Atom Based Home NFS

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any new content but that’s not because I haven’t been doing anything worthy of mention. During the few breaks I’ve had from my day job I took the time to replace my QNAP 419p NAS with a custom system to host NFS shares. Here’s just a quick laundry list of the parts I settled on after quite a bit of shopping.

My requirements for this system were really basic. All it does is host NFS shares and run rTorrent from time to time. There was no need to use a full desktop grade processor but I still wanted something x86 compatible with a good bit of ram and a PCI-E port so I could use a real hardware RAID card.

Motherboard

The Super Micro MBD-X7SPE-HF-D525 was a good fit. It has a sweet little Atom D525 soldered on to the board and it’s surprisingly quick (1.8GHz) though it’s no work horse. There’s only one 16x PCI-E port but that’s all I need. It supports up to 4G of ram though it’s pretty low end laptop memory. It also has two NICs so you can bond them for more throughput if you want to get fancy.

If you check out the Super Micro site you’ll see they advertise this board as having RAID on board. It’s still not hardware RAID though and since the RAID is done in firmware / driver the Atom processor on this board would have a very hard time keeping up with parity calculations under heavy usage. There’s plenty of literature out there about “fake RAID” so don’t be fooled.

RAID Card

I’ve had excellent luck with 3ware in the past so when they were bought out by LSI I was skeptical. Some of their older cards are still branded 3ware and I tracked down a 3ware 9650SE 8LPML on ebay for under 300 … since I couldn’t afford it new at close to $500 when I was looking 3 months back.

The Linux drivers for this card and the management software are still great. Setting up RAID 6 was easy though the card requires 5 drives to do this RAID level where theoretically it should only need 4.

RAM

The memory for the Super Micro board is practically free. I tracked down two 2G SODIMMs of Kingston ValueRAM for like $30. Not the fastest ram in the world but it works.

Disks

Buying 5 hard disks is not cheep. This is especially true if you want to get big drives and ones that will be fast enough to last. I went with 5 Western Digital AV-GP WD20EURS 2TB 3.0Gb/s drives. They’re nice and big, pretty fast and quiet. User reviews on sites like Newegg are a good way to check up on products before you buy. This one had particularly good reviews and so far they’ve been great. None were DOA as drives have a tendency to do. They’re also very quiet and run relatively cool.

Drive Enclosure

With this many drives it’s worth investing in an enclosure to hold them. You won’t have to rig fans on the drives to keep air moving over them and you’ll have the luxury of easy swapping if it something goes wrong and you need to swap out drives. There isn’t much available in this space so your choices are limited. I went with 2x ICY DOCK MB453SPF-B 3 in 2 enclosures.

I was a bit pissed when one of the enclosures showed up DOA but Newegg was pretty good about doing a quick exchange. It cost me a few extra bucks in shipping but it could have been worse … ::shrug::

Case

I had an old case from Lian Li and a small power supply that have been sitting in my basement unused for several years. Luckily the case it had the 4 5.25 bays that I need to hold these enclosures. Fitting enclosures into cases never goes as planned though.

The case is super nice but it had these little tabs that stuck out into the drive bays. These were intended to support individual 5.25 drives but they just got in the way of these enclosures. They were easy enough to remove with a saw and a file.

That’s about all there is to it. Setting up the RAID so I could boot Linux from the 3ware card was a bit of a pain and I wish I had documented the process. Setting it up through the firmware interface took some experimentation but it is possible. Then just install Debian and an NFS server and you’re done.

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