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unRAID combined with WHS


AbleTech
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At the HHS meetup on Saturday I heard a few of the attendees speaking about unRAID and my interest was piqued (that means "stimulated" in case you were wondering). So I researched it a bit. If you're not familiar with unRAID let me give you a brief introduction.

 

unRAID is a very cool Linux-based software raid solution that can handle random hardware and HDD combinations and can recover and rebuild data if a HDD is lost or corrupted. The software is free for use with up to 3 HDDs and from what I have read it works well alongside WHS. The benefit of this option is that it does not use duplication to protect your data (like WHS) and so you get to use the full capacity of your drives (minus a parity drive) for storage instead of only half. As mentioned, unRAID uses a parity drive which allows for any drive that fails to be replaced and rebuilt. The software OS can be run off of a small flash drive on old hardware. One of the major benefits of a solution like this is that you can use it to backup your WHS OS which is great with WHS 2011. I'm considering putting together an unRAID test box using some old hardware and see if it might be a good way to manage my HDD storage pool in conjunction with WHS 2011.

 

Here is an article about use of unRaid instead of, and in addition to, WHS 2011: http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2011/05/18/guide-unraid-server-part-1-the-journey-to-unraid/

 

Here is a link to the developer of unRaid and the download site: http://lime-technology.com/

 

I am curious to hear from any of you that have used unRAID. What do you like about it? What do you hate about it? How would you use it in conjunction with WHS?

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Thanks for the info. I looked at this once and thought it might make a good backup to WHS. In another words, syncing your data from the WHS to unRaid. This is basically a software RAID 5 and would make a great addition. I still prefer using a hardware raid solution in the server but this is a fantastic way to recycle your old server and get a second copy of the data. Thanks for the write up.

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Use the search function here in the forums and you will find many, many references made to unRaid. In fact, I believe Geek-accountant has an unRaid server. There are numerous other members that appear to be either running an unRaid server or have tried it out.

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Yes I am. I have posted about and talked about it in Live chat and always thought I was the only fan. Now I find out you guys talked about it at the the meet up. Dang, I wish I could have been there.

 

As cskenney pointed out, I have an Unraid server. It's been running for over a year now and I have had no problems. Love the thing. I actually moved most of my storage to it before we even found out MS was dropping DE from the WHS. My problem with how WHS protected the data was by using duplication. With over 500 movies on the server, my only real choice on WHS was to leave them unprotected because I was not going to buy double the drives. So i switched to using Unraid as my main storage server and only use WHS for PC backups, which it is great at doing.

 

When we found out DE was being dropped, my first thought was no problem I will run WHS as a VM on my Xenserver and use Unraid's NFS option to provide expandable storage to the WHS VM. That plan failed as I was never able to get it to run reliable.

 

A few things to think about before doing this:

 

  • Parity drive needs to be as big or bigger than the largest data drive
  • Don't use slow drives as your parity drive, transfers to the server are limited by the slowest drive being written too
  • Even with fast drives, transfer speeds will be less than a true RAID solution
  • If you need a controller card for additional ports, don't use a standard PCI version one

 

The thing I love about it is the user shares which can be spread across all the drives or limited to specific drives. Also love that you can use different sized drives and add additional ones when needed. I am using a Norco 4020 case, so I have LOTS of room to grow.

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When we found out DE was being dropped, my first thought was no problem I will run WHS as a VM on my Xenserver and use Unraid's NFS option to provide expandable storage to the WHS VM. That plan failed as I was never able to get it to run reliable.

 

A few things to think about before doing this:

 

  • Parity drive needs to be as big or bigger than the largest data drive
  • Don't use slow drives as your parity drive, transfers to the server are limited by the slowest drive being written too
  • Even with fast drives, transfer speeds will be less than a true RAID solution
  • If you need a controller card for additional ports, don't use a standard PCI version one

The thing I love about it is the user shares which can be spread across all the drives or limited to specific drives. Also love that you can use different sized drives and add additional ones when needed. I am using a Norco 4020 case, so I have LOTS of room to grow.

