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Old 02-15-2005, 09:34 AM   #1
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Building a RAID-based SAMBA fileserver

When I built my latest PC, I designed it to be fast, stable, and reliable. Since it's windows-based and only has lightweight RAID capabilities, I don't have confidence in keeping all my user data on the box. I prefer a standalone file server for that, one that's large and secure.

This server, nicknamed Liebherr, is going to sit in an unairconditioned, unused bathroom adjacent to my study. Its samba fileserver will talk to my desktop and my laptop through gigabit ethernet.

I targetted my desktop to be usable for three years. I'm going to make a stretch and target Liebherr to last five. I think it's possible. After all, it just serves files. If it serves files fast enough today, that speed ought to be at least satisfactory five years from now. The only thing likely to change is that I need more space. I should be able to add space to the system either by swapping out drives or by adding larger drives.

I want to select high quality components that are less likely to deterioriate. Then I want them kept in the best condition, which means good power conditioning with battery backup and surge suppression, as well as plenty of quenching cooling. I also don't want overkill power consumption from a needlessly powerful VGA or CPU.

I want a serious RAID that I can trust fully. This means no software raid systems and no motherboard-based raid systems. It needs to be a standalone raid card with a good modern RAID featureset.

To really sleep well, an encrypted copy of the mirror sitting on a geographically separated machine would be nice.... for example, a copy of my data, PGP-encrypted, sitting on a machine in Seattle?

Operating System
The OS of the machine needs to meet several criteria

* Secure from hacking attacks. I want to get it to a secure configuration and then it's locked-down, and without MS-style weekly patch updates.
* Excellent drivers and compatibility with the hardware. There's nothing that makes me more insane than hardware/os issues.
* Ease of maintenance and management. I don't want to babysit this box too much. I want it to mostly take care of itself.

Those were the parameters... now how do I implement it?

The first draft idea is to combine:

* a known stable pc build
* a known stable linux OS
* a well-made hardware raid card (3ware?)
* a linux-friendly battery backup system

into my machine, Liebherr East.

My friend in will build roughly the same monster in Seattle, Liebherr West.

Then we'll glue together some colocated mirroring using PGP and rsync.

Any suggestions, resources on good ways to implement a system like this?
Old 02-15-2005, 09:38 AM   #2
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sounds like a nice system you want, but what is it for?? It sounds like you are running a huge corporate system.

What is wrong with software raid through? It will be cheaper and is pretty good, AFAIK. Just a thought. Depends how much data you are dealing with, I guess.


Last edited by hamish; 02-15-2005 at 09:39 AM.
Old 02-16-2005, 10:31 AM   #3
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if you know your hardware and linux the base level setup should be a breeze. as for the pgp and getting the 2 servers to talk, you will have to wait on the gurus around here for that.

hardwarei suppose you are looking for sujestions so here are mine and why:

1. PSU stick with Antec Truepower line of PSUs. these are some of the best on the market and will last you a very long time with a high consistancy rate in the power they provide.

2. any good UPS will work, i like the standard APC for this.

3. MB you can go Intel or AMD and do not even need to go 64bit as it is just a file server so any top line MB manufacture will work like Epox, MSI, etc... Asus has lately been known to not support linux so heads up there with their stuff.

4. RAM, IIRC ram is hammered rather heavy with large file transfers so i would sujest 1G of pc3200 ram at the slowest for your 5 year range. most modern MBs can take up to 2-4G of ram so you still have upgrade room, but do so by using 1G sticks and not 512M sticks. this way you just buy a 1G stick to double your ram instead of replacing 2x512+1x1G as most MBs also only have 3 slots for ram.

5. RAID cards. this will depend on if you are going SCSI or sATA or IDE. most current cards if you do some searching will have RAID5 for all achtypes of harddrives.

6. SCSI drives if you are going to have a lot of traffic to the same file space or just to the same drive from a lot of people, otherwise go with sATA drives as IDE drives are soon to be extinct(sp?) not on the market. what that means to you is today you can buy an IDE drive with way more storage space then any other type, but in a few years you will not be able to add more IDE drives, nor will you be able to replace them when they go bad.

7. if you go sATA drive then i sujest sticking with Seagate. WD, and Maxtor are both known for their pathetic QA and will ship more drives that will die faster then just about any other brands on the market. if you are paranoid like you sound about data, then do not go near WD or Maxtor. (side note) for SCSI both IBM and Seagate are very good, the Seagates are just known to last forever.

8. Case as it will be in a room without AC you might want to go with an AL case (alluminum(sp?)) with as many fans as you can get your hands on. Also it would be a good idea to make sure you get some cans of AIR to blow out the case on a monthly bases to keep the dust build-up down. dust is a computer killer.

you already talked about using gigabit for your LAN so you are set there and as for your ISP that is up to you and your buddy. you will want a rather good firewall or at least a cheap NAT router, if you want to get nuts about it you can find routers that have builtin VPNs so both of you can get the same router and make them talk directly to each other thus cutting out the need for your PGP overhead.

you can do the same with IPCop IIRC so no need to buy a router for a few hundred if you have an old computer laying around you can turn into an IPCop system to handle your firewalling and VPN.

best of luck sounds like a fun project.


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