Description

FreeNas build for medium loads.

I build this NAS as a central file and backup server for a small business environment.

The actually build was pretty straight forward. The case is modular so that you can get the complete drive cage out to access the side fans and create more room for the board and PS installation. The drive cage has a backplate with power distribution and additional fan headers. Not sure where to find the space to put more fans but if you do its just plug and blow. To create more space for cable management I removed the front IO with two USB and Audio in and out. For one there is only one header for two USB 2.0 on the board and I needed that one for the Boot USB drive. I didn't want the Boot drive to be plugged in the back or worse the front. So I got a 9pin header to two USB 2.0 cable for that. I also removed the 2.5" drive tray in the back to make more room for the cables. Everything will fit with the tray but not as elegant. You can physically lock the power button in this case so you have to open the front door and press the button underneath. I went one further and used the reset button as power button so you can't reach it at all without opening the door.

If you want to build this config a couple things I realized along the way:

  • The airflow in the case is good but you should consider a CPU fan if you are running heavy loads. I reach 30-35 degrees C with low to medium loads in a cold (15C) environment.

  • There was a silicon problem with the C2xxx Intel Atom Series that would brick the board after about a year of use. Make sure to check that you have revision V1.03 to be clear of that. Mine might be affected so im currently gambling. AsRock support is super helpful and worked out a extend warranty with Intel to replace affected boards. But if you buy the board now you should get the new and unaffected stuff.

  • clearly mark your drive bays and make photos with the drive SN and Bay number. It helps a lot setting everything up and replacing drives along the road. 8 can get confusing trust me...

  • RAM is the backbone of ZFS. If you want raw performance consider 64GB. Or at least populate only two slots with 32GB so you can expand later on.

  • before deciding on drive size and number decide on your best stripe/raid config and lern about how to expand vdevs in FreeNAS. My all in approach might not be the best/cost effective for you.

  • always calculate in the cost for a UPS if you don't have one. I totally forgot that in my initial calculation.

To the actual operation:

It runs FreeNAS 11 with all drives in one big Raid Z2 vdev. So I have two Disks redundancy and about 22TB of usable Space. (ZFS is a bit tricky with counting overhead plus you shouldn't go over 80% utilization so the real wold usable space will be smaller) I run different datasets for different purposes as well as a zvol for a ISCSI Target. I did not add any cache and the performance relies on the 32GB of ECC RAM. The main focus was reliability and versatility and not raw throughput. So far all my workloads are handled with ease.

I run Syncthing in a jail to sync all business files on all office machines. That works very well so far and is a low maintenance solution. For my private use I run Plex in another jail with its own Dataset. Im not a super heavy Plex user so the processor is handling that fine.

Every Dataset has a individual Snapshot routine depending on the use. Long term media Storage gets one every week, production critical and daily changing data gets more with the amount reducing over snapshot lifetime. (every hour for two weeks, every day for two month etc.)

Offsite Backup is Amazon S3 at the moment for all production critical data. Integration into FreeNas is easy and reliable. I have different cloud sync tasks for different datasets. Im syncing on a file level so all ZFS benefits are gone. Long term solution is a second FreeNAS build with replication tasks and only super critical data in a AWS Glacier storage.

Things I haven't touched at all are VM's event though they are supposed to work better in FreeNas 11.2.

Fazit:

In my opinion this build is the absolute sweet spot for Price per GB per Functionality. Or in other words every component is very well utilized and there is not one resource wasted or under-utilized. If you want to save money you could go with a smaller cheaper Power Supply. What ever you do don't cheep out on RAM. Its always your performance bottleneck. Don't invest in a cache drive until you understand how your workloads translate into the ZFS filesystem. The chance that more RAM is the solution seems more then often the case.

If there are any more questions fire away!

PS: More pictures coming soon

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Comments

  • 24 months ago
  • 4 points

+1 for the server, all the well labeled disks and more importantly for cable management!!! :-)

  • 24 months ago
  • 3 points

Holy hard drives Batman!

  • 24 months ago
  • 3 points

Wow! Eight 3.5" bays in an ITX case... might have to buy me one of those! I think this is my favorite server build I've seen on here. You made me jealous, +1

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

That mobo takes 8 Sata?! What raid / OS? And do you use this as Plex server?

