My FreeNAS Project (by Jonathan Brown)

Jonathan Brown has started a series describing the different stages of setting up his FreeNAS server:

Part 1

“From a pure archival and backup perspective, the Sun in my digital solar system will be a mass storage device—in this case, a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. There are plenty of these all-in-one appliances out there. Iomega, D-Link, NetGear, HP, Drobo and LG all make some flavor of NAS. I’m sure any NAS from any of those brands will work for most people, but I really want to understand how my storage solution works so it can evolve and, in event of error, I can recover it.

After researching a bit and talking to my system admins at work, I decided that I want a hybrid system that has drive redundancy, a removable component and off-site replication.

For disk redundancy, I’m going with a RAID5 configuration—set of striped disks with parity data spread across all disks—which means the NAS can take a single hard drive failure and continue to operate without any data loss. I considered RAID6 (allows for two drive failures), but that’s really overkill and, combined with the remainder of my backup strategy, unnecessary.

Why do you want disk redundancy? Simply put, hard drives suck. They are so error prone that each drive has a system (called S.M.A.R.T.) that monitors how many errors it makes in hoping to predict a disk failure. Google did a study on drive failure rates. You can see the chart to the right which indicates percent failure by age (years in service). 8.6% of drives with three years of service fail! Ouch. So given the high rate of hard disk failures, that was an absolute requirement for my solution


The solution that will allow me to accomplish these goals? I’m going to build it. I will use the open-source software project called FreeNAS. It has quite a few lovely features (including software RAID, iSCSI and RSYNC) that will [hopefully] perform all I need. I did a little test using the downloadable VMWare image and a USB keychain drive. I was able to do exactly what I wanted, albiet a much more scaled down version. I will document as I go in case anyone wants to try to follow in my footsteps. In the next part, I will discuss the machine build and the parts I will be using.”

More…

Part 2 – The Parts

To be honest, I’ve not built, technically assembled, a computer in over six years. I used to build all of my own computers when Windows was my primary operating system and I was developing a lot of Windows applications. Back then it made sense to build your own because it was more cost-effective. These days, unless you’re a gamer or have very unique desires, it’s way cheaper (and less frustrating) to go to a big box store and buy off-the-shelf or order online.

More…

Part 3 – The Build

The first step was to disassemble the donor machine, which wasn’t a problem at all. The breakdown was smooth with only one trip to HP’s support site to figure out how an interlocking part became not so locking.

Next, I installed the motherboard into the new case. It wasn’t that big of a deal; however, the HP motherboard was fastened to a metal mounting plate and I had to decide whether to keep the HP mount or ditch it. I wanted to scrap it, but realized the CPU heat-sink and fan were mounted to the metal plate, so that decision was made for me. This created a tighter fit than I expected, but in the end turned out to be a very solid.

My next task was to get some power in the case, so I proceeded to install the 460W power supply from the donor. And that’s when I encountered my first hiccup. I didn’t think to measure the power supply to make sure it would fit in the new case—a standard ATX case—and I assumed, stupidly, that the power supply from the HP was of an ATX form-factor. Needless to say, it was not. I don’t even know what you call the form-factor, but it’s height is 97mm high, which is too tall for a standard ATX (86 mm).

Part 3 – The Build

Part 4 -The install

More deliveries to follow

Thecus N5200PRO wins DnR Hardware Award

The latest review of the N5200 comes from the editors of DnR Hardware, who brought the N5200PRO into their test labs. After subjecting the N5200PRO to a variety of tests, DnR Hardware editors came to the same conclusion – the N5200PRO is “a device which is in the top of its class,” giving it their coveted DnR Hardware Gold Award!

To kick things off, editors began with a short introduction of the N5200PRO: “At first glance the Thecus N5200B PRO is a mature product. First and foremost are 5 indicator LEDs, on / off and reset buttons, status display, 4 control buttons and 1 USB connection. The rear houses the power socket and switch, 3 USB (2 type A and 1 type B) connectors, 1 eSATA, 2 serial and gigabit network port. Included are a power and network cable, the key to the disc trays to open the drive trays themselves and 2 CDs (one with backup software in the form of Drive Clone 3 Pro and a Thecus CD with installation software and manuals.”

The N5200PRO offers some impressive features:

“Several features extracted from the N5200B PRO are nice. A few interesting options such as scheduled power on/off the device at regular intervals or the possibility of the 2 network connections in load balancing (sharing of network traffic) or failover (automatic switching between the other network connection). There is also a wide choice of different RAID types.”

The conclusion?

“The N5200B PRO is a mature and robust product that provides consumers a ‘safe’ central place to store data. For SMEs, this product may be a very interesting alternative to the expensive storage servers from established brands like HP and Dell. Especially because of the performance and redundancy through the network, the N5200B PRO is very suitable.”

N5200PRO Features:

iSCSI Ready
N5200PRO is not only a file server, but it also supports iSCSI initiators. Your server can access N5200PRO as a direct-attached-storage over the LAN or Internet. There is no easier way to expand the capacity of your current application servers. All storage needs can be centrally managed and deployed. This brings ultimate flexibility to users.

