Idle Musings

Sysadmin stuff

Building a NAS From an HP Microserver

I recently purchased an an HP ProLiant N40L Microserver from eBuyer to replace my old Drobo as a NAS. The Drobo was in fact more of a USB enclosure attached to a media PC than a true NAS, so I was keen to get an all-in-one solution. The £100 cashback offer seems to recur fairly often, so if it’s not offered at the time you’re looking, put the purchase on hold for a little while and it’ll probably come back.

Some noteworthy features of the N40L:

  • Low power dual core 1.5GHz processor
  • Capacity for 8GB RAM
  • Four drive bays which claim not to be hot-swappable but which can be made so with a BIOS modification (see top post)
  • Six AHCI SATA ports in total (one is an eSATA port on the back which can be used with an eSATA to SATA cable fed in through an empty PCI-E slot)
  • Small footprint, relatively low power consumption
  • An internal USB port for use if necessary - you could put your OS on a USB drive and have six storage drives in RAID if you wanted!

The server comes with a fairly standard 250GB Western Digital hard drive of its own installed in one of the main drive bays. I removed this and used the extra internal SATA port and power intended for a CD-ROM. After moving this, I installed the four 2TB hard drives I removed from the Drobo before selling it, then flashed the BIOS and imaged the server with Fedora 17, my current distro of choice.

Coming soon: Setting up Linux software RAID, and caveats to consider when using Western Digital WD20EARS “Green” drives (long story short: they have the “advanced format” 4KB sector layout as opposed to more standard 512-byte sectors and I didn’t realise this at the time, causing slow performance) - click here to read