By user12609114 on Dec 27, 2008
Note: This entry is part of series which starts here
My journey really started with this blog. It has a great overview of why you want to use ZFS and how to build your hardware, how to setup ZFS and how to use it. At first the information might seem daunting, but like most new projects once you get into you realize the project is broken down into pieces that can be easily followed.
The first step of the project is identifing and putting together your hardware. One of our Sun colleagues has documented a spectacular build. I seriously started going down this road. To get the parts in the US you are looking at about $800-$900. While this is still an exceptional value, it is quite frankly still a bit more than I was looking to spend.
My build started in another direction. Cheap. My goal was to build the system for as cheaply as I could. Again it is going to be open, and I can always upgrade the different components as needed. I have a difficult time parting with old gear. I have a Dell 4550 that has long given up the ghost for running Windows. Step one of my build was cracking it open and giving it a good dose of canned air to get the cobwebs out of it. The system only had 512MB of RAM, but a quick exploration through my stock piles found a compatible DIMM to bring the system to 1GB. The system also has P4 running at 2.5 gHz.
Now if you have read about ZFS you will probably asking yourself what was I thinking running on this minimum of specs? Doesn't ZFS need a 64Bit chip? Don't I need more RAM? Well to be honest I had no idea what my performance was going to be like. But again my goal for the system was to be a backup server. I have 2 programs, one for the MAC and one for Windows, that copy files from the systems I run, to the backup server. These programs are all scheduled to run in the middle of the night. It really doesn't matter if they take 30 minutes or an hour. Also after the initial load I would only be moving incremental changes, which is really not a significant amount of data. Therefore I decided to plug ahead with my 7 year old box.
I started by installing OpenSolaris 2008.11 on the box. All of the critical devices in the box where found, and the system was up and running in no time. Now came some interesting architectural decisions. My goal was to have 4 drives for the ZFS pool, and a separate drive for the OS. This leads to the ability to update the OS or replace the OS drive without interfering with the storage pool.
My first thought was to boot the system to a USB drive that was running the OpenSolaris operating system. The 4550 did not allow for boot to USB. I did find I was 8 revisions behind on the bios, and upgraded it, but alas still no way to boot to USB.
At this point my original plan changed. The case has slots for more drives and I decide to leave the IDE interfaces, one for a hard drive and one for the dvd and to add a SATA card to hang the rest of the drives off of. When finished the box has 5 HD's, one IDE and 4 SATA, an IDE DVD, and I decided to leave the floppy in it as well.
I decided that since I have a GigE switch I would upgrade to the the network card as well. After the checking the HCL, I was off to my local computer store to see what parts I could come up with.
And as often goes with adventures like this my original goal was to buy 4 HD's. I was hoping for 250GB to 300GB to get me to a pool of 750GB or 900GB. The store I went to was having a sale on the 500GB drives, and I was able to pick 3 of them up for less than 4 of the others. I was able to get a 1TB pool and this sets me up for adding another 500GB to my ZFS pool very easily in the future, by simply getting another disk when I am out of space.
My Adventure continues with upgrading to GigE