Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Decide on the Best RAID Configuration For You

A common question we get asked here at 45 Drives is, “What RAID should I use with my Storinator?”

Our answer: “What are you trying to do?”

Choosing which RAID level is right for your application requires some thought into what is most important for your storage solution. Is it performance, redundancy or storage efficiency? In other words, do you need speed, safety or the most space possible?

This post will briefly describe common configurations and how each can meet the criteria mentioned above. Please note I will discuss RAID levels as they are defined by Linux software RAID “mdadm”. For other implementations, such ZFS RAID, the majority of this post will hold true; however, there are some differences when you dig into the details. These will be addressed in a post to come! In the meantime, check out the RAIDZ section of our configuration page for more information.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why I Love Rockstor on our Storinators

As a NAS operating system, FreeNAS has been out there for a decade. Working on the beautiful marriage of FreeBSD and ZFS, it's been tried and tested by many users within the storage community, to great success. But if you're one of those people who is more into Linux and Btrfs, you may be yearning for an alternative.

Over the past few months here in the 45 Drives lab, we have been putting an exciting new NAS OS through its paces on our Storinators. After working through a few kinks, such as how to set up redundant boot drives, we are ready to introduce Rockstor as one of our recommended solutions to create a solid NAS appliance when installed on a Storinator (alongside the traditional OS option, FreeNAS). I am writing this post to talk about why I like Rockstor, its Linux+Btrfs roots, and to share a bit of the story of how we got here.

Welcome, Rockstor.

Some of you may already be familiar with, or at least have heard of, Rockstor, a Linux + Btrfs-powered NAS OS. I, and the rest of the 45 Drives team, first heard of Rockstor when founder and lead engineer Suman Chakravartula contacted us back in November 2014 as a prospective hardware partner. We were pretty excited with the idea of helping a new NAS appliance gets its footing – it’s just another example of how the storage community really is a collaborative environment, and one that we’re proud to be a part of.

Monday, August 17, 2015

How to Saturate a 20Gbit Network Using Real Data Files Over a Samba Share

My last post, How to Achieve 20 Gb & 30 Gb Bandwidth through Network Bonding, was our most popular blog entry yet. There was a LOT of discussion and comments about the results of my testing, as well as network bonding in general (including here) – which was awesome to see. It's great when people care about what you write!

One prevalent comment was that our first experiments in network bonding didn’t go far enough, that we didn’t move real files to and from large RAIDs across the network.

And so, here is my follow-up post. In this set of experiments, I will attempt to saturate a 20Gbit network with two different bonding modes using real data files across the network using a samba share on a Storinator storage pod. The goal is to show that any user, from small video producers to a large enterprise corporation, can achieve incredibly fast and reliable throughput from their storage server using 10GbE and bonding.

Friday, July 17, 2015

How to Achieve 20Gb and 30Gb Bandwidth through Network Bonding

We’re adding another new voice to the blog – Rob MacQueen is an engineer in our R&D department. In his first blog post, he shares his experiments with setting up network bonding in order to achieve 30Gb bandwidth. Welcome Rob!

The cost of 10GbE networking has dropped dramatically in the last two years. Plus, getting 10GbE to work has simplified as hardware and drivers have matured. This is to the point that anyone who has set up a 1GbE network can set up a 10GbE network. 

And if you are used to 1GbE, you'll love the extra bandwidth in 10GbE. I figure it's sort of like buying one of those new Mustangs ... with the 5.0 liter engine, not that I own one :).

But, if you're like me, faster is never fast enough. The good news for us speed junkies is that it is easy to get lots more from your new 10GbE network. All you have to do is install more than one port, and bind them together.

I've been doing this at 45 Drives in order to test our Storinator storage pods (since they can easily read and write at beyond 2 gigabytes per second, thus easily saturating a single or even double 10GbE connections). My post today will share my work in network bonding, and I'll show how I create 20GbE and 30GbE connections.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rockstor on 45 Drives, A.K.A. The Rockinator

Introducing a new voice to the 45 Drives blog, Darrell Cormier. Darrell is part of our R&D team!

