Building a home file server with HP Proliant N40L

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Published on - Listed in Hardware Linux Samba

In the previous years I used a Western Digital MyBook World II (2x 500GB - Raid 1) as my personal backup device. For this purpose it was OK, as it's a very slow device. But as the MyBook slowly turned into an active share for my home network it came to it's limits. It's not very efficient to copy files with a rate of max ~11 MB/s when using a Gbit link. Time to upgrade and get a real thing!

A few weeks ago, a colleague told me that HP also produces Micro Servers for a very good price. I got a look at the N40L and it seems to have the exact requirements for a fast file server.

This little server features 4 x 3.5" disk slots and a dual core AMD Turion II processor at 1.5GHz. There are a lot of external USB slots, so additional external hard disks can be attached. I took the model with an embedded DVD RW drive to be able to burn data to discs if necessary. Another cool feature is an internal USB slot, which I used to install the operating system (Debian Squeeze) on. So the whole OS and its configuration is booting from the USB stick, while the disks are only for data.

And speaking of disks... Here's the only negative point. There's no hardware raid controller. It would have been nice to boot the server, go into some kind of raid BIOS and set up a raid for the disks. But no - there's no hardware raid. So my disk layout looks like this now:

HDD 1: Western Digital Caviar Green 2 TB (seen as /dev/sda)
HDD 2: Western Digital Caviar Green 2 TB (seen as /dev/sdb)
Internal USB Drive: 2 GB Standard USB stick (seen as /dev/sdc)

On /dev/sdc I created only a single partition which is mounted as / (root file system), formatted as ext3. The whole Debian Squeeze OS is installed on the stick. Of course this is a command-line only installation, otherwise the 2GB wouldn't probably suffice. As of now the OS (with Samba as file server already installed and running) uses around 40% of the 2 GB.
On /dev/sda and /dev/sdb I created the same disk layout: A single partition for LVM. After that I created the software raid and created a Volume Group in the LVM Manager. The VG called vgdata uses the created raid device /dev/md0 of course.

After the first successful boot, I set up the logical volumes: lvswap (4 GB) and lvdata (as for now 500 GB). To activate the swap, I did this:

mkswap /dev/vgdata/lvswap
swapon /dev/vgdata/lvswap

Once lvdata was formatted as ext3 and mounted, Samba was configured. Then finally the copy test! I copied some media files with a size of several GB to the share and the average copy/write rate was at ~70 MB/s. This is pretty much the full speed of the two disks in a raid 1. Of course this speed could be increased if I added two more disks and created another raid type, e.g. raid 5. But if I compare with what I had before I'm more than happy.

So enough now with the talk. Let's see some pictures.

Hp Proliant N40L
Hp Proliant N40L
Hp Proliant N40L
Hp Proliant N40L
Hp Proliant N40L

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Comments (newest first)

Claudio from Switzerland wrote on Jan 21st, 2013:

I reinstalled the server yesterday (bought a faster and bigger USB stick). Am using ext4 this time. I could've also just changed the fstab file and changed ext3 to ext4 if I were to continue with the old stick (there is no "formatting" necessary).

Claudio from Switzerland wrote on Jan 10th, 2013:

Hello Thomas,
Don't know if you're joking or not, but RAID-1 is the slowest (there's no striping of disks).
I actually didn't care which FS to use, I must have taken ext3 out of habit. The noise production is OK. You really have to sit right next to the micro server to hear it. I suppose as long as you don't put it into your bedroom you won't really be bothered by it. ;-)

Thomas from wrote on Jan 10th, 2013:

I thought raid5 is slower than raid1 ;-). Why do you using ext3 instead ext4 and what about the noise production, can you place it in your living room?



Marc from Germany wrote on Jan 3rd, 2013:

Dear Claudio,

i found you through the Nagios-Equallogic-Plugin.
However i wanted to mention, that you might also check OpenMediaVault.
I'm not related to it, i just installed it on my Acer H340 for the same reasons (more speed for Backup etc ;)
But i had real trouble, running it from USB-Thumb. In the end i decidet to install it to Harddisk :/ A Nice guy in OMV-IRC Channel told me, i could connect an old, small 2.5 Notebook-HDD to the USB-Slot and install the OS there. Just a thought ... ;)

BR Marc

PS: The Answer to your Captcha is VMWare, why did it block me? >.<