Join 3,426 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Recommend me a (bare) fileserver for great good
August 4, 2010 5:07 AM   Subscribe

I'd like some recommendations on file server hardware. Ideally I'd like something with space for 6 3.5" SATA drives, the more the better. The server must be able to run FreeNAS and Linux with only modest hacking. I'm not averse to modifying something to get it to do what I want, but since this is going to be a production machine (albeit for home use) I shouldn't have to break out the soldering iron and JTAG cables just to get the OS setup. CPU and RAM don't matter, provided the machine can support a CPU made within the last six years and can accommodate 1GB+ of RAM. Bonus points for the following: space for multiple NICs, IBM, easy access to internals, relatively quiet. Budget max. is $400 *excluding* drives, and used equipment is (obviously) totally fine!
posted by -1 to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why six drives, in particular? Any old box will take four, and that gets you a decent 4TB Raid0+1 setup in a commodity box for pretty cheap.
posted by mhoye at 5:23 AM on August 4, 2010


rack mount or desktop?
posted by fozzie33 at 5:45 AM on August 4, 2010


mhoye: "Why six drives, in particular? Any old box will take four, and that gets you a decent 4TB Raid0+1 setup in a commodity box for pretty cheap."

I imagine -1 wants to use RAID6 which only really becomes worthwhile with 6+ drives. Also, it's not hard to fit a 5 in 3 rack to a desktop tower but I suspect the OP is looking for a neater form factor.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:16 AM on August 4, 2010


More work than you asked for but still interesting.
posted by costas at 7:13 AM on August 4, 2010


Not quite what you're asking for, but a QNAP TS-639 would be one possibility. If the existing software doesn't do what you want then I believe you can install Debian ARM on them, at which point you can do pretty much what you like.

Alternatively, why not construct a FreeNAS box out of a small MiniITX system (or other small PC: plenty around) & an external SATA disc array? That way the number of discs is limited purely by the size of the array(s).
posted by pharm at 7:30 AM on August 4, 2010


I suspect the OP is looking for a neater form factor.

Unfortunately "neater form factor" probably means "heat issues" in the consumer space. Drives run pretty hot these days. (Also: IBM gear, for $400? I lolled.)

I'm a longstanding believer in the idea that RAID is a waste of time for home users, but I can see it in some cases. -1, you haven't really explained your particular needs here beyond "big raid box", but 2TB drives are pretty standard now, and if I were in your (poorly-understood, admittedly) situation I would:

- skip the big-box RAID6 stuff
- put two mirrored 2TB drives in a DNS-323 and plug it into your LAN.
- Do a nightly (or even hourly) rsync to another 2TB drive in another enclosure, and
- spend some of the money you've saved on a good UPS.

If you're feeling particularly fancy, you can get a pelican case and a second 2TB drive in an enclosure, bring that home once a month, do a full backup onto it, and then put it back in your friends' basement.

RAID for home users is a bit of a red herring; when a drive fails uptime doesn't matter so much, because you have to be dealing with that drive failure right away regardless. The key to preserving your data intact is redundant backups and clean power, not the added complexity of RAID.
posted by mhoye at 7:33 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The correct answer is The Lian-Li 343. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:38 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


you don't need 1GB+ RAM in a file server running unix. i'm a fan of supermicro in general.
posted by rhizome at 11:40 AM on August 4, 2010


Just some clarifications:
you don't need 1GB+ RAM in a file server running unix.
You do if you want to host a large number of different services for serving the files, plus support transcoding, etc. while still having enough room to avoid swap.
Do a nightly (or even hourly) rsync to another 2TB drive in another enclosure, and
Assuming I only wanted 2TB of storage (which I don't), I don't think I'd save that much money over a RAID solution. I wouldn't be able to get away with less drives, plus I'd have to buy another enclosure/box/etc. which doesn't really leave that much money for a UPS...
The correct answer is The Lian-Li 343. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
That looks quite nice, but $350 for an enclosure doesn't leave much left over for things like a motherboard, etc...
Unfortunately "neater form factor" probably means "heat issues" in the consumer space. Drives run pretty hot these days. (Also: IBM gear, for $400? I lolled.)
I don't really care about the form factor. Good cooling is far more important. Even sound isn't really an issue, as the box will be in a mostly-uninhabited part of the house.

