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Build a Linux NAS - Web Server

Last response: in Networking
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August 8, 2006 8:27:36 PM

I would like to build a NAS/Server with the following specs:

AMDx2 3800+ AM2
ASUS M2NPV-VM (NForce 4)
CORSAIR 1GB (2 x 512MB) DDR2 533
Old WD 120GB IDE drive for OS
New 4x400GB WD HD for RAID 5 array.
OS: Fedora Core or Ubuntu

I would like to build this computer as a NAS and a basic web server. Instead of using any PCI SATA RAID cards I would like to use the built in NV raid. Through researching this I have found out the NVraid is basically software raid. I have read about using dmraid to control / make raids using NVraid but I haven't really found anything that in depth about dmraid. Basically I would like to know if anyone has any experience building an array using NVraid under any Linux distro. Also this will be my first experience really getting in to Linux so any advice would be helpful.

One more question. I plan on buying an Apple to use as my main desktop and I will still be using a Dell laptop with WinXP. I have read about using Samba for file sharing but I have also heard Netatalk is faster to use with Apple hardware. Does anyone know the best way to share files between both XP and OSX?

Sorry for the kind of long post. I appreciate any and all help. :) 
August 10, 2006 12:43:48 AM

Instead of dumping all that money in to hardware for a box that will essentially be sitting there doing a whole lot of nothing, you would be lots better off buying a hardware RAID controller. 3Ware makes good ones, if you're bargain hunting you can pick up a 6 port Dell branded SATA RAID controller off eBay for well under $150 if you look around.

You could get by with something like a Pentium 3 if you're doing RAID in hardware, plus you'll probably get a bit better throughput as well. Samba is still probably the best bet for file-sharing.
August 10, 2006 4:02:13 AM

i've got a 533 K6-2 prestario that i was gonna use as a server
just dont know if i should buy like 5 LAN cards and use it as a router/smoothwall-firewall/file server/web server, or just buy a router and use a few IDE hdds
Related resources
August 10, 2006 12:50:19 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Smoothwall it's own O/S? In other words, how could you run Smoothwall and a file/web/etc server on the same box?
August 10, 2006 2:49:13 PM

Linux supports nvRAID, but not nvRAID 5 last I checked. The better option will be to use native Linux software RAID, which will work with any drives that are not already RAIDed by the BIOS. In other words, you can just leave them as simple drives, and then configure Linux software RAID on top of that to create a RAID 5 array. This is the better option here, and it will probably perform better.

A high-end option is a full, expensive, hardware RAID solution. Note that most "hardware" RAID solutions are actually software-assisted RAID solutions, which Linux does not like -- ref. the term "fakeraid".

http://linuxmafia.com/faq/Hardware/sata.html

Note also that your performance will generally be limited by the networking, once you've gotten a certain level of RAID performance.
August 10, 2006 4:59:49 PM

Quote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Smoothwall it's own O/S? In other words, how could you run Smoothwall and a file/web/etc server on the same box?

to be quite honest i have no idea. i've never setup a smoothwall before and know very little of what it is capible of. Of the few things that i do know is that it is a hardware firewall, which is based on linux (which i have Very little experence as well)
I think that since it says this on the front page of www.smoothwall.org
"SmoothWall includes a hardened subset of the GNU/Linux operating system"
I think that I can run a web/file server on it as part of linux. Though if someone could clear this up for me that would be grand!
so...its more a Firewall router with NAS now...could it work? should i start another thread on this?
August 10, 2006 6:02:25 PM

Quote:
One more question. I plan on buying an Apple to use as my main desktop and I will still be using a Dell laptop with WinXP. I have read about using Samba for file sharing but I have also heard Netatalk is faster to use with Apple hardware. Does anyone know the best way to share files between both XP and OSX?


The apple will be able to see and read the XP machine. But not the other way. So setting up a shared drive on the XP machine will work. A Nas Is another option. Or use a USB drive or memory stick.
August 10, 2006 9:34:33 PM

Quote:
Of the few things that i do know is that it is a hardware firewall, which is based on linux


You have that backwards, Smoothwall is a software firewall. A hardware firewall is something like a Cisco PIX. Last time I used Smoothwall was ages ago, but I wasn't too impressed with it's functionality. I am fairly certain you cannot run anything but Smoothwall on a Smoothwall box. You would probably be better off running a plain jane Linux distribution, and then making that into a firewall by adding a second NIC and using iptables. It's difficult to learn, but there are lots of HOWTOs and mailing lists out there.

