NAS recommendations

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NAS recommendations

Postposted on Sun Dec 29, 2013 4:48 pm

Anybody have any experience/ recommendations for NAS? I've got 4TB worth of hard drives full of content I don't want to lose, and would like to be made available to other computers on the network, including an HTPC. I'd like to eventually get at least 16TB of storage in it, 8TB for RAID10, 8TB for common storage. Anybody have recommendations on boxes, and HDDs? Should I go iSCSI or SATA? I hope to hook it up to the network via at least 1Gbps, if not 10Gbps (depends on if I can afford a better Cisco switch, or just get stuck with my 3550). Are there any boxes that can enforce user quotas, notify if a drive is failing, support hot-swap, etc?
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:22 pm

I'm happy with my Synology (DS2411+, which is overkill for most people; I have specific needs that mean that I like having lots and lots of shiny storage to play around with). It's loaded with twelve WD30EFRX drives, for 30 TB (approximately) usable space (in a RAID 6 configuration), and if I should ever feel the need, I can get an external expansion unit (using Infiniband - drool) to add another twelve drives. (If that's insufficient for my needs, it'll be a clear sign that I need to retire from computing.)

I'm not sure what you're trying to get at with the iSCSI/SATA question - one of these things is not like the other. The idea of a NAS is that you have a box loaded with drives that presents a network filesystem (NFS, SMB, and AFP are the main choices these days, with SMB being the major one, since it's the one Windows supports out of the box) to other hosts on the network. If you're thinking about plugging it into your host using either iSCSI or SATA, what you have isn't a NAS; it's an external drive box of some sort. (Yes, iSCSI runs over the network; doesn't matter, it's still effectively a form of direct attached storage in the sense that only one host can safely access it at a time. Handwave, handwave, ignoring clustering and similar matters.)

As to your specific questions - yes to quotas, yes to failed drives, yes to hot swap; check the specifications if you look at lower end models to make sure that they're retained.

For 16 TB of usable storage, I'd be looking at a minimum six drive bay unit, probably either the DS1513+ (starts with five drives, up to two five bay expansion units) or the DS1813+ (eight drives, up to two five bay expansion units.) The latter is $US1,000 from Newegg (likely without drives.)
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:57 pm

Thanks for the reply! I'll check out the synology box.

The reason I brought up iSCSI and SATA was that I was under the impression that iSCSI was big in the server space, and supported fast transfer speeds, multi-user access, more reliable, and the like. I could be (and probably am) wrong about that.

I've got 4TB worth of storage in my PC that's currently almost full, and a lot of it isn't accessed often, but I don't want to lose any of it. I'd like to use the NAS as long term storage space, as well as put photos, movies, music, and games on it that ARE accessed often, so they can be copied to other devices, like tablets, laptops, HTPC, etc. And if I ever get another girlfriend or roommate, I'd like for them to have a small area on the NAS devoted to them, hence the quota restrictons.

Eventually, when I get a new house, I plan on having every room wired and connected back to at least a 3550 cisco multilayer switch, VMWare servers with Gigabit links, redundant NAS, and so forth, so that anybody allowed on the LAN can have their desktop and their storage space, regardless of where in the house and what machine they are on.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:07 pm

Getting things set up for 10Gbps Ethernet is going to cost you some big bucks. You're basically talking enterprise-grade stuff at that point. If you're worried about the NIC on the server being a bottleneck maybe a more cost-effective solution would be to install two NICs in the NAS, multi-home it, and make sure the systems that access it the most heavily are more or less evenly distributed between the two interfaces?
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:26 pm

just brew it! wrote:Getting things set up for 10Gbps Ethernet is going to cost you some big bucks. You're basically talking enterprise-grade stuff at that point. If you're worried about the NIC on the server being a bottleneck maybe a more cost-effective solution would be to install two NICs in the NAS, multi-home it, and make sure the systems that access it the most heavily are more or less evenly distributed between the two interfaces?


