I recently added a mirror to a very simple zfs pool and decided to document it here for posterity. This worked flawlessly in a FreeNAS 10 system with two 4 TB drives.
ZFS should have been great, but I kind of hate it: ZFS seems to be trapped in the past, before it was sidelined it as the cool storage project of choice; it’s inflexible; it lacks modern flash integration; and it’s not directly supported by most operating systems. But I put all my valuable data on ZFS because it simply offers the best level of data protection in a small office/home office (SOHO) environment. Here’s why.
Hard disk drives encounter errors from time to time, so it’s a good thing that most have the ability to recover data anyway. But RAID systems usually have their own error recovery capabilities and can be thrown off when a hard disk pauses I/O. So it’s a good idea to use hard disk drives that allow you to disable or limit error recovery in RAID systems.
I’ve dabbled with FreeNAS in the past and had such a great experience with pfSense (a similar FreeBSD-based project) that I jumped in with both feet on my home office server build. But my initial impressions were, frankly, terrible. I’ve got the system running and stable now, but I’m finding it difficult to recommend FreeNAS at this point.
I like ZFS Send and Receive, but I’m not totally sold on it. I’ve used rsync for decades, so I’m not giving it up anytime soon. Even so, I can see the value of ZFS Send and Receive for local migration and data management tasks as well as the backup and replication tasks that are typically talked about.
Today I’m going to dive into the hardware I selected for FreeNAS, starting with the motherboard, CPU, and memory. FreeNAS runs on any PC hardware, but building a reliable and scalable storage solution means picking higher-end components. I selected a Supermicro X10SL7 server-class motherboard with 14 (!) SAS/SATA ports paired with an Intel Xeon E3-1231v3 (Haswell) CPU and ECC memory from Crucial.
Although not discussed in today’s keynote, Apple is adding a new “universal” filesystem to iOS and macOS. Apple File System (APFS) will likely replace HFS+ as the default filesystem for Macintosh computers, iPads, and iPhones and brings a wealth of modern features. But judging from the initial developer documentation, that’s not going to happen for a few more years. And there’s still much confusion about how APFS and CoreStorage, introduced in Mac OS X 10.7, will interact.
Hard disk drives keep getting bigger, meaning capacity just keeps getting cheaper. But storage capacity is like money: The more you have, the more you use. And this growth in capacity means that data is at risk from a very old nemesis: Unrecoverable Read Errors (URE).
GreenBytes has evolved from software company to storage array company and proven itself able to survive in the cutthroat storage market. It remains to be seen whether the they can convince customers to take Solidarity seriously, but the introduction of this product was the right move for the company. We will be watching and hoping that they will add VMware compatibility and more capacity.
I’ve been quite busy lately recording webinars, writing articles, and setting up speaking events. This week, I’m in Boston and New York for private speaking engagements. I’ll also be recording a webinar with an exciting new storage/virtualization company, Nutanix, and I urge you to tune in to that one!