Recommendations for a NAS/Media Server build

Hi guys,

Wonder if you can help me.

I built what I thought was going to to a mega-home-theatre-media-server some 6 months ago and have run into some serious issues that have prompted me to change directions.

I essentially built THIS box

http://club.cdfreaks.com/f7/new-build-need-little-audio-advice-understanding-267055/

My problems have arisen becuase I have hit a 6TB limit, which caused XP Pro to lose the MBR’s on a couple of my 6 1TB drives and now find myself in a position to have to recover.

Having read a couple of articles on the web, it is clear that I was somewhat naive in my attempts at building this thing, and ended up with a “box of drives” with no backup or fail-safe options…

So, what I’d like to do is build myself a more robust configuration…

I’m thinking that a NAS server or reconfig of what I have are my options, in either case with some form of Raid configuration - at minimum raid5, but not being partcularly knowledgable abotu raid, i’ve seen word of Raid 6? - I like the idea that I could have up to 2 drive failures before i break down in tears cursing my luck…

What I would essentially like to do is use as much of what I have and start from there. I have 7x1TB drives which I would like to utilise, but want to avoid any OS limitations in terms of space - I plan on adding further drives.

Do I need to go 64-bit? or can I run with a 32-bit OS for now and migrate later?

What Raid hardware do I need? It appears the 5-in-3 backplane I have does have hot-swap capability but it uses one SATA cable per drive - and my undersanding is that for true raid I should only have 1 cable for the array.

I also understand I should use hardward RAID and not software. I’m only going to be streaming video really, but I’ve heard software raid has an impact on performance - and I certainly don’t want to go down that path… just in case…

Any help would be appreciated. I’m kind of sitting down, looking at this machine at the moment wondering what the hell I was thinking…

Thanks,
Gajit.

You want 6TB of media files, how do you suppose your going to back that up? You can’t. Also your media files aren’t considered super critical stuff, so your not going to mirror drives, that would be a waste of HDD’s.

Hardware RAID is a lot more expensive, you can search the internet stores and find out. Also you have SATA HDD’s there is no way to use “1” cable. there will be one cable per HDD (plus one for power).

If you don’t mind doing a little reading, consider giving FreeNAS a try.

[QUOTE=gajit;2294852] for true raid I should only have 1 cable for the array.[/QUOTE]
As eric93 pointed out, SATA is one signaling cable / device. I think what you’re refering to is SCSI RAID, which is what used to be used on servers (except for very low end ones), where a typical setup would be one SCSI cable per drive cage (or half a drive cage in some cases).

[QUOTE=gajit;2294852]
I also understand I should use hardward RAID and not software. I’m only going to be streaming video really, but I’ve heard software raid has an impact on performance [/QUOTE]
It’s a bit more complicated than that. What is sold as SATA RAID controllers is usually SATA controllers which include drivers for software SATA, this is in particular the case with motherboard based RAID. In any case, you’ll probably get better performance with software RAID anyway unless you get a really expensive RAID controller.
Anyther thing to keep in mind is device transfer rates. The maximum speed per the current SATA link standard is 300MB/s with the fastest drives on the market today reaching nearly half that on sequential read. So if you build a 7 drive RAID5 (to get 6GB) you would get a theoretical max read speed of about 6x130MB/s so about 700-800MB/s if you use “real” hardware raid or 7X130MB/s (about 900MB/s) if you use software RAID. If either the motherboard or the controller are PCI-E generation one you get 250MB/s per lane so, to avoid PCI-E being the limit, you’d have to get one 4x controller or two 2x controllers (cut both those numbers in half if both your motherboard and the controller are generation two)

In any case, if you’re only streaming video, disk system performance is unlikely to be much of a problem. Blu-ray, for instance, requires 4.5MB/S…

Incidentally, what is this 6TB limit you’re talking about? I’m not that familiar with Windows but I couldn’t find anything relevant when I asked Google, and 6TB seems like an odd place to have a limit.

eric:

ok, so “backup” wasn;t the correct term - but I certainly want to put myself at less of a risk of total failure than I currently have. my media may not be, as you put it, “super-critical” but right now, if a drive fails, I have to rely on knowing exactly what i have on the drive at any point - in order to re-rip the dvd’s - which can take up to two weeks to complete. i’ll happily invest in 2TBs of ‘wasted’ space if it gives me 2-disk coverage.

