Thursday, July 26, 2007

First impressions of ZFS

If you're anything like me, you cling to that which you know while yearning for that which you haven't yet dabbled in. Tonight was a small victory for my self discipline, and a great example of why I think I'm going to be good friends with ZFS.

I've been mentally moving forward with a new JumpStart server layout for a while now. This server would have very little need for horsepower with storage space being what I really needed. It's main purpose is to help me consistently provision lab environments here at home for projects. I ended up selecting a Netra X1, which is very inexpensive on eBay. It's a nice low power draw platform that has plenty of power, and one less common feature among the Sun lines: IDE (PATA) drives. Yes, I mean that in a good way.

I was able to load it up with a 40gb boot drive and 120gb data disk to house install media images, flash archives, home directories, and some crude backups for the rest of the lab environment. The cost of a SCSI disk in that size is insane by comparison, and would provide no advantage for the tiny demand it would be charged with. I jumpstarted the hardware from another Sun machine, then loaded the Jupmstart Enterprise Toolkit (JET) and prepared to boogie.

Ahh, but now the moral dilemma rears its ugly head. How to manage that data disk? I haven't spent much time playing with Solaris Volume Manager (SVM) soft partitions, but enough to know it was a snap and would do the job. On the other hand, I've been twitching to learn ZFS, and this could be just the excuse I needed to get started.

The hard part about this decision was deciding whether or not I perceived ZFS to be an abyss, or a simple technology. I can't count the number of times I've done something silly like saying, "Oh sure, we could write a quick Perl script to do that." Only to find that two months later I'd grossly underestimated the complexity. I'm a chronic and pathological optimist.

I'm happy to report ZFS was painless and a pleasure to use. I'm still in shock from the simplicity. This is fun... I don't miss Linux at all.

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