A new server and a new RAID setup

So my current hosted server is getting a bit old. It’s not got enough RAM, and the disk in it is failing (yes, I did have RAID, more on that later). So it’s about time to get a replacement in.

The guys over at Netrino have just installed a new machine for me. I say new, but it’s not a brand spanking new bleeding edge state of the art all singing all dancing machine costing a million pounds. It’s just an Intel Celeron 2Ghz, with 1GB of RAM, and two 80GB hard disks. The main thing is the increased RAM, and two new (and hopefully working) disks.

Things didn’t get off to a good start on day 1 – they didn’t have a FreeBSD CD to hand. They “kindly” left me a USB dongle containing a variety of Linux installers, so I had a play with them in the hope that I could somehow bootstrap a FreeBSD install from one. After some googling I found the Depenguinator that claimed to do exactly what I needed. A few hours later I discovered it didn’t – probably because its not been updated for more recent FreeBSD versions.

On day 2 things got off to a better start – a FreeBSD 6.1 CD arrived in the CD-ROM drive and booted nicely. I had a quick play around to check everything – particularly the network card – worked, and thankfully it all did. Next came the installation.

One area I’ve had quite a few problems with on FreeBSD is the software RAID provision. You’ll see in one of my previous posts that I had some fatal problems with gvinum, and since then I’ve had other problems recovering a RAID 5 failure using it. Another alternative is ataraid, which worked fine for me up until FreeBSD 6. Since then I’ve not been able to get it to resync a failed disk properly – it hangs at 0% forever. So those two solutions are written off.

Other than hardware RAID this leaves me with a clear choice: gmirror. I’ve been using gmirror on another machine for some time now, and I’m pleased with the results. Following this guide it’s easy to apply it after installation, which is a definate selling point – I can’t stand solutions that require dumping and restoring. On my other machine its also had no problems resyncing, so another box ticked (or not ticked on the reasons-to-avoid list, actually).

I’m left wondering here how hard it would be to add support for gmirror (and maybe some of the other geom providers) to the FreeBSD sysinstall program. I experimented with setting up the mirror by hand before running the installer, but it failed to notice it. If this functionality could be added it’d be a real selling point for FreeBSD.

So, with the install complete, and the disks mirrored, I’m ready to move on to building and configuring. First up is updating the world and kernel, then installing all the software. I’ve not really figured out how I’ll copy everything across though…

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