A few months back I started looking into NAS solutions that would be ideal for home use. I jotted down my initial research in the post building your own nas and the post making sense of the various nas solutions. My original intent was to purchase an HP microserver from Amazon and test out all of the freely available NAS solutions. Due to some time constraints I cancelled my microserver order and re-used a server I had at home. I’m still planning to order a microserver at some point, since they are killer boxes for building home NAS devices with.
I first loaded up openfiler and went to town creating devices and mapping them out to hosts on my network. If you haven’t used openfiler before, it’s a Linux-based NAS distribution that provides a graphical interface on top of a RHEL derived distribution. The fact that it runs Linux gave it a few cool points, but I was less than impressed with the graphical interface. Tasks such as creating logical volumes and shares weren’t as intuitive as I would have thought, and IMHO the GUI didn’t really provide all that much value over running the LVM utilities from the command line. It did manage all of the iSCSI, NFS and Samba work behind the scenes, which is kinda nice if you don’t want to dig into these services and see how they work.
Craving a bit more out of my NAS device, I wiped the server that I installed openfiler on and installed FreeNAS. For those who haven’t used FreeNAS, it is a FreeBSD-based NAS distribution that makes heavy use of ZFS. The FreeNAS installation process is about as painless as can be, and after a 10 minute install I was able to fire up the web interface and start poking around. I was impressed with the initial graphical interface, and after a few minutes of clicking around I had a working ZFS pool and a number of NFS and iSCSI targets provisioned. Everything seemed quite intuitive with the FreeNAS interface, and all of the options were in a place you would normally think to look.
I’m still using FreeNAS, though it doesn’t offer all of the items I would like in a true NAS appliance. Here are the items that would make FreeNAS a slam dunk for me:
– System and network service performance counters and graphs. These may be coming in 8.1.
– Built-in DLNA/UPnP support for streaming videos. This may be coming in 8.1.
– Better hardware monitoring and reporting.
– Energy conservation when the NAS device isn’t in use.
– Ability to act as a print server.
These things are relatively minor, and I suspect they will come in due time. Being a huge fan of ZFS I was stoked to see that this was part of FreeNAS. I’m curious to see how well the file system is supported now that Oracle has cut off the ZFS source code (I suspect it will thrive since the FreeBSD team has some crazy smart chaps working on it). As things stand now FreeNAS works, and it doesn’t cost you a penny to try out. I would still love to buy a synology diskstation to test out, but it’s kinda hard justifying one when what you have a working solution. It’s also nice to know that I can gain access to the FreeNAS source code anytime I want.
If anyone has read Gary Sim’s book Learning FreeNAS: Configure and manage a network attached storage solution please let me know what you thought of it in the comments section. I’m thinking about ordering a copy for a not so technically savy friend since his Youtube FreeNAS videos were done so well.