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Seeking advice on Windows Storage Server NAS and disk layout


Steve Pitts
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Folks,

I may be (over)thinking myself into a corner here, but I recently purchased a Thecus W5000 to replace an aging D-Link DNS323 NAS box and I'm driving myself quietly spare trying to decide on the best way to set things up.

 

The primary driver for going with the Windows Storage Server box was the desire to control the backing up of all of the PCs in the house (four desktops and three laptops. all running some flavour of Windows) from a single location, as I've been very aware recently that the only half cogent backup strategy amongst the household members was the one I used on my own systems (two of the desktops) involving a twice daily 'changed files from specific directory structures' copy process to both a local and a NAS area backed up by a (not regular enough) periodic full image copy, again to a local area and then copied to the NAS (keeping grandfather, father, son copies). Since even that approach has flaws (if nothing else I don't run the image copies frequently enough) it seemed that the baked in backup system provided by Server 2012 R2 would be an ideal approach, especially when combined with File History from those systems that supported it. Being able to set up an AD and give everyone a single user with the ability to protect their own stuff on the NAS was also a factor.

 

When I bought the Thecus I also purchased three 3TB WD Reds, intending to set up a parity storage space and thereby give myself 6TB (in manufacturer speak, closer to 5TB in actual use) of space to replace the existing 2TB setup. However, I've been benchmarking the various file system and resilience options and parity spaces perform so badly that my original idea is looking very shaky indeed. Add to that the fact that I've found a problem copying large files from some of my Windows 7 boxes to ReFS formatted mirror and parity spaces (as per this growing essay on Technet) and I'm running out of options.

 

My current thinking is simply to set up a single (non-storage space) volume, formatted as ReFS. I see little difference in the benchmarked speeds between NTFS and ReFS in non-storage space mode, nor do I see any obvious speed benefit from the striping provided by a simple storage space. Since the vast majority of the data on the box is going to be backups of data held elsewhere and I can set up server backup to make copies of anything that doesn't fall into that category, I don't see any particular disadvantages to that approach. Any thoughts or experiences please?? 

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ReFS isn't ready for use yet.  Try copying an iTunes library to it and see how far you get.  Hint: you won't.

 

I'd stick with NTFS, I'm very happy with DrivePool, too.  

 

I see no reason to use Storage Spaces, or ReFS.

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So how does DrivePool compare performance-wise?? I guess I can probably grab a copy and try it to see for myself (is the trial version genuinely fully featured??) I was going to make a comment about not wanting to lay out even more money on top of a not inconsiderable amount already spent, but then the phrase 'spoil the ship for a happorth of tar' sprang unbidden to mind and I decided not to mention it :)

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I haven't had any issues performance-wise.

 

The trial version is full-featured - no limitations except the 30 days of course.

 

Good thought about the extra cost, particularly since DrivePool is so inexpensive.

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DrivePool goes as fast (or slow) as the drive it's reading or writing to.  It can stripe if you've duplicated the data, so it's pretty much as fast as the two or more drives combined.  I've seen just shy of 320MB/s reads off a pair of Toshiba MG04 drives to RAM disk.

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The only feature of Storage spaces I would say is not ready for use is the parity option.  It does not scale out over spindles at all well and has appalling performance.

 

The ReFS mirrored storage space seems to work well enough for me so far though - but then I only need basic filesharing capabilities. I did run into a silly problem microsoft should have handled better, but I got around that by using a fat32 volume as an intermediary volume for problem files.  Basically, if you try and copy files with attributes that are not supported by ReFS you're left scratching your head with unhelpful errors.

 

I had had enough of corrupy mov's, jpeg's and photoshop files which made NTFS a no-go option for me.  The though of trawling 100's of thousands of irreplaceable files to just spot a wonky jpeg is not something anyone can realistically do. 

 

What kind of performance are you after/requiring?  What kind of protection do you require?  One thing worth noticing is that the specs on the Thecus doesnt specifically say that it has ECC DRAM, and intel says that the D2550 doesnt support ECC. That makes it a poor choice to trust critical data on volumes without a corruption aware filesystem (unless of course you have an infinite archive recovery history to go back to).

 

If it was me, I would format the drives eash as single ReFS volumes and then use robocopy to manually replicate the files at quite times as necessary to get the resiliency.

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actually, re-reading your technet post - you could use robocopy on the win7 machine you're having problems with.  Copy those same 2GB files over to the ReFS volume using robocopy, but use the max threads option to throttle the copy process and see if there is a tipping point where the filecopy falls over.

 

It looks like a memory allocation error on the 2012r2 server though.  I'd say that the Thecus is simply running out of memory.

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arbeedub, you've had corruption on NTFS volumes? I don't recall ever running into issues with NTFS myself. Mind you, I only have around 6TB of video/photo files, so that may partly explain it.

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How can you be sure though? That's the core issue.  You think that just because the data on the drive is static its OK?  Running windows os defaults that automatically perform filesystem optimizations once a week? Those 'static files' are then no longer static and could be moved about any number of times a year (unlikely I know, but still possible).

 

Any hardware,software or power error and you're potentially silently corrupting your data. NTFS isnt a CoW filesystem either, so any writes in flight will be totally lost.  If you were moving (or optimizing) a file, it's gone.  You'll be none the wiser.

 

The worst bit I think is that by the time you get the feeling you need to run chkdisk, its already way too late. The problem occurred long ago, and at best you'll be scouring archives to find the correct recovery point.

 

Personally, i would rather maintain a strict archival and recovery regime and have a filesystem go belly up (which ReFS can do well...) if it even hints of a problem it can't automatically recover from.  Thats a sign that there are issues and the lot needs dragging back from an archive. 

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