That's one of the nice things about being in the industry, is I sometimes get "hand me down" network equipment, or sweetheart deals on buying used gear. I wish my boss would've let me hang onto some of the higher-end Adtran and Cisco gear, but it was not to be. Since I'm starting small right now, the most expensive part is going to be the NAS itself, and the HDDs. I've already got the enterprise grade network gear here, and I can get pre-fab'd GBIC fiber pretty cheap on monoprice. I need to know which NAS supports GiGe, what types of drives and RAID levels, and mgmt options available. I'm checking out the Synology box recommended above, but I'm always open to other options.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:29 am

Hz so good wrote:The reason I brought up iSCSI and SATA was that I was under the impression that iSCSI was big in the server space, and supported fast transfer speeds, multi-user access, more reliable, and the like. I could be (and probably am) wrong about that.


iSCSI is basically a way of sending SCSI commands across a TCP/IP network. Think of it as turning your Ethernet connection into the equivalent of a parallel SCSI adapter (somewhere between Ultra2 Wide and Ultra3 in terms of speed, but with the risk of contention with other network traffic.) In principle, yes, you can have multiple systems access the same disk at the same time. In practice, though, unless the systems are designed to coordinate with each other (using, for example, Clustered XFS or a similar filesystem), you will get filesystem corruption, just like you would if multiple systems accessed the same physical hard drive at the same time.

From what you've said elsewhere in that comment, I'd say forget iSCSI, and just go with a plain vanilla NAS.

Hz so good wrote:I need to know which NAS supports GiGe, what types of drives and RAID levels, and mgmt options available. I'm checking out the Synology box recommended above, but I'm always open to other options.


Qnap is, if I remember rightly, the other big player in the space, and I think Thecus has a few possibilities as well; I can only comment directly on the Synology, though, since that's what I have.

I'm fairly sure every NAS on the market right now will do gigabit ethernet; many (including the DS2411 that I have) will do teaming as well. 10 Gbps Ethernet is harder to find, as that is (as just brew it said) enterprise-grade stuff; it's nowhere near price levels that are accessible to the typical home user, and it will cost. The only NAS I know of (without digging) that will do it is the Synology DS3612xs, and that's a thousand bucks more than the 2411. Doesn't even give you more hard disk bays for that price (although it will take two twelve bay expansion units, where the 2411 will take only one.) And, to add insult to injury, you have to buy the 10 Gbps adapter separately (Synology do list the supported adapters on their website.)

In short: unless you have some pretty serious performance requirements, 10 Gbps is probably more cost than it's worth. That may change in five or ten years, but for now at least ...

I'd definitely advocate the off the shelf approach with Synology, Qnap, or Thecus, rather than doing a DIY solution; the pain in getting the latter set up is (at least for me) more than the money you'd save, especially since these units come with relatively easy web browser interfaces to configure, instead of having to do it all at the command line. (Yeah, I can do it. But this is stuff I [used to] do for a living; I don't particularly want to do it at home as well.)
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:53 am

I have a Synology 414 which with 4 drive bays is too small for your requirements but I will vouch for Synology as a brand. Even the cheap 414 (around $400) has 2 GigE ports which can be aggregated, and supports raid 1,5,6,10 and more (I run 4x WD Red 3Tb in Raid10 for 6TB effective space) as well as hardware encryption on a per-share basis

Also their web-based UI works great and has pretty much all functions you need as well as supporting plugins through an integrated "appstore". There are many great plugins like make-my-own-cloud, backup to Amazon Glacier, various types of servers, integrations to many of the big 3rd party cloud services, backup solutions, etc, etc.

edit: web based UI aside, you can enable terminal access by SSH with a single button click
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:16 am

Hz so good wrote:Anybody have any experience/ recommendations for NAS? I've got 4TB worth of hard drives full of content I don't want to lose, and would like to be made available to other computers on the network, including an HTPC. I'd like to eventually get at least 16TB of storage in it, 8TB for RAID10, 8TB for common storage. Anybody have recommendations on boxes, and HDDs? Should I go iSCSI or SATA? I hope to hook it up to the network via at least 1Gbps, if not 10Gbps (depends on if I can afford a better Cisco switch, or just get stuck with my 3550). Are there any boxes that can enforce user quotas, notify if a drive is failing, support hot-swap, etc?


I have a QNAP TS-409 Pro that's about six years old, and still running strong (*crosses fingers*). Even that old box had all of the functionality you listed, and it received some serious firmware updates for about five years. They even rewrote the entire firmware stack around 2010ish, but the most recent major update no longer supports my unit. I'm fine with that as it's still a hell of a lot better update support than I've ever seen from the likes of Gigabyte and ASUS both.

