Friday, 27 July 2012

Further adventures with the HP N40L and Dragonfly BSD

Since my last post, I've tried a bunch of different things with this box. These include:

  • Xenserver with the following virtual machines:
    • Ubuntu Server
    • Windows Home Server 2011
    • FreeNAS
    • DragonflyBSD
  • Ubuntu Server
  • Linux Mint 13
Having the 2TB mirror has caused many of the problems. FreeNAS simply crashed and used 100% of CPU the as soon as I tried to copy a file. Dragonfly wouldn't install. Ubuntu took 4 days to build a software RAID and then when we had a power failure, the RAID failed to build again. There was a lot of frustration and perhaps a cranky swear word or two.

Eventually I decided to follow this route:
  • Installed Linux Mint 13 on the box, set up a software RAID for the large disks, and left the other disks simply as an install disk and an archive disk. 
  • moved all the data from my Netgear Stora to the new server
  • I've deployed it to replace my server and my media PC, allowing me to ditch two PCs, one UPS and the Stora.
Yes I'm going a bit greener :-) Thus far it's going quite well. I've managed to also build up a Dragonfly BSD backup server as well.

I took my old server and put the disks from my Stora and from an external USB drive that had a failed power converter. With 3 x 2 TB Disks and a 1 TB disk in the system I wanted a way to effectively use all that disk space. It's not for live data, just for periodic backups. The HAMMER file system is awesome for this because there is no fsck on boot - it's live and happening straight away. Dragonfly is also very lightweight and runs well on the system I've got. The HAMMER filesystem has a lot going for it too - I was able to add the three disks into a single filesystem of 5.5TB and it does the normal snapshots built into HAMMER. The set up and the speed it created the filesystems with was excellent. I had one small issue with my USB DVD drive during the installation which caused the whole thing to fall in a heap but once I used a USB drive the installation went quickly and smoothly.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Adventures with XenServer on the N40L Microserver

Since my last post (in amongst family and work and stuff) I've been playing with Xenserver and the N40L Microserver. Here's how it's gone down:

The initial install went quite well, except I had configured two mirrored RAID arrays - one with 2 x 1TB disks, the other with 2 x 2TB disks. Xenserver saw neither of them. So I removed both arrays, set the SATA controller back to AHCI and went from there.

After a quick re-install, I had an initial local storage of 1TB. Following this I added three more local storage devices and re-thought how I was going to do the installation of my VMs. Following the exceptional directions on creating an Ubuntu 12.04LTS server on Xenserver from I created a 12.04 Ubuntu virtual server - all went very well. In accordance with my plan, I also created a Windows Home Server 2011 using the Windows 2008R2 template.

The WHS2011 server was so slow to install, setup and run. I had assigned it 2 CPU's, 4GB of RAM and it took at least three hours longer than the Ubuntu server to install and get going. I must note that the template from was superb and perhaps that has spoilt me a bit :-)

I also set up a FreeNAS - installed to one of the 1TB drives with 2 x 2TB virtual disks presented to it. The FreeNAS server installed quite fast and everything looked good. I set up NFS and CIFS shares and thought it was all going well. Unfortunately, as soon as I started to copy data across to the FreeNAS it's CPU usage hit 100% (as did the host's CPU). This was clearly a failure and wasn't going to work.

Undeterred, I thought about Dragonfly BSD and the excellent HAMMER file system - let's give that a crack I thought. The initial boot of the disk failed.... So FreeNAS and Dragonfly aren't going to play the game - new plan! More about this tomorrow :-)

Adventures with my new HP N40L Microserver

I took delivery today of my brand new HP N40L Microserver. I plan to use it to replace my existing whitebox server, Netgear Stora and add to my network at home. The idea is to install Citrix XenServer on this little box, then virtual guests running Ubuntu 10.04LTS, Windows Server (of some variety - 2008R2 or maybe Windows Home Server) and if required FreeNAS or another *BSD product (for fun).

The default N40L comes with 2GB of RAM, 250GB HDD and a 1.5GHz processor. I've updated the RAM to 8GB of RAM and I'll put a couple of 2TB HDDs in and probably 2 1TB HDDs disks as well.   The idea is then to set up two RAID arrays - one for the install of operating systems and associated applications, one as a storage pool for data (hopefully 2TB will be enough initially). I'll look into using 4 x 2TB disks in RAID10 and see what happens. Here we go!