TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Affordable NAS

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Networking

Affordable NAS

Integrating FreeNAS appliance software into a Mac environment

by Robert Staehl

What This Article Will Cover

The purpose of this article is to introduce the user to the potential of integrating a NAS device - an open source, Mac-friendly (AFP serving) NAS appliance - into a network environment. The article will focus on getting a FreeNAS device configured and running on a local network. FreeNAS includes several advanced features such LDAP and AD support that I do not cover in detail. This article will cover installation and configuration to a point allowing network access to the data stored on the device.

Why NAS?

NAS, or Network Attached Storage, is a means of sharing data and files via a network. A typical scenario is the use of a NAS device within a work group as a way to store information which allows multiple protocols access, such as NFS, SMB and AFP. As an example, in our office we work with applications that are specific to Mac or Windows systems that need to share common assets. A NAS is a logical solution that allows for the storage of such assets without the need to maintain a full file server. Even for a home network, a NAS appliance can be a rational location for the central storage of music and video libraries.

Why FreeNAS?

My personal experience started by attempting to use a boxed NAS solution available either on line or from the local computer shop. I found out the hard way that the major brands, while claiming to support OSX, integrate an older version of AFP that does not support long filenames. Being cheap to a fault and having extra Intel PC's hanging around my office, I decided to try out the Appliance Software route. There are other widely used NAS solutions that include 1u or 2u chassis preconfigured that only require adding drives: ReadyNAS looks to be a great solution. My goal was to build a cheap, massive (more than 4 drive) solution using mostly left over parts hanging around. To achieve this goal, FreeNAS fit my needs perfectly. An added benefit of using FreeNAS is that it is open source and can potentially be modified or expanded upon as my business evolves. A proprietary solution inherently lacks this flexibility.

Evolution of Appliance Software

Many specialized tasks have been distilled to a self-contained package of tools bundled with a compact version of an operating system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_Appliance). Appliance Software is perfect for dedicated tasks such as routers, mail servers, database applications, NAS systems and almost any other isolated task imaginable. There are various resources on the Internet for finding Appliance software but one of my favorites is the list hosted by VMWare (currently located at the following URL: http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/appliances/directory/). Appliance software can run the gamut from free open source, to commercial packages that can cost thousands of dollars. FreeNAS is an appliance software package. It is an open source initiative based on the FreeBSD kernel.

Getting FreeNAS

FreeNAS is available on the FreeNAS.org website. In the downloads section of site, there are several choices for versions and formats. Before downloading, it is best to consider how the appliance will be run. For my personal needs, a dedicated PC with a 3ware RAID card and 8 SATA drives is the plan. To save space in the case and avoid the added power demands of a dedicated hard drive for the OS, I've opted to run the operating system from a USB jump/thumb drive. The best option for this type of a setup is to obtain the .iso of the latest build of FreeNAS. Normally for a production environment I'd recommend only downloading the latest 'Stable' version of an open source package. But since FreeNAS is currently still in pre-release (there is no 1.0 version yet), beta is the only option. As with any new technology introduction, standard disclaimers apply: test, test, and test prior to deployment to production!

Target Box

My target machine is a standard Intel based PC with a 3ware 8500 series 8-port SATA card. Except for the RAID card, the PC is built with generic components (including motherboard, processor, ram and NIC). The power supply is 500 watt with lots of drive connectors. I found a 'RaidMax' chassis at a local Fry's store with lots of room for drives and good cooling. For purposes of installing the FreeNAS software, I included a CD-ROM drive in the machine build. The only potential 'gotcha' is the system BIOS will need to support booting from USB if the OS is to be installed on the jump/thumb drive.

