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Bare Metal

Antec 900Bare metal recovery. The equivalent of of a nuclear accident in IT terms. It happened to me on Monday.

Once again I hit the ceiling of my server’s storage capacity. I was going to add two new terabyte disks. I shut down the server. It has been in operation for over twelve months and needed a cleanup. After adding the drives, I turned it back on. The system drive was dead!

Drives die inevitably, this is why RAID is such a good thing. I keep all of my data in RAID, but not the system. It’s a box that can stand a little bit of downtime, and setting it up from scratch is always an opportunity to clean up and improve it. An upgrade was already planned for later this year, but I had no choice now.

The ten year old Dell XPS-T500 has served me well. It has been upgraded many times, but the core is still the old Pentium III, the SuperMicro disk rack was stacked on top of it with cables dangling all over, and it was painfully slow when rendering VR – although this happened in overnight batches, so I did not really mind.

While the new box was on transit with UPS, I quickly loaded FreeBSD on my old spare workstation (AMD Athlon XP 2500+). It will become my next server. The data migrated overnight. 2x250GB + 2x500GB moved over to the new 2x1TB. No data was lost.

I always use RAID1 for storage even if it is less space efficient than RAID5. In a RAID5 configuration the controller is the single point of failure. The disks are useless without the specific controller. With RAID1 I can simply connect one of the two disks to the onboard SATA controller of any motherboard and access all the data. Not all RAID1 can do this, but the one set up on the RocketRAID 2220 can.

The box arrived today. It’s an Antec 900. A gamer’s box. Just perfect for a server with its nine 5″25 bays and huge cooling capacity. I had to modify it a little bit to accept the SuperMicro disk rack, even if the two front loaded cages are in the same 3×5″25 form factor. Besides that, the physical install went well. There are now nine drives in that box, and I will continue to phase out the older, smaller drives for newer, larger ones.

I planned to wait for FreeBSD 7 (which is currently at the 7.0 release candidate). Instead I installed FreeBSD 6.3. It was the opportunity to upgrade it to MySQL 5.1, and to Apache 2.2. With the documentation from the old setup, 80% functionality was restored within a few hours. Tomorrow is business as usual again.

One Response

  1. Most important: good ventilation of the disks to increase their longevity.

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