Thanks, i’ll certainly read up on FreeNas.

There certainly seems a lot of contradictory things on the net - plus what I’ve heard from others, so I certainly wasn’t suggesting i KNEW of a may to have 1 cable … just what I’d heard/read - very possibly the configuration was SAS or whatever, but as i pointed out, Im not knowledgable on these types of storage configurations - if i were, i’d probably not be posting here…

Aramchek,

What you say including your backup of eric’s advice makes sense - and the software raid option looks like it’s back on the table then - because really, all i am doing is streaming 6Gb video files through a media server…

that being said, the 4-port SATA card i currently have - in combination with the backplane - would you know if that could be used to configure a raid set? I DO get the options to setup sets at boot-up time, just not sure if that the “hardware speaking”…

As for the 6TB thing… I haven’t found anything concrete on the web either … but my problems arose when I tried to add a 7th TB of storage last week… my partner mentioned the problem to her techie the problems that i had had and without batting an eyelid he said it was because i had reached the 32-bit OS limit … i did some research and found ‘vague’ references to it… but not a lot else …

it certainly seemed that the loss of 2 MBR’s on other drives occurred when i added the 7th drive … almost like XP just lost the plot and went nuts…
that being said, i definitely see evidence to the contrary - if i consider Drobo, which in theory would expose a 16TB (less redundancy) drive…

it seems that many of the ‘media server’ specs out there are not really servers at all… 500Gb storage will get me maybe 100 DVD’s… not much use to me… as i’m in the 1500-2000 range…

I’ll go read up on FreeNAS and see if that fits in with anything that I currently have…

http://www.koutech.com/proddetail.asp?linenumber=350 it looks like it does support RAID. Since they don’t list which chip they’re using I don’t know if it is hardware or software RAID but the latter seems more likely. You should be able to set it up in the RAID cards BIOS, with the same settings used in Windows, and they probably have a utility from which you can configure it in Windows. (What I forgot to mention is that the type of cards which support RAID by including a driver that does software RAID also manages the RAID before the driver loads, presumably by having a simple (slow) processor on the card)
Another option might be software RAID in Windows, I have no idea if that is included by standard or how well it works.

What I cannot understand is, why did you buy a PCI SATA card? You have 3 1X PCI express slots on that motherboard and only use one for something else. While it might be a good idea to keep slots clear for future use, a PCI-E 1X slot handles 250MB/s for gen 1, 500MB/s for gen 2, while a standard PCI slot (32 bit / 33MHz) only does 133MB/s! Besides, from what I’ve seen, PCI SATA controllers tend to cost more than PCI-E ones. The motherboard supports eight SATA devices, it would probably be a good idea to connect as many disks as possible to it.

[QUOTE=Aramchek;2294955]http://www.koutech.com/proddetail.asp?linenumber=350 it looks like it does support RAID. Since they don’t list which chip they’re using I don’t know if it is hardware or software RAID but the latter seems more likely. You should be able to set it up in the RAID cards BIOS, with the same settings used in Windows, and they probably have a utility from which you can configure it in Windows. (What I forgot to mention is that the type of cards which support RAID by including a driver that does software RAID also manages the RAID before the driver loads, presumably by having a simple (slow) processor on the card)
Another option might be software RAID in Windows, I have no idea if that is included by standard or how well it works.

