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Posted

Hello, I don't post here much but I'd greatly appreciate some input on what to do with my N54L.

 

It's standard apart from the 8GB of DDR3 ECC and 4x1.5TB 7200rpm drives.

 

I want to put them in a RAID 5 array and am thinking of purchasing a HP P410 smart array controller to do so.

 

The main use of the server is to host all my movies, TV shows, music and to backup files to it.

 

I currently have ESXi 5.1 on a USB stick with a few VM's running server 2008 and WHS 2011, Windows 7, etc. The whole thing feels wrong and I'm hoping to replace it with one OS that does everything.

 

What are your recommendations? Any questions on my setup/needs please fire away.

 

Thanks.

 

 

 

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Posted

Well, advantage of Linux is that you can do simply anything.

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ESXi Can do everything lol! The next thing I want to do is get pfSense a go and its looking more likely I will add a dual nic in and use it for that. Then install FreeNAS and run it as a nas drive.

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To be honest I believe the esxi gives you the most flexibility to be sure.. Run whatever you want to control your storage, be it windows based or linux, or bsd. And have the ability to run multiple OSes all on the same hardware, all at the same time.

Need to test/play/run something with win7 fire up that vm, windows 8 sure just fire up that vm. A windows server sure, your fav linux or bsd distro - click click there you go.

Running as a VM gives you the ability to just roll that VM back to before you did something with snapshots. You can run Apache on one, nginx on another IIS on one of your windows VMs, etc. etc.. etc.. The possibilities are limited only by your your imagination, RAM and space and cpu cycles..

How does that seem wrong to you?
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Posted

I have one running openmediavault (http://www.openmediavault.org/) and another running ESXi

 

OMV is used to server DLNA and SMB Shares to my various machines / devices. ESXI one is just for learning and messing around with. 

 

 

Cant recomment openmediavault enough though, excellent NAS OS.

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How does that seem wrong to you?

 

^ This

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Posted

Yeah I didnt notice that, How does it feel wrong? running ESXi you are certainly getting the most out of this little beast of a machine!

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Posted

Well running something like esxi would clearly "allow" him to get the most out of the little box, doesn't mean he is.. Seems odd but with some people the move to VMs just does not click with them.

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The main use of the server is to host all my movies, TV shows, music and to backup files to it.

 

If that's all you need, stick with WHS2011 - or if you can WS2012 Essentials. It's fairly straight forward to setup too and doesn't need any maintenance over time.

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Posted

Just don't try 2012 R2 on it yet ... the onboard NIC gives issues with setup.

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Thanks for the input guys, maybe I've not been all too clear and yes I'm a complete noob to ESXi and VMware. I'm only in the "learning" stage of VMware and all the features it provides, currently the BIOS of the N54L only allows for software RAID 0,1 or 0+1. I've ignored that and have had each 1.5TB disc independent: A VM here and there, nothing making use of an actual storage array.

 

Hence why I'm looking at a P410, then the four 1.5TB discs can be in a hardware RAID 5 allowing ~4.5TB of storage which ESXi sees as it's storage pool. I can then from there setup my VM's for what I need.

 

Lets just say I hypothetically assign 500GB to the OSes of the array, can each one use the 4TB available to do what they want with? Does ESXi manage storage in this way?

 

For example:

 

WHS2011 sees 4TB uses 1TB out of that but still provides all the streaming needs. Only uses a x% of CPU core and 2GB of RAM

Server 2008 R2 sees 4TB but uses 200GB for hosting a website. Only sees x% of CPU core and 2GB of RAM

FreeNAS sees 4TB but uses 2TB for file storage and distribution. Only sees x% of CPU core and 2GB RAM

 

Repeat I am a noob to all this  :D

 

Thanks

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Posted

Yes you can configure it to do that (thin storage provisioning) BUT... It is not wise, because each time a virtual disk is written, it expands the virtual hard drive, and when files are deleted, you don't get that space back. So if one VM writes 1TB, deletes 500GB then writes another 1TB, using thin provisioning it will use 2TB.

You can control RAM and CPU limits but if you give all VMs access to all CPUs minus 1 core, it's usually better, means they can use all (minus one) cores if they need to, and if they don't, they remain idle for other VMs or just idle.

 

EDIT: Also if you're looking for a decent RAID card... I'd highly recommend you look at the Dell PERCs (yes they'll work in non-Dell computers). I've got a 512MB PERC6 in an old Dell 2950 and the 1GB Flash Memory p410 in my HP server... OK so it's much faster when just writing too (as it writes to memory before writing to hard drives), but the HP configuration tool is a complete and total mess, you're also locked out of basic features like RAID 6 and some RAID 5 features unless you pay for a stupid add-on pack serial number from HP, and I only get 33MB/s read speeds from RAID 5 array, which is absolutely rediculous for 15K RPM hard drives. The whole card to me seems pretty god awful.

