Servers....

Tim Cooper

Well-known Member
Chaps,
I am thinking of building a terrabyte server, i have read Mark Wards excellent Linux server thread, however i'm a complete N00b when it comes to Linux.
My main question is do i build one or buy one? There is one particular NAS solution from Buffalo seems to be aimed at the home cinema enthusiast
details HERE & a brief overview from HERE it's not due out until Feb with a SRP of $999, will this price be available to us over here? i doubt it, probably £999.
My main aim is to stream video throughout my network (my house being wired for cat 5/6) via a gigabit LAN mainly hi-def clips MP3's etc etc.
Any thoughts suggestions.
Cheers.
Tim.
 

rhinoman

Well-known Member
It depends what that comes out at monet wise, at a grand its expensive for that amount of capacity and a cheap xp machine with more storage could be built for less.

My server is a xp pro machine which is administered mainly via rdp, but for the most part, once its configured you can forget about it.

Are you considering raid or JBOD?
 

Rob.Screene

Member
I've been reading about large capacity media servers too.

I'm tempted by RAID5, but think individual dynamic drives may be a better solution, especially if using Windows.

Here's what I've learnt in a nutshell:

1. Using many individual drives means a failure on one drive loses only what was on it.
Can work with the standard 4-drive comtroller on most motherboards without needing a RAID card.
When more capacity is needed, larger drives can be added as they become cheaper.

Drawbacks:
Multiple volumes cause headaches with many drive letters in most software, but Windows XP can set them to Dynamic drives and combine drives as sub-folders.

Q: Is this like a windows version of JBOD?

Notes:
Power saving will allow the unused drives to spin down, saving lifetime and power consumption and reducing heat generation.
Drives can be added and removed easily.
External usb2/firewire enclosures could be used so the server's case isn't a limitation.

2. Using striping(RAID0) means any drive failure loses the whole lot.
Disadvantages:
Adding drives may require erasing current content and re-formatting?

Notes:
Read and write performance is most improved.

3. Using RAID5 gives some more protection, but the whole lot is lost in the event of a controller failure, controller driver bug, two drives failing before the first is replaced and rebuilt.

Drawbacks:
You lose the capacity of one disk.
All drives need to be similar size and performance or capacity and performance on all inefficient.
If one disk goes bad it needs to be replaced quickly because if a second one goes bad the whole lot is lost.
Expensive controllers have the ability to have a spare hot-plugged, but this means you lose the capacity of the spare disk.
Adding drives need the array the be unavailable during the rebuild for some controllers.
A wrong click on the RAID rebuild menu can lose the lot, apparently.
RAID5 controllers don't support power-saving well, meaning all drives spinning all the time 24/7.
Buying same drives means MTBF most likely to occur close in time, increasing the risk of multi drive failures.
Cheaper RAID controllers use cpu to do checksum calculations, whick may mean a faster/hotter cpu and may also be more susceptible to volume corruptions during any machine crash/power outage.

Notes:
Write performance slightly improved, read performance very improved.
A virus or unlucky windows crash could also lose the whole lot, but with a machine not used for much else that's becoming increasingly less likely.
 

KraGorn

Novice Member
Not sure if your 'Q' in 1. is rhetorical or not :) .. but the answer is yes, it's Windows equivalent of JBOD and works the same way. Windows also offers an analog of *nix's mount points which can also be useful in some more specialised applications.
 

Tim Cooper

Well-known Member
Cheers chaps,
I was hoping to use raid 5 config either 5x200 or 4x250 HDD's depends how much i can get them for, but i may just use JBOD...depends on what expert advice i get;)
John: when you factor in the hdd's, a decent ide or sata controller card, a decent PSU + the cost of a donor machine etc etc, you won't be far off (money wise) from a bought solution, or do you know something i dont ;) , i don't have anything decent lying around so i'd probably retire my existing main machine & then upgrade, so now it's looking v expensive.
I guess what i'm after is the best bang for me buck :D
Tim.
 

Branxx

Standard Member
If your aim is 1TB NAS you may want to check Lacie 1TB. This is very simple solution with reasonably small premium over the price of four 250GB disc drives. DABS.com is showing 1TB Lacie for £520 and 1.6TB for £1,200 (250GB disc drive is around £100).
 

rhinoman

Well-known Member
Just to agree and disagree with Rob from my own experience.

My server is a 2.4 celeron with 512mb of ram, I have an old 4gb drive as a boot drive. I have Highpoint raid 5 controllers which are of the software type controller that the main cpu does the work.

The first array I built was using 4*300gb 5400 rpm IDE Maxtors with the requirement for the fault tolerance that raid 5 provides. Write times are very slow, it takes a day to reinitialise the array after swapping a disk but aside from that for serving hidef, more than fast enough. This array was created in one machine but a mobo swap meant I redid the OS and and after loading the raid driver the array reappeared. :) In the new machine I added another controller card and built a second similar array, they dont recommend more than 1 drive per controller cable as a failure is likly to take out both drives in a master slave config. This second array is easily managed via the windows app installed from the first card.

