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[Discuss] NAS: buy vs. build

This is a perennial topic, but I'm in need of some NAS storage and
figured I'd see what the current leanings are of the group.

I haven't yet figured out exactly what my requirements are, but I'm
probably looking to end up with two NAS units for office storage, where
one acts as primary and one as backup. Not sure yet whether I'll go with
identical hardware on both, so they can be swapped, or have the backup
be lower-end, and use a JBOD configuration instead of RAID. Needs are
fairly low-volume (no more than a few simultaneous users), and modest
(<10 TB) capacity.

In my personal infrastructure, I'm also pondering whether to split off
storage from my MythTV server to a dedicated NAS. I had a hardware
failure with my MythTV server recently, and had storage been separate
from the server, I could have at least carried on viewing shows
read-only from the recordings made prior to the failure. Of course
without making the storage redundant, the NAS box then becomes the
single point of failure.

It seems that either of these needs could be addressed quickly and
fairly cheaply with an off-the-shelf appliance, like:

$140 QNAP TS-231 2-bay

Or something similar from Synology or one of the other appliance
vendors. (I haven't decided yet whether to target a 2-bay or 4-bay
enclosure. The appliances seem to double in price for 4-bay, even though
not much product cost is added. Probably an inflated margin.)

While I don't want yet another Linux server to maintain and keep
updated, I'm also not crazy about running the customized versions of
Linux that exist on these appliances. These vendors all seems to now
support various "cloud" modes where the appliance "phones home" to the
vendor to make your files accessible off-LAN. No doubt that can be
turned off, but what else might be buried in there? I don't really need
the hand-holding and add-on apps these platforms provide.

Are there any fully open source firmware versions available for these

I'd ask if FreeNAS has been ported to any of them, but given the way
FreeNAS seems to have moved towards requiring more "enterprise" hardware
(ECC RAM, and lots of it), that seems unlikely.

If you do go the build route, there doesn't seem to be any way to
approach the compact packaging of the appliances, or the pricing. Just
the enclosure and hot-swap bays (a bit of steel and plastic) can end up
costing as much as the appliance above.

The HP micro servers that have been discussed here several times have
gone out of production, I think. In any case, they seem a bit dated now.

This blog seems to have a regularly updated NAS build in several flavors
and links to components, like NAS oriented enclosures and NAS optimized
motherboards, that can be hard to find at most PC parts retailers:

And economy flavor:

(And from another source, a video that talks about building a NAS using
much the same components as the non-economy 2015 build above: )

And then there are software decisions...if ZFS is a must, then that
pretty much dictates using D-I-Y hardware. Similarly if I want to use a
cluster file system, rather than rsyncing between my primary and
secondary NAS.

I'm not sure any currently available open source NAS solution provides
the ideal functionality when it comes to capacity upgrades. I'd still
like to see an open source equivalent to the Drobo where capacity
expansion is as simple and dropping in an additional drive. (The blog
above says ZFS capacity expansion requires rebuilding the FS.)


Tom Metro
The Perl Shop, Newton, MA, USA
"Predictable On-demand Perl Consulting."

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