At 45 Drives, we're continuously striving to improve the quality of our systems. Our goal is to provide industrial-strength storage solutions to our customers that are exceptionally affordable. As a part of that, we're always looking to innovate our Storinator storage pods to perform even better than before.

As part of this process, we began to explore a new open source NAS operating system called Rockstor. This Network Attached Storage system strives to simplify network storage as much as possible without compromising features or performance.

Rockstor's Storinator Q30, all ready for testing!

Rockstor was created and developed by Suman Chakravartula, who we began working with late last year. Since then, both the Rockstor team and 45 Drives have been hard at work to bring the technological advantages of our partnership to our customers and users.

Soon, this dream will be a reality - we're almost ready for Rockstor to be available on all of our 45 Drives storage pods, including our new Storinator NAS Appliances.

Suman recently wrote a blog post about his experience setting up Rockstor on a Storinator Q30. Have a read and let us know what you think!

Blog Post: Rockstor on 45 Drives, A.K.A. The Rockinator

Stay tuned for details on Rockstor as an option on Storinators.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Power Draw of Enterprise-Class Hard Drives Versus Consumer-Class Drives

In previous posts, I showed measurements of the power draw of Consumer (C-class) HDDs, in both standard and staggered start-up. In this post, I'm showing the same power draw tests, but this time with Enterprise (E-class) HDDs!

Consumer vs. Enterprise

First of all, before we get into the fun stuff on power draw, let’s clear up some of the mystery of enterprise drives. You may be wondering, “I’ve heard E-drives might not be all that better, aren't E-class drives just the same old drive with a higher price tag and longer warranty?" 

These suspicions and rumours have been stoked by certain sources (Backblaze or Google) who have been saying C-class drives are just as good.

Well, we believe that is misleading, and what Backblaze and Google say is true, but their assertions are very specific to their own highly specialized applications.  

The two classes of drives are meant for different applications, and because of that, each are specifically designed and manufactured to address the certain design criteria required.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why We Decided to Offer Enterprise-Class Drives to Our Customers

You've seen him in our 45 Drives videos, now Product Manager Stephen MacNeil lends his voice to the 45 Drives blog to discuss our latest news - we're now offering enterprise-class hard drives to our customers!

As the product manager, I've been a part of 45 Drives from the beginning. As a key part of the visionary team, I've seen us begin by innovating a new storage pod with the help of Backblaze to becoming the storage pod of choice for tech experts wanting to stray from the status quo. 

And now, having expanded our product line to three new Storinators earlier this year, 45 Drives is now known for offering fully customizable, bulletproof, ultra high-performance data servers that exceed customers expectations - both large and small.

A new WD enterprise-class hard drive, fresh out of the box in our R&D lab.

45 Drives was built on the idea that we listen to our customers and adapt to their needs and applications. My combined backgrounds in engineering and sales means I'm driven to come up with the best solutions I can for my customers. Even better, I'm in the enviable position of having a voice that's heard by our research and innovation team, so when my customers talk to me about their needs and concerns, I listen.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Staggered Spinup and Its Effect on Power Draw

In Part 1 of the series, I discussed the Power Draw of a Storinator on Startup and other conditions. Results showed that our Storinator’s Power Supply Unit (PSU) is well suited for the task at hand – starting and maintaining 45 HDDs and the other components.

However, not all drives are created equal. Some pull more current than others during start up and while the previous measurements showed the drives used are well below the maximum limit of the PSU, other drives may not fare as well.

If you have power-hungry drives, or are worried about a large start-up draw, don't worry – we have you covered! Our Storinators are able to reduce the initial current draw by staggering the spinup of the drives, with the trade-off of a slower boot time.  

What is Staggered Spinup (SSU)?

