Expand Drobo5N units, or migrate to new storage plan?

scp

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Aug 5, 2015
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Stick with what works, or get a bit more ambitious?

I have x3 Drobo 5N NAS boxes with 3TB WD Red drives in each. It amounts to about 10.8TB each. I use them exclusively for serving up media to several Kodi playback devices (bluray backsups, DVDs, music, photos, etc). Nothing fancy, not terribly quick, and they've been stable and reliable for years.

I'm starting to run low on space, and need to decide what I'm doing next. Do I add another Drobo to the mix and keep it all the same? Do I upgrade the existing drives to 4TB or larger drives? Or, is it time to think about something more ambitious like FreeNAS? Or perhaps UnRAID?

Being able to add it to my server rack would be a bonus. The Drobos just sit on shelves and take up too much space.

I really want something that has a similar appliance feel that the Drobos have had, but I would like an easier upgrade path. Right now, I would have to buy a full Drobo5N and x5 drives if I wanted to expand my storage. The plus side is that I don't have all my data tied up in one system. The down side is another $500 hit everytime I get a new one.

Thoughts:
  • Add another 5N same as the others
  • Start building a server + multiple JBOD DASes. Deals come up all the time for decent JBOD chassis that hold 8, 10, 12 drives. Could I build out a dual Xeon server, and add on a DAS at a time as I want to expand storage? My server would need a lot of HBA cards though wouldn't it?
  • Build a monster 24+ drive server? I see big Supermicro enclosures come up now and then. Do I put all my eggs in one basket?
  • FreeNAS vs Unraid. Freenas seems to be well liked, but slightly more complicated to expand an existing system? I'm already using UnRaid for VM hosting so I'm familiar with it. It seems easy enough to keep adding new drives, but I think there is a hard limit at 22 drives?
 

ttabbal

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Mar 10, 2016
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I really like my supermicro box. 24 slots, 20 in use. I use ZFS mirrors, so 10x2-drive mirrors. I can expand by adding or upgrading 2 drives at a time. If you use parity raid like raidz2, you need to replace all the drives in that group before you can use the added space.

I believe there is an open source system similar to unraid, but it's probably not as easy to manage with the appliance feel. Freenas is nice that way, but is ZFS so flexibility is the same as my setup.
 

scp

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Aug 5, 2015
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I really like my supermicro box. 24 slots, 20 in use. I use ZFS mirrors, so 10x2-drive mirrors. I can expand by adding or upgrading 2 drives at a time. If you use parity raid like raidz2, you need to replace all the drives in that group before you can use the added space.

I believe there is an open source system similar to unraid, but it's probably not as easy to manage with the appliance feel. Freenas is nice that way, but is ZFS so flexibility is the same as my setup.
So this is an option - one big server. You aren't running FreeNas on yours - this is just a Debian or BSD OS that you configured your pools on right?

Let's say you needed to add a bunch of storage in your setup, what would you do? You could go 2 drives at a time, which sounds like it could work for a while. Or could you add a DAS with 20 more drives (10x2 again)? Just curious what your upgrade path looks like.

Also, last question. Let's say your server motherboard/CPU dies but the drives are ok. Do you just remount your drives to a new server and the pools / mirrors all work the same?
 

ttabbal

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Mar 10, 2016
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I'm using Proxmox, which is based on Debian, as the host. It runs some containers for various services, but the sharing and pool management are handled in the host. I went with Proxmox because Crashplan is a pain on FreeNAS. It can be done, but requires constant fiddling to keep it running. On Linux, it just works. Linux also has better hardware support, though that wasn't an issue in my case.

My storage needs tend to grow slowly. So I would either add or replace 1 mirror at a time. One thing I like about this method is that it's very fast. I can add the 2 new drives to the existing mirror, it reslivers quickly, once complete, I just remove the old drives from the mirror set. Reslivering on a parity array is slow, took about a day last time I did it, and you can only do one drive at a time unless you wish to risk the redundancy on the pool. My current plan is to watch for deals on 4TB+ drives to replace some of the super cheap 2TB drives as needed.

If I needed to grow quickly, I would likely use a DAS box linked with an SAS HBA. That would give me another 24+ slots, though it would be slower as it would be connected with an SAS expander, it would likely perform well enough for my uses.

Yes, that is one thing that is VERY nice about ZFS. It has very wide support. My previous array moved between 3 hardware platforms and 5 OS changes over its lifetime. It never skipped a beat. You could mount it on Linux, Solaris, BSD, OSX, and a few others. Goofing around, I even made a ZFS array using loopback images on my Android phone. :)
 
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