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Newbie Storage Questions

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Hi All,


I’m in the process of designing my new (first) homelab and have some questions on storage.


To begin with, I’m planning on 4 HDDs approx 6-8TB each, plus a 1TB NVME.


From what I understand, I can setup one of those HDDs as the parity drive and use the 1TB NVME as the cache? Is this a good setup to get started? I plan to eventually expand to 8 drives where I’ll likely the have 2 parity drives. I gather Unraid is quite flexible in the size of the drives you can add as long as the parity drives remain the largest?


I’m planning to host some game servers, how should I set Unraid up? Ideally I want to utilise the speed of an SSD, so can I add one and tell Unraid to use that specifically for this task? Or will the cache drive handle the speedy bits? Do a need another SSD for this?


I also need to decide if I want to go ZFS or XFS, I need to do more research here. Power efficiency is important and I think Unraid will power down drives that aren’t in use?


I also need to decide on SAS or SATA, does it make much difference? Can I use the two together?


Finally I’ll need a controller when I go past 4 drives. Is there any benefit to using a controller from the start or will a motherboard handle it fine until you run out of slots? 

Any other advice here would be appreciated. I’ve only ever used RAID1 before.


Thanks :)

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I can answer some of this.


First off your setup sounds like a good Idea to start with.

But I have some suggestions.
if you want drives to power off or trying to manage your power usage. Forget ZFS.
Think of ZFS like this it software raid and software raid all the drives are part of an array and always running.  Unraid's array is not a software raid array. It just a Bunch of Disks and turns on each drive that access's the data. For me so far after testing a few diffrent things. I have actually found XFS in the main array the best format for almost all situations. But depending on your cache drive setup you might want to make 1 of the drives a ZFS format. keep in mind the preformace for that 1 drive will actually suck pretty bad. At least it does for me. I could have something configured wrong but I'm pretty sure that ZFS just sucks in the main array because its really just a raid 0 single ZFS array on one drive. 

Anyway back to your cache drive.  For me I've learned it really depends on what your using the cache drive for. For me I'm doing a media server and I like having redundancy.
I use 2 small 512Gig NVME's for my AppData dockers. And then a secondary Cache using 2 Sata SSD's those are for my downloads and unpacking of Video files I get from NZB's etc. (Something your most likely not doing so ignore having a secondary cache pool. Most people use torrents and seed boxes now days I just do things odd and harder.)

I would say this if you need your apps up and running pretty quick you should have 2 NVME's in a mirror. And for size It all depends on what the NVME is doing. If you hosting VM's on the NVME I most likely would mirror with 2 NVME's. But if its just dockers like me. You might not need more than 512 to 1 TB. And if you can handle a outage to replace your NVME. Then run with 1 and make it ZFS. And have at least 1 of your drives in the array formated for ZFS.
It means that drive will always be on. But what you could do is you could follow Space Invader's video for setting up ZFS snapshots and make in backup the snapshots to that one ZFS disk in your array. That way you could recover your appdata pretty fast and easy if your NVME fails. and depending on the snap shot schedule you might not loose much or notice anything lost.  But as for your cache drive to me I found if I'm just using it for dockers. Sata SSD's were plenty fast enough for me. But VM's though NVME way better.

If it was me and I was limited on some of the funds. and I could afford 1 NVME or 2 Sata SSD's to use for cache and no VM's were involved. I would do 2 Sata SSD's in a Zfs Mirror array. But again that's only if I was doing dockers. I think once you get your feet wet and start with what your thinking. You will figure out what is best for you though in the end. That's the really cool thing about unraid so much you can do and easy to start with a little and go up.  Oh one more thing though Memory ZFS will use a little bit more memory so if you were thinking of running with only like 16gigs. double that and don't get to mixed up in the ECC or non-ECC. Its not going to make a huge difference in most cases. I don't care who disagrees with me on that. But most of us are running home server setups. Unless your going to buy server grade parts just don't get mixed up in all that. If you guys want to have that argument go back to the A-holes at TrueNAS and live in those forums. Just last month I actually started to change all my gear to some Server grade parts. And I ended up spending 3 times what I would have spent. And that's even using ebay to buy some used gear. UDIMM ECC way to expensive to use for desktop processors or low end intel Xeon's. for 64gigs UDIMM PC3200 DDR4 ECC ram me around 220. I could have used desktop non ECC for 100 to 125 max. And that was used ECC too. But if I was running higher end Server Grade Intel Xeon's like a dell server or something. I could have used RDIMM's And ECC on those are way cheaper and many options.  Anyway I'm way off topic. Your idea sounds good to start with just make sure your memory is like 32Gigs if you use ZFS at all.


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Thanks! Lots to process :)


I’m trying to work out if ZFS is really worth it for my use case, I’m leaning towards not. I like the idea of drives powering down when they’re not in use as they will be the majority of the time.


For cache I was planning on just the one 1 TB NVME but I could get a second and mirror if that would be better? NVMEs are fairly cheap at the moment. 

Was planning to start with 64GB DDR4 to begin with (I’m expecting I might need a fair amount for game servers), and I decided against going down the ECC rabbit hole.

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