Open Source Storage Options

Forget the big names, roll your own and save!

I have said it many times before in this and other forums that I believe data center technologies are THE career path to get in right now for the future. Especially, if your background is plumbing....routin' n switchin' But man it just mega sucks to get started. Data center gear is expensive and truthfully, what tripped me up was the division between data center and storage. Each area has very specific equipment and design needs. This became very evident to me when planning out a TechWiseTV show on Data center Interconnect. Like any good route switch engineer; I planned the show with OTV, VPLS, 10GB, Nexus, VMotion, etc... plumbing right? Come on No Whammys, No Whammys, No Whammys....BUZZ!! Darn it! Steve Phillips one of the Data Center (I mean Data Centre) geeks at Cisco said; "What about your data back on the SAN?" of course it was in a English accent so it sounded awesome. Of course I replied; Dude, isn't Manchester playing Arsenal or something now? More cost, more time, more engineering resources. Crap man, isn't a sneakernet and external drive just as good here? A little exercise would do some of these fatties good. The problem is our networks are changing from the top to the bottom tiers. Even SMB's can greatly benefit from a optimized data center. But I am ALWAYS looking for a way to do more stuff with Open Source options. It is not a anti-corp save the planet type of BS. I like Open Source because I can customize it and see if I really honestly need the extra stuff and bloated code base commercial code offers. I started looking at my designs to see where I could test and add Open Source. The SAN/NAS stuck out like Klingon at Celebration. I went to Best Buy and picked up three 1TB external drives (and Bioshock 2 which is not only awesome but nightmare generating creepy man!) and went to work...well OK I played Bioshock 2 for a few hours, THEN I went to work. I narrowed down my homegrown SAN/NAS to two options; FreeNAS http://freenas.org/ and OpenFiler www.openfiler.com First up, FreeNAS. FreeNAS works on both AMD and x86 platforms. I downloaded the AMD 64 bit image and it clocked in around 78Meg. Set up is a piece of cake. The imagine is a LiveCD so I just booted up with the CD in the drive and then a NCurses type of console interface displayed so I just installed and config'ed everything from there. Mega high props on the ease of install FreeNAS! Since I am trying to emulate a SMB network, I decided to test to see how well the iSCSI initiator worked. The GUI for FreeNAS is simple, clean and ease to navigate. My targets were a Windows server running StarWind http://www.starwindsoftware.com/ and another instance of FreeNAS. Both worked perfectly. Well, FreeNAS worked great...I fat fingered an target entry but even that showed up in the diag page. I had a a uid 20 inumber 3008 on /: filesystem full error in my logs which made no sense to me with 3TB worth of space. So I RTM'ed and found the error was once again mine. Samba puts it’s Recycle Bin in the root directory of the share. Since I created a share with a path of /mnt, deleting files on any of your mounted drives casued them to be moved into /mnt/.recycle and quickly overflowed the root filesystem. Oops!! This is a fantastic Open Source product! Highly recommended! Now it's on to Openfiler. When I first saw the website with the glaring ad; "Purchase Add Ons" I thought I was at a used car lot. Openfiler is a x86 platform program. I downloaded the ISO and it clocked in around 316MB. When I plugged in the CD and started the install process a purple screen popped up and I thought I was installing switch management software from Extreme! Install was straight forward and very simple. Too easy... OpenFiler is not really a program as much as it is appliance software. It is based on the venerable rPath Linux which is a rock solid stable version of Linux. After getting Openfiler installed, the UI is just beautiful. Running it thru the same iSCSI tests I put FreeNAS thru, Openfiler passed with flying colors. It also offered some nicer graphs and charts that FreeNAS did not. I also easily tied Openfiler into my Active Directory in mixed mode and it worked great. This is a very feature rich; roll your own SAN appliance software. I super mega highly recommend Openfiler! I absolutely love this program as much as fishing with a top water Bass bait on a sunny day! Both of these products worked great for file based NAS. The next test is for block mode SAN. Openfiler is the only product that does this over fiber channel. I will post results later on. FreeNAS does appear to have better documentation then Openfiler as well as community online postings. But mercy sakes, the features in Openfiler make it a winner to me! It is hard to go wrong with either choice. Data Center cost add up fast! Kinda like playing Sim City and purchasing an Expo, Stadium, Zoo at the start and then not having the cash to add roads, power or plumbing. These Open Source SAN solutions give us geeks the ability to beef up the plumbing more and still have a great overall solution. Now Big Daddy is headin' back to Rapture to look for Sophia Lamb.... Jimmy Ray Purser Trivia File Transfer Protocol Contrary to popular belief and legend, Daniel Boone not only did not wear a coonskin cap, he detested them. Instead, Boone wore a felt cap.

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