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Building my DIY NAS

DIY NAS - Part 3 of 3

After previously deciding to build my own NAS, having defined my requirements in Part 1 and identified suitable hardware and software in Part 2, I will now discuss the build first in terms of the physical hardware build and then the software installation and configuration.

Hardware

I will not detail the exact build process for the Chenbro chassis as that information is available in the manual, instead I will try and capture my own experience, which will hopefully complement the available information.

Once all the parts had arrived, the first think to do was un-box everything before starting to put the system together. My immediate impression of the Chenbro ES34069 NAS chassis was that it was robustly built and manufactured to a high standard.
Box with DVDRW, Card Reader and Cable. Chenbro NAS chassis removedUnpacked Chenbro chassis and boxed disk drives1.0TB hard disks, packed two in each box

The first step in building the NAS with the Chenbro chassis, is to open up the chassis and then install the Motherboard. To open up the Chassis you need to remove the side cover and then the front panel.
Chenbro chassis with side cover removedChenbro chassis with motherboard tray removedChenbro chassis with secured motherboard

The second step is to get the Card Reader, DVD-RW and 2.5" Hard Disk for the operating system in place and cabled to the motherboard. The Hard disk needs to go in first, followed by the Card Reader and then the DVD-RW. I realised this too late, but luckily the DVD-RW is easily removed!
Chenbro chassis front panel removedChenbro chassis front panel with DVDRW fittedBack of Chenbro chassis front panel with DVDRW fitted

The third step is to finish connecting any cables, secure the cables away from the fan (I used some plastic cable ties for this) and then switch on and check that the system POSTs correctly. I did this before inserting any of the storage disks in the hot swap bays for two reasons - 1) if there is an electrical fault, these disks wont also be damaged, 2) if there is a POST fault, it rules out these disks as a possibility.
Chenbro NAS complete side viewChenbro NAS Power OnChenbro NAS POST

The final step is to install the storage disks into the hot swap caddies and those into the hot swap bays of the NAS.

This is where I hit upon a show stopper. Securing the disks in the hot swap caddies requires some special low profile screws, these seemed to be missing, I checked the manual and it stated that these were shipped with the chassis, but unfortunately not for me :-(.

After a week of not hearing from the supplier and unable to find suitable screws, I cracked and decided to improvise. The mounting holes on the hot swap caddies are a combination of plastic layered on metal, I reasoned that by cutting away the top plastic layer I would have more space for the screw heads. Very carefully I removed the plastic around the screw holes using a sharp knife, I am sure I probably voided some sort of warranty, but now standard hard disk mounting screws fit perfectly :-). Chenbro Disk Caddie before modificationChenbro Disk Caddie after modificationFinally loading the disks into the NAS

Software

A standard installation of OpenSolaris 2009.06 from CD-ROM was performed. Once the installation was completed, the remaining configuration was completed from the terminal.

ZFS Storage Configuration

As previously discussed in Part 2, I decided to use a RAIDZ2 configuration across the 4 1TB storage disks.

To configure the disks, I first needed to obtain their id's, this can be done using the format command -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec format
                Searching for disks...done
                
                
                AVAILABLE DISK SELECTIONS:
                0.  c8d0 <DEFAULT cyl 9726 alt 2 hd 255 sec 63>
                /[email protected],0/[email protected],1/[email protected]/[email protected],0
                1.  c9d0 <WDC WD10-  WD-WCAU4862689-0001-931.51GB>
                /[email protected],0/[email protected],2/[email protected]/[email protected],0
                2.  c9d1 <WDC WD10-  WD-WCAU4864114-0001-931.51GB>
                /[email protected],0/[email protected],2/[email protected]/[email protected],0
                3.  c10d0 <WDC WD10-  WD-WCAU4862741-0001-931.51GB>
                /[email protected],0/[email protected],2/[email protected]/[email protected],0
                4.  c10d1 <WDC WD10-  WD-WCAU4848518-0001-931.51GB>
                /[email protected],0/[email protected],2/[email protected]/[email protected],0
                Specify disk (enter its number): ^C                                    
        

From this we can see that disks 1 through 4 are our 1TB storage disks. The following command uses the ids of these disks to create a new RAIDZ2 zpool called 'thevault' consisting of these disks -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec zpool create thevault raidz2 c9d0 c9d1 c10d0 c10d1                
        

We can then view/check the newly created zpool -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec zpool list
                NAME       SIZE   USED  AVAIL    CAP  HEALTH  ALTROOT
                rpool       74G  4.06G  69.9G     5%  ONLINE  -
                thevault  3.62T  1.55M  3.62T     0%  ONLINE  -
                
