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Ultimate Gen8 Upgrade


Anatoli
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I've pinged Schoon about some questions I had regarding the Gen8 upgrade but I guess a community discussion will be more fun.

 

The ultimate config

The final config I'm planning to have is the following:

 

Basically, what I would like from the Gen8 is to be a container host as well as a data storage unit. The OS and the VMs will be located on the SSD mainly, if larger storage is needed it could be nice to link it to the 4 disk array. I would like to RAID the thing using mdadm and virtualize using KVM so I would more likely use FreeNAS, Debian or Ubuntu as OS. Any thoughts about this? Suggestions?

 

Getting down to the ports

After looking into it for quite a long time now, I see the Gen8 motherboard has a max 5 disk capacity using all SAS/SATA ports. This won't fit my need since I need the 6th drive, and I need to get a RAID controller but since I'm going to RAID via software I won't need that and can definitely go for just a SATA PCI-e card with ya boy Marvell 88SE9215 instead.

 

What do you think about this? Am I doing good at computers so far?

Edited by Anatoli
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My current config is very similar - MS Gen8, E3-1265L, 16 GB original HP RAM, 2x4TB WD Red ZFS mirrored, running Nas4Free Embedded as a host OS, and one Ubuntu Server 16.04 VM as a guest. The Nas4Free is providing storage services, while Ubuntu VM is serving as OpenVPN server and CUPS print server.

 

My advice is not to use RAID. It is is much better to use native ZFS "raid" features - it is faster, reliable and portable. In case of problems with MS hardware your ZFS data disks will be readable on any PC with SATA controler just by plugging a USB stick with Nas4Free embedded OS.

 

FreeNAS and Nas4Free are close relatives. Nas4Free has been forked from old FreeNas when part of the developer's team not agreed with the change from PHP to Pyton. Personally I prefer Nas4Free, as it is closer to the "pure" NAS OS, but has sufficient additional services.  Nas4Free GUI is faster and more intuitive. The Nas4Free community and forums are also much more friendly place to novices compared to FreeNAS community and forums.  The Virtualbox as part of Nas4Free works like a charm an virtualization is very easy.

 

So in any case for NAS purposes stay with ZFS and FreeBSD based OS like FreeNAS and Nas4Free. My preference is for Nas4Free.

 

Other suggestion is to use "embedded" installation, i.e. your OS will be on USB stick or MicroSD Card. In such case you will not need two SSDs mentioned in your post. The MS Gen8 has an internal USB port and internal MicroSD slot, so nothing will  be visible on external USB connectors. Nas4Free has also a very stable "Full Root on ZFS" version, which can be installed on SSD. Generally it is needed only for special purposes, so my advice is to stay with embedded, except you have some special needs. 

 

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Your OS choice will help guide the direction you may need to go for more SATA ports. The Marvell based cards are good, but the 88SE9215 cards use a x1 PCIe interface, which could get saturated if you ran four SSD's on it. If you need to add ports and want full performance I would look for a LSI based card. The LSI SAS 9212-4i are affordable.

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My current config is very similar - MS Gen8, E3-1265L, 16 GB original HP RAM, 2x4TB WD Red ZFS mirrored, running Nas4Free Embedded as a host OS, and one Ubuntu Server 16.04 VM as a guest. The Nas4Free is providing storage services, while Ubuntu VM is serving as OpenVPN server and CUPS print server.

 

My advice is not to use RAID. It is is much better to use native ZFS "raid" features - it is faster, reliable and portable. In case of problems with MS hardware your ZFS data disks will be readable on any PC with SATA controler just by plugging a USB stick with Nas4Free embedded OS.

 

FreeNAS and Nas4Free are close relatives. Nas4Free has been forked from old FreeNas when part of the developer's team not agreed with the change from PHP to Pyton. Personally I prefer Nas4Free, as it is closer to the "pure" NAS OS, but has sufficient additional services.  Nas4Free GUI is faster and more intuitive. The Nas4Free community and forums are also much more friendly place to novices compared to FreeNAS community and forums.  The Virtualbox as part of Nas4Free works like a charm an virtualization is very easy.

 

So in any case for NAS purposes stay with ZFS and FreeBSD based OS like FreeNAS and Nas4Free. My preference is for Nas4Free.

 

Other suggestion is to use "embedded" installation, i.e. your OS will be on USB stick or MicroSD Card. In such case you will not need two SSDs mentioned in your post. The MS Gen8 has an internal USB port and internal MicroSD slot, so nothing will  be visible on external USB connectors. Nas4Free has also a very stable "Full Root on ZFS" version, which can be installed on SSD. Generally it is needed only for special purposes, so my advice is to stay with embedded, except you have some special needs. 

 

Great suggestions here, but I think I'll stick to the OS on the two drives 'cause I don't trust USBs or SDs enough and I don't want to lose much time in case of USB failure reinstalling OS and configuring if needed.