When you turn your Storinator on, power flows to all the components instantaneously. This includes the motherboard, hard drives, fans and more – essentially everything that is attached to the PSU. Most of the components have a fairly constant power draw upon start-up, however, this is not the case for hard drives. 

Due to the nature of how they work, the start-up power they demand to spin up the platters inside can be quite large compared to their normal operating power. This was shown in my previous blog post, start-up current draws peak around 3x steady state for the 12V and 2x steady state of the 5V. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Power Behind Large Data Storage

There is a lot going on inside your Storinator. CPUs are a cyclin', fans are turnin', data is movin', and most importantly, 45 drives are spinnin'! A steady and reliable power source is essential to make all of this happen. In our quest to create a rock-solid industrial strength server, we've spent a lot of time engineering the power system on our Storinator servers. I'm writing this post to share some of our knowledge with you.

Power as a 'Boogeyman'

I'm hoping that this blog post will help demystify the issue of power. Because a lot of system admins don't have access to gear such as clamp meters or oscilloscopes, power can be blamed for a lot of instabilities. Since power is not being measured, however, this is really a 'boogeyman' type explanation. We've spent many, many hours measuring power and looking for those proverbial glitches that are often blamed for system crashes, but we've never been able to see one. Never say never, but when troubleshooting, we've come to believe that with the robust, high-end power supplies that we use, power problems are exceedingly rare.

Specifically, what I want to share with you is typical 'current' vs 'time' plots of the Storinator during start up, steady state and operating (read/write) current draws, and to discuss how our PSU is well suited for keeping your pod up and running, while having extra juice for startups...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Upgrading to CentOS 7 – Deciding on a Lightweight Desktop Environment

Introducing a new voice to the 45 Drives blog – Brett Kelly, one of the R&D engineers for 45 Drives, who shares his experience with upgrading to CentOS 7. 

45 Drives is built on the idea of highly customizable storage servers in the form of our Storinators. Whatever your configuration, including operating system, we can build it.  This includes choice of OS – we regularly configure and ship systems with a range of Linux distros, FreeBSD and Microsoft Server 2012.

With all that said, the default OS in Storinators is CentOS, and rightly so – it’s a popular choice for our users, especially the hardcore server users.  In fact, more than 85% of our customers opt for CentOS (FreeNAS would be next in popularity).

Over the last month or so, we’ve been mulling over changing the default OS in our Storinator from CentOS 6 to CentOS 7. This seems like an easy and painless change, but some things had to be considered and tested before we just started shipping the newer OS.

Since I led the project to evaluate our options when upgrading to CentOS 7 as the default, I’m writing this post to share our (my) love of CentOS and provide some background into our testing and decision making.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Our Biggest Design Decision - Direct Wired or Backplane?

This is Part 2 in a series of posts from 45 Drives co-founder Doug Milburn, reflecting on the evolution of 45 Drives, where we’re headed and why. Read Part 1 to find out how 45 Drives got its start, with help from Backblaze.

Our Experience with Backplanes 

The original Backblaze Storage Pods were designed around port multiplier backplanes. These are circuit boards that have multiple SATA hard drive connectors (5, in this case), and one SATA cable connector. This allows up to 5 hard drives to be plugged into the board, and multiplexed and sent through 1 cable to a shared SATA port. Therefore, 45 drives require only 9 cables and SATA ports. This is economical as well as practical. Combined with Backblaze's vertical mounting, this was a brilliant design.

There are a few restrictions and caveats, of course. The SATA adaptors must be chipset compatible with the backplane port multipliers, and drivers are required. Physical dimensions of 5 port boards follow a defacto standard. Also, data for 5 drives shares 1 SATA cable (3Gbit in the original design), limiting performance to 60 MBytes per second per drive (whereas mechanical drives can transfer approximately 150 MBytes per second). But all things considered, limited throughput speed was a reasonable sacrifice for Backblaze, and backplanes were what drove the success of Pods 1.0 to 3.0.

