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Supermicro New Zealand
ZFS as a Storage Solution
31 August 2012

In this newsletter we present an integral building block for creating large and cost effective storage solutions.  We introduce the relatively modern ZFS file system and logical volume manager, an alternative to traditional RAID storage with an operating system such as Microsoft Storage Server for CIFS NAS storage or iSCSI SANs. We present ZFS as a modern alternative and we discuss fundamental design considerations that both encompass and dictate the resulting level of redundancy, performance, scalability and ease of management in the storage solution via a series of newsletters.

What is ZFS? ZFS is open-source software developed by Sun Microsystems. It is a combined file system and logical volume manager (LVM) and will be used in place of other file systems such as NTFS (Microsoft), ext* (Linux) and UFS (UNIX) on the storage solution. A logical volume manager has direct access to disks and can span the file system across multiple disks for the purpose of adding redundancy, capacity, and/or throughput performance. This enables ZFS to replace the need for traditional RAID storage as well, since RAID virtually provides the same aforementioned benefits.

How is ZFS implemented? ZFS is available natively in Sun Microsystems' own (now Oracle) Solaris operating system. However since ZFS code is open-source under the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), it can also be ported or used in other operating systems as long as it is not mixed with incompatible software licenses (such as GPL). Current platforms that support ZFS include OpenSolaris, OpenIndiana, FreeBSD, FreeNAS and Nexenta (there are many more examples).

Selecting your software platform for ZFS should include a review of which operating system you feel most comfortable with; its features, ease of use/manageability and support (e.g. commercial or by the community). It is also important to consider the version of ZFS that the operating system natively supports; the release history of ZFS is indicated by version numbers for the ZFS Pool and the ZFS File System and new features or improvements to existing features are introduced in more recent versions.

Selecting your hardware platform should also include a lot of research and be based on proven components that are natively supported by the operating system of choice (ideally with native drivers). We intend to talk about hardware building blocks in a future newsletter but feel free to talk with us should you have any immediate requirements.



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