I've been tasked to suggest a NAS replacement for our aging fileserver at work, its currently running Linux with XFS (using LVM).

We're a very small company of 5 folks, so we're using commodity hardware (2GhzCore2, 8GbRAM and about 4TB worth of HDDs for the new build).

I was looking into OpenSolaris (I come from a Debian/RHEL background) and love what I see of ZFS, but I want to install a headless bare-essential version of OpenSolaris. This means no X, Gnome or any of the gui applications, but I'm not able to find a way of doing it.

Essentially we use this 'all-in-one' box for the following:

  • NAS/FileServer, about 2TB right now, used by all our Win32 hosts (lots of large PSD/Premier files!)
  • Subversion for hosting our source files
  • VMWare Server (right now 1.0) to use as a deployment for Windows 2003 and other OSs.

Another box is our gateway (OpenBSD) that tackles DHCP etc, I just need this box to host our content, run our Continuous integration (TeamCity, Confluence and Jira) inside a few VMs (seperate Glassfish installs) and also run Windows 2003 instancese for SQL Server.

Do you think its possible for me to install a cut down version of OpenSolaris (not Nextena) and use it for its ZFS love and setup Xen to use as a virtualisation manager for our virtual needs?

I realise 8Gb RAM may not be enough, it will be bumped up to 16 soon. I'm just a bit lost into wondering why we have to have Gnome for OpenSolaris installs :(

  • 2
    Why not Nextenta? It sounds almost perfect for what you want re: NAS and simplified OS installation ... ? VMs are another thing entirely, true. – adric Oct 4 '09 at 5:16
  • Isn't there a 2Tb limit or is that the NAS specific edition you have to buy a license for? – Leah Calum Oct 4 '09 at 8:16

Definitely go with OpenSolaris for your NAS. Lots of options there, and ZFS can't be beat.

For virtualization, I can think of two options off the top of my head:

  1. Use VirtualBox on OpenSolaris. It's come a long way, and I recall seeing something about a web based management utility for managing headless guests. Ah, found it: VBoxWeb
  2. If you must use VMWare, get a second box dedicated as a VM hypervisor, use the OpenSolaris box as a SAN, and export the VM storage via iSCSI.

I would suggest running the storage and hypervisor as separate physical boxes either way you go, otherwise performance will suffer. ZFS likes lots of RAM.

OpenSolaris doesn't have a true "minimal" install as of yet, but they're working on it: OpenSolaris 2009.06 JeOS Prototype. The approach most admins have taken thus far has been to just remove what they don't want after the install is finished.

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Just a few observations- The combination of ZFS + Crossbow + xVM is a staggeringly cool platform for virtualization on a single box. It's annoying that the distro can't be pared down somewhat, but that will eventually be improved.

Should you need to upsize beyond that, it's pretty straightforward to use one server for storage(ZFS-backed iSCSI SAN) and another for virtualization(xVM + Crossbow).

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  • Thanks for the reply! Do you know of any guides or doco about this combo? I couldn't google up any good guides or walk-throughs :( we need a HowToForge for OpenSolaris! – Leah Calum Oct 4 '09 at 4:47

You could use the OpenSolaris Automated Installer combined with the OpenSolaris JeOS AI manifest to install just the base system and packages you require.

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