FreeBSD 10 and some thoughts on hardware

So, between a manic year-end and busy start to the year, I’ve managed to neglect my little corner of the internet for over a month!

Since my last post, FreeBSD 10 has been released and I’ve discovered a useful fact that’ll make building the Server Of Doom cheaper and quicker, but I’ve not really looked at the OCW course, so that’s on The List to get back into doing,

FreeBSD 10 has got lots of new features, but as I’ve not really used the OS before, it’s hard to say whether they’ll be specifically useful to me or not. It has added LZ4 compression and TRIM support to ZFS though, which will be useful as I use compression on the current file server. LZ4 is faster and compresses better than the default ZFS compression, so it’s a quick win. TRIM support will be useful, as I’m planning on having SSD’s in the machine.

On the hardware front, I found out that you don’t need an Intel Xeon to use ECC RAM, the Celeron, Pentium and Core i3’s also include support for it.  So instead of getting a high end xeon based system, I can use a cheaper CPU and significantly cheaper motherboard! Having played around with configurations, the Core i3-3250Asus P8B-X and (to start with) a single 8GB Crucial DDR3 PCS10600 stick. The rest of the config is much the same, but I’ll need a controller card as the motherboard only has 2 SATA and, 4 SATA2 ports – I’ve had my eye on the Supermicro AOC-SAS2LP-MV8 for a while now, as it’s one of a short list of 8 port SATA3 controllers that doesn’t offer RAID support, so is ideal for ZFS, which works best with raw access to the underlying drives.

I’ve also been pondering how to go about configuring and benchmarking the machine. Once I’ve got the core system (PSU, case, motherboard, CPU, RAM), I’ll install FreeBSD 10 and start mucking about with the various settings and options. When I inevitably break something, I’ll be able to just reinstall and start all over again 🙂

As the old server (aether) is still running and the data is safe, I can copy some of the actual data I’ll be keeping on the server over, so I can test various settings:

  • What impact things like ZFS compression and deduplication have and whether they’re worth enabling. Deduplication is very RAM hungry, so I suspect it won’t be worth the performance benefit, but I suspect compression won’t have much of an impact.
  • Whether using NFS is quicker than CIFS for sharing things. I’ve always used CIFS for file sharing, as I’ve only recently started using a linux system as a day to day machine and getting NFS to work in Windows isn’t particularly easy!
  • What impact jumbo frames have on network performance and whether 9k (what I’m using at the moment) is actually the best with the current hardware I’m using.

With the benchmarking, I’ll also learn things about dtrace, which I’ve vaguely used, but only as pre-made scripts, so I’ve not had to learn any of the details. It’ll be good to learn how to drill down into the details on what the system is doing at any given time and find bottlenecks in performance.

So, currently, the vague plan is to get back into the OCW course, buy the core components, spend a lot of time breaking, erm, toying with them and seeing how FreeBSD works, then more components can be bought and the tested until I’ve assembled everything for the Server of Doom 😀

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