Multiple RAID
N5200PRO supports multiple RAID volumes on one system. So, you can create RAID 0 for your non-critical data, and create RAID 5 for your mission-critical data. Create the RAID level protection depending on your needs.

Faster and Fastest
N5200PRO is equipped with a Low Voltage Intel® 1.5GHz Celeron® M Processor and 512MB DDR system memory, which provides even faster response and more concurrent connections. With its built-in Module compatibility, the N5200PRO is able to run more applications at the same time.

Superior Power Management
N5200PRO supports scheduled power on/off. With this feature, users can set what time the system turns on or off. This feature is a big plus for people who want to conserve energy. Wake-On-LAN enables users to remotely turn the system on without leaving their seat.

Complete Network Reliability (N5200B PRO only)
Because businesses depend on being able to retrieve their data, the N5200B PRO comes with both Load Balancing and Failover to optimize and ensure network traffic. With its Failover capability, the N5200PRO automatically switches to an alternate Ethernet connection should the first one be inaccessible. With these two functions, the N5200B PRO provides users with greater network reliability.

Easy Remote Backup
The N5200 is also equipped with Nsync, Thecus’ remote data backup application. With Nsync, users can have the N5200PRO automatically upload files to an external storage device at a designated time. What’s more, if the external device is another N4100, the connection is made via a secure connection. Designed for SMBs for enhanced data protection, Nsync takes the guesswork out of data backup.

For more details and buying, go here.

NAS evolving into “Cloud NAS”

Ashish Nadkari discusses cloud NAS in this Q&A. His answers are also available as an mp3.

What is cloud network-attached storage (NAS) and how does it work?

Cloud NAS is a subset of cloud storage, which is also known as Storage as a Service (SaaS). When most people think about NAS, they think about a storage device in their data center or office. If you take that device and move it far away, maybe where you don’t even know the location, and you access it over the Internet using a software module on the host itself, you’re taking the functionality of the NAS device and you are moving it into the cloud. You just access it as if it is a local device.

That’s cloud NAS in a nutshell. It’s a spoof on the server, making it think it’s accessing a local device when really it’s over the Internet or a dedicated long-distance connection.

What are the benefits of cloud NAS?

Well, with a typical NAS device, you are stuck with that location. So if something goes wrong with that location, your services are going to be down. So, if you have a critical file serving requirement, and if you are out somewhere traveling and need to access it, but the router in your office went down, you are out of luck. But, if you move it into the cloud it is virtually available and always available. The key benefit is that you can access your information at any time without the restrictions of the physical location of the data.

What are the drawbacks of cloud network-attached storage?

The main drawback of cloud NAS is that it is as fast or as slow as the network connection that it is accessed over. So, if you are on a dial-up connection and you are trying to access data, the access is going to be very slow. So, it isn’t ideal for large files or large chunks of data. It should be used for small subsets of data or specialized applications such as backup because latency can be a big issue.

You need to have a local copy available to work on and then you can just save it over the network as a backup.

Read the whole post or listen to the MP3 above for further questions and answers

Internal cloud computing with free tools

SearchNetworking has an article about cheap, and even free, internal cloud computing. Check out the tools that are available. OpenFiler is recommended for storage allocation and consolidation:

Freeware: The answer to internal cloud computing?

If IT does not have the tools it needs, it can fill many gaps with free software, either permanently or simply as a starting point while budgets are tight. It’s important that IT keep its processes modular so that using a freeware tool to replace a manual process, or a commercial tool to replace a free one, will be straightforward. Beyond the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Python/Perl), free packages can fill many gaps in a data center looking to gear up for more cloud-like operations. Examples include:

  • Monitoring tools such as Hyperic, Zenoss, OpenNMS, Cacti, and Nagios can provide visibility into server and storage utilization. SolarWinds supplies a free VM Monitor tool.
  • KVM, Xen, and VMware ESX are free hypervisors; Citrix XenServer is a multi-machine resource pool manager; Microsoft HyperV is cheap or already included in many organizations’ MS licenses.
  • jManage handles Java applications in application servers.
  • FastSCP helps move data between physical and virtual environments.
  • OpenFiler and Veritas Storage Foundation Basic allow consolidation and allocation of storage. StarWinds provides a free version of its iSCSI Target software.
  • Eucalyptus is a cloud-management tool that ties together other systems to provide automation.

Source: searchnetworking.techtarget.com.au (12/08/2009)

Coping with SAN Storage Frustration caused by Server Virtualization

Coping with SAN Storage Frustration Caused by Server Virtualization

Server virtualization is clearly one of the breakout technologies in the first decade of the 21st century. The results are both operationally and economically compelling, however, they are not without their pitfalls as server virtualization unless properly managed with appropriate SAN storage.

Is this your case? Here’s a whitepaper from NEC to help you out (registration required).