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec zpool status thevault                
                pool: thevault
                state: ONLINE
                scrub: none requested
                config:
                
                NAME            STATE       READ    WRITE   CKSUM
                thevault        DEGRADED    0       0       0
                raidz2      DEGRADED    0       0       0
                c9d0    ONLINE      0       0       0
                c9d1    ONLINE      0       0       0
                c10d0   ONLINE      0       0       0
                c10d1   ONLINE      0       0       0
                
                errors: No known data errors
        

Now that we have our zpool we need to create some filesystems to make use of it. This NAS system will be used on our home network and so I opted for two simple filesystems, a 'public' filesystem which everyone may read and write to and a 'private' filesystem for more personal data -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec zfs create thevault/public
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec zfs create thevault/private
                
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec zfs list
                NAME                        USED  AVAIL  REFER  MOUNTPOINT
                rpool                      4.92G  67.9G  77.5K  /rpool
                rpool/ROOT                 2.85G  67.9G    19K  legacy
                rpool/ROOT/opensolaris     2.85G  67.9G  2.76G  /
                rpool/dump                 1019M  67.9G  1019M  -
                rpool/export               84.5M  67.9G    21K  /export
                rpool/export/home          84.5M  67.9G    21K  /export/home
                rpool/export/home/aretter  84.5M  67.9G  84.5M  /export/home/aretter
                rpool/swap                 1019M  68.8G   137M  -
                thevault                    180K  1.78T  31.4K  /thevault
                thevault/private           28.4K  1.78T  28.4K  /thevault/private
                thevault/public            28.4K  1.78T  28.4K  /thevault/public
        
Users and Permissions

Now that we have our filesystems we need to setup some accounts for our network users and assign permissions on the filesystems for the users.

I will create accounts for each of the three other people in the house and to make permission administration easier, each of these users will also be added to a common group called 'vusers' -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec groupadd vusers
                
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec groupadd phil
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec groupadd lesley
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec groupadd andy
                
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec useradd -c “Philip” -g phil -G vusers -m -b /export/home -s /bin/bash phil
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec useradd -c “Lesley” -g lesley -G vusers -m -b /export/home -s /bin/bash lesley
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec useradd -c “Andrew” -g andy -G vusers -m -b /export/home -s /bin/bash andy
        

So that all users in the 'vusers' group can read and write to the public filesystem, I set the following permissions -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chgrp vusers /thevault/public
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmod g+s /thevault/public
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmod 770 /thevault/public
        

I then set about creating a private folder for each of the users on the private filesystem. All users in 'vusers' can access the private filesystem, but users cannot access each others private folder -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chgrp vusers /thevault/private
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmod 770 /thevault/private
                
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec mkdir /thevault/private/phil
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmown phil:phil /thevault/private/phil
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmod 750 /thevault/private/phil
                
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec mkdir /thevault/private/lesley
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmown lesley:lesley /thevault/private/lesley
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmod 750 /thevault/private/lesley
                
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec mkdir /thevault/private/andy
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmown andy:andy /thevault/private/andy
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec chmod 750 /thevault/private/andy
        
Network Shares

Well this is a NAS after all, and so we need to make our filesystems available over the network. Apart from myself, everyone else in the house uses Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista and 7) on their PCs, and because of this fact I decided to just share the filesystem using OpenSolaris's native CIFS service.

I used this this article in the Genuix Wiki as a reference for installing the CIFS service. I took the following steps to install the CIFS service and join my workgroup '88MONKS' -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec pkg install SUNWsmbskr 
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec pkg install SUNWsmbs
                
                ...I had to reboot the system here, for the changes to take effect...
                
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec svcadm enable -r smb/server
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec smbadm join -w 88MONKS
        

To authenticate my users over CIFS I needed to enable the CIFS PAM module by adding this to the end of /etc/pam.conf -

                other password required pam_smb_passwd.so.1 nowarn
        

Once you have enabled the CIFS PAM module, you need to (re)generate passwords for your users who will use CIFS, this is done with the standard 'passwd' command. Then the last and final step is to export the ZFS filesystems over CIFS -

                [email protected]:~$ pfexec zfs create -o casesensitivity=mixed thevault/public
                [email protected]:~$ pfexec zfs create -o casesensitivity=mixed thevault/private
        
Build Issues

When building your own custom system from lots of different parts (some of which are very new to market), there are likely to be a few unanticipated issues during the build and this was no exception. Luckily the issues I had were all minor -