Backblaze has operated their business successfully for years now, mostly with backplane machines. But we experienced a number of challenges when we sold these to the larger storage community.

Conflicts with the Needs of Other Users

At 45 Drives, it is in our nature to get to know our customers and what they are doing (or want to do) with their pod. And we really can't help thinking about variations to the design, and how it might improve the pod for various applications. Because we are part of Protocase, a mass customizer and the fastest low-volume metal manufacturer on earth, evolving the design was an inevitable step for us and continues to be an ongoing endeavour. It's what we do.

Over the years, we have listened to feedback from hundreds of very bright people involved in a wide variety of applications. In addition to the standard pod designs, we have built a large number of customized pods (in fact, we end up customizing almost 50 per cent of pods to some degree).

Here's a summary of feedback we've received about the original pod design:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Large Storage Pods for Everyone Else: The Evolution of 45 Drives

Over the last couple of months, everyone at 45 Drives has been totally immersed in work related to “launching” the new Storinator models that just went up on our site last Friday. I put quotes around "launch" because it's not really a conventional product launch, because these new products have been built and sold for some time. In fact, just like the original large storage pods from Backblaze, they were built and used by clients of ours on a custom basis, and we've been quietly selling them in soft-launch for some time.

After our website went up late last week, we had some time to reflect on where we are, and we thought there were some interesting stories to tell about how large storage pods and the storage community created 45 Drives, and how we've been a conduit for the evolution of large storage pods. 

I'm writing this because I believe that some will find this story relevant and interesting, and maybe inspire others to develop their ideas to reshape and refine their own areas of computing, just like our friends at Backblaze reshaped large storage.

Chapter One - How 45 Drives Came to Be

Back around 2002, my friend and now business partner Steve Lilley and I founded Protocase, 45 Drives' parent company. Steve is a mechanical engineer who had worked his career in the electronics industry, eventually becoming VP Ops of a company that built electronics for marine navigation before working with me on various freelance technology projects. Protocase was born of the frustration that Steve, I and other colleagues experienced when we tried to buy custom electronic enclosures. The 'engineering quantities' that we needed weren't of interest to the larger, more sophisticated players, and the small shops who would take our jobs would bump us to the back of the lineup if larger orders came in. The rest is history – we were correct assuming that others felt our pain, and we've built a wonderful niche business by building enclosures, sheet metal parts, and, most recently, machined parts, for scientists and engineers across North America and around the world.

One particularly fascinating customer was Backblaze. This Silicon Valley-based startup was in the process of refining and implementing their vision of reinventing storage, and was feeling the same pain that Steve and I felt. We were fortunate that they stumbled on us, beginning a long and productive relationship. Protocase's design services and rapid mass-custom manufacturing allowed Tim Nufire and his staff to turn their ideas into physical reality. Through inspired design, hard work and multiple iterations, their thoughts were refined into the Large Storage Pod design that is the foundation of their business. (If you don't know about them, check them out at, they sell unlimited backup for your computer for $5/mo. via an internet connection and a brilliant little utility that buzzes away in the background. It doesn't slow your computer, and your data is always secure).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Welcome to the NEW Blog!

Cameron MacDonald here for 45 Drives, and on behalf of the entire team, I'd like to welcome you to the new 45 Drives Blog

We'll be using this space to give you an inside look into what's happening at 45 Drives. Here's what you can expect:

  • The first look at exciting new product launches and updates
  • Tips and tricks on specific hardware and software configurations to help you get the most out of your Storinator Storage Pods 
  • Go behind the scenes of the 45 Drives R&D lab
  • The chance to weigh in on the latest from 45 Drives, and share your feedback

And, of course, you'll meet the team who are on the forefront of the technology sector and the guys who are continuously developing new methods to maximize performance to meet your needs!

So stay tuned here on the 45 Drives Blog for exciting news and announcements you won't want to miss. 

Have a suggestion for something you'd like to see here on the blog? Let us know in the comments!