IDE raid servers on a budget…

When I say “on a budget” I mean less than $10,000 for a couple TB of usable space, more on the enterprise/small business level than a home user. But still, when compared to the cost of a Network Appliance or EMC solution this is storage on the cheap!

My biggest client is a .com e-tailor that has a small linux web cluster (50 or so machines) at an IDC in boston. In early 2000 when money was still being handed out by the truck load they bought a Network Appliance F740 filer with a couple FC9 shelves full of 36GB disks. This set them back around $80,000 but it was the Ferrari of NAS appliances. Ask anyone that does big enterprise computing and they’ll tell you that Network Appliance is awesome.

Then the bubble popped and companies actually had to be profitable, suddenly paying $180 a GB for storage didn’t seem fiscally responsible. Since the filer was used for archiving log files and backups, the feature rich network appliance was overkill but the money was already spent so the solution stayed in place. Then in 2003 the the filer started experiencing problems with the fiberchannel controler in one of the FC9 shelves. After trying to locate a replacement shelf and a couple disks and seeing the cost I decided it was time to replace the filer with something a little more economical.

After a little research I contacted our rep at ASA talk about their IDE raid solutions. I settled on two of their 4TB P4 raid servers loaded with FreeBSD 4.10. Why did I choose IDE over SCSI? IDE seems like the most economical choice, the IDE solution was less than half the price of the SCSI solution. Sure IDE is sower and less reliable than SCSI but at less than half the cost per GB we can afford a few extra drives marked as hot spares.

In the raid server has 2 3Ware 7506-8 controllers. These things work flawlessly in both FreeBSD and Linux which is great. On the system I chose freebsd for it’s superior NFSv3 support and awesome stability.

So freebsd was installed I added a few packages from the ports (check out 3dmd for monitoring your 3ware cards) and started configuring services like samba and apache. In the end I had a pair of 2TB raidservers that cost 1/8th as much as the netapp and performed surprisingly well. Each raid box has roughly 30 NFS clients and it never seems to experience much load at all. And I/O is quite respectable, if anyone wants bonnie++ results I can post them up.