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OS X vs OpenSolaris for a ZFS NAS/Fileserver

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Hi guys 'n gals!

 

As the title implies, I'm a little unsure on how to properly compare OSX 10.6 with OpenSolaris (OS) when looking for a NAS/Fileserver solution. I'd like to build a box with at least 4TB of usable capacity, and I'm sold on ZFS. However, I'm not so sure which implementation of ZFS would be best for my purposes.

 

As I'm not too comfortable with a terminal (although I can manage if I have to), I'd very much prefer a GUI for admin'ing the box, perhaps just something through a browser. Gauging from the bit of hunting around I've done for a GUI solution on OS, there doesn't seem to be much that is available at the consumer price-point. There's NexentaStor, but that starts at $1100 for a 4TB license. There's the OpenStorage line from Sun itself, but those prices are even more unrealistic for a home-user. Unless there's something I missed (and I'd love for that to be the case!), it doesn't seem like there's any truly user-friendly interface for accessing the power of ZFS on OS.

 

Apple, of course, is known for designing very intuitive GUI's, so I'm pretty excited about Server 10.6 -- but should I be? I don't have access to any of the developer builds, and I haven't heard much about how ZFS administration is handled. Is ZFS *fully* implemented in 10.6? Is there any performance hit, as there is in the FUSE port to Linux? Are storage pools easily and intuitively managed from a GUI? Is there a way to run OSX "headless", and just admin it from a remote computer (using a GUI, of course), so I don't have to waste system resources running the OS when all I need is a box to serve and store data?

 

Also, what build is Server 10.6 on, now? The last news I heard was for build 10A222, but that was several months ago. Any new or more accurate release dates?

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I'm running a 1.5TB RAID-Z on 10.5 Client now (4x500GB disks). You could easily get 4TB with 1.5TB disks. You need two commands to create the zpool, then you use it like any other disk in the GUI. The only annoyance is that you have to manually empty the trash, which I'm sure will be fixed in 10.6.

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The fact of the matter is that Debian is a really great Server OS...

 

However, the issue here is that LVM2 + EXT3 (The only safely live-resizable filesystem) is far from an end-user solution.

Additionally, this provides *ZERO* redundancy in the event of a failure.

 

ZFS provides Software RAID support needing to rebuild the array whenever you change disk sizes or quantities.

 

In the big scheme of things, your decision should come down to one thing...

Do you wish to use your fileserver for storage only or would you like to host additional services with it?

 

If you are looking to host a fileserver only, than I would recommend that you have a look at OpenFiler, as that would allow you to get similar behavior to ZFS with it's ability to have varying sized hard disks in a single array, add additional disks to your array without re-building, as well as having redundancy for your data.

 

If you would like to host something else as well (like an iTuines Server, a website or a shell server), I would recommend using OpenSolaris so that you can store your data in a ZFS Array.

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Personally, I'm using 4x Samsung 1 TB with Areca hardware RAID5 with Debian as (file)server. It also runs some 24/7 applications, and even has HVM ready. It also allows remote login via SSH, RS232, and NX/RDP/VNC allowing other devices such as phone or Mac to function as thin client. Because some of the 24/7 applications are file sharing related I don't spin down my disks. The hardware RAID has never let me down on FreeBSD or Debian. On Solaris the drivers didn't work; I'm pretty sure they work now though.

 

It is important to have the correct firmware for your harddisks (and possibly, other hardware), and it is important to have offsite backups. RAID is _not_ a backup solution. If you don't use hardware RAID you won't use staggered start up so when you'll need a (more) powerful power supply.

 

There are many things to optimize for. Silence, performance, electricity, cost...

 

My goal has been to get a silent quad-core system with 4 GB RAM allowing further function than merely NAS or SAN. Its relatively cool as well, and its friendly on the electricity bill. However the hardware RAID and the hardware required for offsite backups was not cheap. For the rest, its just off the shelf AMD hardware (cheaper than Intel).

 

However, I believe for most people JBOD + 1 offsite backup is more than good enough.

 

A dedicated server, low-cost embedded hardware (Jetway or something) purely for NAS or SAN is probably the most cheap and versatile solution. This is easier than all-in-one because it allows more physical flexibility, and if done right it doesn't cost much more while still also silent and providing good performance.

 

For ease of use, a Time Capsule might be good enough for a Mac user but this is pricey if you look at it purely from feature point of view. For NAS/SAN I don't see the advantages of OSX over Debian or FreeBSD. Its also not easy to keep a hackintosh up2date.

 

However, the issue here is that LVM2 + EXT3 (The only safely live-resizable filesystem) is far from an end-user solution.

 

 

Additionally, this provides *ZERO* redundancy in the event of a failure.

Combined with RAID it would provide redundancy.

 

ZFS provides Software RAID support needing to rebuild the array whenever you change disk sizes or quantities.
True, but one might as well not do such.