The third controller card I added :smoke: was the newer 8*way SATA Highpoint controller with 8 Maxtor 300gb 7200 rpm SATA drives, bought in 2 lots of four a couple of weeks apart from each other. This 8 way array initialised in about 7 hours and is much much faster to write to. This messed up the management console a little in that "it" couldn't see the ide arrays (although windows still could so it doesn't matter). The adavantage with using the windows tool as opposed to the bios facilty is that the machine can be up while the array rebuilds, initialises etc.

If you have a drive failure the machine starts beeping untill you shut it down or the management console can email you an alert.

Unfortunatly last week I has a 2 drive failure in my 8 way array :mad: which kind of empasises that raid 5 is not the absolute answer. Fortunatly for me it was mainly dvd's and hidef that can be replaced (slowly) but that was over a terabyte of work lost.

If a controller fails the array "could" be lost not "is".

Adaptec now do a 8 way SATA controller that has its own processor and allows online expansion which allows you to start with 3 drives and buy more as needed, expanding the array each time you add a drive. Its slightly more than twice the price of the Highpoint card though.
 

Rob.Screene

Member
Robin, no, I wasn't sure on JBOD. Thanks for Linux info.

The difference is you've built it John, I've just read about it and bee around pre-build work raid servers.

I guess my conclusion was, sexy though raid5 fault-tolerance is, it actually causes work and isn't a big benefit for movie servers.

cheers,
Rob.
 

rhinoman

Well-known Member
I think for a terabyte then the standalone boxes are probably fine but we know it doesn't end there, 1 tb is just the begining :devil:
 

rhinoman

Well-known Member
I hope you didn't think I was having a dig Rob....

I think the main thing to remember as I had a painful reminder of last week is that drives will fail at some point.

I probably going to try Seagates with there 5 year warranty next instaed of the Maxtors.
 

Higgers

Active Member
A few small points that I felt worth making.

Rob.Screene said:
Power saving will allow the unused drives to spin down, saving lifetime and power consumption and reducing heat generation.
Drives can be added and removed easily.
Having drives spin up and down can reduce their life expectancy more than simply having them on all the time. It depends on how much work they have to do when they're up and how often they get spinned up and down.

Rob.Screene said:
3. Using RAID5 gives some more protection, but the whole lot is lost in the event of a controller failure, controller driver bug, two drives failing before the first is replaced and rebuilt.
I know that the RAID configuration data is stored on the discs by 3ware hardware RAID controllers. This means that if one controller croaks, the drives that were connected to it can be connected to a replacement controller and the array should just work.

A controller driver bug could corrupt data on any disc connected to any controller so this point applies generally to any type of RAID array, not just RAID 5.

Rob.Screene said:
RAID5 controllers don't support power-saving well, meaning all drives spinning all the time 24/7.
See my first point above.

I've got a Linux server with two RAID 5 arrays which has served me well. You might have read some of my posts in Mark's Linux file server thread. Feel free to ask me any questions about it.

Steve.
 

Tim Cooper

Well-known Member
clevoir said:
Have a look at www.rebyte.com

I have just built a 600Gb RAID5 server for £500 all in, and it runs Linux !
Clevoir: this rebyte stuff looks interesting how do you rate it?

Branxx: that Lacie drive looks ok but it's usb/firewire only, good enough to stream hi-def?

Higgers: if i built the server what config should i use JBOD or RAID 5?
For ease of installation is there anything wrong with windows 2003 server

Lads: still none the wiser, however i do get the feeling that i would be wise to build one but the cost of building one is coming periously close to the cost of a bought solution. What is going to sway me i think is what Johns said about the Adaptec card where you can expand your array as funds allow.
Thanks for the input guys, BTW nice to see the "old hacks" are still out there alive & kicking :D

Cheers.
Tim.
 

Rob.Screene

Member
clevoir said:
Have a look at www.rebyte.com

I have just built a 600Gb RAID5 server for £500 all in, and it runs Linux !
Wow, a $149 (£82?) solid-state linux system, providing simple web management access of a software RAID server, what a great idea. Looks like the cpu requirements are truly low too for the doner machine it needs.

It looks that it provides RAID5 when using 3-4 disks, so 3x300GB=600GB or 3x400GB=800GB useable, or with a cheap promise controller, allows 4 disc support = 4x300GB=900GB useable space.

This would take much of the system drive or windows driver failure risks out of the equation. I'd probably looks for a motherboard with embeded network and graphics and not go with the extra controller to have nothing plugged in to the motherboard except memory and hard disks. 6 months uptime sounds promising too.

It would avoid my Linux phobia and save a £80 Windows license too.
Rob.
 

Tim Cooper

Well-known Member
John do you have the model number of that Adaptec you mentioned please.
Tim.
 

Tim Cooper

Well-known Member
It looks that it provides RAID5 when using 3-4 disks, so 3x300GB=600GB or 3x400GB=800GB useable, or with a cheap promise controller, allows 4 disc support = 4x300GB=900GB useable space.
Hi Rob,
I had a cursory glance of the specs last night during my dinner break, some of the blurb went straight over my head, i never saw the stuff you mention above re: the arrays capacity, from my perspective you are limited to around a terrabyte in JBOD or 750ish GB in raid 5 or am i missing summat?
Tim.
 

