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Why did you choose unRaid?


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I thought it'd be interesting to setup a poll and maybe liven up these forums a bit.. There needs to be more activity here! :)

 

I have two boxes in my very tiny apartment that are currently testing two alternative methods for RAID.

 

In the software raid corner, running on /dev/md0 via mdadm we have:

AMD Opteron 170 (2.0Ghz)
2GB of RAM
3x500GB SATA2 drives
Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy

 

And in the unRaid corner:

Intel P4 3.4Ghz
1GB of RAM
2x500GB SATA2 drives

 

I've been fighting with myself a lot lately as to which solution to go to. In fact, I even contemplated Hardware RAID, but came to the conclusion that the performance of hardware RAID wasn't necessary for my own personal requirements.  First up, software RAID...

 

Software RAID

There's been a stigma with software RAID for as long as I can think. Most people tend to think it's simply a crippled down version of hardware RAID with no where near the performance. I was in the same boat until a few weeks ago. Now, by no means am I a linux expert, but I'm definitely not a beginner. Let's just say I'm an enthusiast linux user who's been dabbling in it for over 10 years off and on. I was deathly afraid of the implications of setting up a software RAID. In my past experiences with linux, although things tended to work, you had to fiddle with them for hours on end before finally managing to get it exactly the way you want it. This is something I didn't want to put up with when it came to protecting my media and files for foreseeable future. What if a config files gets corrupted I thought, will my RAID get nuked? What if I reinstall linux, will it get nuked? What if I have a drive failure, will I lose everything? What about expandability? Can I expand? (this was very important for me).

 

Since I have (well, maybe not) a lot of free time on my hands, I decided to give it a go. I currently had a Ubuntu setup that runs VMware-server with a few dev OSes, a web-server, HellaNZB for my downloading needs, I also use it to burn dual layered discs since I don't have a dual layer burner on my laptop. Oh, and most importantly, it serves as my media center. I run a compiled version of XBMC on Linux. If you don't know what XBMC is, do yourself a favour and google it. It is what I would consider the best darn media center available (without TV capabilities). So basically, the Ubuntu box is the hub of my digital life, oh and it also stores my files!

 

I'm going to refer to 3 links that really helped me out:

 

With this in mind, I went ahead and used 3 500GB drives I had to create a software raid and do some testing. In fact, I created a RAID1 with 2x500GB and then purposefully used the 3rd link above to convert the array to RAID5, add a new disk and see if things would work as easy as those links make it seem. Sure enough, it was just as simple as the links indicate! Took a while to convert and reshape the data, but sure enough, my data was intact not only after having converted a 2x500GB RAID1 array but also after having grown the array to 3x500GB for a total 1TB useable space. I even purposefully ripped out a drive, rebooted Ubuntu and sure enough, the state of the array was critical. I re-added the drive and the rebuilding began. No voodoo involved. Infact, when the RAID was reshaping (after having added a new drive), my Ubuntu lost power for some reason (note to self: get a UPS) at the 71% mark. I thought for certain my data had been nuked. I restarted the machine and remarkably, the reshaping began at the point it left off, data intact! Sure, the overall write speed isn't as fast as hardware raid, but I do get around 50-60MB/s which is quite acceptable for my needs.

 

Advantages/Disadvantages

  • + Relatively easy to configure, mature tools
  • + Ability to create 1 contiguous block of space without any impact in performance
  • + Only need 1 machine to do all serving needs (file, www, vmware-server, downloadiing, burning/ripping factory, daap server)
  • + A lot of resources available on the web for the management of linux software raid arrays. Websites, forums, you can find pretty much anything
  • + Supports more hardware configurations
  • + Supports Samba, AFP, NFS, SSH, anything you want that you can get on linux
  • + Supports more than 16 drives and multiple raid configurations (RAID0,1,4,5,6,10)
  • + It's free.
  • - Requires terminal commands when you want to add a drive to your array
  • - Once you create your array (let's say 3x500), you're limited to using 500GB drives. You CAN replace the drives individually and once all 3 are replaced, you will gain access to the extra space, but you cannot simply throw more drives of different sizes into the server and add them to your space.
  • - If two drives fail, there goes your data
  • - Drives are always spinning, the more drives you have, the more power you need, the louder your server is and potentially lower (although this is arguable) life span of your drives)
  • - You can't access your files off the individual drives since the data is striped between all of them.
  • - The more processes you run on your linux server, the slower the software raid will be since parity has to be calculated by the CPU. If the box isn't dedicated, this could be a disadvantage
  • - Requires some linux knowledge, must configure samba/AFP