Installation and Configuration

Burn a CD from the ISO image you downloaded from FreeNAS.org, and boot the PC from it - set the BIOS of the PC to boot from the CD if you must. The PC should boot with a FreeBSD kernel and detect the hardware connected. After the completion of the boot process, there should be a console setup menu with 9 choices. Insert the target USB jump/thumb drive, the console should return some messages that the drive has been detected. Since we plan to install to the USB drive we select item 9 in the list ('Install to a hard drive/memory drive/USB pen, etc.'). After some warning about erasing data on target drives there should be a submenu of 4 choices. Sub-item 1 will install the FreeNAS using all available space on the USB drive. After selecting a single or two partition install (Sub-item 2), the installer will ask for the location of the source data (the CD-ROM). In my case, device 'acd0' is my source drive. So, I type 'acd0' at the prompt (without the quotes). After hitting return, the installer lists all the potential target drives for installation. In my case, again, device 'da0' is the USB drive, so I type that name at the prompt. After a few minutes, the installation should complete and provide instructions for rebooting the system. The CD can also now be removed. The complete FreeNAS installation consumes less than 40 megabytes so it should fit on almost any spare or unused USB drive.

On the next reboot, the BIOS will need to be tweaked again to set the USB drive as the primary device. After proper configuration of the BIOS, the machine should boot into the FreeNAS OS from the USB drive (if your machine supports doing so). Otherwise, you can always install on a hard drive. When the system is booted, the original 9-item menu should present itself again. The first order of business will be to setup the network. Item 1 in the menu is used to Assign Interfaces. Meaning that if the system will have more than one NIC, this is where they could be set to WAN and LAN. For my purposes, the NAS device will only be used on the local network so I only need to configure a single NIC as the LAN. After assignment of the interface, the system may need to be rebooted. This should be the last reboot until the system needs to be taken offline for maintenance.

We should be back to the 9-item menu. This time select item '2', this is used to assign an IP address to the device. I like to manually assign an IP rather than use DHCP, that way, I can set my local DNS to point directly to the box and assign a name like nas.mydomain.com to the IP. Follow the on-screen instructions to assign an IP and subnet to the LAN. The last task at the console is assigning a webGUI password (item 3). Set an appropriate password by following the on screen instructions.

WebGUI

It's now safe to leave the console and return to a machine running a friendlier interface. From another machine on the same subnet, launch a browser and connect to the IP assigned to the FreeNAS box. An authentication window should be presented. The username is 'admin', the password should be whatever you assigned in the last step at the console. If everything worked correctly, there should be an interface that appears similar to that of figure 1.


Figure 1 - The FreeNAS web console

From this GUI, the appliance can now be configured for the installed drives and how the users on the network will see the drives. The first order of business is to show the FreeNAS OS the drives to share. One of the reasons I like 3ware RAID cards is that support for them is built into the kernel of FreeBSD (and hence into FreeNAS). 3ware has a BIOS-level interface that allows the drives to be configured as a RAID device. In my case, I used that interface to create a 7-drive raid 5 system with one hot spare. FreeNAS sees the 3ware card and all 8 drives as a single disk. From the left navigation tools, select the Disks > Management tool then click on the small plus symbol towards the right edge of the screen to add a drive to be managed by FreeNAS. A subsequent screen will appear that allows selection of all the drives seen by FreeNAS. If there is existing data on the selected drive that needs to be saved, there is an option at the bottom of this subsequent screen to allow selection of the preformatted file system. Be sure to use the 'Apply Changes' button or nothing will be modified.

Of note is that HFS or HFS+ are not options, since these are Apple-centric file systems. If the drives are using HFS or HFS+ and the data needs to be preserved, the drives will need to be backed up from a Mac then restored to the NAS after it has been configured.

Once a disk as been set in the Management panel it can then be formatted using the Disks > Format tool. There are also tools for the creation of Software RAID and data Encryption. In my personal experience, the Software RAID was not reliable and I wouldn't recommend its use for any data that isn't being replicated someplace else. After the Format command is initiated on one of the disks created in the Management section, which might take a few minutes to complete, the webGUI should return a window with the super-block data for the drive. At the bottom of that window (hopefully) will be a 'Done!' message. Using the Disks > Mount Points tool the newly formatted drive should be visible. It should be set with a Share Name.