Sorry for all the questions but I very nearly built something like this myself so I’m very curious!

Oh and more pics please :)

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

It does take 10! Im running FreeNas 11 in Raid z2 so ZFS file system with two drives redundancy. I'm running Plex on it but not as main focus. Main focus is business file server backup storage and media storage for film projects. Can only recommend it!

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

I have to correct myself.. Its 12!! The board has 8 x 3Gb/s and 4 x 6Gb/s Sata ports. So you could upgrade this build with 4 SSD's that will fit in the drive tray I removed.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

I like seeing NAS builds - could you provide some more detail? That case has an integrated backplane, right? How did you provision the drives - is FreeNAS on one of those 8 drives, or all of them one big ZFS pool? Did you create a SLOG?

I am looking to build a machine to support both massive storage and a few VMs. I was going to use a hypervisor like VMware, and then pass through some of the hardware to FreeNAS (as a VM). I've been looking at picking up an older server case with backplane, but maybe that Silverstone might serve... the problem is I think I need a processor and mobo that support vt-d to pass through hardware to a VM like that, nor do I think the Atom has enough oomph for a few VMs.

  • 24 months ago
  • 2 points

I updated the description with more info. FreeNAS runs of a 32GB USB stick and all other drives are in one big Raid Z2 Pool. No SLOG yet as it doesn't really benefit my workload. At least in my understanding.

I'm not an VM expert yet but in my current setup I have a Virtual windows running on a separate machine that gets the ZFS storage as an iSCSI target. So I created a zvol inside my pool that is used as the target. The VM connects automatically on boot and its available as normal disk. Performance is on par with the other shares if not better.

I haven't calculated it or tested a setup were VM and freeNAS are in one machine but I have the feeling that if your network allows it you are better of having a dedicated machine for each. I've seen people run FreeNAS as a VM but I think mostly for testing and demonstration purposes. So I don't know if thats a stable production environment. And even if, I think you're right that the Atom will not be able to handle it.

You can of course test if your VM's can run inside FreeNAS. I have no experience with it so far but I heard its supposed to run stable now. But not sure if bhyve can handle your VMs.

Hope I could get you some insights!

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  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

damn, ram is sooo expensive these days. i mean 32 GB of ram for $400 is insane.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

The best power efficient build I saw with this chassis! I have a SuperMicro mobo with the same C2550 CPU and few times I experienced lags/rebuffering during HQ 1080p Plex transcoding. Apparently this CPU can't handle 11Mbps bitrate transcoding or 8 Gb RAM is not enough to handle everything. Did you have a look on Intel Atom Denverton CPUs family? Much more power for the same wattage.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

I haven't found a comparable board with 12 SATA ports so I would have needed a controller card loosing the option to upgrade to 10Gb/s NIC with a single slot board. In other words the whole build would have been one size bigger and that wasn't worth it in my view. There Is a C2750 version of this board but I knew transcoding won't be a priority so I saved the money. So far I rarely go over 50% CPU. But I haven't transcoded 11Mbps yet.

  • 24 months ago
  • 0 points

sigh This is a very incomplete post. Only one picture, the cable tie ends aren't snipped, the parts list is incomplete (where's the boot drive? You're not running FreeNAS from the array, right?) and the description is way too short. Cable management is ok, though.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

haha its my first build I put up here I did not expect it to gain such interest. I try to complete the post!

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  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

I'll get you some pictures soon. Can't let you suffer like this.

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  • 24 months ago
  • 2 points

Done. There is one unsnipped in the new pictures to mess with you. Muhaha :)

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

ROTFL! :)

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  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks!

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  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Other then the RAM everything was pretty stable over the last year. I paid 175.00 CAD for 2x8GB. Its now listed for 245.00 CAD. Not a good time to build a RAM hungry FreeNAS monster... Its a storage server and is managed over Web Interface. I have a old VGA monitor connected to the onboard graphic for troubleshooting and monitoring. But thats all console stuff so no need for any graphics card. The Processor is a C2550 Intel Atom 2.4 Ghz Quad Core processor that is soldered onto the board. So far it's running like a champ.