Freenas vs Unraid

server-freebsd

#1

I have been using an old iMac as a PMS and an even older ReadyNAS Ultra4 to hold my media. it is time for an upgrade. I am going to build a Xeon based server to handle the transcoding I need for all my friends and family that share my server. The real question is, what OS to use with the server?

The main purpose of the server will be as a plex media server. I currently have about 8TB of data on the ReadyNAS.

I am leaning towards freeNAS with its ZFS file system. I like the idea of adding disks in bunches, creating a vdev and adding it to the pool. I don't plan on buying disks 1 at time, and I don't have a bunch of disks with different sizes laying around.

Seeing that this is the FreeBSD forum, what are the advantages of freeNAS over unRAID? I will post the same question on the unRAID forum to get that side of the discussion as well.

Thanks for the input.


#2

I did a lot of research on different NAS systems before I went ahead with FreeNAS. A couple things swayed me. Reading up on ZFS convinced me it is a file system for the future. Secondly, the FreeNAS forum support is second to none. My questions were answered almost instantly. Of course, one you have your iron you can try any OS you want. I experimented for the first three months I had my gear.


#3

unRAID is also "not RAID". It's its own solution, that sort of acts like a subset of what real RAID provides but falls critically short while providing a false sense of security. Most unRAID advocates have never dealt with a real hard drive failure, or haven't been able to connect the dots of the silent corruption they occasionally experience being connected to unRAID being a really poor solution. The remainder of unRAID advocates are too scared to use something serious like FreeNAS/ZFS.

There's really no comparison when you really dig into it. ZFS is the "real deal", and is a whole separate filesystem built by Sun Microsystems around the concept of redundancy across multiple disks. FreeNAS is a front-end for FreeBSD, which is arguably one of the most solid, mature and stable OSes out there, especially when it comes to servers. Which is what you're building here.

The biggest hurdles with FreeNAS that scare people to give up and just go with unRAID are:

1) The learning curve to build the computer and set up the software.
2) Less flexibility in configuring the array (adding disks, etc).

The rewards for overcoming 1 & 2 are huge, though. It's the difference between taking a Powerwheels jeep on a safari, and getting a great deal on a new Land Rover.


#4

@sremick said:

The biggest hurdles with FreeNAS that scare people to give up and just go with unRAID are:

1) The learning curve to build the computer and set up the software.

FreeNAS 10 is making significant strides in this regard, at least on the software setup. I look very much forward to the first release.


#5

@sremick said:
unRAID is also "not RAID". It's its own solution, that sort of acts like a subset of what real RAID provides but falls critically short while providing a false sense of security. Most unRAID advocates have never dealt with a real hard drive failure, or haven't been able to connect the dots of the silent corruption they occasionally experience being connected to unRAID being a really poor solution. The remainder of unRAID advocates are too scared to use something serious like FreeNAS/ZFS.

There's really no comparison when you really dig into it. ZFS is the "real deal", and is a whole separate filesystem built by Sun Microsystems around the concept of redundancy across multiple disks. FreeNAS is a front-end for FreeBSD, which is arguably one of the most solid, mature and stable OSes out there, especially when it comes to servers. Which is what you're building here.

The biggest hurdles with FreeNAS that scare people to give up and just go with unRAID are:

1) The learning curve to build the computer and set up the software.
2) Less flexibility in configuring the array (adding disks, etc).

The rewards for overcoming 1 & 2 are huge, though. It's the difference between taking a Powerwheels jeep on a safari, and getting a great deal on a new Land Rover.

I'm researching converting my server over to possibly FreeNAS or unRAID or maybe something different. My main concern is with your #2 as I like the flexibility to be able to add/upgrade disks on the fly (currently using SnapRAID), which seems to be something unRAID is better at than FreeNAS.

But wow... The elitist attitude that oozes out of your response here is the kind thing that turns people off. Acting like other people, that might choose a different solution for any number of reasons, are stupid and worms beneath you does not impress.


#6

I've always said it comes down to: How much is your data worth to you?

  • ZFS is an enterprise-grade storage solution; unRAID is not. There are several failure cases that ZFS can survive that unRAID cannot.
  • Performance is greater with ZFS. unRAID relies on cache drives to mitigate some of its performance loss in its architecture but this comes at a cost of a longer window of opportunity of data loss (on writes).
  • ZFS has several integrity guarantees that I've yet to see matched by any other system (including other enterprise-grade systems). These guarantees come at a cost of less flexibility.
  • ZFS is well documented. I've searched several times and failed to find an detailed architecture of how unRAID truly works underneath. It's difficult to evaluate the failure cases which are survivable vs catastrophic when this information is lacking.

