Monday, October 27, 2008

Gaming Lab File Server

So I spent a few hours at school on Saturday to assemble the file server for the Johns Hopkins Gaming Lab. It's the first piece of hardware for the lab, and while it won't be impressive to some of the real geeks out there, it sure was lots of fun for me to spec out and (almost) build. I still have to actually put the motherboard in and test it tomorrow, but I hope that won't really be a problem. Here are some shots of the whole thing, first the case with the power supply and the six 640 GB SATA drives mounted:

File Server Case-Drives-Power

(Yes, there's also a DVD writer at the top, who cares... :-)) A shot from the front, showing the cooling fans for those drives in their little fold-out cages:

File Server Drive-Cooling-Fans

And finally the assembled motherboard waiting to be popped into the case and wired up tomorrow:

File Server Motherboard-CPU-RAM

This thing will have 2.5 TB capacity as a RAID-6 array, and the only thing that could stop it from being really cool is one of the SATA drives freaking out. Sad fact: The more drives you have, the more likely a failure becomes. :-( Wish me luck! :-)

Update 2008/11/06: I finished assembling the server a few days after the original post, and until 2008/11/04 I was still trying to get it to run using a huge variety of operating systems. I mean I tried everything short of Windoze and Plan 9, but nothing worked right for my setup. Now I finally settled on something that does work: OpenBSD!

Once again, about 10 years after I established the infamous server using OpenBSD, I am using this conservative piece of secure low-tech-ness. And I am loving it! :-)

I had really started to hate on Theo a while ago when all the childish craziness between him and the bcm43xx guys went down. I sort of "swore" never to touch OpenBSD again because of it. But now I have to admit: Theo, you are sitting on one hell of a stable OS there. I still don't like what you pulled off with the Linux driver guys, but I can admit when I make a mistake: Regardless of your behavior, OpenBSD still rocks! :-)

The only two things you guys desperately need is a better software raid solution and something like LVM, I miss those things sorely. :-( Yeah, I am stuck running RAID-10 now, no RAID-6 in sight, and static partitions all over. Oh well, at least it works. :-)

Update 2009/04/17: Actually, I take that back. OpenBSD does suck! What happened was that I tried to install a web application that needed PHP, and in the process OpenBSD hosed itself so much that it wouldn't boot anymore. Yes, I used the standard OpenBSD package system, I did nothing directly with the install. Wow. So I ended up putting Gentoo on it right before the semester started. That was a little hectic, but the server has been up for a while now:

gaming ~ $ uptime
17:41:41 up 72 days, 5:23, 1 user, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

I have RAID-1 with spares for the boot, root, and swap paritions, and RAID-6 for the rest. LVM2 makes sure that I can resize the various pieces of that RAID-6 to whatever the students need. Another Gentoo success! :-) Seems like my BSD days are numbered... :-(

Update 2009/09/08: I rebooted for the first time in a long while, and almost everything worked on reboot (I was afraid it may not). Before the reboot, I had this:

phf@gaming ~ $ uptime
12:25:32 up 216 days, 6 min, 2 users, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
phf@gaming ~ $ date
Tue Sep 8 12:25:33 EDT 2009

Pretty impressive. No complaints ever from students about the performance of the thing either. So yeah... Gentoo FTW. :-D

Update 2011/10/09: Sorry for the broken images, I am not sure I can recover those anytime soon. But the same setup is still running perfectly! I've had a few disk failures in the meantime but I never lost any data thanks to the RAID-6 setup. One of these days I may want to re-install everything from scratch just because some crud has accumulated in all these years, but it's really not too bad. And the fun thing is: Now I can buy a single disk to backup the whole machine on if I decide to re-install it. At least the human race is making progress in one dimension: the size of cheap SATA disks. :-D

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