What I cannot understand is, why did you buy a PCI SATA card? You have 3 1X PCI express slots on that motherboard and only use one for something else. While it might be a good idea to keep slots clear for future use, a PCI-E 1X slot handles 250MB/s for gen 1, 500MB/s for gen 2, while a standard PCI slot (32 bit / 33MHz) only does 133MB/s! Besides, from what I’ve seen, PCI SATA controllers tend to cost more than PCI-E ones. The motherboard supports eight SATA devices, it would probably be a good idea to connect as many disks as possible to it.[/QUOTE]

I think it was the ony card I could find. The original card that was spec’d for me wasn’t available, and that was the closest match. I’ll have to check and see what else I have in my PCI-E slots. I know I have a video card, and a wireless Nic - possibly a TV card also.

This is where I’m a little confused with regards to the Raid setup and the 4-port/Scsi/raid device et al…

In addition to the 7x1TB drives, I have 4 DVD-RW… now, I haven’t paid much attention to which drives were connected to which port, but my understanding was that i should reserve the onboard SATA ports for the DVD writers - to increase my rip times… i think in the end though i had them all attached to the 4-port adaptor…

should i still be able to set up raid on the onboard 6sataports and 2gsata ports?

you’ll have to excuse what i’m sure are stupid questions, but having had no previous experience of RAID … and knowing how it can be implemented…i’m very much in the dark… my plan will be to implement raid slowly… .ie. take 2 fresh drives, build a raid set… and then one drive at a time, copy my the contained media to the raid set, erase it and add it to the set accordingly… (reasonable?)

If you use the included RAID on the two controllers (as opposed to Windows software RAID (if that actually exists…) or some other software RAID solution) you will have to create two (or more) different RAID sets, one per each controller. The one with two ports is probably a JMicron controller which apparantly is not among the top 90% of controllers :slight_smile:

I suspect Windows will get cranky if it is not on the first controller (the one with six ports) but I’m not very familiar with Windows.

Creating a RAID 0 (Eep!) or RAID 5 and adding one disk at a time depends on the softwares ability to do this. Keep in mind that for every disk added the computer will have to restripe the disks (and, if it is a RAID 5, recalculate the XOR) which will take a very long time and if the power fails or something else bad happens, you will end up straight in the No Fun Zone.
You need at least three disks to build a RAID 5.
Using RAID 0 is an efficient way of losing large quantites of data at once.
(The standard RAID levels are 0-5 where 3 and 4 and almost never used. There are other levels which some controller / software suppliers offer, but there is little standardisation of what is what is what above 5)

Ripping four DVDs at once at top speed will not saturate the PCI bus, so from a performance angle, you should be fine will all optical drives hanging off it. Depending on which controller chip it uses, you might end up having trouble burning with it, but you won’t know that until you try! And I’m guessing you want to decrease the rip time, as opposed to increasing it :slight_smile:

just had a look at this thread… he seems to have gone in the direction i’m looking at… i can opt for 64-bit OS … what i don;t know is whether i can use the onboard sata ports … and if so, will my mobo, cpu, etc support a 64-bit OS?..

god, this is so complex… i’m considering putting the shelving back up and pulling the dvd’s out of the boxes…

[QUOTE=Aramchek;2294996]If you use the included RAID on the two controllers (as opposed to Windows software RAID (if that actually exists…) or some other software RAID solution) you will have to create two (or more) different RAID sets, one per each controller. The one with two ports is probably a JMicron controller which apparantly is not among the top 90% of controllers :slight_smile:

I suspect Windows will get cranky if it is not on the first controller (the one with six ports) but I’m not very familiar with Windows.

Creating a RAID 0 (Eep!) or RAID 5 and adding one disk at a time depends on the softwares ability to do this. Keep in mind that for every disk added the computer will have to restripe the disks (and, if it is a RAID 5, recalculate the XOR) which will take a very long time and if the power fails or something else bad happens, you will end up straight in the No Fun Zone.
You need at least three disks to build a RAID 5.
Using RAID 0 is an efficient way of losing large quantites of data at once.
(The standard RAID levels are 0-5 where 3 and 4 and almost never used. There are other levels which some controller / software suppliers offer, but there is little standardisation of what is what is what above 5)

