it will work, and if any problems occur you'll probably be able to sort them out. But the more heavily you customize your server through the desktop, the more painful it will be if something should happen to the system partition which would render the server unbootable (disk failure, OS corruption, ill-considered tweak :) ) because there's also no way to back up the system partition. You'd wind up reinstalling everything...


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    • Marked as answer by eagle63 Wednesday, November 3, 2010 8:19 PM
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 5:01 PM
    Moderator
  • Thanks again Ken.  One last question:  assuming I use a separate (linux) machine to handle those other server tasks, I assume I shouldn't have any problem connecting that Linux machine to WHS?  I realize I won't get the automated backups and all the other fancy stuff, but if I simply wanted to write a shell script on my linux box so that every night it could copy a handful of files over to my WHS for backup, that should be doable right?  In other words, any machine in the house should - at the very least - "see" my WHS as a network share?  
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 5:40 PM
  • Subject to the usual restrictions on secured shares on a Windows machine, yes. So you'll either need to activate the Guest account on your server, or use a Windows Home Server account that has write permission on the target share.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    • Marked as answer by eagle63 Wednesday, November 3, 2010 8:19 PM
    • Unmarked as answer by eagle63 Wednesday, November 3, 2010 8:19 PM
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 6:01 PM
    Moderator