As much as I prefer the small shelf NAS boxes as they're extremely easy to use and configure, after 5+ drives it starts to become more economical to build a NAS yourself. FreeNAS for the OS, Fractal or Lian Li for a small-footprint but functionally nice 8-bay NAS-style case (both have several nice options), then probably Rosewill or Antec for a small, decently cheap platinum efficiency PSU...
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 12:14 pm

good deal! Ya'll have given me plenty to ponder over. Hopefully when it's all said and done, I"ll have a photo tour and schematics up for you guys! :D
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 12:32 pm

I'm with kougar on this. I've toyed with what I call toaster-box NAS's before and I'm not that thrilled with them. For the cost to buy one that would meet your expectations you could go DIY.

A while back I had such a device before I gave it away. A few reasons I walked away from those boxes was:
1) If the company no longer supports the device and a major security vulnerability is exploited you're hosed
2) If the hardware fails, can you move to a newer device
3) "Cloud" features scare the bejeezers out of me

If I had to do it again, I'd run FreeNAS. It's supported, updated, open source, and uses ZFS (the file system is capable of meeting the critera listed and can grow).
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 1:14 pm

Got my vote for a FreeNAS DIY setup. Setting it up is relatively easy, the cost is cheaper and the performance is a heck of a lot better then pretty much all the NAS in a box solutions that utilize ARM/Atom/MIPS processors. I was exploring those options a while back and found them way to cost prohibitive for the performance you get. I was easily able to put together a Celeron system with ECC and ganged the multi intel nics.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 1:29 pm

Hz so good wrote:Anybody have any experience/ recommendations for NAS? I've got 4TB worth of hard drives full of content I don't want to lose, and would like to be made available to other computers on the network, including an HTPC. I'd like to eventually get at least 16TB of storage in it, 8TB for RAID10, 8TB for common storage. Anybody have recommendations on boxes, and HDDs? Should I go iSCSI or SATA? I hope to hook it up to the network via at least 1Gbps, if not 10Gbps (depends on if I can afford a better Cisco switch, or just get stuck with my 3550). Are there any boxes that can enforce user quotas, notify if a drive is failing, support hot-swap, etc?


Just to expand on what a number of posters have already said, but 10Gbps is both costly and (probably) not all that useful for a home network. Even in the networks I manage for work, 10Gbps is really only useful on trunk ports coming out of densely provisioned ESXi hosts or for high performance iSCSI traffic. If I were building a home network, I'd just set up LACP across four 1Gbps adapters coming out of the NAS and call it done. 4Gbps of total throughput over CIFS or NFS should be more than enough for all but the most demanding multi-host workloads.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:37 pm

I seriously doubt combining even a couple of 1GbE NICs is required either. Considering one link tops out around 112 - 120 MB/s (Megabytes) and most hard drives can't do that sustained. There is very little in the way of workload that will saturate that. The only exception is if you really believe there is enough combined access which will outstrip that 120 MB/s cap (I doubt it will). Just to give a visual that's enough bandwidth to have 10 people streaming BR quality movies at the same time. In addition to that, bandwidth and/or space quotas can be set at the switch level or on the NAS itself which helps you get the most out of the space and bandwidth you have. Create a few QoS policies which limit bandwidth between your non-critical (streaming videos) leaving the rest for critical (VM's, block device use). Space quotas are pretty self explanatory but every OS has support for them in one way or another.

ISCSI and SATA are two different animals. SATA you plug it in and go. ISCSI you provision, expose, connect to, secure, and then test. You really only need to use iSCSI if you are trying to create network block devices where you want the highest level of performance without the overhead of NFS (debateable), or SMB/CIFS.

If you go the software RAID route in all it's renditions (ZFS, MDADM, BTRFS) then you can stick with consumer drives.

If people are giving stuff away then go for the lower power options with quiet cases. If they have LSI cards then great. Most can be flashed to regular HBA use if they support RAID.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:48 pm

Another Satisfied FreeNAS User here.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:06 am

kc77 wrote:You really only need to use iSCSI if you are trying to create network block devices where you want the highest level of performance without the overhead of NFS (debateable), or SMB/CIFS.


