Adventures in OpenSolaris - Journey to a Home NAS

Obviously I have an interest in OpenSolaris because I work for Sun. There have been several recent events that have caused me to have more than a passing interest with OpenSolaris and more specifically ZFS.

I have been in the computer industry for a long time now. While I have seen enterprise disks, ones that are in many different forms of redundant setups fail, I had not personally had a disk failure. I actually have quite a sizable stack of disks from old systems, that I have kept, because you know some day I might need them.

Starting the last 2 years I have started to see my personal disks fail. I have actually had 4 disks fail in the last 2 years. One was 12 months and 3 days old. Yes it had a one year warranty. I am pretty obsessive about my personal backups, so far I have not lost any data, but I need something more to feel comfortable.

First I started with how much back up do I need? I have a sizable collection of songs ripped in from my CD's into iTunes. I have also started downloading songs from iTunes, and based on their DRM, if you loose the file, you have to repurchase the track. Next we have a HDD camcorder. This leads to a lot of digital files for the home videos. Beyond that I have the normal amount of work and personal files. All said and done, I have over 500GB of data that I need to back up. Also this data resides on 3 separate systems, 2 Macs and one windows machine.

I started by looking at on-line backup services. I did quite an extensive search. The services fell into two categories. The first where inexpensive or free, and quite frankly I would not trust them with my data. The second while I would trust my data, where cost prohibitive. In both cases the challenge of getting the initial data load to the system was enormous. Pushing 5000 GB up a 1MB upstream will take a VERY long time. Conclusion is that on-line backup is not right for me.

I then started to research home NAS solutions. Again this left me wanting for a solution. The home NAS's are either ridiculous expensive, or proprietary and not very expandable. I wanted a flexible solution that I knew I could easily upgrade and was not willing to pay $1000's for NAS's that fit this criteria.

Then like Sir Isaac Newton getting hit on the head with an apple it dawned on me. Why not build a ZFS file server? Unlike Newton my idea was not so revolutionary. A quick google search turns up tons of hits of people who have done just this. Another search of blogs.sun.com will turn up many hits of people at Sun who have done this.

When I original sat down to write this entry it was going to be a how to. The how to's are already well documented, so instead I have decide to write about my journey through the process. The links below are the steps that I went through to get my home NAS up and running

Building the Server
Getting to GigE
Here comes SATA
Creating a ZFS raid network share
The results

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