New life to old servers....part#1

The purposes of this project is to reuse a retired server and give it a 2nd life, experiment with FreeNAS, and give my VMware cluster shared storage.

The patient is a Dell Power Edge 600sc; it is a PIV 2.8ghz (512k cache & 533mhz bus, sadly it is limited to Northwood cpu's (aka 512k cache and 533mhz bus are maximums).  It has been upgraded to 4gb of pc2700 ram.  Two 64-bit PCI-X network cards were added so down the road we can play with multi-pathing and VLAN-ing iSCSI traffic.  This box has the ability to run six PATA drives, but sadly they are only UDMA33.  So I first bought an el-cheapo 4 port SATA card to run four 1tb SATA drives.  This card would only do JBOD or RAID0, no good.  I could use the built in RAID levels that Linux/FreeNAS offer with ZFS file system, but I feel better with hardware doing the RAID operations.  I ran across a PNY/Netcell Revolution 5 port RAID card w/ 64mb of ram; surely this would be superior. 

Turns out this company went extinct years ago.  I did find a good support site though.  So with four 1tb drives installed here were the options I was presented with:
-RAID 1, 3.8tb, four drives (the ONLY option when choosing to add all four drives at once)
-RAID 1, 1tb, two drives (when I attempted to add a 2nd RAID 1 using the remaining two drives, it kept telling me the array was unrecognized).
-RAID 3, 1.8tb, three drives; this is really what the rest of the world calls RAID 5
There is newer firmware available so we will give that a try; another two things that were mentioned is an undersized power supply and slowing the drives down from 3gb to 1.5gb.  There is a management software, that is written for 32bit Windows XP & 2003, I hope it will work off of MiniXP from Hiren's boot CD.

FreeNAS comes in both 32 & 64 bit flavors.  This CPU is 32bit, so we have no choice; however I did find out that some of the PIV Northwood CPU's did have 64bit instruction code in them.  So the PowerEdge got the latest BIOS applied to it  (which includes more CPU microcode).  I found just such a CPU from my recycling efforts, unfortunately the pins were bent beyond repair. 

FreeNAS also does something interesting with the boot drive.  The ENTIRE drive will be consumed by the operating system.  The OS actually only consumes 2gb; 1gb for the OS and a 2nd 1gb for a backup image, there is some for logging and swap but point remains the same, that extra space is unavailable for use.  So even if one uses a 1tb drive to boot from, that space will ONLY be used for the FreeNAS OS.  This is the reason many people boot off of IDE->Compact Flash adaptors or USB.  Sadly this PowerEdge is too old to support boot to USB, I do have a IDE->CF adaptor but no 2gb CF card.  Therefore, I will reuse an old 80gb PATA drive. and revising coming.....

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