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Build Advice Steam...Server?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Wicked_Sludge, 26 Feb 2019.

  1. Wicked_Sludge

    Wicked_Sludge My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

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    Greetings all! Haven't posted in a while, been busy with life (I bought a house!), but I know I can always trust bit-tech users for some solid advice.

    So recently, my old 7970GHz Edition has bitten the dust. That, combined with my aging PC (LGA 1156), has prompted me to start considering a new rig. I'm the only serious gamer in the house, but my fiancee and kid do dabble. So here's my thought; Instead of building 3 medium-range PC's (2 of which won't be used frequently), I build one behemoth of a rig and run 2 virtual machines on it. Each VM runs a Steam client with its own account. Steam, of coarse, allowing in-home streaming between clients. This way, when my fiancee and/or kid want to play, they simply log into their respective Steam account from their low-powered laptop or desktop and stream the game from their VM, with the big PC doing all the hard work. I could possibly even go so far as to do a remote desktop virtualization type scenario which would make backing up data and resolving "issues" on their VMs easier for me. Note that I'm the sole IT person in my house, but I've never messed around with virtual machines or RDV.

    I think this system could prove cheaper in the long run. And it would give me plenty of muscle for the ~75% of the time that I'm the only one gaming, while still giving satisfactory results when there are 2 or even all 3 of us using resources from the one PC. The drawbacks would be setting everything up, since as I mentioned I've never tried setting up VM's before. And I'm concerned about the overhead running 2 VMs will have. Is this going to cause significant degradation of my (local) or their (remote) experience?

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Zoon

    Zoon Hunting Wabbits since the 80s

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    No won’t work. 3D graphics in a VM are hugely limited. But you could have one monster and run steam streaming to two light desktops as long as you don’t all want to play the same game at the same time.
     
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  3. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    This isn't necessarily the case: with directed IO support, you can have full-performance 3D acceleration in a VM - *if* you have a GPU you can dedicate to it (and *if* your CPU/motherboard support directed IO.) That's how the cloud gaming services do it.

    You'd need a GPU per VM and another for the host, though - so three in total.
     
  4. Zoon

    Zoon Hunting Wabbits since the 80s

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    Still not really an argument in favour of the VM approach even if my reasoning for not recommending it wasn't as accurate as I thought :D
     
  5. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Well, it is, 'cos:

    A) One powerful PC with three GPUs is cheaper than three powerful PCs with one GPU each.
    2) One powerful PC with three GPUs is more energy-efficient than three powerful PCs with one GPU each.
    iii) Steam In-Home Streaming will, as I recall, only allow one person to play one game at one time - so even if you have one powerful PC and two thin-clients, only one person can play a game (not "the same game," literally *any* Steam game) at a time - in which case you might as well just have one PC that everyone shares, save yerself some money.
    IV) Again from memory, 'cos I haven't tried Steam In-Home Streaming since it first launched, when you fire up a game on a remote device it literally plays full-screen on the host - so if someone's playing a game on one of the thin clients, not only can the second thin client not be playing a game but the powerful system can't do anything at all. (Like I say, that one's from memory, so forgive me if they've fixed that issue since.)

    Running VMs to which thin-clients connect solves all four of those problems. (And introduces a whole bunch of other problems, like latency, bandwidth issues, the need for a seriously beefy many-core processor so you can dedicate at least four cores per VM, but that's by-the-by.)
     
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  6. Anfield

    Anfield Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like the perfect case for Steam family sharing?
     
  7. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Same problem as Steam In-Home Streaming: 'Can two users share a library and both play at the same time? No, a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time.' Plus there's the second problem of the two other machines not being powerful enough to play the games well locally, which is what Steam In-Home Streaming solves.

    Basically, both Steam Family Sharing and Steam In-Home Streaming are, in this scenario, no better than just letting the kids use the most powerful PC when they want to play games: you'll still only be able to have one person playing at a time.
     
  8. Zoon

    Zoon Hunting Wabbits since the 80s

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    I guess, then, it depends on the gaming needs for the second two users. Bearing in mind the costs of secondhand graphics cards, really, is it that much of an imposition to put some modestly priced secondhand kit into the mix? For 1080P gaming, a 1050TI at around £130 is plenty for a secondary PC, surely? So plonk one of those in the current 'main rig' and then buy one brand new rig.

    Both the kid's rig and the main rig could stream to the wife's laptop in this scenario, depending on who is gaming at the time.
     
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  9. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Except that, as above, streaming from either will tie up the machine - meaning that the wife might as well be gaming on the kid's rig or main rig instead, because nobody else will be able to use it.
     
  10. edzieba

    edzieba Virtual Realist

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    Take a look at LinusTechTips series of "X gamers one CPU" builds. They're massively overspecced for what you're after (because LTT), but the fundamental technique of running Unraid and providing one discrete GPU per gaming VM would be the same.
     