There are some features of vSphere that require iSCSI, like vMotion.

In a full blown SAN environment people can worry about such things, like 1% CPU usage versus 0.5%. Outside of that, I haven't found an advantage that puts iSCSI over NFS.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:42 am

Synology had some pretty cool stuff at their CES booth, it might be worth waiting a month or two for the new hotness make it to store shelves. Among other things, it will be possible to sync several units at different physical locations and the plugin modules live in userland so it's possible to bring your own. I'm probably gonna get one, as I've been wanting both a legitimate backup system and a basic lamp stack for fooling around with.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:14 am

I've been reading up on FreeNas and it really doesn't seem to be a solution for me. I thought that I could just use some old hardware that I had to make my own NAS but reading on hardware requirements it seems that you need lots of RAM for FreeNas to run stable. I'm currently using an old ReadyNas NV+ but it is showing it's limitations.

I've been looking at the Synology products and they seem really good. NAS DiskStation Manager OS 5.0 should be available to existing products. Might go down that route when it's time to upgrade
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:33 pm

FreeNAS is using ZFS for it's storage filesystem/software RAID, and ZFS like lots of RAM. It's a rather high end technology, and it's pretty neat.

A couple other turnkey operating systems are OpenMediaVault, which is based on Debian, and NAS4Free, which is a continuation of the previous code base for FreeNAS.

FreeNAS was originally based on M0n0wall, which is a derivative of FreeBSD built for firewalls, but recently, it was re-based on FreeBSD proper. Since FreeNAS was re-based, the M0n0wall based code was abandon, and some devs decided to continue developing the old FreeNAS code under the NAS4Free name since the older code was more suitable for what they wanted to do.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:50 pm

I'm pondering whether to go FreeNAS myself or maybe just a bog standard Linux box with software RAID 1. I want it to be a simple 2-drive config, any recommendations for the hardware? (compact case with space for two 3.5in drives, an average-to-decent processor, etc. maybe a barebone kit?)

Also, is it a good idea to use different drives in RAID 1? I was wondering if the exact same model running in the same exact way isn't likely more likely to fail together with the other drive.
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Re: NAS recommendations

Postposted on Sat Feb 15, 2014 9:52 am

muyuubyou wrote:I'm pondering whether to go FreeNAS myself or maybe just a bog standard Linux box with software RAID 1. I want it to be a simple 2-drive config, any recommendations for the hardware? (compact case with space for two 3.5in drives, an average-to-decent processor, etc. maybe a barebone kit?)

I don't have any specific recommendations for the case or platform (other than go for a platform that supports ECC RAM if you can). However, a lot of NAS/server applications are moving to mobile form factor drives to save space and power. If you get a case with at least one 5.25" external bay, you could use one of these. Gives you hot swap, with space to add another array, and/or use one of the spare bays to run backups to a drive you can pull out and stick in a drawer or take off site.

Booting Linux from a software RAID-1 array is certainly doable, but the last time I tried to do this it was a bit of a PITA because the motherboard was UEFI-capable; this meant the installer (Ubuntu) decided it had to GPT-format the drives and use EFI boot, which crashed and burned when combined with software RAID-1. I did eventually manage to beat it into submission (it is my primary home desktop, which I am posting this from right now); but I think I could've saved myself a lot of hassle by installing/configuring the OS on an older non-UEFI motherboard first, then moving the array over to the new hardware. (Linux is generally pretty good about swapping the hardware out from under an OS install; the only issues tend to be related to proprietary GPU drivers, and it's also a good idea to wipe the contents of the files /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules and /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-cd.rules to get the OS to forget about the NIC and optical drive in the system it got moved from.)

muyuubyou wrote:Also, is it a good idea to use different drives in RAID 1? I was wondering if the exact same model running in the same exact way isn't likely more likely to fail together with the other drive.

I hear this a lot. It will protect you from a very specific class of failures, namely things like the Seagate 7200.11 firmware bug where the drive could brick after a certain number of power on/off cycles (or was it a certain number of hours spinning? I forget). In practice I haven't paid much attention to this rule; but it is sound advice provided you get drives of similar generation, spindle speed, and capacity, so that their performance characteristics are a close match.
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