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We currently are using custom built servers as standalone backup machines (using rsync/zfs snapshotting). They run freebsd (just so we can use ZFS) and have 16 SATA HDD's in them all connected as straight jbod's and zfs handles the rest.

We have had a lot of trouble and have put in a lot of time and expense maintaining these things, and I am considering replacing them with a supported server from one of the big dealers (HP, Dell, Oracle etc).

Our only real requirements are that

  • It needs to house 16 HDD's (and an internal boot disk)
  • It needs to be a standalone server (not a DAS/SAN/NAS appliance.. we want to run a proper OS on it)
  • We want to run ZFS for disk management
  • It needs to be affordable. We don't need any fancy features, we basically just would need SATA disks to run the arrays, not alot of compute power. But I guess either FreeBSD or solaris would be needed for zfs.

Like I said we have been doing this ourselves and we just find it eats up alot of time for the system administrators (there are plenty of stories out there like the backblaze blogs of doing it yourself). But we're looking for an off the shelf solution so we can get onto doing other things.

Does anyone have any recommendations? Thanks!

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Does it have to be all internal disks, or are you OK with using external disk shelves (which is named DAS - they're not appliances, just disk enclosures with a shared SAS bus). –  pauska Dec 12 '11 at 6:02
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Sorry but shopping questions are off-topic. –  kce Dec 12 '11 at 6:12
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I don't think this is too localized. Many people looking for storage solutions based on ZFS could benefit from concrete systems recommendations. It helps avoid some of the trial and error and subsequent compatibility questions... –  ewwhite Dec 12 '11 at 8:42
    
I agree. While individual model numbers will age rapidly, the list will still function as an excellent set of pointers to companies that are likely to continue to make servers-with-large-but-not-huge-disc-arrays. –  MadHatter Dec 12 '11 at 9:42
    
iXsystems is a big supporter of business-grade FreeBSD systems. You should at least talk to them. –  Chris S Dec 12 '11 at 13:30
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closed as too localized by Chris S, Scott Pack, Ben Pilbrow, MDMarra, RobM Dec 12 '11 at 20:59

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4 Answers

My favorite standalone ZFS server is the HP ProLiant DL380 G7 with extra drive cage. SD boot. 16 drive bays. But all the same, SuperMicro, Dell and IBM have models that can work. For my purposes (ZFS), I connect the drive cages to ZFS-friendly LSI controllers, bypassing the onboard RAID.

Here's an example of a single zpool build with a DL380 G7, LSI 9211-8i controllers and dedicated ZIL and L2ARC.

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Woot! I didn't know there was an extra drive bay option for the DL380, nice stuff! You might wanna add a comment about buying those disk housings for the SSD's on ebay or something like that, instead of having to sit there with unused sata disks. –  pauska Dec 12 '11 at 13:31
    
Yep, a definite option. It's a pretty flexible model, especially since it can accommodate a 5.25" drive. See: flickr.com/photos/ewwhite/6500165823/in/photostream - The drive blanks are pretty much only available in bulk. I usually call HP parts dealers to get them. –  ewwhite Dec 12 '11 at 17:40
    
That sounds like a great option! What OS are you running on the box? –  bobinabottle Dec 12 '11 at 20:43
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NexentaStor Enterprise or Community Edition, depending on the application. I've also used this setup in an all-in-one scenario, using VMWare ESXi to start a Nexenta virtual machine which would use PCI pass-through to present physical disk-based datastores back to VMWare. This allows running ZFS storage and other operating systems on one server. –  ewwhite Dec 12 '11 at 20:45
    
No benchmarks? ;) –  StrangeWill Jan 19 '12 at 18:42
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You might also consider a separate 'dumb' directly attached storage unit (SAS JBOD) connected via a SAS 4x cable (SFF-8088 or SFF-8470). These allow aggregate throughput of 4x a single SAS connector, so 12Gbps or 24Gbps depending depending on whether your controller/enclosure is SAS or SAS2 (3Gbps or 6Gbps). On most (all?) of these you can use SATA and not just SAS disks. SAS enclosures have the added benefit of being scalable past 16 disks (just add another enclosure) as well as being easily migrated to other hardware in the event of server failure/upgrade. Each of the major manufacturers have them:

  • HP D2600/D2700 2U SAS 6Gbps (12x3.5in or 25x2.5in)
  • Dell MD1200 2U SAS 6Gbps (12x3.5 or 24x2.5)
  • Dell MD1000 3U SAS 3Gbps (15x3.5)
  • Promise VTrak Jx30 3U/4U 6Gbps (16x3.5 or 24x3.5)
  • Promise VTrak Jx10 2U/4U 3Gbps (12x3.5 or 16x3.5)
  • Oracle J4420 4U 6Gbps (24 x 3.5in)
  • Oracle J2400/J4400/J4800 2U/4U/8U SAS 3Gbps (12/24/48 x 3.5)
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SuperMicro. 2.5": up to 72 discs per server in 4u. Pluss all kinds of assorted other cases. Makes them pretty unique. It is using SAS internally, though - makes it a little pricy but also a little high quality.

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This was my general thought aswell - if you want something that really crams up alot of disks then Supermicro is the obvious choice. –  pauska Dec 12 '11 at 13:26
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Check out FreeNAS, which is version of FreeBSD which specializes in storage and ZFS. It has pretty good community support.

As Chris S says above, consider IXsystems if you need hardware support. Check out the FreeNAS.org webpage, look at the ad in the upper right which shows that IXsystems is a supporter of the FreeNAS project.

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