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I'm thinking of building a NAS for the household. It will be a simple file, printer, rsync and bit-torrent server running FreeNAS. The server will have two 3.5" SATA drives, I plan to mirror them using software RAID1.

I have two questions:

  1. Which file system should I use, the default UFS or ZFS? As far as I understood from various blog posts ZFS is very memory and CPU hungry, will it work with VIA C7? I like the idea of ZFS snapshots but I can live without them if it's too demanding.

  2. I currently have two drives: 640GB and 1TB. If I use them in RAID-1 the total array size will be the minimum size of the two disks, that is 640GB. That's all right for now, but what will happen if in a year I get a new, say 1.5TB, drive? RAID array should rebuild when I replace the smallest drive with the new one, but will it be possible to grow it from 640GB to the new minimum - 1TB without losing the data?

Thanks and sorry if I'm asking trivial questions, I'm a software guy.

UPDATE: To answer the second question, this blog post explains how to grow a RAID1 partition after replacing one of the drives.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

ZFS rules, but is restricted by hardware choice (ZFS stability), as as C7s are 32bit (wikipedia states they use the x86 instruction set) ZFS may not be the solution you seek. If you decide otherwise (it protects you from data corruption and failing disks) there are some useful projects about

RAID array should rebuild when I replace the smallest drive with the new one, but will it be possible to grow it from 640GB to the new minimum - 1TB without losing the data?

Shouldn't be a problem (I've never used FreeNAS), with hardware RAID controllers I've done this many times:

  1. backup all your data :)
  2. remove the smaller disk from the array
  3. insert the new disk
  4. rebuild the array from using the original disk as primary

Alternatively, if you want totally painless dynamic resizing of the array and huge redundancy, get a Drobo (the newer models are markedly better) - you cannot run this as a simple server however. So, you could run an ultra low power SheevaPlug as the server (cheap as chips) and plug the Drobo into it. That's my recommended low power ultra scalable solution (limited only by current maximum HDD capactity).

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Thanks for your answer Andy. SheevaPlug looks interesting but I'm going to get VIA Artigo A2000 [1]. [1] via.com.tw/en/products/embedded/artigo/a2000/index.jsp –  Alexander Kojevnikov Oct 31 '09 at 0:20

As of linux kernel version 2.6.11 you can create resizeable ext3 shares. I recently did this very thing you're asking about on a CentOS 5.4 server, which had a raid1 using a 300GB and 500GB drive. I wanted to upgrade the mirror so I bought a 1TB drive which was going to replace the 300GB drive.

First here's how I originally created the raid1 with the 300 + 500GB drives

I typically use fdisk to create a single partition on a drive, marking the partition type as fd (linux RAID). Next I use mdadm to create a software raid1 array.

mdadm --create --verbose /dev/md0 --level=1 --raid-devices=2 /dev/hda1 /dev/hdb1

Next I lay an LVM Group (I named it lvm-raid) on top of the raid1 array.

vgcreate -s 8M lvm-raid /dev/md0

Determine how many physical extents the Volume Group has available. You can use the command vgdisplay lvm-raid and look for the line "Total PE". In my example it was 59617. With this info I can now create a logical volume within the volume group lvm-raid.

lvcreate -l 59617 lvm-raid -n lvm0

Finally I put the ext3 partition on the logical volume.

mkfs.ext3 /dev/lvm-raid/lvm0

...And here's how I migrated the raid1 to the 500GB + 1TB drive

I added the 1TB drive in as a hot spare to the raid1, and got it synced as a member. Once it was synced up I failed and then subsequently removed the 300GB drive. This allowed me to bring the raid1 array up to 500GB, since the 500GB drive was now the smallest array member. My notes around this one step are lacking detail but I think I did the following:

mdadm --manage --add /dev/md0 /dev/sda1
mdadm --manage /dev/md0 --fail /dev/hda1

...wait for it to sync...
cat /proc/mdstat
...wait for it to sync...
cat /proc/mdstat

...sync is done...

mdadm /dev/md0 -r /dev/hda1

Grow the raid to the max. size of the remaining array members. In this case we have a 500GB and a 1TB drive in the raid 1, so we can grow the raid to 500GB.

mdadm --grow /dev/md0 --size=max

Once the raid array was up to 500GB, I ran the following commands to make use of the extra space available within LVM and eventually the actual ext3 share.

First I got the physical volume to make use of the extra space.

pvresize /dev/md0

Next I ran the command pvdisplay /dev/md0 to determine how many "free extents" were now available. In my case it was 23845. So I ran this command to absorb them into the logical volume.

lvextend -l +23845 /dev/lvm-raid/lvm0

Finally I ran the command resize2fs to add the extra space into the ext3 share.

resize2fs /dev/lvm-raid/lvm0

Here's what resize2fs looks like when it's running:

resize2fs 1.39 (29-May-2006)
Filesystem at /dev/lvm-raid/lvm0 is mounted on /export/raid1; on-line resizing
required Performing an on-line resize of /dev/lvm-raid/lvm0 to 122095616 (4k) blocks. 
The filesystem on /dev/lvm-raid/lvm0 is now 122095616 blocks long.

And when it's all done, df now shows this:

Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
                      459G  256G  180G  59% /export/raid1
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FreeNAS is based on FreeBSD, not Linux (thus the option of ZFS). –  Phil P Jan 1 '10 at 7:05

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