 

unRAID

It may appear that I'm leaning towards the software raid (and in some respects I am), but I just want to say that I REALLY, REALLY LOVE the concept of unRaid. I think Tom and company have done a remarkable job creating a brain-dead solution to a very common problem that people have (and will have for some time). The concept behind unRaid is a very simple one that surprises me that it hasn't been done to this extent before. The ability to throw any kind of drive together into a box and create a dynamic raid array is ingenious. Many of us have older drives lying around collecting dust. The unRaid solution allows us to throw all our drives into a box giving them a geekish kind of rebirth.

 

The ease of setup (may I suggest using drop down menus in future versions instead of having to type disk names, etc?) is something I wasn't expecting when popping in the USB flash drive. This is really a dream when you're used to config files and command lines of the traditional linux world. The ease to add shares, add different disks to user shares, checking the status of your drives is just a pure joy to use. Heck, even with Webmin in linux, configuring samba requires some knowledge - not so with the web config of unRaid. The ability to spin down the drives is, in my opinion a BIG advantage for unRaid WHEN you have multiple drives (more than 3-4 I would gather). Why? Simply that most of us will not be accessing our 2-3TB of data that will be spanned across each of the drives at the same time. Especially if we use them for media storage. It it very possible that some drives will only spin up once and a while when we go scavenge for that MP3 we haven't listed to in a while or that movie that was ripped to ISO a few years ago. This is the benefit of drive spindown. The older the data, the less we're likely to use it, and thus the drives spinning down may lead to other benefits such as power savings, drive life, etc.

 

What I would like to see (and I'm sure I'm not the only one), but I'm almost certain WON'T happen is to package unRaid as a commercial program for other linux distributions. It would be GREAT if I could use this same technology on my multipurpose Ubuntu or Gentoo servers. What I wouldn't give (for me it'd be worth at the very least double the price) to have this available to me. Call me crazy, but I think it could sell well.

 

A few more things I would love to see (if the above isn't possible/probable) would be some sort of plugin architecture for unRaid. The ability to build programs that can easily be uploaded through the web interface and "tacked" onto the unRaid server. Things like Apache, DAAP (firefly) come to mind. We could then use our unRaid boxes for other purposes. I also realize that unRaid wasn't built for speed, but I believe it should be possible to squeeze out a bit more network performance than 12-15MB/s writes. I've been able to write over a 100mbit ethernet at  10MB/s and Gigabit at 50-60MB/s. Now I know unRaid has to calculate the parity and write to both drives at the same time, but I still think it's possible to squeeze some extra performance out of this thing. I don't see why 20MB/s can't be achievable, but maybe it's just my config(s)? I've tested unRaid on both the setups mentioned above (granted, when I used unRaid on my AMD system, it only had 2x80GB SATA1 drives, but still).

 

That being said...

 

Advantages/Disadvantages

  • + Brain-dead simple setup, anyone can do it!
  • + The ability to throw any type of drives into a machine and just create an array. This should have been called Raid-n-Go, it's just that great.
  • + The ability to spin down drives to save power, extend drive life (people will argue here) and have a quieter system/cooler system.
  • + If you server takes a huge dump on you and you lose more than two drives, you can read the data in other linux machines, windows machines and recover!
  • + No real linux experience required
  • + Dedicated hardware that only does file-serving. You know that all your CPU cycles are going to file copying and parity checks
  • - Not built for speed, may have difficulty burning 12-16X DVD from the network
  • - Requires a dedicated machine that can only be used for unRaid, which means possible higher power consumption if you need to run another server for other things (but you can store it in your closet, garage, etc!)
  • - Only supports Samba (for now)
  • - Limited hardware support
  • - The Split-level may confuse some users, this isn't the best method to approach this problem IMO (I hear Tom et. al. are working on a solution)
  • - Only supports 16 drives (I had to mention it!)
  • - There are great people on these boards, but it needs more action. The unRaid word hasn't spread that much yet and it may be difficult to get support when things don't work correctly
  • - There is a cost involved