On flexibility, here are the limits:

  • ZFS is a filesystem and multiple ZFS filesystems can exist on the same pool (zpool) of storage sharing the space. Each can use up to the available storage in the pool (unless quotas and/or reservations are set). A filesystem is contained entirely withing a single pool.
  • A pool (the underlying storage) is comprised of one or more vdevs.
  • A vdev is either a single disk (not recommended), a mirror (multiple drives with identical data on each drive), raidz1 (like raid5), raidz2 (like raid6), or raidz3 (3 redundant drives, no raid equivalent exists for this).
  • Once a vdev is added to the pool, it cannot be removed
  • A vdev cannot be changed in type nor configuration. A raidz2 will always be a raidz2 and it's number of disks cannot be changed. For example, you cannot change a 6 disk raidz2 to and 8 disk raidz2. The only exception to this is you can add and removed mirrors as you see fit (you can change a 3 disk mirror to a 2 disk mirror).
  • A vdev cannot be shrunk. You cannot replace the disks in a vdev with smaller disks. If a disk is replaced, it must be the same size or larger.
  • A vdev behaves as if each disk in the vdev is the size of the smallest disk. A vdev of 4, 4, 5, 5, 6TB disks will behave as if each disk were only 4TB.

Expansion can be done via:

  • A vdev can be expanded by replaced each disk with a larger disk. Once all disks are larger disks, the vdev can be expanded and the pool of available storage will increase.
  • A vdev can be added to the pool.

So, the limits mean that you have to do advance planning and upgrades are less incremental. I tend to use 6-wide raidz2 vdevs for media which means any expansion will be 6 drives at a time. Also, if you wish to reconfigure the pool entirely (different types or fewer vdevs), you need to either backup/restore or construct the new pool and zfs send the filesystems from the old pool to the new one. Then you can destroy the old pool.

So, as per how much is your data worth to you? ZFS requires more planning and fewer but higher cost incremental upgrades, but it survives more failure cases. So you have to answer for yourself where you fall on the cost/integrity trade-off.

P.S. As per the elitist attitude, I wouldn't say he was being elitists but more frustrated with the unRAID advocates trying to pass it off as more than it really is.


#7

@deusxanime said:

@sremick said:
unRAID is also “not RAID”. It’s its own solution, that sort of acts like a subset of what real RAID provides but falls critically short while providing a false sense of security. Most unRAID advocates have never dealt with a real hard drive failure, or haven’t been able to connect the dots of the silent corruption they occasionally experience being connected to unRAID being a really poor solution. The remainder of unRAID advocates are too scared to use something serious like FreeNAS/ZFS.

There’s really no comparison when you really dig into it. ZFS is the “real deal”, and is a whole separate filesystem built by Sun Microsystems around the concept of redundancy across multiple disks. FreeNAS is a front-end for FreeBSD, which is arguably one of the most solid, mature and stable OSes out there, especially when it comes to servers. Which is what you’re building here.

The biggest hurdles with FreeNAS that scare people to give up and just go with unRAID are:

  1. The learning curve to build the computer and set up the software.
  2. Less flexibility in configuring the array (adding disks, etc).

The rewards for overcoming 1 & 2 are huge, though. It’s the difference between taking a Powerwheels jeep on a safari, and getting a great deal on a new Land Rover.

I’m researching converting my server over to possibly FreeNAS or unRAID or maybe something different. My main concern is with your #2 as I like the flexibility to be able to add/upgrade disks on the fly (currently using SnapRAID), which seems to be something unRAID is better at than FreeNAS.

But wow… The elitist attitude that oozes out of your response here is the kind thing that turns people off. Acting like other people, that might choose a different solution for any number of reasons, are stupid and worms beneath you does not impress.

It’s not elitist but rather the truth. Maybe you just have an issue with accepting logical relevant information. If you do not care about your data go with unRaid. If you do then FreeNAS is what you want.


#8

@notjoe said:
It’s not elitist but rather the truth. Maybe you just have an issue with accepting logical relevant information. If you do not care about your data go with unRaid. If you do then FreeNAS is what you want.

Thanks for proving my point, but get off your high horse. It is not “the truth”. Spouting absolute statements like that as if they are fact is what I’m talking about. Both have their place and their pros and cons. Also making disingenuous statements like “If you do not care about your data go with unRaid” as if somehow unRAID doesn’t protect your data makes you sound like some sort of sleazy FreeNAS used car salesman patently lying about the competition. Of course unRAID protects your data, with up to dual parity. Oh and also if you have more failures than that you can still read the remaining data using a normal system if you want, unlike ZFS.

It’s just downright sad you had to dig up this 6+ month old thread just to come in here put down unRAID, for what ends I don’t even know. I’ve been running it for most of that time now and it has worked great. I’ve been able to add drives whenever I want (it was sure nice when those WD EasyStore Red 8TB drives were dirt cheap and I could drop a couple in at a time) and has been working with aplomb. Sorry myself and the probably tens of thousands of other unRAID users happily running that OS have somehow offended you in some way.


