Hardware for an OpenIndiana ZFS file server
Posted by Trixter on October 6, 2013
It’s hard to be an Illumos user. The amount of hardware that works correctly with OpenIndiana (my favorite OS right now) is not very well defined and relies on confirmations from the user community whether something works or not. There are other ways to build a ZFS NAS, such as FreeNAS, but I’ve been using ZFS since it was in Solaris (x86) 10u3 and have followed the path of the devout: Solaris 10 x86, to OpenSolaris, to OpenIndiana.
This blog post is not about how to build a ZFS fileserver; there are enough out there. Rather, this post is about what hardware I chose to build mine. I wanted to spend less than $1000, build something that had future storage upgrade potential, and had a motherboard + CPU that someone else had already verified as good for OpenIndiana. I wanted ECC memory to further protect against what ZFS already protects against, and finally I wanted to boot off of a USB flash drive.
Here’s what I came up with. Please forgive the NewEgg formatting, but at least the links are intact in case you want to go buy something:
This came out to roughly $730.
Normally I try to be fair and list pros and cons, but I only have good things to say about this arrangement. Everything (hardware and software) worked correctly on the first try. The performance is ludicrous; I can easily saturate a gigabit pipe with a 4-drive raidz. There were no hitches installing OpenIndiana at all, even installing to the flash drive (which is connected to an internal USB header so it’s out of the way). The drives are sideways so the power and sata cables can be routed behind the motherboard. In fact, everything is routed behind the motherboard except for the main motherboard power cable. The drives are on rails; while they aren’t hot-swap, it is very easy to swap them without using any tools.
Astute readers will wonder why I purchase a Sandy Bridge Xeon instead of something newer. Ivy Bridge or Haswell would have given me more bang for my buck, but I wanted to play it safe with confirmed, tested hardware. I was also unsure if my motherboard would support Ivy Bridge — it requires the latest BIOS to do so, but you need a Sandy Bridge to apply the latest BIOS! Horrible catch-22. So I played it safe with Sandy Bridge. You also might be wondering why a blu-ray drive is there. That is a “why not?” addition — if it’s possible to burn blu-ray media directly from the fileserver, that’s an additional win. Even if I can’t, it was only $50 more than a DVD-ROM drive so hey, why not.
All of my previous builds have been from cast-off second-hand hardware; this is the first time I built it right the first time, and I wish I had done this years ago. I have a good feeling this hardware will last me a good 6-8 years as-is.