Using the Access > Users and Groups command first create a Group (from the Group tab at the top of the screen). Then add a user. If your network has an LDAP or AD server, you can point the FreeNAS to that device for a list of users.

The last step in the process is to set up the sharing services. From the Services menu, select AFP (assuming the goal is to put the new NAS device on an Mac network). Click the 'Enable' checkbox in the upper right corner. Then assign a name to the server. Set the Authentication as appropriate. Don't forget to click the 'Save and Restart AFP' button.

Test the box by using the Finder > Go > Connect to Server menu and connect to afp://111.111.111.111 (substituting the IP address assigned to the FreeNAS device). If all went well, a standard OS X authentication will appear. The user name created in the webGUI should allow mounting of the shared drive.

Now What?

The beauty of FreeNAS solution is the unlimited potential to customize the device. There is no reason the kernel or installation environment could not be hacked to install almost any tool available in the FreeBSD ports collection. Some examples relevant to the example system would be installation of the 3ware command line tools to administer the RAID device. To be truly fancy, a full version of Apache could be installed and add the 3ware web administration tool. Ideas I've had, but haven't had the time to execute, would be to create an asset browser for image viewing on the network, or adding a subversion control database to the NAS for collaboration and project management.


VIZf/x is an architectural rendering and animation service organization based in Northern California. Robert Staehle is the principal owner of VIZf/x and is an architect and self-educated sys admin. He can be reached via email at: info@vizfx.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Postbox 5.0.9 - Powerful and flexible em...
Postbox is a new email application that helps you organize your work life and get stuff done. It has all the elegance and simplicity of Apple Mail, but with more power and flexibility to manage even... Read more
DiskCatalogMaker 6.5.16 - Catalog your d...
DiskCatalogMaker is a simple disk management tool which catalogs disks. Simple, light-weight, and fast. Finder-like intuitive look and feel. Super-fast search algorithm. Can compress catalog data... Read more
TrailRunner 3.8.827 - Route planning for...
TrailRunner is the perfect companion for runners, bikers, hikers, and all people wandering under the sky. Plan routes on a geographical map. Import GPS or workout recordings and journalize your... Read more
VueScan 9.5.61 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Postbox 5.0.9 - Powerful and flexible em...
Postbox is a new email application that helps you organize your work life and get stuff done. It has all the elegance and simplicity of Apple Mail, but with more power and flexibility to manage even... Read more
VueScan 9.5.61 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
DiskCatalogMaker 6.5.16 - Catalog your d...
DiskCatalogMaker is a simple disk management tool which catalogs disks. Simple, light-weight, and fast. Finder-like intuitive look and feel. Super-fast search algorithm. Can compress catalog data... Read more
TrailRunner 3.8.827 - Route planning for...
TrailRunner is the perfect companion for runners, bikers, hikers, and all people wandering under the sky. Plan routes on a geographical map. Import GPS or workout recordings and journalize your... Read more
Civilization VI 1.0.1 - Next iteration o...
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the next entry in the popular Civilization franchise. Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a strategy game in which you attempt to... Read more
Chromium 55.0.2883.75 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 55.0.2883.75: Security fixes: High CVE-2016... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Amateur Surgeon 4 Guide: Become the worl...
It's time to wield your trusty pizza cutter again, as Amateur Surgeon has returned with a whole fresh set of challenges (and some old, familiar ones, too). Starting anew isn't easy, especially when all you have at your disposal is a lighter, the... | Read more »
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire (Ga...
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Telltale Games really is working on a Gu...
Telltale Games' next episodic adventure is indeed Guardians of the Galaxy. A document tied to the voice actors strike suggested that the project was in the work, but now we have direct confirmation following an announcement at the Game Awards that... | Read more »
Amateur Surgeon returns to iOS and Andro...
Amateur Surgeon and its two sequels disappeared from the App Store some time and it was sad days for all. But now, just in time for the holidays, the Adult Swim favorite makes its joyous return in the shape of Amateur Surgeon 4, a remake with... | Read more »
The best board games on mobile
