Creating a NAS Box Using OpenFiler

In a recent walkthru we outlined the steps for taking an existing server and converting it into a NAS box. That article assumed that you already installed Linux on the server and you will maintain that installation (i.e. updates, security, etc.). This article takes examines an alternative: a dedicated NAS distribution called OpenFiler that allows you to very simply create a stand-alone NAS box that can be administered over the web.

In a recent article we saw how easy it is to take an existing server and enable NFS, effectively turning it into a NAS box (See Creating a NAS Box with an Existing System). The steps are fairly simple and nearly all Linux distributions come with NFS (excluding some of the embedded or specialized distributions). However, implicit in this approach is that you have to maintain the server distribution by keeping it up to date, making sure it is patched, and implementing your own security on the system. This can include many packages installed on the server that have nothing to do with NFS or NAS.

An alternative approach is to use a dedicated NAS appliance distribution that uses only the packages necessary for a NAS box. This would reduce the number of packages that you need to keep up to date or even monitor for security problems. This article examines one popular NAS distribution, OpenFiler.

Introduction to OpenFiler

OpenFiler is a NAS distribution that is created using rPath and is licensed under GPLv2 by Xinit Systems. While an open-source project, Xinit provides fee-based support as well as specialized versions and an administrators manual which you have to purchase.

OpenFiler started as a simple NFS distribution with simple administrative tools but it has grown to become much more than that. Currently it supports the following network protocols:

  • NFS (currently NFSv3)
  • SMB/CIFS
  • HTTP/WebDAV
  • FTP
  • iSCSI (both initiator and target).

In addition, it has a number of features that are briefly summarized below (see this article for a comprehensive list).

  • Support for hardware RAID devices (if Linux supports them)
  • Support for software RAID (md devices)
  • Support for Fibre Channel (FC) drives if Linux supports the hardware
  • Logical Volume Manager (LVM)
  • Point-in-time snapshots (presumably using LVM)
  • On-line volume/filesystem expansion
  • Support for ext3, reiserfs, and xfs as of version 2.3 and the writing of this article
  • Synchronous/asynchronous replication of data
  • Flexible quotas for various situations:
    • Per-volume group-quota management for space and files
    • Per-volume user-quota management for space and files
    • Per-volume guest-quota management for space and files
    • User and group templates support for quota allocation
  • SMC/CIFS support (presumably via Samba) with several significant features:
    • Shadow copy for snapshot volumes
    • Support for auto-created SMB home directories
  • Web based GUI (actually quite a good one as we’ll discover)
  • Authentication via Kerberos 5

It also supports several network directory services for user accounts.

The system requirements for OpenFiler are pretty modest. At a minimum it requires:

  • 500 MHz CPU
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • 1.2 GB hard disk space
  • An optical drive (for local installation)
  • Ethernet like network interface

Even the recommended system requirements aren’t too demanding.

  • 64 bit processor at 1.6 GHz or faster
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 2GB of hard disk space
  • Hardware RAID disk array controller
  • Ethernet interface

This is a fairly modest list of requirements and pretty much any reasonably modern server can meet them. On the other hand, Linux users sometimes like to drag out some really old hardware and re-use it. So be sure to check your hardware against these requirements.

To further investigate OpenFiler, a simple test system was used to represent a stand alone NAS box.

Test System

The following details summarize the basic configuration of the test system.

  • OpenFiler 2.3
  • AMD Phenom X3 8400 CPU (2.1 GHz)
  • 3GB of memory
  • Single Seagate ST3500418AS (500GB, 16 MB cache, SATA 3.0)
  • GigE Ethernet port (uses Nvidia chipset)

Next: Using OpenFiler (A Visual Guide)

Comments on "Creating a NAS Box Using OpenFiler"

tallship

Don\’t feel bad about having written possibly the longest article in Linux Mag history LOL!

It was well written, and even though you\’re prolly still going to get some guff about only focusing on NFS, NFS is really what most installations use (when you really get to the nitty gritty of where all those Samba shares are located).

This article builds upon the previous, in a logical sequence of expanded capabilities while diminishing the technical details down to a GUI for administrators incapable of setting up NFS (or any other service on a NAS).

A fine article. I think you\’ve done well and have produced an article worth bookmarking :)

Kindest regards,

Bradley D. Thornton
http://NorthTech.US

Reply
progrocker

Just wanted to say I\’ve been running Openfiler 2.3 for over a year now, with 4 x 1TB drives mirrored to create 2TB of storage. It provides a secure store for my documents, photos and music via SMB and filestore (via iSCSI) for my ESXi server & has run 24/7 without skipping a beat. I love it.

Reply
smino

I have been using UnRaid for the last year and a half, very stable, does what it advertises.
I like the idea of having a parity drive without the striping, so that if two or more drives fail simultaneously, I only potentially lose the data on those drives or not, and the ability to remove the drive from the array and put in any linux desktop and be able to read and write to the drive as they user reiserfs. It is like raid 5 without the striping. Best speed I get is 70-80MB/s over a gige to the cache drive. So in a 16-21 Drive configuration, that is alot of data to lose in a software raid, while in unraid you would still have access to the remaining data. It also has the feature to power down whatever drives are not in use and power them up on request (ie you need to read a file). Very good power savings. Can openfiler do the same thing? Seriously asking, not trying to provoke a war. It also has a nice gui, that is simple to use. I found upgrading a 400GB drive and putting in a 1.5TB drive was very easy. It automatically copied back the data onto the 1.5TB drive, and I still had the data available on the 400GB drive if something went wrong (but it did not).

Reply
hummelong

I’m a bit of a Linux newb…but I’ve been running FreeNAS on an old box in the corner for about a year and I’ve been thrilled with its performance and stability.

I would like to have seen a comparison of Openfiler against some other options.

Reply
hrudy

I tried to like Openfiler but I couldn’t take the package manager. Conary. Why didn’t they use rpm or debian?

Reply

Thanks for your article.I got some useful informations.

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