 

 

Your OS choice will help guide the direction you may need to go for more SATA ports. The Marvell based cards are good, but the 88SE9215 cards use a x1 PCIe interface, which could get saturated if you ran four SSD's on it. If you need to add ports and want full performance I would look for a LSI based card. The LSI SAS 9212-4i are affordable.

I'm not sure about which OS should be the main OS. The VMs will definitely run maybe one Windows VM and some Ubuntus since it has great compatibility to Docker but I can't tell if it could work fine as RAID manager. I read FreeNAS and friends are more suited for that so the choice will be between FreeNAS and mdadm I guess...

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Great suggestions here, but I think I'll stick to the OS on the two drives 'cause I don't trust USBs or SDs enough and I don't want to lose much time in case of USB failure reinstalling OS and configuring if needed.

 

 

 

There is no "installation" of embedded versions of Nas4Free and FreeNAS. That is the beauty of embedded installations. All your data is on data disks protected by super reliable ZFS. Your OS is on USB stick bootable on any PC.  The all "installation" related information is kept in small XML config file saved on the USB. Usually I keep backups of that file on other places also. So if your OS USB stick fails, just use another one and then "import" configuration from config file. This is very, very convenient. I just stopped to thing about the usual nightmare - damaged OS boot disk.

 

In my case I even use two identical USB sticks and replicated them. The first one is in the internal USB port of my MS. The second one is kept ready in a box on my desk. If something happens with primary one, I've just plug-in the backup one in the external USB port and reboot the server (external ports have priority over internal port) - just 30 seconds to do it and time needed to boot Microserver. If you had recently changed something in configuration and it is not reflected on the backup USB stick, just upload via Web GUI the backup configuration file - another 30 seconds :)

 

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There is no "installation" of embedded versions of Nas4Free and FreeNAS. That is the beauty of embedded installations. All your data is on data disks protected by super reliable ZFS. Your OS is on USB stick bootable on any PC.  The all "installation" related information is kept in small XML config file saved on the USB. Usually I keep backups of that file on other places also. So if your OS USB stick fails, just use another one and then "import" configuration from config file. This is very, very convenient. I just stopped to thing about the usual nightmare - damaged OS boot disk.

 

In my case I even use two identical USB sticks and replicated them. The first one is in the internal USB port of my MS. The second one is kept ready in a box on my desk. If something happens with primary one, I've just plug-in the backup one in the external USB port and reboot the server (external ports have priority over internal port) - just 30 seconds to do it and time needed to boot Microserver. If you had recently changed something in configuration and it is not reflected on the backup USB stick, just upload via Web GUI the backup configuration file - another 30 seconds :)

 

Sounds definitely interesting. I will try this as well and see how good it performs :)

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Sounds definitely interesting. I will try this as well and see how good it performs :)

 

You may choose three types of using Nas4Free - Live (CD or USB), Embedded and Full.

 

Live is using a boot CD or USB with fresh default settings. To use it just download the OS (CD or USB) image and burn/write it on CD/USB. In such case you have to manually import the config file after each boot. It is very similar to "Live" Linux or other OS-es CD/DVDs. But normally this mode is used only for initial boot and then using console menu preparing and writing the Embedded installation to an USB stick.

 

Embedded - in such case the configuration file is written on the USB stick and OS boots like any "installed" OS - know everything about your configuration, data disks, IP addresses, user names, passwords, etc.

 

Full - real installation as any other OS. You will need a boot HDD or SSD.

 

You can easily switch between different types. Just keep backup copies of your configuration file on other media and/or devices. So you may start with Embedded and in case you see need of full one you may further buy and install boot SSD. The main rule is not to mess data disks with OS disks/USBs. It is much more safer if your data is separated from your OS boot media.

 

****EDIT****

Please note that for some reasons Nas4Free is working better on HP Microserver Gen8 if your boot USB is MBR partitioned. GPT partitioning often creates issues. I don't know the reason but it is proven.

Edited by netware5
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Similar to mine Gen8.

1365L+16GB+SSD*1+ 3.5"*4+2.5"*1

I had a PCI-E SATA card (no raid)installed, SSD linked to the PCI-E card as OS drive. So no need for USB or SD card to start from 2.5" SSD.

4 3.5" SATA for storage, additional 2.5" drive in the optical drive bay as additional backup.

 

 

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Similar to mine Gen8.

1365L+16GB+SSD*1+ 3.5"*4+2.5"*1

I had a PCI-E SATA card (no raid)installed, SSD linked to the PCI-E card as OS drive. So no need for USB or SD card to start from 2.5" SSD.

4 3.5" SATA for storage, additional 2.5" drive in the optical drive bay as additional backup.

 

 

If I got you correctly, that's about the same setup I want.

So far, I've ordered the PCI-e SATA card and will stick to 2xSSD + 4xHDD with software RAID using mdadm on CentOS or Debian, 'cause I want to use KVM for the virtual machines I'm planning to run.

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