Storage Problems Part 1: Background

I mentioned my storage problems in previous posts. Really I’ve had the same issues ever since I started in with these dam computers. Each upgrade has really just temporally delayed the inevitable. I’ve done a few things right. I’ve always used high quality power supplies and UPS. The result is I’ve not had a major drive failure in 18 years. Not bad. But it’s only a matter of time.

My current desktop – a PowerMac Quad G5 – has two 500 GB SATA drives. One is the primary system drive. It’s backed up via Time Machine to a Time Capsule on the network. Then my Aperture library is also backed up on demand to an external drive. My research is also mirrored via the Subversion repository on the server, so it actually exists in at least three places. The second drive has just a bunch of media content. Mostly music samples – Logic, Live, Reason, Komplete libraries etc. – and sample content from things like Final Cut Studio. All the stuff on the second drive is replaceable from the original media, it just takes a few hours to reinstall so none of this is backed up. I originally purchased this machine with the two SATA drives thinking I would mirror them but alas that is not possible with the system drive, and this machine only has room for two drives.

My current server – a Mac Mini with OS X Leopard Server – has a small internal drive (80 GB I think too lazy to look) and an external drive for backup (about 120 GB say). There are several things I wish I could do on this box that I can’t because I don’t have space. There is no real solution to this problem as external drives (the consumer level devices I would likely purchase) require to many power supplies, take up to much space, and are just generally annoying and unreliable. The primary data on this machine is my email server, and my Subversion server. Their about 4 GB each. Another 40 GB or so is a copy of my iTunes library which is also on my G5. I just don’t want to ever have to feed 200+ CDs through a machine again so it’s redundant.

My current notebook – a MacBook Pro circa August 2007 – has a 160 GB drive. I’d have to say this is my primary machine as I move around a bit. I still prefer the G5 in terms of speed, display size, ergonomics, etc. but the MBP wins in portability.

If budget were no concern I think the perfect solution would be the Sun Fire X4540 with 48 TB I’d be set for a while, but who has $50,000 for a massive hard drive for their house. Not me. So, I’m trying to find more reasonable alternatives. At this point I think I have it narrowed down to either a Drobo, or building an OpenSolaris box. I’m heavily leaning toward the OpenSolaris solution as ZFS looks very cool, and it would give me a place to run virtual machines that I want to keep up on a more permanent basis. The Drobo has the price advantage at about $300 plus drives. Just quickly priced out an AMD based quad core with 4 GB for about $682. Might be able to do better, but for quick comparison it looks like double the cost for a way more functional box. Another thing to consider is the fact I have not had to work too hard at managing a server since going to the Mac several years ago. I hate to go back. But that is probably a story for another time.

At this point I’m heavily leaning toward building out an OpenSolaris box, but I think I need to do a little more research before I get ahead of myself. So, the next step in solving this problem is to completely define the problem.

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