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My workstation is running OpenSolaris - the main reason is for its ZFS support. I've been really happy with it so far and my data is still in good shape!

Workstation SPEC:

  • 8G MEM (VM purpose)
  • 6x1TB HD (storage)
  • Quad Core Intel Q6600

I bought this hardware with storage and visualization in mind.

Ideally I should have two boxes - one NAS server, doing only this and nothing else, and a workstation running a more user-friendly OS. However I can't make up my mind. These are all my ideas, please guys tell me what you think. I want to avoid overkill.

Goal:

  • Dev platform
  • Multimedia
  • Virtualisation
  • Storage

Ideas:

  1. Ubuntu on my workstation and running OpenSolaris in a VM using raw disk and I should be able to import all my drive without losing data. And have a nice and friendly OS.

  2. Spending some money and put my disk in a cheap box and then only use it as a NAS

  3. Core i5 + 8G -> Running OpenSolaris NAS + VM

  4. Spending even more money to get a Core i5 and run ESXi on it, create a VM with OpenSolaris, and import all my disk.

Any thoughts?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 15 '10 at 15:29

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3 Answers

Do you know about ZFS-Fuse? It's stable and fast enough for everyday use now. I'd really recommend it over running an OpenSolaris VM just for ZFS, especially now that OpenSolaris has been discontinued.

If you want a dedicated ZFS NAS, take a look at FreeNAS.

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Are you running OpenSolaris as a VM because you want ZFS? If so there are a couple options for Linux you could try.

One possible option has already been mentioned which is the ZFS FUSE project. I have used this in conjuction with ESXi and have found that when combining it with an iSCSI target it becomes a little too slow for really good performance. For me VMware complained a lot about the latency increasing between the server and the storage target.

Your other option is a project started by a group over at Lawrence Livermore National Labs. They are in the process of porting ZFS over to native Linux kernel modules. I have also used this after having issues with the FUSE equivilent.

I have to say its not quite complete but had all of the feauters I required (raid and dedup). Currently they are up to v0.6.0-RC9 which is based on ZFS pool v28 and FS v5.

I am not sure where OpenSolaris currently stands on ZFS version.

The benefit of running ZFS as native kernel module is you can access ZFS vdisks as native block devices inside of Linux meaning you can format the whole disk with ZFS instead of having to format it so you can store the VM and then having the vdisk on top of that. This way should provide better performance.

One disclaimer that I found after little research, ZFS on Linux is NOT BOOTABLE with out a little work. The link I have included is for Ubuntu which I have had sucess with in the past.

As far as what to do about VMs, you have a few option like you mentioned. I personally run an ESXi server and VMware Workstation. It really come down to what you plan to do with the VM, for example Multimedia will work better on VMware Workstation.

Straight virtualization such a hosting servers will work better on ESXi because it was pretty much built for that purpose and becasue of that has some picky hardware requirements. Not everything is supported by ESXi.

If you are using virtualization to achieve a multi-platform development environment then I would go with VMware Workstation it only $199 and $80 off if you are a student.

Hope this helps a little.

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Please don't use virtualization on that Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor! While it won't be a total waste if you insist on doing it anyway, there is a huge disincentive to doing so: your processor is so old that it does not have the Extended Page Tables (EPT) CPU instructions. This means that page tables in the guest have to be emulated in software, which is slow. Benchmarks comparing performance between EPT-enabled and non-EPT processors heavily favor the EPT processors.

Since EPT has been on three generations of Intel CPUs by now (original Nehalem / Core i7, Sandy Bridge, and Ivy Bridge), your hardware is, frankly, obsolete for the purpose of virtualization. So either don't virtualize, or upgrade.

The rule of thumb is: if the processor's branding is named "Core i" followed by a number, it has EPT. If the processor's branding has anything else in the name, it almost assuredly does not have EPT. This only takes into account mainstream desktop processors; server processors such as Xeon also offer EPT, but the rules for determining which processors have it and which don't are less clear.... you're better off reading the detailed tech spec sheets in that case.

I am not making a product recommendation here; I am merely cautioning you that your current hardware is extremely suboptimal for full operating system virtualization, compared to other products that are readily available on the market. EPT isn't anything new; I've owned multiple PCs with it since 2009. It really is the key to opening up like-native performance in virtualized guests, especially on the desktop.

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