OpenFiler: an Open-Source Network Storage Appliance
Underneath the GUI interface, OpenFiler is powered by a bunch of open-source software. At its core, it is an rPath OS with a 2.6 kernel, very similar to Red Hat Linux. OpenFiler runs SSH by default, so you can just SSH to it and start poking around. The Web-based admin console is driven by Python and lighttpd. OpenFiler runs snmpd as well, so you can query it with SNMP. The HTTP/WebDAV engine appears to be Apache. It uses the standard Linux NFS server, has Samba to do the SMB/CIFS duty and leverages proftpd for its FTP server.
OpenFiler supports a wide range of physical block devices, like SATA, SAS, SCSI, IDE and FC disks. It also supports remote block devices, via the iSCSI, AoE (ATA over Ethernet) and FCoE (Fiber Channel over Ethernet) protocols. It supports the standard Linux software RAID as well.
One of the most interesting features of OpenFiler is the inclusion of the Distributed Replicated Block Device (DRBD) engine, as well as the Heartbeat HA cluster software. DRBD allows OpenFiler to replicate its block devices to another OpenFiler in either synchronous or asynchronous modes, so your backup OpenFiler could be in the next rack or in the next state. When combined with the Heartbeat HA software that allows two OpenFilers on the same LAN to use a Virtual IP address, you have a powerful, reliable, fault-tolerant data-storage cluster. In the event of a failure on the primary OpenFiler, the secondary will detect that across the private interconnect between the two units, step in, assume the virtual IP address and continue servicing requests.
Because OpenFiler uses Linux LVM, you easily can aggregate storage devices into a single pool and then slice that up as desired into whatever network share you want. Another benefit of using the Linux LVM is that point-in-time snapshots can be taken quickly and easily, allowing for consistent backups to be taken of the OpenFiler appliance.
OpenFiler is an easy-to-deploy and easy-to-use distribution that does one thing very well, and that's serve files to network clients. If you've got an older computer or laptop lying around, you can turn that system into a NAS appliance simply by installing OpenFiler and attaching a large USB disk. On the other end of the spectrum, OpenFiler is very well suited for installation on an enterprise-class server where it can act as a part of your corporate SAN. It's unfortunate that the developers elected to make the Administration Guide available to paying customers only, but the project needs to be funded by some means. If you've got a requirement for a file server or some form of networkable storage device, it's definitely worth checking out.
Installing OpenFiler via PXE
The little embedded PC on which I installed OpenFiler doesn't have an optical drive, so I had to install the distribution via PXE. I copied the distribution CD to an NFS server and exported that directory via NFS. Then I copied the vmlinuz kernel file and initrd.img initrd archive from the /isolinux directory on the CD to the tftp directory on my PXE server. The last step was to add the following lines to my PXE server's pxelinux config:
LABEL openfiler KERNEL vmlinuz APPEND initrd=initrd.img text askmethod ramdisk_size=8192 console=tty0
After doing that, installing OpenFiler was as easy as booting my system via PXE, selecting openfiler at the boot prompt, and then answering “NFS” and pointing it to the exported directory when it asked for the installation method. OpenFiler's Red Hat-like install (thanks to rPath) made installation very easy, and it installed very quickly over the LAN.
OpenFiler Home Page: www.openfiler.com
OpenFiler Architecture: openfiler.com/products/openfiler-architecture
OpenFiler Installation Documentation (Graphical): www.openfiler.com/learn/how-to/graphical-installation
OpenFiler Installation Documentation (Text): www.openfiler.com/learn/how-to/graphical-installation
OpenFiler 1.1 Admin Guide (downrev): wwwold.openfiler.com/docs/manual
DRBD (Distributed Replicated Block Device): www.drbd.org
Installing and Configuring OpenFiler with DRBD and Heartbeat: www.howtoforge.com/installing-and-configuring-openfiler-with-drbd-and-heartbeat
Unofficial OpenFiler HA Cluster Wiki: wiki.hyber.dk/doku.php/openfiler_2.2_ha-cluster_guide
Bill Childers is an IT Manager in Silicon Valley, where he lives with his wife and two children. He enjoys Linux far too much, and probably should get more sun from time to time. In his spare time, he does work with the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but he does not smell like garlic.
Bill Childers is the Virtual Editor for Linux Journal. No one really knows what that means.
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