Pushing Virtual Limits

In search of a home iSCSI system
May 2, 2008, 12:52 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

After spending time working with iSCSI at work and reading through some of the posts from SanGod I have decided that as much as I would love to do FC at home I just don’t have the space to make this happen.

He implemented a pretty nice little system at his home but I don’t have room for 8u+ of storage gear (right now anyway).

As I have ruled out the SS4200-E as unworthy kit I am thinking of building a box from scratch using FreeNas. Their documentation says they can provide iSCSI support. The benefit of this is that I can build a sample image up in ESX and work with it before committing to hardware purchases.

As an extra added bonus attraction I can build my new box as a second ESX host and simply allocate a larger portion of the storage to the FreeNas box. I will definitely avoid running VMs from the NFS/iSCSI shares pushed out via the FreeNas image. (That would create a nasty feedback loop wouldn’t it? Maybe I will do that just to see what it does to the I/O usage. I would expect it to double….)

In a perfect world I could find an AX150 box or an AX4 box for under $2,000 US. If anyone has one make sure to reach out to me so I can take it off your hands.

The plan for next week will be to add FreeNas to the testing schedule and evaluate it. The Thecus and other platform solutions look good but without a chance to really test them all I have are the Tom’s Hardware reviews. If anyone has any other good solutions to be my Tier 1 storage solution (with iSCSI support – required to utilize it for some of my Documentum applications).


3 Comments so far
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I’ve been looking too – I’ve toyed with the (not so free) open-e software. (www.open-e.com) which if you go with the full package is feature-rich, including fibrechannel TARGET MODE support, but also costs about US$2000.

You might investigate OpenFiler (www.openfiler.com) as well, it offers iSCSI target mode support but I’ve not really found a way to bind interfaces together intuitively, and iSCSI over a single Gig-E interface just plain won’t work for me. (Running 14 VM’s over a single Gigabit connection would be the definition of choking mess)

Now that I have an available server I may install it and see if I can get the ethernet to bond via the linux interface and go that route.

Comment by Jesse

Open-E is new to me and I will definitely take time to check them out. Maybe they will work out a deal for a home user. The worst they can do is say no right?

As my environment is going to be very low load – DB server (2k8 running MS SQL 2k5); two application servers; one indexing server (possibly merged into an app box depending on load); and then an AD server. I really don’t think this will be too painful. The initial setup and indexing I/O will be high but having run this configuration frequently before I know my use case will generate minimal load.

I have spent enough time with the FreeNas product to come up with a basic plan. In the near future I will be receiving a 5u chassis with 24 sata hot swap bays. In that box I will build a four socket ESX machine. The initial VMDK volume will span 5x500gb drives (increased to 10×500 once I migrate some data). On that space I will load up 3i and install FreeNas as a VM. That will give me the greatest flexibility in terms of space allocation and utilization.

(The 5u came with a four socket board and chips in it so it seemed like a terrible waste to just lay FreeNas down on the bare iron.)

Comment by berginjm

You might try DSS-Lite from Open-E – It’s a single-user / home version of the DSS software, limited to 1TB and it may have a slightly smaller HCL. (My Adaptec 2610 6-port SATA controller doesn’t work on DSS_Lite but does work on the trial version of DSS)

Performance seems good and setup is pretty easy to deal with. It support fibrechannel target mode given the right HBA’s (Qlogic 2340 or better)


Comment by Jesse

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