 

 

 

ZFS does work on Linux with FUSE. The performance is not as good as on Solaris or FreeBSD; but it works. So if you're in an emergency this is an option.

 

 

 

Do you wish to use your fileserver for storage only or would you like to host additional services with it?
Very good question.
If you are looking to host a fileserver only, than I would recommend that you have a look at OpenFiler
Or FreeNAS (FreeBSD-based with GEOM_RAID5). Or Nexenta (Solaris + APT; ZFS). Or FreeBSD 7 (GEOM_RAID5 or ZFS).

 

Stuff like iTunes server can be hosted on these fileservers as well.

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Or FreeNAS (FreeBSD-based with GEOM_RAID5). Or Nexenta (Solaris + APT; ZFS). Or FreeBSD 7 (GEOM_RAID5 or ZFS).

 

I excluded FreeNAS as I personally used it and found it *very* lacking compared to even a simple LVM2 + ext3 installation under Debian. It's performance was very poor, had limited support for my RAID cards and my network cards.

I understand that as it is FreeBSD based, I could have simply gone in and added the drivers myself, however I am interested more in a tested solution.

 

That is also why Gentoo/FreeBSD was excluded. While it includes native ZFS support, it is *wildly* untested.

 

The NexentaStor products are very good, however I was unable to get my RAID card to work under NexentaCore even though it worked perfectly fine in NexentaStor. I just don't feel like spending $1,100 on the OS for my home file server. Also, the original poster made this point as well.

 

You make some valid points, however you really need to read the requirements of the person asking for help.

 

~Adrian

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I excluded FreeNAS as I personally used it and found it *very* lacking compared to even a simple LVM2 + ext3 installation under Debian. It's performance was very poor, had limited support for my RAID cards and my network cards.

I understand that as it is FreeBSD based, I could have simply gone in and added the drivers myself, however I am interested more in a tested solution.

 

That is also why Gentoo/FreeBSD was excluded. While it includes native ZFS support, it is *wildly* untested.

 

The NexentaStor products are very good, however I was unable to get my RAID card to work under NexentaCore even though it worked perfectly fine in NexentaStor. I just don't feel like spending $1,100 on the OS for my home file server. Also, the original poster made this point as well.

 

You make some valid points, however you really need to read the requirements of the person asking for help.

 

~Adrian

The price comes with support.

 

 

 

FreeBSD itself has good ZFS support, especially if you run FreeBSD7/AMD64 and tweak it a bit to use more RAM. It lacks some of the latest ZFS features though.

 

 

 

The OP prefers GUI, but insists on ZFS. Strange IMO. In that case I really suggest the OP learns the ZFS internals and commands. That way it is easier to deal with problems should they arise. So NexentaOS (not the appliance) would be an option. The user can even install it with a desktop environment.

 

 

 

He can also just use Leopard and use the 3rd party ZFS read/write kernel module; this works as well, and the user then has familiar UI. But, its not a real product supported by Apple. The FUSE ZFS port has been stable, its also used by Sun. But again... no real support.

 

 

 

Configuring LVM2 with Ext3 (or Ext4) is also easy, and the software RAID5 is proven. The nice thing of ZFS is that stuff like iSCSI, NFS4 and CIFS is in the kernel and ZFS commands. This is easy to learn. If you're going to run a GUI on top of it though the difference with a non-ZFS solution becomes less. Unless you want versioning; then a versioning FS or Time Machine is useful.

 

 

 

 

While GEOM_RAID5 is not officially in FreeBSD it is very fast, and reported stable.

 

 

 

If you want to be really sure and run ZFS the only solution is to run Solaris or maybe OpenSolaris with support contract. If its just for play, ZFS runs fine on any of the above OSes and off-site backups take care in case of disaster.

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Hey, I was just reading through that post regarding ZFS on 10.6. It seems you know a bit about FreeBSD 7 (AMD64) with ZFS. I've got an Opteron 144 running FreeBSD 7.0 (AMD64) with 1 GB of PC3200. I'm trying to figure out why I can't even stream 720p video from it without having the occasional choppiness.

 

I do use the machine for torrenting occasionally and I've got two Gentoo servers running XEN which pull their OS images from the file server, but even when turning everything off it still occasionally skips.

 

I noticed you said that it should run great with tweaks for the RAM and I've read up on a few things online. After trying the tips on google my machine constantly crashes so I was wondering if 1 GB of RAM is enough and if so, what else could I do?

I wrote a message, and got a timeout....

 

HDD -> Might slow it down too

 

RAM -> Not enough. DDR PC3200 is cheap even if you want ECC.

 

ZFS on FreeBSD 7 -> You must tweak your FreeBSD and you need more RAM. AMD64 is more reliable than i386. See wiki entries 'tuning' and 'errors' at FreeBSD wiki http://wiki.freebsd.org/ZFS

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