Monthly Archives: July 2008

2TB and growing

About a year ago I built several 1.2TB fileservers for a number of my consulting clients which utilized RAID5 arrays for redundancy with LVM running on top for expandability. One of my cleints which does some media work has exhausted the storage space and called a few weeks ago about expanding the storage space on the server.

The four hard drives in the server now were already utilizing all the onboard SATA-II ports. I certainly could have replaced the drives with larger ones (which I did do for another client) but that would have entailed some careful shuffling of data and wouldn’t provide for much future expandability. For another client who uses space much more slowly I could have added a two port SATA expansion card and added two drives in RAID1 but here I expect to need to continue adding space and so I proposed an external storage tower with a multiport SATA link. I was looking for a PCI Express controller which would support eight drives on a single card and would be supported in Debian Linux. I ended up selecting a Highpoint RocketRAID 2322 which seemed to fit the bill.

As it turns out packaged driver support for Linux is only available for Fedora, Red Hat and SuSE. Luckily I found great instructions at this University of Northern Iowa site for building the drivers from source provided by Highpoint. Although there is some grumbling in the open source community about these drivers being non-free licensed (hence no package from Debian) just about everything else is great. The kernel module built without any problems and without a huge number of dependencies and I was able to get the drives up and running without too much work.

Unfortunately, I did not get the module into the initramfs as I had intended and so on reboot it all came crashing down. This entailed a trip to the customer and several hours to fix because the entire system including the root filesystem is LVM on RAID. Luckily, I was able to boot off an Ubuntu CD and build the RocketRAID kernel module again then start the RAID and then the LVM which finally allowed me to mount the filesystem. After doing this a few times I was finally able to get the initramfs straightened out and things working again. Needless to say it was a long night, but a successful one nonetheless.

FOSS Disk Imaging

I’ve written before suggesting the use of Linux for open source drive imaging and it seems there has been some movement in this direction. About a year after my initial posting the folks at PackRatStudios posted this article with a list of free and open source alternatives to the Symantec Ghost software. A quick look at the utilities they reviewed indicates that there is still much work to be done on using Linux as a disk imaging platform, particularly when it comes to ease of use and filesystem (NTFS in particular) support. On the other hand we’re much further along than we were and progress is clearly being made.