Of course, any firewall guru will tell you that a firewall should not also be a NAS or any other type of server, because that just compromises the security of the firewall and whatever apps you have running on it. Now that I've said that, for a home scenario it's probably fine.
August 11, 2006 2:36:30 AM

Quote:
Of the few things that i do know is that it is a hardware firewall, which is based on linux


You have that backwards, Smoothwall is a software firewall. A hardware firewall is something like a Cisco PIX. Last time I used Smoothwall was ages ago, but I wasn't too impressed with it's functionality. I am fairly certain you cannot run anything but Smoothwall on a Smoothwall box. You would probably be better off running a plain jane Linux distribution, and then making that into a firewall by adding a second NIC and using iptables. It's difficult to learn, but there are lots of HOWTOs and mailing lists out there.

Of course, any firewall guru will tell you that a firewall should not also be a NAS or any other type of server, because that just compromises the security of the firewall and whatever apps you have running on it. Now that I've said that, for a home scenario it's probably fine.

what i meant by hardware firewall is that it is not run on your machine, it is a dedicated piece of hardware that acts as a firewall i.e. it takes care of the problem before your software firewall (norton or zone alarm or whaterver you use) has to deal with it further
August 11, 2006 2:55:03 AM

Then I'd say it's a dedicated firewall.
August 11, 2006 3:26:54 AM

I didnt know there was any difference
whats a hardware firewall then? i seem to remember they cost an arm and a leg
August 11, 2006 12:59:30 PM

A hardware firewall is an appliance you buy that just does firewalling like a Cisco PIX, SonicWALL, Check Point, etc. Typically they are expensive and not targeted for home users.
August 16, 2006 4:33:54 AM

Hi, in my home we have 5 imac pc's one centos fileserver for personal storage, a freenas server, another linux box which acts as my router, supplying dhcp address through my switch, my wife just switched to a mac for a windows pc running xp pro, freenas has an option for apple file protocol, and xp machines can also see this share, i've completely integrated my network with both systems, my mcs are running osx 10.3, i have no probems, I've been windows free for only 6 months, and I'll never go back to the darkside!
August 16, 2006 9:31:55 AM

Quote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Smoothwall it's own O/S? In other words, how could you run Smoothwall and a file/web/etc server on the same box?

to be quite honest i have no idea. i've never setup a smoothwall before and know very little of what it is capible of. Of the few things that i do know is that it is a hardware firewall, which is based on linux (which i have Very little experence as well)
I think that since it says this on the front page of www.smoothwall.org
"SmoothWall includes a hardened subset of the GNU/Linux operating system"
I think that I can run a web/file server on it as part of linux. Though if someone could clear this up for me that would be grand!
so...its more a Firewall router with NAS now...could it work? should i start another thread on this?

No, you can't run a web / file server on Smoothwall. Well, I guess you could, but it would kinda defeat the purpose of having a firewall. Smoothwall is a Linux distribution with all the unncessary stuff stripped out, stuff not needed for a dedicated firewall. It has a minimal Apache running off of port 81 and 445, but it's accessible only internally. Same thing with ssh server running off of port 222.

It has no compiler, no script interpreters like Perl or python, no ssh, telnet, ftp client. That way if someone breaks into your smoothwall box (very unlikely, unless you modified the heck out of it), they can't use that box as a launching point for attack (to you or someone on the Net).

Combining NAS with a firewall is absolutely the dumbest thing you could do. Anyone trying to break into your network will see your firewall first. That is the first point of attack. Once they break in, if your NAS is on the same box, they don't have to go any further to get your precious data. Not to mention that installing NAS related stuff on your firewall will break all kinds of security.
August 16, 2006 9:35:48 AM

Quote:
Instead of dumping all that money in to hardware for a box that will essentially be sitting there doing a whole lot of nothing, you would be lots better off buying a hardware RAID controller. 3Ware makes good ones, if you're bargain hunting you can pick up a 6 port Dell branded SATA RAID controller off eBay for well under $150 if you look around.