  • Not enough USB port headers - The MSI IM-945GC motherboard I used only had two USB headers. I used these to connect the NAS SD card reader, which meant that I could not connect the USB sockets on the front of the NAS chassis. This is not a major problem as I can just use the sockets on the back.
  • Missing hard disk caddy screws - As soon as I discovered these were missing, I contacted mini-itx.com by email (they have no phone number). After several emails and only one very poor response saying they would look into it, I gave up on mini-itx.com. As described above, I managed to work around this issue, although after about 3 weeks a package of screws did turn up in the post unannounced and I can only assume these are from mini-itx.com. My advice to anyone would now be DO NOT USE mini-itx.com, their after-sales customer service is abysmal, I probably should have guessed by the fact that when I made a pre-sales enquiry they never even replied!
  • Fitting everything in - Mini-ITX form cases, can be quite a tight fit once you have all the cabling in. I would recommend avoiding using large cables such as IDE where possible. It took me a couple of attempts at re-routing my cables to make best use of the available space.
usage Findings

Once the NAS was built and functional I decided to make some measurements to find out its real power consumption (whether it is as low as I had hoped) and also its network performance for file operations.

Plug-in energy monitorFor measuring the power usage I used a simple Plug-in Energy monitor that I got from my local Maplin store. Whilst this device gives me a good idea of power consumption, it is actually very hard to get consistent/reliable figures from it, as the readout tends to fluctuate quite rapidly. The figures I present here are my best efforts and the average figures are based on observation not calculation.

For measuring the network performance, I placed a 3.1GB ISO file on the public ZFS RAIDZ2 filesystem and performed timed copies of it to two different machines using both SCP and CIFS. The first machine was a Dell Latitude D630 Windows XP SP3 laptop, which is connected to our home Gigabit Ethernet LAN using 802.11g wireless networking (54Mbit/s) via our router. The second machine I used was a custom desktop based on an AMD Phenom X4, MSI K92A Motherboard with Gigabit Ethernet, 8GB RAM and Ubuntu x64 9.04, which is connected directly to our home Gigabit Ethernet LAN.

Power and Performance

Task Description Actual Power Consumption Performance
Standby (Power-off) 2W N/A
Boot 50W N/A
Idling 40W to 47W (avg. 42W) N/A
File Duplication on RAIDZ2 ZFS 54W to 57W (avg. 55W) 50MB/s
SCP Copy to Wifi Laptop 40W to 57W (avg. 42W) 473KB/s
CIFS Copy to Wifi Laptop 40W to 57W (avg. 42W) 1.2MB/s
SCP Copy to GbE Desktop 48W to 52W (avg. 49W) 22MB/s
CIFS Copy to GbE Desktop 49W to 52W (avg. 50W) 25MB/s
Conclusions

Overall I am very happy with my DIY NAS system, I believe it meets the requirements I set out in Part 1 very well. It is physically small and quiet, provides 2TB of reliable storage and does not use any proprietary drivers.

The power consumption is slightly higher (42W to 50W) than I estimated (33W to 50W), which is not unsurprising considering I only had figures for some components and not a complete system. However, I have also measured the power consumption of my desktop with and without the old HighPoint RAID 5 storage that I am aiming to replace with this NAS, and without it I have saved a huge 40W! Admittedly I am now using 10W more overall, but I have a networked storage system that is used by the whole house. I think if I replaced my desktop's primary hard disk with a Western Digital Green drive I could probably claw back those additional watts anyhow.

I am very happy with the network performance, and it is more than adequate for our needs. I have been told that I could probably increase it with careful tuning of various OpenSolaris configuration options.

The cost whilst high for a home IT mini-project, is not unreasonable, and I think I would struggle to find a commercial product at the same price point which offered the same capabilities and flexibility.

Further Considerations

We have both an XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 in our house that can be used as media streamers. The PS3 requires a DLNA source and the 360 a UPnP source, and it looks like ps3mediaserver should support both. However ps3mediaserver also requires a number of open source tools such as MPlayer and ffmpeg amongst others. There are no OpenSolaris packages for these, so I will have to figure out how to compile them, which will take some time.

A website for controlling and administering the NAS would be a nice feature. Especially if you could schedule HTTP/FTP/Torrent downloads straight onto the NAS. When I have a rainy week, I may attempt this. I could see this eventually leading to a custom cut-down OpenSolaris distribution built especially for NAS.

Adam Retter posted on Sunday, 5th July 2009 at 20.10 (GMT+01:00)
Updated: Sunday, 5th 2009 at July 20.10 (GMT+01:00)

tags: ChenbroOpenSolarisNASDIYZFSRAIDZ2CIFS

Comments (12)


First of, thank you Adam for this little tutorial it has helpt me quite a lot to build my one nas using Opensolaris. (2009:06)
After a lot of sniffling and testing different nas os's. ClearOS, FreeNas, Nexenta, EON, Windows home server, Ubuntu. inclusief testen of disk failure i setteld on Opensolaris. Specialy because of ZFS.
And the support that is available.