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Posted

I use UnRAID on mine, works great :)

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Posted

It sounds like FreeNAS is perfect for your use case. It will allow you to RAID your disks using ZFS, create Windows file shares using SAMBA, and run a backup service using rsync. Best of all FreeNAS can be very easily configured from any computer on your network using its simple web UI.

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Posted

Thanks for the input guys, maybe I've not been all too clear and yes I'm a complete noob to ESXi and VMware. I'm only in the "learning" stage of VMware and all the features it provides, currently the BIOS of the N54L only allows for software RAID 0,1 or 0+1. I've ignored that and have had each 1.5TB disc independent: A VM here and there, nothing making use of an actual storage array.
 
Hence why I'm looking at a P410, then the four 1.5TB discs can be in a hardware RAID 5 allowing ~4.5TB of storage which ESXi sees as it's storage pool. I can then from there setup my VM's for what I need.
 
Lets just say I hypothetically assign 500GB to the OSes of the array, can each one use the 4TB available to do what they want with? Does ESXi manage storage in this way?
 
For example:
 
WHS2011 sees 4TB uses 1TB out of that but still provides all the streaming needs. Only uses a x% of CPU core and 2GB of RAM
Server 2008 R2 sees 4TB but uses 200GB for hosting a website. Only sees x% of CPU core and 2GB of RAM
FreeNAS sees 4TB but uses 2TB for file storage and distribution. Only sees x% of CPU core and 2GB RAM
 
Repeat I am a noob to all this  :D
 
Thanks

Hypothetically yes, but what n_K says is really important. Also ESXi itself cannot see the RAID 0/1 that comes on-board with the MicroServer. So some other solution is needed if you want hardware RAID (ignoring of course that the on-board RAID is not hardware RAID anyway).

 

The processor/RAM allocation is the easy bit but like n_K says you are probably just better off letting the hypervisor deal with the CPU aspect.  I don't think the 'noisy neighbour' phenomenon is going to be a big problem for you.

 

Strange use-case though. You could have FreeNAS see the whole lot and present the rest with iSCSI targets so FreeNAS 'owns' all of the storage but different chunks are presented to each box.

 

Once other thing to consider is that hardware RAID platforms are not to be used with modern consumer level disks - you really need to use Server level discs which have different TLER (or whatever your favourite brand calls it) etc.  Even with 7200RPM disks, the rebuild could take a very long time  You could quite easily get yourself in the situation whereby an array rebuild after a failed disk causes another disk to fail and breaks the array in its entirety.  I would recommend you look at ZFS or something similar.

 

If you want to avoid VMDKs sitting on VMFS on every disk, then you will need to create some raw device mappings for the local disks (which for some reason ESXi cannot do through its GUI) via the command line, see:

http://blog.davidwarburton.net/2010/10/25/rdm-mapping-of-local-sata-storage-for-esxi/
 

Yes you can configure it to do that (thin storage provisioning) BUT... It is not wise, because each time a virtual disk is written, it expands the virtual hard drive, and when files are deleted, you don't get that space back. So if one VM writes 1TB, deletes 500GB then writes another 1TB, using thin provisioning it will use 2TB.

This example isn't entirely correct - the thin provisioned virtual disk will always remain at the maximum of any data that was on it at any time in the past. In the example given, this will mean that at the end it will be 1.5TB in size, but then if you deleted everything off it, it would still be 1.5TB in size.  The performance of virtual disks on VMFS isn't particularly great either.

 

 

EDIT: Also if you're looking for a decent RAID card... I'd highly recommend you look at the Dell PERCs (yes they'll work in non-Dell computers). I've got a 512MB PERC6 in an old Dell 2950 and the 1GB Flash Memory p410 in my HP server... OK so it's much faster when just writing too (as it writes to memory before writing to hard drives), but the HP configuration tool is a complete and total mess, you're also locked out of basic features like RAID 6 and some RAID 5 features unless you pay for a stupid add-on pack serial number from HP, and I only get 33MB/s read speeds from RAID 5 array, which is absolutely rediculous for 15K RPM hard drives. The whole card to me seems pretty god awful.

