Other storage options

October 8, 2010 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

I’ve been doing some reading tonight and found that there are a few options in network storage that I was unaware of…

1. FlexRAID – This is an interesting concept…  Basically, you set up directories you want protected and you set up “parity” directories.  (Sorry, directories is probably not the right word for it.)  Anyhow, they can be across multiple drives, or even multiple PCs on a network.  It can run under Windows or Linux, or even some machines on Windows, others on Linux, working together across the network.  From what I gather, you schedule it to sync at particulars times, and when it does, all your data (at that time) is protected.  So, after the sync, if you lose a drive the only data that is really lost is whatever changed since the last sync.  This makes it unsuitable for situations that have continuous change, like a database, or even your OS partition, but it sounds perfect for music, movies, photos, and other large sets of data that don’t change much.  With the parity data, you can lose a single disk, but keep all your data.  An advantage of this over a RAID5 is that if you lose more than one disk, the data on your remaining disks is still available, unlike RAID5, where the data is gone if you lose more than one drive.  With FlexRAID, you only lose the data on the disks that died.  Oh, and this is FREE.  They have plans to make FlexRAID Live and FlexRAID NAS versions, which would continuously keep the data in sync.

2. NexentaStor Community Edition – This basically looks like a slightly limited free edition of Nexenta, with a nice WebGUI front end.  Nexenta is an Enterprise storage solution, so it costs big bucks if you need their for-pay product, but this edition is limited in that you can’t do add-ons, and it only allows you to use up to 12 TB of storage.  Most people don’t have 12 TB of stuff, so that’s not a major hassle.  A big feature for me, personally, is that you do a bare-metal install, so there’s no messing around with an OS layer, then install an application atop it.  The head-line features are  ZFS, with in-line deduplication and compression, and the ability to automatically expand pools.  One minus for me (and most other Mac users) is that it doesn’t natively support AFP.  But it does support running as an iSCSI target, so you could set up your Mac to connect to the iSCSI target and use that for TimeMachine.

3. unRAID – Ok, actually, I had heard of this one, but see that it’s still alive and kicking.  They sell complete systems that take up to 20 drives, or you can buy the software and install it yourself on your own hardware.  You can even try it for free with up to 3 hard drives.  Their “unraid” approach uses parity drives, but the data isn’t striped across the other drives in the set.  Not all drives have to be the same size, or even speed.  It’s easy to expand, and since each drive actually has it’s own file system, it’s very unlikely to have a catastrophic failure where you lose everything.  Since the data isn’t striped, you can be reading files off of one drive while other drives are sleeping, reducing your power consumption.

All three of these solutions are compelling in their own ways, and I can see situations where each one would be a good fit.  They all look good enough to at least investigate further.  Best of all, they each have at least some FREE component, so you can try them out yourself.

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Entry filed under: Networking.

Drobo-FS Drive Upgrade NexentaStor Community Edition

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