 

Well, if you're still reading, congratulations! These are my thoughts on both configs and let me tell you, I've been thinking A LOT in the past few weeks on exactly how I want to approach my new array. the plan is to start at 1-2TB now and gradually (every few months) another another TB of space until I get to 8-12TB (depending on my space requirements). The major advantage of unRaid for me would be I don't have to get rid of my current 4 500GB drives I have in a few machines (with linux, I'd either have to get rid of them or create two arrays, which is something I would rather avoid).

 

So there you have it! Why did you choose (or not choose) unRaid, let's get some discussion going.

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I heard about this software on another forum (xLobby). Looked into it, and the price point (free to get started if you have an extra box laying around) was perfect :)

 

The hardware costs, minus drives, is really minimal for what it does. I've already had reason to say THANK YOU UNRAID when I came back from vacation, powered up the unRaid box and boom, one drive dead. Had about 250gb of DVDs on it. Luckily I had just purchased some new drives so, out with the bad, in with the new, rebuild on the fly while being able to watch a show that I know was on that drive. Can't beat that functionality. My system wasn't unavailable while the rebuild was being done. I also later, after it was complete and before I went to bed, installed the other new drive to expand the array and let it chug away at clearing it overnight.

 

Anyway, great product, works perfectly for me so far and has already saved me having to re-rip many many DVDs.

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Unraid gives incredible Value for Time.

I usually fall into the trap of spending too much time saving too little money, but I amproving in the art of setting a value on my own time. My mantra is now more of: "fuck it, buy it and move on".

With that in mind Unraid is just an incredible solution, once running the time spent is shockingly little.

The server could be named Ultra2080. Spend 20% on Unraid and you get the 80% performance. If you want to spend more time, you can probably get better perfomance, but then again ask yourself what your time is worth.

 

 

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Unraid gives incredible Value for Time.

I usually fall into the trap of spending too much time saving too little money, but I amproving in the art of setting a value on my own time. My mantra is now more of: "fuck it, buy it and move on".

With that in mind Unraid is just an incredible solution, once running the time spent is shockingly little.

The server could be named Ultra2080. Spend 20% on Unraid and you get the 80% performance. If you want to spend more time, you can probably get better perfomance, but then again ask yourself what your time is worth.

 

 

 

Almost a verbatim response from me can be added here.

 

Actually, I got unRAID for its added protection over RAID5 and its overall cost savings compared to NAS devices. The ease of setup and lack of time spent getting it to jsut work has been a welcome, unforeseen bonus. I heartily recommend unRAID as a result.

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Unraid gives incredible Value for Time.

I usually fall into the trap of spending too much time saving too little money, but I amproving in the art of setting a value on my own time. My mantra is now more of: "fuck it, buy it and move on".

With that in mind Unraid is just an incredible solution, once running the time spent is shockingly little.

The server could be named Ultra2080. Spend 20% on Unraid and you get the 80% performance. If you want to spend more time, you can probably get better perfomance, but then again ask yourself what your time is worth.

 

 

 

Amen, brother

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I chose it (and yet to implement it - I know I know) because it resembled VERY VERY close an idea of mine (you don't have to believe that yet it is true).

 

My idea was what unRAID is, without the USB stick part and without the reiserfs part - I thought of creating a high-level filesystem that is OVER normal filesystems and allows the use of any mix of filesystems on the physical disks (as long as there is a proper fs driver) and reaching the same end result with unRAID (with the user shares). I think choosing ONE fs makes the sytem more robust though (and more "controllable") as my version would have UNBELIEVABLE complexities.

 

Anyway the idea is that got me into this.

 

 

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The topic that keeps going, and going, ....

 

I got into unRAID for three main reasons:

 

1. I wanted a large NAS to store video, audio, and documents for me and my family, but I didn't see the benefit of true RAID (1 or 5, for example).  raid1 is expensive and raid5 just seemed overly complex for my home use.  So I was looking for a "big box of disks" where I could do periodic backups of files on diskX to diskY, much the same as I did before unraid, but to disks on different machines in my house.