Rob.Screene

Member
I read all the FAQ.

I doesn't do JBOD, as it's aimed squarely at low-cost reliability.

I think it automatically configures using the following rules:

2 disk mode = raid1 mirroring; 2x400GB = 400GB useable.
3 disk mode = raid5; 3x400GB = 800GB useable.
4 disk mode (needs controller for 5th drive incl reByte system drive) - raid5; 4x400GB=1.2TB useable.
5 disk mode+ = Not supported.

I think they recommend getting the cheapest celeron and current motherboard available. They say older motherboards can be used but there may be bios issues, such as >137GB drive support, etc. They mention some customers use Pentium1 and Pentium2 based systems with as little as 64MB memory.

regards,
Rob.
 

Embarker

Active Member
I just run eight 250gb drives in a JBOD and keep my fingers crossed. Drives cost £79.99 from Aldi. so that's £700 including the raid card for 1.85t. Server case was only a £100. So if you have a "donor" computer somewhere, you off and running.

Trouble is only have 250gb spare now :eek: May get two more 250gb and run them of the IDE2 channel - that'll be 2.3t :thumbsup:

Rgds

Dangerous Dave
 

Tim Cooper

Well-known Member
Embarker,
Out of interest what's your server spec.
Rob: Thanks for the laymans info :) this thing looks good (ish) i still can't envisage how it's connected, the Re-byte site is quite dis-jointed.
Tim.
 

clevoir

Active Member
Had it running for 2 weeks now with no probelms, running 2200XP Sempron processor with 768Mb RAM

Write speeds can be slow, but this is to be expected whilst the parity data is being compiled. However the read speed is outstanding, I guess as you are reading from 4 disks

I paid $149 + £25 import duty, however a mate paid £43 at go it on eBay, so it might be worth looking around
 

Steve Bate

Novice Member
Rob,

I looked seriously at Raid 5 and JBOD and eventually went JBOD using the maxtor external firewire drives for convenience. Sure enough one failed but maxtor replaced it very quickly (actually advanced replacement, they sent me the new one whilst I was trying to "fix" the original) I lost 250Gb of DVD's but re-ripping 250Gb isn't as bad as an entire array if you run into issues.

Roudandabouts and swings I guess :rolleyes:

Incidentally I now stream DVD's wirelessly without issue so HiDef over Cat6 at gigabit should be easy.

Steve
 

mjn

Distinguished Member
Rob.Screene said:
3. Using RAID5 gives some more protection, but the whole lot is lost in the event of a controller failure, controller driver bug
Incorrect, the drives hold all the RAID config, so you could swap the controller (of the same type of course) and the data would still be present.
 

Mark Ward

Active Member
I went for a SuSe linux server solution and once you are through the steep initial learning curve it's relatively straight forward. As everyone else has said with a donor PC you are a case & raid card away from a server.

[Price]
Linux is free, save yourself an XP licence cost it's only for serving files

[Compatibility]
So long as your hardware is compatible Linux is easy to install & autoconfigure and I keep some printed noted on how to change permissions, fstab, sambe etc. but to be honest you don't need them after you've done it a couple of times.

I did a trial install on an old Dell XPX-450 to practise on and everything worked 100% straight off, Network/Internet connection included! Now I use an Athlon 2400+ with 512MB ram which is overkill for this use.

[Reliability]
I had a drive corrupt on me, suspiciously the same make/model as JohnS's and bought around the same time. Linux has some very basic but functional re-build tools built in which meant I only lost one DVD.

Hard drives seem to run cooler under Linux, I don't know why but they seem to. I've had many people round and demonstrated this.

[Stability]
My Linux server has only locked up once (due to the corrupt drive) compare that to an XP machine that is used 24/7.

[Servers generally]
Whether XP or Linux I'd thoroughly recommend setting up a server as another benefit is that as you transfer you are reminded of great DVDs you haven't seen for ages. I've rewatched so many movies since I started transferring to the server.

I have the same case as Embarker which is little bigger than a Rel q400 sub yeat can potentially hol 20 HDDs! Personally I've got 10 inthere right now and will most likley add another 4 and leav it at that.

[Raid??]
Linux or XP will do RAID just fine, but I reckon there's little point in Raid for what is basically static data. So long as you have the original discs (like I do) the it's not too massive a job re-populate a drive if/when it goes down. With raid you lose 1 drive to the raid and (as JohnS has discovered) you have a risk of losing it all.

I'm happy to answer any question related to setting up a Linux Server if you need any help. It's a free windows GUI based O/S with automatic updates just like XP but without the intrusive programs that increase security risks & CPU overhead. For me it's just a file server, but theres FTP Server, HTTP Server & SMTP Mail server all intergral to th eoperation system should you wish to use any of those.

Sorry this post goes a bit all over the place but I'm trying to look like I'm working whilst composing it!

Mark.
 

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