New RAID Storage for EngSoc

EngSoc is getting new servers — and what better way to start off than by replacing the crufty, decade-and-a-half old Apple XServe RAID server that had been the backing storage for all of the Club sites? Drawing 250W of power, and providing 1.2TB of space over 14 disks, the XServer RAID is definitely due for replacement.

Xserve was Apple’s one-time venture into commercial hardware. Unsurprisingly, it flopped.

Our replacement: a hand-spun server, providing 12TB of RAID storage over only 6 disks. The power footprint is also under 100W at the same time — 10 years makes a large difference, doesn’t it?  While the XServer RAID cost $5999 new in 2003, EngSoc’s solution cost only $1900 all told, all thanks to using off-the-shelf parts.

The new RAID — still hotswap, and still rack-mountable, but with commodity hardware backing it 

We’re using good old Gigabit Ethernet for all our datanet backbones, and this server has 4 network cards. That’s a lot of bandwidth — 500MB/s in fact, which is more than enough to saturate the 400MB/s write speeds of this new server. Going with commodity Gigabit ethernet is great, because it’s both cheap, well-established, and inter-operable with any computer than can connect to an ethernet switch. This gives us much more flexibility in our network design — previously, the fibre-channel network for the Xserve RAID meant it could only operate as a ‘slave’ to another box with with a fibrechannel card.

All of this means that EngSoc has lots of storage now for proper daily backups, and a proper CIFS/SAMBA share server with some redundancy. This will go a long way in giving myself (the sysadmin), the webmaster, and the EngSoc Officers a staging area for files, temporary backups, and shares.

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