#9

As someone who ran Napp-IT on OmniOS (and other OS’s) for many years on multiple servers, I can appreciate the benefits of ZFS. I really do for the most part like ZFS, but to say that ZFS is completely rock solid isn’t the entire truth. Google “ZFS data corruption” and start reading. I personally have had a number of data integrity issues over the years. I came very close to losing significant data a handful of times. Most of the time I was able to Google-Fu my way through it but a few times I had to engage paid professional services. The last and final issue I had ate up many days worth of time from myself and multiple online experts and even OmniTI could not get my data back.

That last issue was the final straw on my back. Yes overall the number of problems I had with ZFS were few and far between. Yes, I could have uptime in the years. But when a problem DID occur it had a very high chance of being rocket science and I felt like I was walking a thin edge which if I failed I would lose data.

Before you go down that path ALL of my servers are enterprise grade (mostly Supermicro, I love SM, but I have HP, Dells and a few IBM/Fujitsu bits) all with ECC ram and enterprise hard drives/SSDs. I do run a few non-server grade boxes doing a few things here and there (mostly Dell Micro 7020/40s) but those are not running ZFS.

So in the end, I moved mostly from ZFS. I’ve tried a number of solutions, some better than others but over the last few years I sleep better AND I haven’t lost a single file. I do value my data, some of it more than others and things like my wife’s dissertation, research, and family pics most of all. I’ve learned that depending on ANY solution (even enterprise ones like ZFS) isn’t enough. All my PC’s run on mirrored drives, these are incrementally backed up onto designated NAS boxes with RAID6 (or equivalent) configs. Anything that is important is then backed up onto Google Drive and Backblaze B2.

So yes I can sit here on a high horse and tell you that it really just comes down to how valuable your data is to you. If you don’t value your data VERY much then run in on ZFS. But if you REALLY value your data then use the formula of 3+ copies = 1+ copy. But then I would sound kind of like a bit of a jerk.


#10

@Nnyan said:
As someone who ran Napp-IT on OmniOS (and other OS’s) for many years on multiple servers, I can appreciate the benefits of ZFS. I really do for the most part like ZFS, but to say that ZFS is completely rock solid isn’t the entire truth. Google “ZFS data corruption” and start reading. I personally have had a number of data integrity issues over the years. I came very close to losing significant data a handful of times. Most of the time I was able to Google-Fu my way through it but a few times I had to engage paid professional services. The last and final issue I had ate up many days worth of time from myself and multiple online experts and even OmniTI could not get my data back.

That last issue was the final straw on my back. Yes overall the number of problems I had with ZFS were few and far between. Yes, I could have uptime in the years. But when a problem DID occur it had a very high chance of being rocket science and I felt like I was walking a thin edge which if I failed I would lose data.

Before you go down that path ALL of my servers are enterprise grade (mostly Supermicro, I love SM, but I have HP, Dells and a few IBM/Fujitsu bits) all with ECC ram and enterprise hard drives/SSDs. I do run a few non-server grade boxes doing a few things here and there (mostly Dell Micro 7020/40s) but those are not running ZFS.

So in the end, I moved mostly from ZFS. I’ve tried a number of solutions, some better than others but over the last few years I sleep better AND I haven’t lost a single file. I do value my data, some of it more than others and things like my wife’s dissertation, research, and family pics most of all. I’ve learned that depending on ANY solution (even enterprise ones like ZFS) isn’t enough. All my PC’s run on mirrored drives, these are incrementally backed up onto designated NAS boxes with RAID6 (or equivalent) configs. Anything that is important is then backed up onto Google Drive and Backblaze B2.

So yes I can sit here on a high horse and tell you that it really just comes down to how valuable your data is to you. If you don’t value your data VERY much then run in on ZFS. But if you REALLY value your data then use the formula of 3+ copies = 1+ copy. But then I would sound kind of like a bit of a jerk.

Maybe you have just had some bad luck or I had good luck because I have been using ZFS and Freenas for over 6 years, since the 8.0 days and had very few issues when it came to data integrity. Don’t get me wrong there have been issues with Freenas throughout the years, but when it came to my data that is one area that I had not experienced any problems. I have gone through multiple setups, arrays, and replace multiple failed drives over the years without any issues. I only use RaidZ2, which really should be the minimum, RaidZ is really not redundant enough.

Recently I even upgraded an 8 drive array to larger drives replacing each one until all have been re-built and then the array expanded automatically. This went with out any issues. So why yes there can be issues with any filesystem, from my own experience ZFS is pretty darn stable, but nothing is completely rock solid period.

I also did not use Freenas 10, I went right to 11 from 9. That is the one area that iXsystems really failed on badly, and the whole situation was poorly handled. Thankfully Freenas 11 seems to be prioritizing reliability/stability over features, for the most part.