HPE ML110 for ZFS

I've usually posted my ZFS NAS builds here, but there hasn't been a new one in a while.

Amazingly the SANS digital TR8x enclosure I bought in 2009 (8x2 RAID-Z2) just before the Thailand floods, had lasted about ten years and is still basically working, with two power supplies replaced, otherwise no problems. The Hitachi drives of that era seem indestructible. But I was running out of space and figured ten years was enough.

The older posts are here:

The truth is that I was holding my breath waiting for all-flash NAS to come down to reasonable prices. But what really happened is that SSDs got cheap enough that all our laptops have 512-1TB disks to backup now (not the small ones they used to). So in the end, I was too cheap to pay for all-flash this time around, so I went with 3.5" disks again, one more time. 

Mainly, there seemed to be a big tradeoff between space and noise, so it took some research to pick an enclosure.

As of 2019, there are lots of "quiet" 4-disk enclosures, but with RAID-Z2, you end up paying a lot for only 50% utilization, so I thought 5 disks for the RAID itself would be a minimum. More would be better. Interestingly, in my microserver gen8 (which is great), having only one PCI-e slot meant upgrades were limited. Internal storage worked great, and the SAS adapter broke out to 8 more disks, so I had a lot of storage. But there wasn't a second PCI-e available to do anything with, like a GPU for deep learning, or 10GB ethernet, or a second SAS adapter to move to bigger storage. This ruled out NUCs and other "compact" cases like the microserver for this version.

But the noise!

When you move up to 8-16 disk enclosures (3.5" for mass storage) things seem to get noisy. You're talking mostly about rack-mount gear with really big fans. So it's not very pleasant to have this kind of gear in your office.

I only found a few "tower" cases that had good airflow, with low noise. I heard very good things about the HPE ML110 gen10. This relatively compact box can be upgraded with an extra 4-disk hot-plug enclosure, for a total of 8 disks in one box, with a Xeon, tons of RAM, and even dual-CPU options if you want to spend tons of money.

Parts list for the ML110 build:

  • HP ML110 Gen 10 with Xeon 4108 and 4 LFF cas (P03686-S01)
  • HP 4-disk hot plug kit (total: 8 LFF drives) (869491-B21)
  • 6 x 10TB HGST, arranged as RAID-Z2 (for 36TB total) (60F27604)
  • 2 x Samsung SSD MZ-(1TB mirror) (7LH960NE)
  • Some adapters and knock-off rails from Amazon
  • An extra 32 GB ECC RAM from Crucial
Total for all of this is right around $100/TB, which is pretty good right now if you want a machine that can run real containers and not just act as a NAS. There are probably cheaper options if you only want a NAS with less RAM or CPU.

This machine uses nearly 100W, so I'm still trying to lower the idle power usage, but it has performed wonderfully so far. It's totally quiet when idle, and you hear the disks otherwise, but they're a lot quieter than the ones from 10 years ago.

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