And *used* IBM gear for $400 is definitely possible. New? Well... I might be able to get an IBM-labeled drive for that... ;)
I imagine -1 wants to use RAID6 which only really becomes worthwhile with 6+ drives. Also, it's not hard to fit a 5 in 3 rack to a desktop tower but I suspect the OP is looking for a neater form factor.
Spot on about RAID6. The form factor isn't important, but I don't want to cram drives into an enclosure not meant to support them, as it seems like a good way to hit cooling/power issues head-on.
posted by -1 at 3:47 PM on August 4, 2010


I've been thinking about building an UnRAID for a while. There might be good info for you in the forums there, esp the "good deals" area. I like the idea that it boots off a flash drive & you can mix & match drive sizes.
posted by omnidrew at 8:53 PM on August 4, 2010


I've been thinking about building an UnRAID for a while.
It's a neat idea for small setups, but IIRC it's not terribly good in terms of write performance when you start adding more disks, as the XOR parity method it uses is a little worse than O(n).

I definitely have a use for unRAID in future setups, but I don't think is it...
posted by -1 at 9:07 PM on August 4, 2010


The Acer H340 Home Server might be interesting, but only 4 drives.

It is pretty easy to just take a case and mod it to fit a bunch of drives. Check out this little project of mine (now retired). The system is an HP X-Class dual PIII, and the case only accommodates about 4 drives native. I wanted something like 8 (can't recall the exact count, did I mention it has been retired?). I used the drive hanging section of a garbage case to make a 4-drive holder. Adding some holes, and reusing others, I was able to attach a fan and mount it to the X-Class's chassis. Finally, the system's power supply didn't like the spin up current requirement for so many drives, so I built a simple spin up delay circuit for the 4 drives in the rack. The spin up delay only worked because the 4 drives were on a PCI based controller card. The system took so long to get around to 'discovering' those drives that the delay didn't cause any problems. I don't think you could apply such simple spin up delay to drives attached to the chipsets SATA channels..
posted by Chuckles at 12:36 AM on August 5, 2010


Better link on the H340. It has an eSATA port on the back, but reports are that it does not support port-multiplier, so none of those 5-drive 1-port external SATA chassis (many brands make these). It also has an internal PCI-Express x4 slot, so you could add a multi channel sata controller, even one that does support port multiplier.
posted by Chuckles at 12:59 AM on August 5, 2010


That looks quite nice, but $350 for an enclosure doesn't leave much left over for things like a motherboard, etc...

Understood... but then again, it's a file server. You can run a file server on a Pentium II.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:51 AM on August 5, 2010


Be aware that RAID schemes that involve parity are a real performance killer. There's something to be said for using a RAID1+0 scheme instead. That is, a mirror of two striped drives. That and you gain reliability against a dual drive failure. Sure, you don't get the added storage benefit but these days drives are pretty damned cheap. Four 2TB drives in a RAID10 will net you 4TB of storage, great read AND write speeds and redundancy against drive failures. Yeah, you get more storage out of RAID5 or 6 but do you really need that much storage all online at once? Better to push the unused stuff off to other media (even if it's another hard drive).

Oh, and have you considered the time and hassles necessary for when the array gets rebuilt? I've just dealt with a crashed 6TB RAID5 array and it literally takes SEVERAL DAYS to rebuild.

Also be aware of problems with using large drives. Not all motherboards will deal with them properly. Some RAID chipsets will not allow using 2TB drives. That and there can be OS issues with larger than 2TB filesystems, or the new 4K large sector sizes. For one particular setup it was easier to just bail on trying to make it work with the motherboard chipset or the host OS and go with an hardware RAID card instead.
posted by wkearney99 at 12:09 PM on August 5, 2010


« Older My parents live alone in a pre...   |  What the heck happened to my f... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.