[rescue] NetApp home users

Skeezics Boondoggle skeezics at q7.com
Mon May 31 18:31:47 CDT 2004

On Mon, 31 May 2004, Bill Bradford wrote:
> On Mon, May 31, 2004 at 12:43:59PM -0400, Curtis H. Wilbar Jr. wrote:
> > I'd like to get a NetApp for home, but ideally I'd want it to handle
> > 200+G of storage, and I'd like to do it with 18, 36, or 72 gig drives
> > and not 15 tons of 9gig storage (power consumption is important to me).
> > What are good NetApps for home use ???
> I'd love to have one of the ones that was actually a relabeled Dell box
> with custom firmware - it was an all-in-one box.  F85 or something?

The F85 and F87 were the all-in-one boxes.  (Actually, the new FAS250 is
basically just a DS14 drive shelf, with the filer "head" shrunk down to
fit inside one of the LRC slots!?)  I haven't had a chance to play with
those, but they were cheap enough that we considered using one low-end
filer for every 2-3 data collectors in our production environment, rather
than one honkin' big filer with gigabit interfaces to handle it all...

But nowadays more resellers (on Ebay and not) are starting to sell used
NetApp gear... there ought to be a renewed push on the "toasters" list to
get the company to provide free or very-low-cost hobbyist licenses... the
best bet may still be to contact a local sales office and shmooze the
field engineers. :-)

Also, there are some limits (now enforced in ONTAP) on single volume size
AND total overall disk capacity - basically, it's a marketing thing. :-(
The only serious difference between the F700-series hardware, for
instance, is NVRAM size (and slight differences in CPU clock speed and how
many PCI slots are available), but the F760 can serve up to 3TB, the 740
is half that, and the F720 is limited to 500GB.  On the NetApp web site
they provide spec sheets in PDF for each box, and those should tell you
how many disks/shelves the machine will "support".

For home use, I'd say that an F85/F87 would be neat 'cuz they're small and
self-contained.  Those are SCSI-based.

The F230/330/500-series machines are old enough now that used ones should
be cheap, but they've long fallen off software support, so your software 
choices stop at ONTAP 5.x.  These too use SCSI shelves and drives.

An F630 with the shiny metal faceplate is one of the *coolest* looking
boxes around - it uses an Alpha CPU instead of x86, and was the largest of
the SCSI-based filers (although you can configure it with FC-AL).  For
sheer "coolness factor", an F630 rocks the world. :-)

I'd say if you want a "low-end" home-use box that's still supported by
current software releases, the F720 is the best bet.  We've got one at
work that's been absolutely rock solid, been up for nearly 4 years, and in
a few months it'll be mine.  That'll make a nice upgrade to the F330. :-)

> I've got a 520 here but it and the driive shelves are to the point of 
> "not enough storage for power consumed".

Y'know, people tease me about that a lot - how my F330 + 7x 4GB drives is
a huge power sucking monster and has less capacity than a $5 20GB IDE
drive.  Sure, if I were to power on the other two shelves the balance
might tip, but I'm quite happy with the tradeoffs:

	Of 16GB of usable space, my collected home directory and archive 
	of well over 10 years of email, source code, projects, etc. still 
	takes about 6GB, so why in hell do I need a 250GB disk?  
	Seriously, how much pr0n does one person need? :-)

	In 8 years of running NetApps in all kinds of demanding
	environments, I have NEVER ONCE lost a file due to NetApp
	hardware or software failure.  And snapshots have saved my ass
	quite a few times, when my fat fingers or my tired brain failed
	me. :-)

	The NetApp is more reliable _and faster_ than the internal disks 
	of virtually any machine I own.  Some people still can't wrap 
	their head around the idea that going over the network to a 
	highly optimized, purpose-built fileserver can be faster than
	their local disk.  But for my machines (nearly all '80s/'90s 
	vintage) NFS over a 100baseT pipe to the filer is faster than
	banging on the local 5400rpm SCSI-II device.

Last Friday the stupid power company ruined my uptime streak - 496 days
and humming along smoothly... we had a 55 minute outage, but my old 2KVA
Liebert UPS gave me a little over 45 minutes (sigh) running the filer,
disk tray, quad-CPU SS20, 3Com switch, and Cisco 678.  If I had attached a
SCSI tray directly to the SS20, or done what most people suggest with a
"cheap PC" and "cheap drives" to provide NFS/SMB to the network, then
there'd have been little or no difference in the power consumption anyway.  

Yes, it's noisier and bulkier than other solutions, but that's why it
lives in the basement. :-)  And yes, if you only have one or two computers
in the house it's silly to have such a fancy/expensive file server on the
network, but when you've got 10-20 machines (at least 5-6 in continuous
use) it's silly NOT to!

And besides, the bottom line is NetApps are just freakin' cool.  :-)

-- Chris

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