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I work at a repair shop and I'm thinking of building a Solaris Express, or maybe using whatever the open version is called nowadays, ZFS based NAS out of the mountains of old pieces of hardware we've got around.

I have lot's of doubts, and reading the Best Practices haven't solved most of them, so I'll ask here one by one to avoid writing a big monolithic post with lots of questions.

The server will have four disks. I suppose I'll have to use one exclusively for the system. Is that right? What if that disk dies, will it take with it all the data of the others disks? Or maybe I'll be able to read the pool of the other three disks with a live CD?

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3 Answers

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Q1: The server will have four disks. I suppose I'll have to use one exclusively for the system. Is that right?

R1: No, the system doesn't require a whole disk, a slice in a primary partition (or even extended) would be sufficient. That said, using a mirror for the system is recommended.

Q2: What if that disk dies, will it take with it all the data of the others disks?

R2: Hopefully not. A dying disk won't touch the data on other disks.

Q3: Or maybe I'll be able to read the pool of the other three disks with a live CD?

R3: Definitely. You will just need to use import "-f" option to force the import.

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If you want to preserve the disks for actual storage, you could use one or two SATA DOM's (disk-on-modules) in a mirrored setup to free your drive bays. This assumes you have SATA ports available directly on the motherboard. This is a clean approach.

Another option is using slices and carving out a root pool distributed across two of your disks. This is less clean, but a good option for four disks.

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The root pool must use a slice, it can't use whole disks like data pools. Also, the root pool cannot be distributed across several disks, with more than one disk, only mirrored configurations are supported. –  jlliagre Aug 11 '11 at 15:13
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The storage pools stays intact even if the system dies/becomes unavailable. Worse case, the storage pool can be imported into/onto a new/another system.

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