Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Building a Fast and Cheap NAS for your vSphere Home Lab with Nexentastor


My home lab is always expanding and evolving – no sooner have I started writing up the configuration than something shiny and new catches my eye! fear not I will be publishing the vTARDIS configuration notes over the next 2 months, however in the meantime I have noticed that my IX4-200d NAS has been bogging down performance a bit recently – I attribute this to the number of VMs I am running across the 5 physical (and up to 50) vESXi hosts.

The IX4 is great and very useful for protecting my photos and providing general media storage but I suspect it also uses 5.4k RPM disks and in a RAID5 configuration it performs /ok/ but I feel the need, the need for speed Smile

With the sub-£100 HP MicroServer deal that is on at the moment I spotted an opportunity to combine it with some recycled hardware into a fast NAS box, using some new software – the NexentaStor Community Edition, I’ve used OpenFiler and the Celerra VSA a lot in the past but this has some pretty intriguing features.

Nexentastor allows you to use SSD as a cache and provides a type of software RAID using Sun’s ZFS technology – you can read a good guide to configuring it inside a VM on this excellent post

I already have a number of ML115 and ML110 servers, which all boot from 160Gb 7.2k RPM SATA disks; most of the time they do nothing so an idea was born, I will switch my home lab to boot from 2Gb USB sticks (of which I have a plentiful supply) and re-use those fast SATA disks in the HP MicroServer for shared, fast VM storage

I also have a spare 64Gb SSD from my orginal vTARDIS experiments which I am planning to re-use as the cache within the MicroServer

So, the configuration looks is like this;


Because I want maximum performance and I don’t care particularly about data protection for this NAS I’m just going to try striping data across all the SATA disks for best performance and I hope the SSD will provide a highly performant front-end cache for VMs stored in it (if I understand how it works correctly).

Most of the VMs it will be storing are disposable or easily re-buildable but I can configure RSYNC copies between it and my IX4 for anything I want to keep safe (or maybe just use one of the handy NFR licenses Veeam are giving out)

I did consider putting ESXi on the HP MicroServer and running Nexentastor as a VM (which is supported) but I haven’t yet put any more RAM in the MicroServer, although I may do this in future and add it to my existing management cluster.

I’ll post up some benchmarks when I’m done.

6 responses to “Building a Fast and Cheap NAS for your vSphere Home Lab with Nexentastor

  1. Michael January 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    If you did put the Nexentator in a VM under ESXi, would you still be able (easily) to take advantage of the SSD cache?

  2. Chris Dearden January 12, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Looking forward to seeing how you get on with this – I think its the perfect use for a microserver + I have a spare SSD I want to make good use of !

  3. Pingback: New Home Lab: CniLab 1.0 (Part 1)

  4. BauerPower November 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    I wanted to build a NAS for storing all my videos and music and documents. I was going to install some server software like openfiler on it so I could access it anywhere and have users who have different levels of access. However it was looking to be rather expensive.

    I currently have a HTPC that has 3tb of stuff on. I was wondering if it was possible to somehow install something on that to give a webgui of all my files with users and different levels of access to be accessed anywhere with internet, whilst still continuing its normal function as my HTPC. The HTPC has very good specs so it should handle it.


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