I am an absolute noob in the area of Opensolaris and it took me 3 days to set everything up including a few reinstalls. Now i can do it in under 2 hours including install but that is another story ;-).

The my configuration uses a sempron LE-1250 proc, 1x 20 GB IDE HDD and 3x 1 TB WD SATA HDD. I get is just onder 42 W idle.

I have a few comments through:
[email protected]:~$ pfexec chmown phil:phil /thevault/private/phil     chmown => chown  type error.

The last step of the tuterial exporting the ZFS  filesystems over CIFS doesn't work. I get an error reading that the dataset already exists.
This solved it for me: zfs set sharesmb=name=public thevault/public

I used this tutorial combined with this one: http://blogs.sun.com/icedawn/entry/bondin to
configure the nas.
Wish I'd seen your site sooner.  About the same time as you were building your NAS, I was doing the same one.  

I opted for the EPIA SN 1800EG mobo, which I later came to find out was only 32Bit.  Because it's only 32Bit, I couldn't make a huge NAS server with Windows or WHS server.  Wanted Windows, since there were apps I wanted to run that were only windows based.

I also had the Chenbro NAS case you had, and have 4 x 1.5 TB disks. 

In the end I used RAID1 to join two disks, and install WHS onto that, and then the other two installed into the pool.  However I think Im wasting a lot of space.

Ive been looking at using something similar to FreeBSD, but would have preferred hardware RAID5.

Like you, I wanted the system to be as low power as possible while still being function.  

I shall investigate if I can just put the MSI board in instead!

Cheers
Great article. I'm in the process of starting the same project, and had a quick question... Did the case include the necessary sata cables (power+data), or did you buy them separately? Does the PSU require a power adapter ie: MOLEX to SATA Power?

Cheers,
V
I was also looking into building something similar, maybe with some HTPC functionality. The problem with building a SFF/low-power NAS/HTPC is that there's not much choice enclosure-wise - the Chenbro you used being pretty much the only one on the market - and the price is steep.
I eventually decided to go for an off-the-shelf NAS (QNAP TS-239/439, or 219/419 if you don't need volume encryption and WOL). Slightly higher price, but lower power consumption and offering tons of functionality which would otherwise take days to set up and maintain.

Have you tried playing movies on it? I guess that wasn't your plan but I'm curious about this MB's performance as I want to make a combined NAS/media box (the NAS side would be idle most of the time).
My build hasn't gone as smoothly!

Assembly was fine.   I chose a different motherboard (a jetway) this was fine as it stood however the extra sata ports were provided by a daughterboard, which uses a Marvel chip (88SE61XX to be precise).

OpenSolaris won't even install with this attached.  Nasty crash.  So I looked at other options... FreeNAS can't find the disks.  OpenFiler however did, but it was a bit problematic.  Some of the problems turned out to be due to a sata cable being over bent.  However the latest openfiler kernel/module combo does not work.  So I have an updated one booting on the old kernel.

I also hosed the array so often that after I got it stable I decided to use Raid6, so I also have two terrabytes usable.   

I was dissappointed not to use ZFS.  

However I did run a fair few benchies on the various configs and the Linux based openfiler is the fastest.

Moreover the CIFS filesystem build into solaris can't do Null logins, which my streamer needs (more won't rather than can't).  Which lead me to switch to Samba and test, Samba is considerably quicker than inbuilt solaris CIFS.

All in I spent longer than I should on this but it has excellent performance nothing commercially comes close for the cost.
Excellent, thanks for sharing your experiences. I am going through a similar process myself and the information here has given me a lot to think about. 
Hi Adam, 

Did you have to set any jumper settings on the ODD or Boot HDD for them to sit on the same cable?

Cheers,
Jimmy.
Looks great!

I'm looking at doing something very similar, but with two variations: first, adding an ssd for a hybrid storage pool, and second, using an am2 processor instead of the atom.

I'm not sure if upgrading from the atom is necessary - but I've heard that ZFS is a real cpu and memory hog.  

What is your cpu usage when doing transfers, etc?
I have a question dow have you considerd wake-on-lan and automatic shutdown ? To further reduce the power bill.

And of course have you come up with some solutions than can help us.

With kind regards T Jansen

Hi,

I have a Supermicro X7SPA-HF board and nearly the same config. An Atom D510, a small Seagate system Disk and 4 1.5TB data disks. However I used raidz1 for more data. You can save a lot if you allow OpenSolaris to put the disks to sleep. Power consumption is now 20 to 25 watts in idle.
Andre Lue is working on an OpenSolaris-based live NAS distro at http://eonstorage.blogspot.com/

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