Sometimes you need to ditch all of the high speed, high action games in favor of something a little more traditional. If you don't feel like parting ways from your mobile device, though, there are still plenty of ways to get that old-school fix.... | Read more »
The best Facebook Messenger Instant Game...
Facebook's new Instant Games is now here, meaning you can play games with your friends directly via Facebook. It's a fun new way to connect with friends, of course, but it's also proving to be a solid gaming experience in its own right, with a... | Read more »
You can now play game's on Facebook...
Facebook launched its new Instant Games platform in an exciting new attempt to engage its user base. As a result, you can now play a number of different games directly through Facebook Messenger. All of these games run with HTML5, meaning you play... | Read more »
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney (Games)
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney 1.00.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.00.00 (iTunes) Description: Court Is Back In Session Star as rookie defense attorney, Apollo Justice, as he visits crime scenes,... | Read more »
KORG iWAVESTATION (Music)
KORG iWAVESTATION 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $19.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A revolutionary new world of sound.The Wave Sequence Synthesizer for iPad - KORG iWAVESTATION | Read more »
Don't Grind Guide: Tips for becomin...
Don’t Grind is a surprising, derpy little one touch game with fun hand-drawn graphics. The goal is simple -- get the high score without being chopped to bits. That can be tough when you’re not used to the game, and that’s compounded by the fact... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Holiday sale: Apple MacBook Airs available fo...
B&H Photo has 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (MMGF2LL/A): $899 $100 off MSRP - 13″ 1.6GHz/... Read more
13-inch Silver Touch Bar MacBook Pro in stock...
Amazon has the new 2016 13″ 2.9GHz/256GB Silver Touch Bar MacBook Pro (MLVP2LL/A) in stock today and on sale for $1749 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price... Read more
Parallels Toolbox 1.3 for Mac Offers 25 Singl...
Parallels has launched Parallels Toolbox 1.3 for Mac, an upgrade that adds five new utilities to the stand-alone application which was released in August and is available exclusively online at http... Read more
OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini Ultra-Portabl...
OWC has introduced the new OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini, a powerful yet ultra-portable dual-drive RAID solution. The new Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini packs phenomenal performance into a small... Read more
Clearance 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros availab...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ Retina Apple MacBook Pros available for up to $200 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $... Read more
Roundup of 2016 13-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro sa...
B&H has the non-Touch Bar 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1449 $... Read more
New 13-inch 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro in...
Adorama has the new 13″ 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar, MLL42LL/A) in stock for $1499 including a free 3-year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax... Read more
Finnair Adopts iOS Enterprise iPad Apps from...
Finnair and IBM have announced a first-of-its-kind agreement to utilize iOS enterprise apps from IBM to support the airline’s overall digital transformation. Finnair is focused on Asia-Europe traffic... Read more
Tech21 Launches Evo Go iPhone 7 Case Availabl...
Tech21 has announced the launch of the Evo Go case for Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, exclusively at T-Mobile. Available online and at participating T-Mobile stores nationwide, Evo Go cases start... Read more
Apple Turns (RED) with More Ways to Join the...
In recognition of World AIDS Day, Apple is offering more ways than ever for customers to join (RED) in its mission to create an AIDS-free generation. Apple is the worlds largest corporate contributor... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Kansas...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Chicago...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Hardware Design Validation Engineer - *Apple...
The Apple Watch team is looking for a Hardware Design Validation Engineer. This person will be part of the Apple Watch hardware team with responsibilities for Read more
SW Engineer *Apple* TV Frameworks - Apple I...
The Apple TV team is looking for a software...create features that reflect the look and feel of Apple TV. Description: Were looking for someone who is Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Greenwi...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.