R.G. Keen's Blog

Latest FreeNAS Box; works great, less filling

Posted in Uncategorized by rgkeen on January 4, 2015

I just finished the burn-in on the latest incarnation of the house data-furnace. I think I’m at the place where it would take a lot to move me off this one.

From the outside, it’s unimposing, and intended to be. It’s a 14″x14″x12″ cubish thing, black, and nearly featureless. It’s sitting beside it’s battery backup unit, and except for the power LEDs, there’s no good indication that it’s running other than the almost inaudible sound of air in the fans.

The case is a Fractal Node 804. I am thoroughly sold on this case. It’s small, it can hold up to eight drives easily and eleven if you’re determined, and has enough cooling with whispering fans to hold disk temps under 36C under full scrubbing activity for over an hour, and this with the stock fans. And it cost me $70 on sale. What’s not to love?

Well, maybe the fact that going over 11 drives is very, very hard and is best done with a different case. I figure that once I need more than the eight drives in RaidZ3 that’s possible in this case, I’ll have to get a lot more serious about data storage. At present, I could get eight 6TB disks in there theoretically, for 48TB of usable storage. That’s still a lot to me.

Inside are seven 3-TB drives in RaidZ3, giving me 12TB of usable storage. Using ZFS in RaidZ3 means that I can lose any THREE of those drives before I lose any data to disk failure. I got convinced to go with a server motherboard and processor in this version after using AMD and Asus boards in the previous versions. Server motherboards designed for using ECC and actually tested for it are much cheaper now, and so are server versions of intel processors. It has a Supermicro motherboard and a Xeon E3 and only uses 5W more than the AMDs and Asus at idle.

The screaming advantage here is that the Supermicro has an ethernet integrated power management interface (IPMI) that lets me turn it on and off as well as collecting thermal data and such over my house network, even with the machine in the attic, which is where it’s going eventually. That was, after all, what a lot of my previous wandering about with the network-button-pusher was about.

The latest release of FreeNAS that I’m using, 9.3, is a huge step forward, and works very well.


3 Responses

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  1. Laurent said, on February 1, 2015 at 9:39 am

    What PSU are you using? I was looking at a Corsair CX500M or similar but the fact that the psu fan blows over the HDD sitting right over is a concern (maybe it should not?). Any thoughts?

    • rgkeen said, on February 1, 2015 at 10:17 am

      As I remember, it’s a Seasonic, 430W, 80+. The power supply is older than this particular box, as it has been in the earlier incarnation of the NAS. I’d have to go open it up to know for sure which model.
      I personally did not think about the power supply’s fan contributions to the box ventilation, other than to decide that the power supply was in charge of cooling itself, not the box.

      I believe that in the Node 804 the power supply air intake is oriented to the bottom of the enclosure, so the power supply intake is not from the inside of the box, and the exhaust goes outside the box. I’d have to go look at the box to be sure.

      I did some temperature profiling to check the disk temperatures in the box under full operation. I typed in a script to send me a temperature report email on a shell command, and then sent the NAS off on a file system scrub and fired off the script every few minutes. The disks normally sit about 5C-6C over room temperature at idle. They climbed about 7C over nearly an hour in the scrub, and were still comfortably under 40C, which is where I start to worry about HDD temps. The Node 804 also has room for *five* more fans, two of which would extract air from the top of the box right over the cluster of disks.

      The temp reporting made me feel pretty good about the box and the ventilation, and the power supply’s ability to run the full system, which was another concern.

      • Laurent said, on February 1, 2015 at 10:53 am

        Thanks for the info, nice to see 7 drives staying cool in that case.
        My original question was incorrect as a PSU sucks air (and not blow) through the fan, which is why the 804 has an opening at the bottom under the psu location. Makes sense now.

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