You could get by with something like a Pentium 3 if you're doing RAID in hardware, plus you'll probably get a bit better throughput as well. Samba is still probably the best bet for file-sharing.


RAID cards in the $100 range will probably be a software raid card. If you're gonna use RAID 5 on Linux, implementing software RAID 5 through Linux will give you much better performance and reliability than any crap from highpoint, promise, etc. Better and FREE!!!

3Ware on the other hand is a true hardware RAID, but it costs a lot more (around $300-400) range for a decent one.
August 16, 2006 9:42:57 AM

Quote:
One more question. I plan on buying an Apple to use as my main desktop and I will still be using a Dell laptop with WinXP. I have read about using Samba for file sharing but I have also heard Netatalk is faster to use with Apple hardware. Does anyone know the best way to share files between both XP and OSX?


The apple will be able to see and read the XP machine. But not the other way. So setting up a shared drive on the XP machine will work. A Nas Is another option. Or use a USB drive or memory stick.

Not true. If you're using OS X, you can set up windows file share and make things on your mac available to Windows. And of course from the mac you can samba into Windows shares.

Finally, Netatalk is a *nix implementation of the AppleTalk protocol, which is dog slow (i.e., extremely noisy protocol) compared to other file sharing protocols. That's why even Apple's dropping it.
August 16, 2006 3:39:51 PM

Quote:
this will be my first experience really getting in to Linux so any advice would be helpful.


Are you still here? Feedback please.

Going Linux with a brand new nVIDIA platform is probably not a good idea, esp. in view of the wish to use NVRAID. Honestly, you'd probably be better off swallowing the additional costs and going for a Windows-based solution.

The main reason to use Linux is for software RAID and of course all the free software. It's typically less painful when you use older, non-nVIDIA hardware. I've had lots of problems installing Linux on nVIDIA HW, and this was with an older platform -- I'd expect even more troubles with a new platform, unless nVIDIA has happened to be targetting Linux at release time, which I don't think they really would be as a first priority. EDIT: The listed board is nForce 430, which is not as new as the socket AM2 would suggest. This should be OK in the end, but you'll probably have some problems getting there.

If you're doing HW RAID of any form, then, outside the OS cost, as a Windows use, you're probably better off sticking to Windows. The drivers will tend to be better supported, and you'll be more familiar with the platform, etc.

Linux software RAID is the main exception here -- it's a good reason by itself to run Linux.

However, you should still not expect it to perform miracles with RAID 5 performance. A good HW RAID 5 solution will almost certainly out-perform it. Even hybrid solutions such as Highpoint / Broadcom. I've run Linux software RAID 5, NVRAID 5, and Broadcom RAID 5. The Broadcom RAID 5 has performed the best, and also cost the most.. But it's a dead product. At the lower end, Highpoint is probably just fine (stay off PCI if you can though), and at the really high end, of course products like Areca will win.

However, for a NAS server, you just need to beat around gigabit performance, and so spending a lot on a really high-end HW RAID solution would be money mostly wasted. If I could reliably hit anywhere around 100 MB/s with Linux software RAID 5, I probably wouldn't recommend anything else.

I'm not getting into any war of words here -- I'm reporting my personal findings. I'll be doing some more testing in the future, and will probably share those results in some detail.
August 16, 2006 9:49:43 PM

Quote:
RAID cards in the $100 range will probably be a software raid card. If you're gonna use RAID 5 on Linux, implementing software RAID 5 through Linux will give you much better performance and reliability than any crap from highpoint, promise, etc. Better and FREE!!!

3Ware on the other hand is a true hardware RAID, but it costs a lot more (around $300-400) range for a decent one.


Well, I quoted prices from eBay. Anything you can get on eBay for $150 can reliably be expected to cost $300+ retail. I think the same card costs $399 direct from Dell, but there's no reason to waste money buying anything new for a home NAS when you can get the same product as-new on eBay for 1/2 to 1/3 the cost.

The Dell CERC SATA cards are rebranded Adaptec, and if anyone's been in the RAID storage arena for quite a while, it's definitely Adaptec...
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