 

2. I looked at Infrant, Thecus, and Buffalo, but the cost of the driveless solutions was more than a barebones PC, greatly limited my number of drives, and they each have their own set of issues preventing me from considering any of them true appliances (set and forget).

 

3. I was (and still am) an avid avsforum guy, where Tom posted his introduction of unraid in mid-'05.  The KISS aspect of the solution resonated with me ... a lot.

 

So I got to thinking, I can basically have my big box of disks, but for a few dollars more, I can have some protection.  In fact, because it is linux and therefore has lower hardware requirements, the cost of the sw+usb was at least partially offset by the reduced hardware costs.  As an example, if I were running a Redmond OS, I would have bought 2GB of RAM and a faster proc, probably for another $50-$75.  I would also have to buy the Windows OS itself, adding at least that much more.  Net/net, the SW was really free with the money going to a local guy instead of Darth Vader 850 miles to the north.  As a kicker, I had an excuse to go back to my Unix roots (LONG-time Solaris guy and Comp Sci grad, so I wrote my own version of Unix in college)

 

So, here I am.  I have my box of disks (I don't use user shares yet, I am still on 4.0), I have some additional protection, I get to occasionally fiddle with Linux, the darn thing just sits in the corner and works, and I am happy.

 

 

Bill

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I selected unRAID for many of the same reasons as Billped and others.  I already had a server wht a bunch of disks in it, but they were unprotected.  The most important things were backed up on another computer, but the vast majority wasn't.  It was appealing to have some protection without having to routinely backup welll over a terabyte of data.

 

I learned about unRAID on AVS - I saw a bunch of posts where people were creating unRAID servers in the HTPC forum I was monitoring, so decided to check it out.

 

I know a bit about Unix from working with Oracle on Unix for a number of years, and managing a team of Unix programmers porting of an application I built on OS/2 to AIX (you'll never guess who I worked for!).  So although I'm no Unix heavyweight, it doesn't scare me either.  Now that I have used Slackware unix, however, I like that it is lightweight and appears to allow the hardware to cruise.  [An aside on the unix topic, I REALLY like xwindows.  Architecturally it's awesome - and the user experience of running multiple apps from multiple computers from a single workstation seamlessly - is unmatched.  RDC can't touch it.]

 

I also liked the idea of supporting a software author with whom I could identity.  I respect a guy like Tom that had the vision to create something innovative, the skill to implement it well, the gumption to market, and the dedication to support his users (not just for a few months - but for years).  I really liked that he had a "feature request" area of his forum and actually seemed to listen and track what people were asking for.  That may have been the sincher.  I have pretty good ideas sometimes, and Bill (Gates) stopped taking my calls a while back ;).  Being able to influence and feel a part of unRAID was appealing.

 

-Brian

 

 

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I have not gone unRAID yet, but I will be purchasing hardware next week with the intent of going with it after I give it a good run through.  I've been testing it with a VMWare install for several days and really like what I've been able to do with it so far.  It's actually shown me much more flexibility than I had thought possible.

 

Right now I'm using a Win2K3 Server with a 2.5TB RAID 3 solution as my central media server.  I have 3 HTPCs in my home (along with 4 other systems on Gbit LAN) and a 4th next door for my mother-in-law over an 11n connection.  This worked fairly well for me as the controller was a NetCell card that allowed for expandability and RAID migration.  I started with two 500GB drives and moved my way up over its 5-ports over about a 4 month period.  I still have about 900GB free, but I have a movie collection of about 1000 DVDs that I have still not converted to mp4 (h.264/AAC).  At current rate, I will be full by June.

 

I had originally considered a Highpoint-based RAID 5 card with OCE and ORLM so that I could gradually add drives as I go.  However, this was going to be of considerable startup cost to me and a 2-drive failure means total loss.  Considering I have the original DVDs, this is not disastrous, but means I will lose all that time of encoding (months of time).