I've never owned a HP RAID card, ignoring performance for just one minute, the point worth considering is that you have to use a special HP build of ESXi which comes with the HP RAID drivers built in. The Dell PERCs are LSI based cards, there are others (IBM, Intel, Supermicro, Fujitsu to name just some) which are essentially also the same cards. Some have memory on board whilst others don't, some have battery back-up units whilst others don't. Some can only do RAID0/1 out of the box whilst others can do 0/1/10/5/6 and others 0/1/10/5/6/50/60 - some can be upgraded to a higher RAID level using a hardware license key (which aren't compatible across different rebrands).  The LSI driver comes built in the standard VMWare ESXi build. The LSI client software isn't great either and can be a real PITA to get working.

 

I'm not sure I would recommend a PERC6 for a MicroServer because the internal cabling in the box uses a SFF8087 cable (this would be difficult to change without some interesting modding), the same as used on LSI based controllers including the PERC H series - which I do have in mine and works perfectly.

 

Sorry for the long post, but this is topic I have been researching for a very long time and wouldn't want you to go through the same.

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Posted

Hypothetically yes, but what n_K says is really important. Also ESXi itself cannot see the RAID 0/1 that comes on-board with the MicroServer. So some other solution is needed if you want hardware RAID (ignoring of course that the on-board RAID is not hardware RAID anyway).

 

The processor/RAM allocation is the easy bit but like n_K says you are probably just better off letting the hypervisor deal with the CPU aspect.  I don't think the 'noisy neighbour' phenomenon is going to be a big problem for you.

 

Strange use-case though. You could have FreeNAS see the whole lot and present the rest with iSCSI targets so FreeNAS 'owns' all of the storage but different chunks are presented to each box.
 

This example isn't entirely correct - the thin provisioned virtual disk will always remain at the maximum of any data that was on it at any time in the past. In the example given, this will mean that at the end it will be 1.5TB in size, but then if you deleted everything off it, it would still be 1.5TB in size.  The performance of virtual disks on VMFS isn't particularly great either.
 

I've never owned a HP RAID card, ignoring performance for just one minute, the point worth considering is that you have to use a special HP build of ESXi which comes with the HP RAID drivers built in. The Dell PERCs are LSI based cards, there are others (IBM, Intel, Supermicro, Fujitsu to name just some) which are essentially also the same cards. Some have memory on board whilst others don't, some have battery back-up units whilst others don't. Some can only do RAID0/1 out of the box whilst others can do 0/1/10/5/6 and others 0/1/10/5/6/50/60 - some can be upgraded to a higher RAID level using a hardware license key (which aren't compatible across different rebrands).  The LSI driver comes built in the standard VMWare ESXi build. The LSI client software isn't great either and can be a real PITA to get working.

 

I'm not sure I would recommend a PERC6 for a MicroServer because the internal cabling in the box uses a SFF8087 cable (this would be difficult to change without some interesting modding), the same as used on LSI based controllers including the PERC H series - which I do have in mine and works perfectly.

?

I've got 2 converter cables that changes the PERC connector to SFF8087.

The LSI software that runs on OS's to manage the cards remotely has never worked for me, but the CLI tool you run on servers I've found to be brilliant, straight forward and documented well (none of which can be said the HP utilities)

cable-sas-sff8087-sff8484-lrg.jpg

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Posted

?

I've got 2 converter cables that changes the PERC connector to SFF8087.

The LSI software that runs on OS's to manage the cards remotely has never worked for me, but the CLI tool you run on servers I've found to be brilliant, straight forward and documented well (none of which can be said the HP utilities)

cable-sas-sff8087-sff8484-lrg.jpg

 

You are right, the remote management software sucks, but the command line is great.

As for the connector - inside the MicroServer is a 4 bay cage with a hard-wired SFF8087 wire coming out of it.  How do you connect the hard wired SFF8087 wire inthe MicroServer to the PERC6?  I didn't think it was possible.  Happy to be corrected though!

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Posted

Can we touch on why you think you need traditional hardware or even software raid in the first place?

Are you an enterprise that can not afford down time?
 

"The main use of the server is to host all my movies, TV shows, music and to backup files to it."

From your above statement on what the box is going to be used for - I see a traditional raid 5 as wasted disk space if you ask me. Are these movies that can not be offline for some reason, raid 5 provides for continued availability to data with a hardware failure of a disk - this is all it does really.

So I have 4 disks in my n40l.. the 250 it came with is the datastore and I have added 3 more. And one of the main functions of it is yes to serve up my media.. Movies both commercial and home, along with tv shows yes and music and pictures. And sure backup of other files from my other systems I don't want to loose are stored there.

But vs going with a traditional raid I went the drivepool route. This allows me to use different sizes of disk, it also allows for duplication of data across multiple disks for redundancy of critical data, etc. And future growth of storage space is simple!! Just add another disk, or remove a small disk from the pool and replace with larger one.

