Looking for New Home Lab Storage

I’ve been a fan of Nexenta for a long time.  I’m not sure if it was Sun’s ZFS file system, the easy-to-use web interface, or how Nexenta was able to keep up with my changing needs as my lab grew and acquired more advanced gear.  Or it was support for VAAI.  Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, Nexenta was a core component in my lab.

That changed a few months ago when I started a series of upgrades that culminated in my storage moving to a new server.  During those upgrades, I came across a few issues that forced me to change to OmniOS and NAPP-IT as a short-term solution while waiting to see if a new version of Nexenta was released.

Nexenta is no longer viable as a storage platform in my lab because:

  • Version 3.1.3.5 doesn’t play nicely with the Broadcom NICs in the Dell PowerEdge T310 that I use for storage due to a line being commented out in the driver.  Even when I fix this, it’s not quite right.
  • Version 3.1.5 didn’t work period when I had USB devices plugged in – which makes it hard to use when you have USB hard drives and a USB keyboard.
  • Version 4 is vaporware.

The OmniOS/Napp-IT combination works, but it doesn’t meet one of my core requirements – VAAI support.

It doesn’t seem like a new version of Nexenta Community Edition will be coming anytime soon.  A beta was supposed to be released early in January, but that hasn’t materialized, and it’s time to move onto a new platform.

My requirements are fairly simple.  My requirements are:

  1. Spouse Approval Factor – My wife is 7 months pregnant and wants to buy a house.  Any solution must be either open-source or extremely cheap.  The less I spend, the better.
  2. Support for Fibre Channel – I’ve started putting 4GB Fibre Channel in as my storage network.  The solution must have support for using Fibre Channel as I would prefer to keep using it for my storage network.
  3. VMware APIs for Array Integration – My home lab is almost entirely virtualized, so any solution must support VAAI.

ZFS isn’t a requirement for a new system, and I’m not worried about performance right now.  A web interface is preferred but not required.

If you have any recommendations, please leave it in the comments.

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7 thoughts on “Looking for New Home Lab Storage

  1. I promised to comment here as well as on Twitter, so here I am.

    1) FreeNAS is working on VAAI. When I talked to them last summer (http://rsts11.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/a-quick-word-on-vaai-and-freenastruenas/) they had just gotten into the VMware program that would let them start working on validation/certification for VAAI. As of December, Jordan Hubbard (new CTO of iXsystems, co-founder of FreeBSD) reported that it was being escalated internally at iX/FreeNAS Project (https://bugs.freenas.org/issues/3118). And FreeNAS tracks FreeBSD main versions much more closely than some other OSS-OS NAS projects do.

    2) OpenFiler might be an option, although I don’t think they have VAAI support yet. I know it can do FC target, so it should be able to do FC client/DAS.

    3) QuadStor seems to be a VSA-type product that supports VAAI. (http://www.v-front.de/2012/02/quadstor-delivers-storage.html). Starwind seems to have a VSA-ish product as well (http://www.starwindsoftware.com/starwind-free-comparison), and there’s the HP StoreVirtual VSA. Might be others available through your cert/advocate paths (vExpert, VCP, vBacon, etc).

    I’m always keen to suggest Synology but you won’t get anything current for $100. And I definitely advocate keeping the Mrs. happy.

    Hope this helps,
    Robert

  2. The 4.0 Beta was pushed out to allow Engineering more time for final testing and to make sure we are covering most of the gaps like the ones you mention.

  3. Hi Sean – Ran into your posts on View when trying to figure out if it would be worthwhile to try, and came across this post. I’m in a similar situation as you, but my wife is 10 months pregnant (due yesterday but hasnt popped), and my variables are slightly different.

    I had used Nexenta, loved it, but had stability problems with the OS on my box (microserver n56l w/16gb ram). Went to freenas, but they do not support SCSI-3 persistent reservations, which means iscsi presented to windows clusters is an absolute disaster.

    I’ve also gotten a promotion at my job, moving from windows engineering to virtualization & storage, so as a part of that, i must learn FC. I’ve acquired 4gb cisco MDS 9000 series FC switch and QLogic PCIe HBAs, but have to figure out, like you, how to present storage.

    Outside of my dedicated microserver running freenas, i have an 8bay synology ds1812+, which i love, and a 32gb ram ivybridge machine w/13hdds that’s currently running esxi 5.5 presenting 12 of the drives (3xSSD,9xHDD) as RDMs to a windows server VM that i’m trying Storage Spaces SSD Tiering with.

    In the Storage Spaces world, there have been comparisons to ZFS, and there’s a post on servethehome’s forums where you can see a multipage write-up and powershell code in order to replicate if you’re interested, but while iSCSI through windows can be thin and can be on a deduplicated volume for massive space savings, it doesnt support VAAI. It does support ODX if you wanted to run Hyper-V though. But this option, at least out of the box, doesnt have the ability to run an FC target, and i dont even know of any options that can provide that ability for windows.

    The synology, on the other hand, supports VAAI, supports persistent-3 reservations, and supports thin provisioning. It has SSD caching as well, but at least in DSM 4.3 and below, requires you to lose 2 drivebays and use 2 SSDs to cache a traditional spindle volume. With the cost of a synology 8bay at ~1000$ and a 4bay at ~600$, not including drives, it’s a very expensive option that doesnt have FC as an option.

    Can i ask why omni-os + napp-it isnt working/didnt work out? This was going to be what i tried, since i know that solaris’s comstar does support scsi-3 persistent reservations. While VAAI/ODX would be nice, knowing that the storage array can at least present working storage to my servers is a bit more important.

    • That’s an excellent question, Nick. It’s not that OmniOS+NAPP-IT isn’t working. It works pretty well. But I want to move beyond that to get something with VAAI support.

      Aside from the lack of VAAI, it works very well, and it certainly fits the budget and use case that we both have.

  4. I know this is a bit late, but QUADstor does work on FreeBSD and you can provision vdisks from zfs filesystem to QUADstor. This is what I am using. Also Nexenta 4.0.2 is out and if you got the beta VAAI plugin from the forum. It works as well.

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