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.

It’s 9 degrees C outside!

Wow, tonight may be the first time we’ve had to use the furnace (aside from hot water) since we moved into our new house. Summer is officially over. Yikes, I can feel the oil bill pain already!

Also, on a side note, I bypassed the ancient water softener and we seem to have much higher flow. Now I can finally use the cool settings on my shower head. Good times.

My cat is insane…

My cat Elwood (after Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers) has been pushing her water dispenser dish with her nose around the floor outside my office for almost an hour. I have no idea what she is trying to do or tell me (yes there is water in there). Thirty minutes before she started pushing her dish she was doing some form of cat-kung-foo on the carpet in my office.

Elwood Blues

Trying suse for a while…

Since I have been quite dissapointed with the recent releases of fedora for desktop use I’ve decided to try something other than redhat. I’ve tried on a couple occasions to use FreeBSD on my desktop because I absolutely LOVE the ports system. Unfortunatly most of my time was spent configuring and tweaking instead of working, which is what a good desktop OS should be all about, getting things done with minimal fuss. Also, I love freebsd but it’s definatly behind linux when it comes to hardware support.

I tried gentoo for a couple days but I also found it too demanding. I spent 2 days compiling and configuring to get a desktop that redhat could have given me in 30 minutes through HTTP install! I know that gentoo is faster (with prelinked binaries) and more 1337 but I’m too old and cranky to care. Gentoo does make a great server though, their portage system is a great clone of the FreeBSD ports system, which makes remote upgrades a snap.

I’ve breifly tried some others but always found something that I didn’t really like. Finally I installed suse 9.1 (after downloading and trying the suse 9.1 live CD) and so far so good. YaST is a great program, it’s nice to have a centralized configuration tool, and one that works in both console and X. I’ve tried suse before on a friends machine some years ago and wasn’t really impressed. I guess times have changed, the latest version is quite nice. I worked with KDE for a few days to give it a fair tryout but had to switch to Gnome 2.4.

I had to do a little tweaking to get the dual head working with my nVidia FX5600 Ultra but that’s expected, just adding the usual Twinview options to my /etc/X11/XF86config and it came alive. (if you want my XF86config post below and I’ll put it up here)

Anyway, aside from an annoying font issue in FireFox (I think it’s a firefox issue, not a suse issue) all has gone well. We’ll see what I think after a couple weeks.