So I get full use of my 3 drives space for starters - nothing lost to parity. And I can have copies of my files on more than 1 hardware drive even with automatic duplication. http://stablebit.com/

The data is stored normally and if need be you can move any of the disks in the pool to any other computer that and view the files just like any other normal disk. Do that with a raid 5 disk ;) I gave the system raw access to the disk vs using VMFS

[attachment=343623:rawmapped1.png]

Here is the thing -- does it really matter if season 1 of Mike and Molly has parity? Really? What about your "rip" of Furious 6? Can these not be just re ripped from your original, or gotten again if for some reason disk failed?

Now a side benefit of raid is the parity sure, and if disk goes down your array is still there. And the data that was stored on that 1 disk can be rebuilt from the parity on the other 2 and you can just slide in a new disk and your data is restored - no need to recover from backup or rerip, etc.

Keep in mind this is not a backup!! It is hardware redundancy - you could still loose the whole array.. Controller could fail and cause all kinds of damage to the data, 2 disks could fail, etc.

Don't get me wrong - you should have MULTIPLE copies of your "HOME" movies or anything that is solely of your creation - recording of kid play tuba solo during the school play/pictures of kids first steps etc can never be replaced!! But movies/tv/music that is not of your creation can just be repurchased, re recorded, re ripped, re "____" etc.. So why the need to waste a disk to parity?

Not sure it makes sense in this use case. Now some of my movies can not be replace from the original bluray on the shelf, or worse case fire and my computer room n40l and bookshelf with the dvds/brs/everything lost I could always repurchase that bluray copy of batman, etc. But those home movies of my granddaughter - they would be gone. So for piece of mind I store them on more than 1 disk in the pool via simple click, pick folder or pick file.. And now the software keeps copies on more than 1 disk - it could keep copy on all of the disk in the pool if I wanted.

[attachment=343619:duplication.png]

There are just really so many advantages to this sort of system in a home vs traditional raid it makes way more sense IMHO!! I get full use of space, I get my redundancy of files that "require" it, you can increase size of storage on the fly! Can use different sized/speed disks even different connection types, sata/pata/usb/esata/etc -- I would really suggest you take a look before spending money on hardware raid card and limiting yourself. http://stablebit.com/DrivePool both pool and scanner for $35 -- how much is that raid card going to cost you? ;)

I also have the scanner software they sell, got a better price buying both. And now it monitors all my disks in my pool for issues and will notify me if a problem looks like coming and can replace the disk..

TL;DR -- traditional raid not always the best choice for home use IMHO
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Posted

I have to agree with Budman here... RAID5 is probably not necessary for what you're doing.

 

I've got a N40L w/ 64Gb SSD to boot, and 4 X 3Tb drives in the removable caddy section.  I JBOD'd them and used a program called Drivebender to pool all 4 drives into one big pool.  Since I own all the movies and tv episodes and music on my server, I'm not concerned if a drive up and croaks... i'll just replace the data.  Why waste space with parity and redundancy when it's not necessary?  Also, I've known a lot of users who had issues rebuilding RAID5 arrays over 2Tb in size.  Usually the rebuild time is so long that it causes performance issues or data loss.  

 

Also, I used WHS2011 as the OS since it's pretty simple to install and I have another server that I play with VM's on.  I originally used this server with ESXi and thought it was awesome for the price... but I simply didn't need to keep it configured that way anymore.  

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drive bender is another option to be sure.. I have been impressed with stablebit drivepool. I just moved the pool from a 2k8 essentials VM that was having some issues with the dashboard, and really did not like the dashboard anyway.

So moved it to just a windows 7 vm.. The move was so freaking easy.. connect the disks to the new vm, installed drivepool - it instantly recognized the pool and was up and running clickity clickity :)

Yeah drive bender is even a bit cheaper -- has a 60 day trial.. I would say sure give that a go!!

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Posted

The thought of pooling drives never crossed my mind if I'm honest, I just had my RAID head on!

 

None of the data will be critical to me, all my important stuff is backed up. Having more available space is an advantage to me over wasting a drive for parity.

 

What base OS are you guys using with stablebit drivepool and drive bender?

 

I currently have a license for Windows 7 pro and WHS 2011 but i can buy a license for another OS if there are better recommendations?

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I just moved my stablebit to windows 7 - working just fine.. and don't have to deal with that stupid dashboard in the essentials it was on.

Windows 7 if you have a lic works just fine as file server for smaller number of connections like in a home.

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Posted

My box has WHS2011 on it because I got the license for free.  Drive bender works on either windows 7 or home server.  It's really your choice. 

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