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In need of Open Storage

DIY NAS - Part 1 of 3
The Background

A few years ago I came to the conclusion that I needed reliable storage for some of my more important work related files; should I lose such files, work opportunities and/or money could be at risk. I purchased a HighPoint TechnologiesRocketRAID 1640 PCI SATA card along with three 250GB Seagate SATA Hard Disks, and added to my home main desktop computer this gave me a reasonable RAID 5 setup.

At the time I was running FreeBSD 6.x and Windows XP and both were well supported by HighPoint. Whilst I have upgraded the desktop computer several times since its original build, the RocketRAID card and disks have always remained a reliable constant. More recently, after some failures with Windows Vista 64, I have opted to use Ubuntu as my primary operating system at home. Unfortunately when I upgraded to the latest release of Ubuntu (9.04), I found that my RocketRAID card no longer functioned. I contacted HighPoint but they reported that they are no longer supporting the RocketRaid 1640 with newer Linux Kernels.

So without installing an older operating system supported by the RocketRAID drivers I can no longer access my files! Whilst I admit I cannot expect HighPoint to support old hardware forever, this eventuality was unexpected and I was a little shocked! I needed to resolve this problem and fast, so that I could continue working with my important files.

The Problem

Whilst I was using an open source operating system, I was relying on an old piece of hardware with proprietary closed source drivers. This eventually failed!


A new reliable storage system with greater operating system and driver independence.

This storage system should be decoupled from my desktop computer and accessible by my other computers; so that upgrades and/or failures of my computers do not have an effect on my ability to access my important files.

  • Reliable storage (RAID 5 or better)
  • Accessible from several computers (NAS/SAN)
  • 100% Open Source (no proprietary drivers!)
  • Energy Efficient operation (may be switched on 365x24x7)
  • Large storage space (1TB+)
  • Custom software extensions (I want to be able to add my own features)
  • Quiet and unobtrusive
  • As cheap as possible

Identifying the Solution

I need an independent networked device, and that device is a NAS, a SAN would be complete overkill for my needs and well beyond my budget.

I looked at a LOT of commercially available NASs from the likes of HP, D-Link, Netgear, Linksys, Buffallo, Western Digital and Seagate to mention but a few. I also looked at open source software projects for the above. Whilst almost all of them offered fairly reasonable power consumption, a reasonable price and ease of use, I could not find a single good combination of reliable storage and open software between them. It seemed that all of them would lock me into some vendor's proprietary software or that the open source communities replacement software was not reliable or mature enough.

Soon enough, I realised that to get everything that I wanted, I was going to have to build my own.

Read more in Part 2 - Choosing Software and Hardware for my DIY NAS.

Adam Retter posted on Sunday, 31st May 2009 at 22.35 (GMT+01:00)
Updated: Tuesday, 2nd 2009 at June 23.00 (GMT+01:00)

tags: NASRAIDStorageOpen SourceHighpoint TechnologiesEnergy Efficient

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