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 vTARDIS.cloud 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
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.