Ripping four DVDs at once at top speed will not saturate the PCI bus, so from a performance angle, you should be fine will all optical drives hanging off it. Depending on which controller chip it uses, you might end up having trouble burning with it, but you won’t know that until you try! And I’m guessing you want to decrease the rip time, as opposed to increasing it :-)[/QUOTE]

yeah, i had some issues with simultaneous ripping… bsod’s generally with memory conflicts… i suspect that may have been more to do with ripping to the same drive rather than the bus itself… i ended up just loading 4 drives and ripping back to back… a longer process - and some might say defeating the point of having 4 dvd-rw, but i successfully burned 95% of my collection that way… so… :)~ …

it was definitely raid5/6 i was looking at… my mistake… three drives minimum of course…

so what you are saying is that - once i do some research - and provided windows/whatever allows multiple raid sets on different controllers, i could have say a 6-port raid configuration with 6 x 1TB drives … about (4.5TB usable)… and a 4-port raid config on the adaptor, with 4 x 1TB … (about 3TB)… and in theory windows sees those as two drives?

I’m guessing I may have to front some cash for an 8-port RAID controller… couple it with the 6 onboard… to get som serious storage…

I still don’t know what the TB limitation is for XP 32bit?! So thats not the right conclusion to come to at this point.

One thing I’d like to mention is that when you have 6-7 HDD’s that are 1TB expect that one of them (or more) will be bad, or fail early. One thing that should be done in the begining is to format all of them (a full format) that will take many hours but should be done and followed by a disc check to make sure they survived the full format. There may be some utility software that the drive manufacuter has for free to test and maybe also the full format.

[QUOTE=gajit;2295003]yeah, i had some issues with simultaneous ripping… bsod’s generally with memory conflicts… i suspect that may have been more to do with ripping to the same drive rather than the bus itself… i ended up just loading 4 drives and ripping back to back… a longer process - and some might say defeating the point of having 4 dvd-rw, but i successfully burned 95% of my collection that way… so… :)~ … [/QUOTE]
That sounds odd? I’m guessing the problem might have been with the drivers for the add-on SATA card. You might want to try to check if there is a later driver available from the manufacturer of the card, or, if you’re using that or that doesn’t work, trying to see if there is a Microsoft driver that is suitable. Again, Window is not an OS I know well so I don’t know how to switch but you’ll probably be able to find info on that by searching this forum.

[QUOTE=gajit;2295003]
it was definitely raid5/6 i was looking at… my mistake… three drives minimum of course…

so what you are saying is that - once i do some research - and provided windows/whatever allows multiple raid sets on different controllers, i could have say a 6-port raid configuration with 6 x 1TB drives … about (4.5TB usable)… and a 4-port raid config on the adaptor, with 4 x 1TB … (about 3TB)… and in theory windows sees those as two drives?

I’m guessing I may have to front some cash for an 8-port RAID controller… couple it with the 6 onboard… to get som serious storage…[/QUOTE]

These three articles might be of interest:
http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/storage/GPT-on-x64.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/storage/GPT_FAQ.mspx
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc780559.aspx
Apparantly, 32 bit XP can only handle a disk of up to 2GB. If you run a RAID5 setup with 7 1GB disks, as far as the OS is concerned, you have one 6GB disk. Ouch! Software raid (not the type from the controller manufacturer) might be able to get around this, but you’d have to read the documenation for that software. Also, in any case, on the X86 and AMD64 architectures, it appears the disk Windows boots from has to be up to 2GB (with all current versions of Windows). (Incidentally, if you’re wondering if you have an EFI system, the answer is that you don’t. Like nearly everyone else, you have the old, crappy system).
I don’t know why your MBR got whacky, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the number of drives. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong :slight_smile:
With RAID5, one disk in every set is used for parity (actually, that’s not really true, it uses distributed parity but lets ignore that) so if you have (n+1) disks, the logical disk will be n*(disk size)size. You also mention RAID6 which is not a standard RAID so I don’t know which system called that you’re refering to.