Today we are going to be building a budget, high performance storage server. So what exactly is a storage server? We’ll first go over the technical requirements and operational goals for our system, then move onto the design and assembly of the system.
First we need to discuss why we need a storage server. It is useful for a workgroup environment, where there are multiple users that need to share data across a network. In addition, it facilitates backup of data since the storage is centralized. Where cost is an issue, it is much cheaper to build a robust server with high levels of reliability than to submit that level of reliability and performance to all the network nodes.
At the most basic level, a storage server needs to be able to hold a lot of hard drives. To accomplish this, we could go out and buy a network attached storage device, but remember this is a budget system. Our goal is to maximize the functionality, reliability, and performance of the server, while keeping costs under control. It sounds like you could just add a bunch of hard drives to any networked PC and call it a “network attached storage device,” but if you want it to be reliable, you have to think about cooling, power, and anticipated usage. So, if you’re only interested in building a hardcore gaming PC, you’ll still want to read this article to see our thoughts on cooling and power.
We wanted a server that would serve only data files and not program files. This would limit our network bandwidth and maximize performance. At the same time, we wanted this server to act as a workstation with as much capability as the other systems attached to the storage server. Our minimum storage requirement would be one terabyte. Not too long ago, terabyte storage was reserved for government labs like Sandia National labs, Lawrence Livermore labs, or science fiction.
Another consideration specific to storage is expandability; how we will cope with increases in storage requirements over time. Some network attached systems are great in the first year, but as needs expand, you basically have to double your initial investment to double your storage, by duplicating your initial purchase. The technology that you bought the first time does nothing for your future expansion, this is something that we tried hard to prepare for.
Let’s start with discussing what we need to have and then build around that. First the hard drives.