What OS, what features, what form factor, what platform (AMD/Intel), what RAID engine, etc?
There is no 'best' motherboard for everyone. You need to specify your demands/interests and then find hardware that matches your demands. Right now no advice is possible as you did not gave us any information what and how you will be using this NAS. The only thing i am reasonably sure of is that will be building it yourself, as you asked for a motherboard/barebone.
I have no preference on platform AMD/Intel. I'll probably run Free BSD or Linux, cheap is the goal.
I'm pulling the JBOD drives out of my home PC and setting them up in this NAS to hold my media in a somewhat more safe way. All it will need to do is stream music and HD movies out to my HTPC and other devices in the house.
FreeNAS is something I'd be willing to look into also really. Normally I've just stored all my information on my home computer, but I'm tired of the JBOD hodgepodge of drives I've got going on right now.
I'm considering just keeping the whole thing on my existing setup also though.. I've got an ASUS Striker II extreme board that has 6 sata ports and provided that I don't mind using an external optical drive it should work fine.
If I did that I would need to find a way to build the raid5 array and then transfer the information onto the partial array from my existing 1TB drives and then somehow include them in the RAID array.. I was told that, for example:
If I had 3 drives in a raid5 array, I could add a 4th drive and it would integrate it into the raid without data loss. Is that accurate?
If you want FreeNAS, do you also want ZFS? ZFS can do any RAID (including RAID5 called RAID-Z and RAID6 called RAID-Z2) and is the most advanced single-user filesystem on the planet. Its not widely usable though; at the moment real kernel-level implementations of ZFS are available on OpenSolaris and FreeBSD - including derivatives like FreeNAS which is based on FreeBSD.
FreeNAS uses FreeBSD version 7 which contains ZFS version 6
FreeBSD version 8, however, contains ZFS version 13 - more features and more stable.
For a serious ZFS setup, you would be wanting to run FreeBSD or OpenSolaris. But FreeNAS is excellent to get started within minutes. Still, if you want to use the full power of ZFS you need to learn a bit about it and how it can improve on your storage needs.
If you want ZFS, i recommend:
- 64-bit CPU (ZFS works with 32-bit but slower and not very stable)
- 2GB+ RAM (4GB or higher recommended)
- never use PCI
- all disks on Chipset SATA controller and/or PCI-express add-on card.
Note that you mix drives on the chipset-powered SATA ports as well as addon PCI-express controller; adding them all into a big array like 8-disk RAID-Z where 6 disks are on chipset SATA and 2 are on PCI-express controller. Never use PCI for storage - especially when doing RAID.
You cannot expand a RAID-Z or RAID-Z2 array (RAID5 and RAID6). So you cannot add a disk to an existing array while keeping your data. However, you can create a second RAID-array and add it to the same storage pool.
How does that work? You start with a 4-disk RAID-Z (RAID5) array. Later you buy 4 more disks and add a second 4-disk RAID-Z array to the same storage pool. Now your storage capacity will double. Essentially, ZFS makes a RAID0 array out of two RAID5 arrays. So you can expand by adding new arrays to the same storage pool.
Please ask more about specific questions you may have. If you want to know more about ZFS i'll tell you everything. Just know that it requires a bit of time for you to analyse and process all the information you're getting; perhaps confusing your earlier idea of a simple storage setup. But ZFS has many advantages - i strongly recommend reading about it, on for example wikipedia.
Wow, what a great response. I'm not familiar in the least bit with ZFS but I don't want to trouble you too much for a response when I can read up on it myself, so I'll do that now.
I'm a student, but I work and have some expendable income as well.. really I just want the cheapest mass storage solution possible..
To pull some of this junk out of my computer.. I'd be willing to pay.. ~150 if there is a decent mobo/cpu combo I could put into one of my spare cases. Learning about this new ZFS thing that you've recommended will make it fun an interesting as well.
Let me clarify.. when I say "cheapest" I want at least a basic level of security on my files.. RAID5 (before my learning about ZFS) offered about the most that I expected to sacrifice in terms of capacity lost for RAID functionality. If I have to pay more than 150-200 for the mobo/cpu combo then I will probably default back to just keeping it all to my PC, and not going with the NAS solution idea.
I'm a little bummed to hear that I can't expand storage pools by adding discs to existing arrays, is that true of both traditional RAID5 and this RAID-Z/Z2? It's mostly just being irresponsible in my foresight, but I've got 5TB of information on a hodgepodge JBOD setup right now.. I don't have a large budget and before I keep trickling drives into my setup I wanted to somehow transfer all of that 5TB of information onto something with at least a little tolerance against drive failure.. Tricky
I'll look up on some motherboard + CPU for you later. Probably some cheap AMD 785G board with 6 onboard SATA and dualcore CPU. Does 64-bit and is both cheap and fast enough. Mobo should be 50/65 euro, cpus go for 40-50. So that would be like 100 euro for the mobo+cpu. You need RAM as well, two sticks of 2GB is recommended.
Also, you don't have to transfer your files when you 'expand'. If you start with a 4-disk RAID-Z like in my example, when you expand and buy another 4 your data remains intact. Your free space simply goes up; so no need to transfer anything; you are running a RAID5+0 configuration on the fly. Since you run two RAID-Z's, it costs you 2 disks for parity information, like when using RAID-6. Using two arrays means you can do RAID0 between them, but only for newly written/read files; your existing files after you 'expand' will keep the performance of the original RAID-Z because ZFS does not automatically transfer any data; any data that you have keeps at the spot it is. Any newly files will be written to both arrays, until one becomes full and only the other is used (at lower/normal performance).