Last week I commented that I was relieved the Mac Pro tower existed, but that I’d replaced most of my earlier Mac Pro’s tasks with FreeBSD boxes. It spawned a couple of interesting threads on Twitter.

My current home lab setup is an HP Gen8 Microserver bhyve box, and a desktop I built for games before remembering I barely play games and subsequently dual-booted as a FreeBSD desktop. I realised neither were originally built for FreeBSD, so what would a purpose-built tower replacement look like?

This was my high-level wishlist jotted down over coffee this morning:

  • A workstation motherboard for ECC. As Allan Jude says, ZFS without ECC is still more trustworthy than others with ECC, but every bit [flip] helps.

  • An Intel Xeon CPU with a decent core count. bhyvecon has shown a huge amount of BSD hypervisor progress, but Intel still has the best support; how performant they’ll be after the latest security fixes we’ll see. Dual-socket would let me have fewer, faster cores per socket while still having passable cooling, but that would raise the price.

  • A decent GPU situation for workstation use. I’m thinking the integrated Intel graphics for normal use, and eventually bhyve VGA/PCI-passthrough for a dedicated GPU to a game Windows VM for Train Simulator and X-Plane.

And then we get to enclosures. Most PC ones are ghastly, to put it charitably, and follow the Ford Model T school of colour choice. But there are a few that are inconspicuous enough and super practical: Supermicro and Chenbro make some pedestals with dual 4-drive backplanes and mounting for E-ATX, and are well laid out internally with shelving and discrete cooling zones. Here’s Chenbro’s SR107:

As I said on my Mac Pro post, I also want to eat. Clara and I also have more travel on the horizon, so for now my existing setup will need to last a little longer. But I’ll post my progress with this project.