Build your own NAS – part 1


Last week, was another PC Show and I was tempted to invest in a NAS solution to replace my existing LanDrive that I use now. The existing one is quite slow (500-700 Kb/sec over Samba from Windows XP and maximum goes to 4 Mb/sec on Unix). The connections drop pretty often when doing a large transfer even over FTP. Using Samba to copy to the drive will fail if the files bigger then few megs.

Anyway, I got scared of the new prices. Buying a NAS that will do what I need (e.g.: NFS, FTP, CIFS/Samba, AFP, Time Capsule, BT, UPnP, streaming, photo album, etc) will going to cost me > 500 SGD even with 1 disk. I did a research and the list of the devices on the market that can does what I need is quite limited and very expensive.

I have a bunch of HP thin clients home and I decided to give it a try and build my own NAS :)

First, the TC does not have HDD… Using it as USB hub defeat the purpose. The good thing about the HP thin clients is that is coming with a PCI slot available, so I decided to add a PCI SATA adapter.

A short visit in Sim Lim and I end up with a list of cards using various chipsets. Great! Another puzzle! Which one to choose? I end up choosing the… cheapest one, a VIA 6421 chipset for only 24 $. Have 3 Sata, 1 IDE and knows about RAID 1, RAID 00 and 10

A short research and I find out that few OS (e.g.: Solaris, FreeBSD, etc) can not work properly with it or it does not support it at all.

Anyway, good reviews were coming from Ububtu and netBSD forums so I decided to go ahead with Ubuntu cause is easy to maintain and play with.

I stop by Suntec, went to the PC Show, got a 1 Tb Seagate HDD and head home to build my own NAS POC.

I did my first setup using a HP TC T5720, with 1 Gh AMD Geode, 512 Mb ram and 1 Gb flash. I installed Ubuntu Server, RAID support and Webmin. I used 2 SATA disks for the tests: 1 Tb Seagate 3.5″ and a 2.5″ Fujitsu 120 Gb.

I was able to see both disks, I was able to play with the mirror support, format, mount, etc… Everything working fine from the very beginning. The only thing that didn’t work was the fact that my living room was a mess with all the cables going out from the TC :)

Once confirmed, I went and bought the TC 5730 expansion module for the PCI card enclosure. That will provide me the PCI adapter for my card, and the space for my drive. You can stuff actually 2 x 3.5″ HDD’s inside but is not too easy, or a bunch of 2.5″ HDD’s. Anyway, I’ve seen in Sim Lim a disk enclosure for 4 disks with hot swap capablities for ppl interested in this application.

Ok, my configuration is now: 1 Gb Flash for OS, 1 Gb RAM (64 Mb shared with the graphic card), AMD Sempron 64 bit 2100+, SATA RAID adapter (VIA 6421) with 3 SATA ports + 1 IDE, 1 Tb Seagate 3.5″ SATA HDD for storage. The entire system will run Ubuntu server 9.4 64 bit. The entire box should take under 40W as the system is using the very low power consumption version of the CPU and no fan. The case is metallic and act as a passive radiator. However, temperature sensor support is installed and the value can be monitored withing OS.

Unfortunately, I had to run to work for a migration and I could not see my new toy booting up. It will be a lot of tweekings and settings to be done, but that will be next post.

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