  11. Wicked_Sludge

    Wicked_Sludge My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

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    Gareth, it's been a few years since I've messed with steams in-home streaming but, unless they've changed it, you're correct on all points. Even if you could manage to run multiple steam clients on one instance of windows (a problem in itself), steam turns the screen black on the host while someone is streaming. The only way to stream more than one client at a time would be to have each client in a VM.

    But Zoon brings up a valid point, I could always get a decent used GPU for my current rig and then build my new main rig with 2 cards and a decent CPU. With two windows accounts on my old rig, that would handle the major share of the households gaming needs. And in the occasional instance where we all 3 wanted to game at the same time, I can run a single VM on my main rig for either the kid or fiancee to stream from.

    So I haven't built a rig in a hot minute. What's the current hot 8 core CPU? What's the current hotness for SSDs (pci? SATA3?)? And more importantly, what chipset should I be looking for to give me the bandwidth I need for 2 GPUs and all this junk?
     
    Last edited: 26 Feb 2019
  12. Xlog

    Xlog Active Member

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    Note that IOMMU (required for GPU pass-through) support on consumer grade HW is pretty much non-existent or best case "if stars align". So unless you can invest in some server grade HW, it will prob wont work.
     
  13. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    My humble A10-5800K has AMD's IOMMU 2.0 as part of its VT-d, but I have to admit I've never actually tried using it for GPU passthrough...
     
  14. Xlog

    Xlog Active Member

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    Cpu might support it, does the chipset? does BIOS have correct IVRS table? are PCIe actually in separate groups?
    There is also a problem of some of the cards refusing to reinitialize after VM restart without full host reboot.

    Basically a lot of things must go right for it to work, be prepared to do a lot of research, debugging, cli magic, etc. And in the end it might still not work how you'd expect.

    p.s. also, VT-d is Intel name for IOMMU
     
    Last edited: 26 Feb 2019
  15. Wicked_Sludge

    Wicked_Sludge My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

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    Crap. I had kinda feared that may be the case. And I won't lie, I'm a little intimidated about setting all that up. I can usually muddle my way through things like this, but I'm no expert by any means.

    This was the exact reason why I shied away from crossfire and SLI back in the day. Results were just too hit and miss for my tastes. Consistency is key in my book.

    So I guess I'll be looking at putting a decent used card in my current rig and setting it up for the kid and wife to use and building myself a new rig. And we just won't have the option to all 3 game on PC at once. There's no shortage of consoles in this house anyway.

    I'm still interested in opinions on what chipset I should be eyeballing for a decent amount of future proofing. Obviously I got nearly 10 years out of a p55 motherboard, which I think is respectable
     
  16. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Yup.
    No clue.
    <shrugs with "i-unno" noise>
    Whichever one the AMD one is, then. AMD-V? I forget.
     
    Last edited: 27 Feb 2019
  17. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Digging this up, 'cos...
    I can answer this now - sort of! I built my shiny new desktop, and found that my HDMI capture card wasn't supported in Ubuntu 19.04 yet. So, I spent an hour or so playing with PCIe passthrough to an Ubuntu 18.04 VM in VirtualBox. Which worked perfectly well... kinda.

    The kinda: the VM saw the HDMI capture card, could talk to the HDMI capture card, could install the drivers for the HDMI capture card, could configure the HDMI capture card, and could run the HDMI capture card software which could talk to the HDMI capture card. It just couldn't show the picture from the HDMI capture card (but was quite happy capturing to a video file, which played back fine - proving that the actual passthrough was working, it was just that VirtualBox with a Linux guest can't properly display the overlay.)

    Thus, I'd expect a graphics card to work just as well - with the added bonus that it'd be outputting a real video signal to an actual monitor.

    Thus: I can say with... ooh, I'd say 80% certainty that it'd work on my B450 motherboard and Ryzen CPU.
     
  18. yuusou

    yuusou Well-Known Member

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    Plenty of people have done this. LinusTechTips has done this. The remote desktop bit is the actual difficult bit, but running a virtual machine with GPUs passed through, especially on a desktop, is quite easy. You can even pass through a raw storage device meaning everyone has their own drive.

    I even did this on my laptop and only didn't succeed because my iGPU wasn't playing ball with steam in home streaming (and the dGPU has no physical output).

    Unraid, KVM, Xen, ESXi and even Hyper-V will allow PCI Pass-through.
     
  19. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Will work for nuts Super Moderator

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    Mild thread hijack, but it's on topic and the thread had fizzled - what about doing this with no concern for gaming?

    I'd like more grunt in my server (ESXi), I'd like more grunt in my main system (W10), and I don't do any gaming on it. I can't really justify upgrading one or the other because it's kind of more grunt for the sake of it... it would get used, but it's not exactly required for my uses.

    I know it's possible, I'm just wondering how practical it would be to use day to day?
     
  20. Zoon

    Zoon Hunting Wabbits since the 80s

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    If you had an uber powerful server you could easily run a Windows 10 desktop VM which you just RDP to from ... well just about anything with a big enough screen and network access I guess. Grab a wyse winterm secondhand off ebay indeed.
     

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