Thursday, January 7, 2010

FreeNAS as a storage target for simple testing

Working with various hypervisors I frequently have a need for various types of storage volumes.

We can always use local storage for testing, but how do you handle a cluster of Hyper-V Server or a Pool of XenServer hosts?

I have used a variety of services.  Right now in the lab I am running Windows Storage Server 2008 to present NFS volumes and StarWind to present iSCSI volumes (I found StarWind iSCSI far easier to get working with XenServer than the iSCSI target add-on to Storage Server).

Mind you, I don’t need any of the enterprise bells and whistles that Storage Server gives me, I simply need storage.

Just the other day someone pointed me to FreeNAS.  Hey, a storage system that can present many different types of volumes.  FreeNAS is built upon FreeBSD and is bundled as a LiveCD ISO that can be installed to a hard disk, USB, or run as a LiveCD.

FreeNAS can do NFS, SMB, iSCSI, iTunes, FTP, TFTP, SSH, UPnP, BitTorrent, and other sharing protocols – from that standpoint it is pretty slick.

I must say that other than dealing with having to learn the UI – I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it is working.

Mind you, I am running FreeNAS in a VM.  That VM is hosted by Hyper-V.  And I have a XenServer that is accessing the LUNs being presented by the NAS device.

At the moment I have an iSCSI LUN and an NFS volume presented.  the big limitation that I currently have is that I can only have 4 IDE devices on my Hyper-V VM that limits me to one virtual disk for install, and three for serving as storage LUNs.

My VM simply runs with 512 Mb of RAM and a Legacy NIC.  The rest involved about an hour of figuring out how to install and configure the LUNs. 

Very little overhead and the storage actually ran pretty well when deploying a XenServer VM to the NFS share.  I really can’t argue.

When it is time to upgrade my current lab test storage server I think I will have to boot into the LiveCD and see if FreeNAS can identify the really old adaptec SCSI card and Compaq storage array.  If it can, it will win moving forward as Server 2008 R2 no longer has drivers for my really old Adaptec SCSI card – making the antique array useless. 

But that array is not useless, I just wouldn’t trust it for anything important.

The next step might be trying to build it into a paravirtualized VM for use on XenServer.  Since it sees the XenServer virtual devices as QEMU devices, I know that the kernel is Xen aware…

1 comment:

BrianEh said...

This example only uses the LivdCD boot image.
My next slice of free time is to see if I can build FreeNAS as an applicance in XenServer and Hyper-V.
That means having the full client device stack installed.
In the case of Hyper-V this would mean being able to add additional disks as it would enable the SCSI interface. Otherwise I have a maximum of 3 counting out the boot disk.
With XenServer - I am still limited to 4 virtual disks, until I make the VM paravirtualized, which means using kernel-xen - then I can go up to 16 virtual disks.