If you are in the IT field, you have no doubt heard a lot of great things about ZFS, the file system originally introduced by Sun in 2004.  The ZFS file system has features that make it an exciting part of a solid SAN solution.  For example, ZFS can use SSD drives to cache blocks of data.  That ZFS feature is called the L2ARC.  A ZFS file system is built on top of a storage pool made up of multiple devices.  A ZFS file system can be shared through iSCSI, NFS, and CFS/SAMBA. 

We need a lot of reliable storage to host low cost websites at No Support Linux Hosting.  In the past, we have used Promise iSCSI solutions for SAN based storage.  The Promise SAN solutions are reliable, but they tend to run out of disk IO long before they run out of disk space.  As a result, we have been intentionally under-utilizing our current SAN boxes.  We decided to investigate other storage options this year in an effort to improve the performance of our storage without letting costs get completely out of hand.

We decided to spend some time really getting to know OpenSolaris and ZFS.  Our theory was that we could build a custom ZFS based server for roughly the same price as the Promise M610i SAN, and the ZFS based SAN could outperform the M610i at that price point.  If our theory proved right, we would use the ZFS boxes in future deployments.  We also tested the most popular OpenSolaris based storage solution, Nexenta, on the same hardware.  We decided to blog about our findings and progress at ZFSBuild.com, so others could benefit from anything we learned throughout the project.

ZFS Features
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  • mbreitba - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the comment on the ZIL.

    As far as using the X25-E's as ZIL devices - when we built the box initially, the X25-E's were the best choice at the time. Future builds will probably include a capacitor-backed SSD.
  • James5mith - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    For what it's worth, we are currently using roughly 16 of the Supermicro 846-E1 chassis in our storage solutions.

    Drive numbering is from bottom to top, left to right. Don't know if this helps or not.

    5 11 17 23
    4 10 16 22
    3 9 15 21
    2 8 14 20
    1 7 13 19
    0 6 12 18
  • badhack - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    I would be curious to know how the performance compares to traditional fs caching on Linux w/ ext3 or ext4 with same amount of memory and a few SSD drives.
  • Maveric007 - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    There are a few options within Linux that would be pretty interesting to see. FS caching and the different schedulers that are available within Linux. Also I would throw out ext3 and replace that with ext4 and xfs. Redhat is now supporting xfs and there are just tons of tunables for xfs compared to the other file systems.
  • badnews - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    Thanks Matt, I've been following the build over at your blog and this is an excellent article to tie it all together. I hope you follow up with your "things we'd do differently" in future articles. I would also love to see some more benchmarking against more alternatives, e.g. Open-E, or even an off-the-shelf EqualLogic.

    Keep up the good work :)
  • Fallen Kell - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    Well, I know at least for Solaris 10.... I would suspect that OpenSolaris has it as well by now, since it has been out for at least 4 years that I know of...

  • mbreitba - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    You can install the ZFS Web GUI from the Solaris toolkit, but it isn't bundled into OpenSolaris. It is binary compatible, but it doesn't give any good options for iSCSI setup, as it only supported the old iSCSI target rather than the new COMSTAR target.
  • sfc - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    How can you spend a page talking about how you aren't really worried about the future of Opensolaris, and then have half a paragraph mentioning "oh, btw, it's cancelled"? The project is clearly dead. They stopped releasing source almost a month ago. Oracle has made absolutely no guarantees about when or how source would be released in the future. For all we know, they could release only portions of Solaris Express, and do it months to years after the binaries drop.


    I love ZFS/Opensolaris, I use it at home, but Opensolaris is dead.
  • Mattbreitbach - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    OpenSolaris is indeed dead as far as development goes, but it's still viable if you want to use the last build released which is what all of our performance figures are based on. I will be writing some companion articles to this one talking about not only the death of OpenSolaris, but it's alternative, OpenIndiana, and the Promise M610i used as a comparison in this article.
  • andersenep - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    The OpenSolaris project may be dead but ZFS and all the CDDL licensed code is still out there. Illumos, OpenIndiana and a few other distros are still out there and available. Oracle has stated they will continue to release source code after Solaris releases and will also provide binary preview releases in the form of Solaris Express. To say Solaris and ZFS are dead is pretty premature.

    Whatever happens, the existing code is out there. To call it dead is a bit premature. Sure the project that had the name 'OpenSolaris' has been canceled, but everything that made it up (minus a small few closed bits that have already been replaced) lives on.

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