 

With your Xenserver VM you just gave me a thought. I am running s2008r2 with several VM's, WHS2011 being one. Maybe I should set up a raid 5 array for my data (documents, spreadsheets, media, etc) with s2008r2 and not within the WHS2011 VM. This should work find as long as it isn't difficult to share the array from within s2008r2.

 

Being able to add drives to unRAID is a big plus. have you tested read/write speeds? If yes, what were the results and how did they compare to a Raid 5 array?

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Yes I am. I have posted about and talked about it in Live chat and always thought I was the only fan. Now I find out you guys talked about it at the the meet up. Dang, I wish I could have been there.

 

The meet up was a fun time... but I'll try not to pour lemon juice on your paper cut. ;P

Great to hear from someone who has real experience with unRAID! Thanks for your input. I have a few questions for you.

 

- Do you stream your movies from the unRAID server? Bluray or just DVD? If so, have you been satisfied with the read speeds?

- When you mention trying to run WHS as a VM and use unRAID as the storage... At what point did this concept fail? Was there a failure on the part of WHS to interface with the unRAID storage pool?

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Yes I am. I have posted about and talked about it in Live chat and always thought I was the only fan. Now I find out you guys talked about it at the the meet up. Dang, I wish I could have been there.

 

 

I missed your comment about live chat. I wish that was used by the forums more often. I really like using chat on another forum I frequent (non-tech).

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With your Xenserver VM you just gave me a thought. I am running s2008r2 with several VM's, WHS2011 being one. Maybe I should set up a raid 5 array for my data (documents, spreadsheets, media, etc) with s2008r2 and not within the WHS2011 VM. This should work find as long as it isn't difficult to share the array from within s2008r2.

 

Being able to add drives to unRAID is a big plus. have you tested read/write speeds? If yes, what were the results and how did they compare to a Raid 5 array?

 

Well, one of the reasons I gave some of the points I did was because I learned it the hard way. Many of those things I said to do or not to do, I did the wrong way. For example, i used the 5400rpm green drives and my parity drive is slowing down everything. In addition, I have half the drive connected to the MB and the other half connected to a PCI controller card. And guess what, the way the drives are laid out, my parity drive is using that PCI controller. I do have a faster drive to swap with the parity a d PICe controller card to swap in there as well. Just need to find some time away from my other new hobby, the photography podcast. I am starting to forget what the wife looks like. :(

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Guest no-control

Maybe I should set up a raid 5 array for my data (documents, spreadsheets, media, etc) with s2008r2 and not within the WHS2011 VM. This should work find as long as it isn't difficult to share the array from within s2008r2.

 

Unless you're very familiar with NTFS and Share permissions and how they stack. I wouldn't use shares from WS2008R2. I tried this for my video RAID Stack and while I had it working. It was more setup than I liked and not very flexible. No comment on the other parts of your question, sorry

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The meet up was a fun time... but I'll try not to pour lemon juice on your paper cut. ;P

Great to hear from someone who has real experience with unRAID! Thanks for your input. I have a few questions for you.

 

- Do you stream your movies from the unRAID server? Bluray or just DVD? If so, have you been satisfied with the read speeds?

- When you mention trying to run WHS as a VM and use unRAID as the storage... At what point did this concept fail? Was there a failure on the part of WHS to interface with the unRAID storage pool?

 

Yea, yea, keep pouring into that wound.

 

I have streamed DVD's and they did fine. Actually streamed DVD's to several locations at once and they did fine. I have not tried a Bluray yet however.

 

Due to the stupid decisions I made about the build on the front end, see my other reply, my write speeds are horrible. Normally under 20MBS. Read speeds, I have seen as low as 20MBS and as high as 45MBS. Again, I think this may be related to my PCI controller. I guess I will find out when I swap it out.

 

The failure when using Unraid to supply NFS storage to the VM server was I think an Unraid issue. What happened was Xenserver kept losing the connection to the storage. I posted this in the Unraid forums and the basic response was that I was trying that no had done before and they doubted it would work. They where right.

 

I missed your comment about live chat. I wish that was used by the forums more often. I really like using chat on another forum I frequent (non-tech).

 

The chat I am talking about is during the Live show. Not here in the forums. No one else seemed interested in Unraid.

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