 

That's where I started considering unRAID.  I have expandability, redundancy without the fear of total loss, upgrade capability, flexible sharing, and granular user security.  The throughput may not be as high as some striping methods, but this is not a heavily accessed server.  3 of the 4 HTPCs would be accessed, at most, at any given time.  Usually no more than two though.  I also like the spin down feature with the ability to only spin up those drives needing to be accessed.  The way I have laid out my user shares will ensure that drives not being accessed will get lengthy resting periods.  I'm also finding it extremely easy to use (easier than I expected) and the proposed improvements (laundry list) looks as though it will become better and better as time goes by.  I'm finding that I may be able to even take some devices off my network because of this system.  My application NAS, WSUS storage, FAX repository, and my wife's work share will all be able to be relocated.

 

There may be small gripes about unRAID's limitations, but I have to say that, so far, unRAID has worked better within its limitations than other solutions have worked within their greatly reduced limitations.  I am very excited about going live with unRAID on my home network.

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My reasons are simple.

 

I like to compartmentalize my data onto individual disks.

I once had a catastrophic failure with Linux software RAID5 many years ago. I lost months of data.

 

Thereafter I choose to use RAID1 for everything. When I ran out of space, I upgraded both hard drives and moved up.

For backups I rsync a whole volume to another machine, external USB drive or A NDAS drive over the network.

This strategy has been successful for me for many years.

 

With unRaid I can incrementally upgrade the server without the whole migration process I am used to.

I can synchronize whole volumes from machine to machine and when I need to upgrade, replace a drive and keep going.

 

I love the idea of a protected JBOD.

With the newer trayless SATA removables, I'm even more intrigued to build a huge unRaid server and migrate all my backups and data onto it.

With the trayless SATA removables, Hard Drives are now almost like floppies.

I have a box of 30 hard drives sitting around as backups.

 

I love the idea of a controlled spin down and having the root in ram to save power, heat, wear and tear on the drives.

 

My biggest beef with unRaid is that it replaced the whole MD subsystem instead of supplementing it.

For some things I want RAID1, a RAID0 drive and and/or a JBOD on my network. (for scratch and for parity).

I'm hoping one day LVM can be used to allow striping, migration, backup and/or iSCSI.

 

 

 

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I'm not sure I'm going to add anything that hasn't been said so I'll start with a "ditto".

 

Flexibility - I already had data storage on hard drives of 6 different sizes, two different interfaces, and four different brands.

 

Protection against hard drive failure for burned dvd/cd's - My personal and business data files I backup on a regular basis.  I have no desire to spend hours backing up media on dvd's.  Duplicate storage (ala Windows Home Server) is too inefficient for me.

 

Generic hardware - I like the idea that I can re-purpose all the hardware I bought for unRaid if I decide to stop using it.  That is a bit of a trick with something like Buffalo or Drobo.

 

Expandability - Almost all other NAS solutions require more hardware (other than disks) to expand. 

 

Generic format - many NAS solutions are going to be a challenge to get at the data if they fail.  The unRaid file format is not proprietary, so there are are alternatives to reading the data from other OS's.  If my unRaid motherboard fries, I'm not dead in the water. 

 

imho, hardware RAID seems impractical for home (and 1-2 person business) uses.  Too expensive, too many risks.

 

Building an unRaid box is a great for DIYer.

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I finally bought a 6 disk license this week.

 

1) Disks are are formatted separately without striping. This was huge - partially because I has spent a bunch of time recently helping a co-worker mess with a 4 disk raid 5 array at work. Every time the thing balked, we would have to redo the raid and recopy the test data. If my unraid box blows up - I just pull the drives out and read them on a different machine. No other raid 5 product can do this.

 

2) Mix and match sizes and sata/ide. I already had a bunch of 250 gig ide drives sitting around, but wanted to get some newer 750 satas..

 

3) Boots off usb. I eliminated Openfiler from my list because of this

 

4) Spins down disks individually - this is just cool. A huge power savings, and less noise.

 

5) Expandable - I know you can sorta expand a raid 5 software array, but only if you replace all the disks and let it fully rebuild each time, which is just asking for array failure.

 

I really looked at a bunch of things - Freenas, openfiler, Drobo, Readynas NV + (waaaaaay to expensive). I was seriously considering the drobo, but after looking at a few failure stories online, I had no desire to be tied into a proprietary hard drive format that could not be read on another device.

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