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I am assembling a storage server with 14 SATA drives.

I don't want to "waste" a drive for the OS system, so I thought I could isntall and run the OS from a USB stick. The system will be very skinny (just a webserver and ssh deamon and some custom scripts).

Is there any reason I should not do this? Like USB stick durability, etc? Do you have any experiences with running server systems from usb sticks?

I noticed that FreeNAS recommends running it from a USB stick.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The main consideration is making sure the OS doesn't swap, and/or doesn't write much to the flash memory. The USB stick, like a compact flash or SD card (and to a far lesser extent, SSD) has a limited number of write cycles so if you've got something thrashing it constantly for swap you may find it wears out prematurely.

The Sun X4540 systems we've got here use a compact flash card for the OS, and as the other poster said, VMWare ESXi has a embedded version which runs off a stick, in both cases the idea is to liberate your physical disks for actually storing your data, rather than the OS. In the case of the Sun configuration, it is officially supported and they make some suggestions in the install guide for Solaris and Linux here (page 79) .

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Might want to log to a different drive / remote syslog as well. –  carlpett Apr 7 '11 at 12:08
    
yes, i plan to log all logs to nfs anyway because my application calculates important stuff and billing from the logs, and i don't want to do that on the storage slaves. –  The Shurrican Apr 9 '11 at 12:15
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No - it's a good idea - unlike CDROM booting, maintaining patches customer config is a lot simpler. Just make sure you do as the others said and keep all the logs / swap space elsewhere.

But wouldn't it be just as easy to boot it across a network?

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network is a good thing but my server will be spread across several datacenters for data durability and availability. therefore this could get complicated. –  The Shurrican Apr 9 '11 at 12:16
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Well, ESXi Embedded runs off of a USB Stick - and I have had zero issues with performance or anything for that matter. As long as it's Unix based I see no issues.

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We do the same thing here without any problems. It works great. –  jftuga Apr 7 '11 at 12:26
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