More than a year ago, I shared our then newly assembled Rockstor server in this article. It proved to be a solid part of our production infrastructure. In the last year, I’ve also helped users with a few different DIY builds. It’s a collaborative effort with active members in the community plus the usual shameless thievery from the internet. But we have a winning build that is great for smaller organizations and prosumers. It is a quiet 8 Bay tower packing high performance and supports large storage capacity with up to 12 HDDs.
Welcome the Rockstor Pro 8 and it is now available for purchase from our shop. Save time by buying it directly from us and enjoy these additional benefits
60 day e-mail support from Rockstor engineers included. ($200.00 value)
5 year subscription to Stable updates included. ($35.00 value)
50% discount on incident-based support bundles for 1 year. (up to $450.00 value)
DIY projects are fun and we like to provide all the necessary information in one place if you choose to build it yourself. These are the parts you need for this specific build.
While the motherboard can be upgraded to C2750D4I and extra RAM can be added for better performance, it’s not really necessary as Rockstor is considerably less resource hungry compared to other options out there.
Whether you build your own or buy the Rockstor Pro 8 from us, you get the following key benefits that make this box an effective workhorse and a much better value for money than proprietary solutions out there.
Intel Avoton C2550 Quad-Core Processor. Can be upgraded to C2750
8GB RAM (64GB max).
32GB SSD boot drive for Rockstor OS.
Simple and secure browser based management.
Supports up to 8 hot-pluggable 3.5″ HDDs and 4 fixed internal (2.5″) HDDs.
Bitrot protection, checksums, compression and other advanced filesystem (BTRFS) features.
Efficient (CoW) Snapshots of Shares on demand or on schedule.
Supports different size HDDs and online capacity scaling. Add more drives as and when you need them.
File sharing and access from Linux, Mac, Windows and mobile devices (Android and iOS).
Must have prosumer apps for Media streaming, backup and file synchronization.
Apps for developers and small businesses including JenkinsCI, Gitlab, Discourse and more.
Privacy and Productivity enhancing apps for everybody
Efficient Rockstor -> Rockstor replication for backup and DR.
Being engineers, we really like the DIY approach here at Rockstor. We have systems put together using components from old desktop servers running Rockstor in our various environments. Judging by the number of inquires we get via e-mail and our forum, there are many users out there building DIY NAS systems with Rockstor. The most frequently asked question is if Rockstor can boot from something like a USB drive. By doing so, all of the HDDs on the system can be exclusively allocated for data.
Whiles it’s possible to run Rockstor from a USB drive, we recommend a much faster solution while freeing up all your HDDs for data. All that’s required of your motherboard is a PCI-Express slot to house a mSATA III + SSD boot drive. We’ve been running this setup for a while on some of our systems and so are some others in the community. So we decided to offer it in our shop.
It’s available in both 16GB and 32GB capacities which is plenty considering it doesn’t take more than a few GB to run Rockstor. Here are some feature highlights of this boot drive.
Provides extra SATA III port for additional storage devices (hot-pluggable)
14K random 4KB read IOPs
19K random 4KB write IOPs
TRIM and SMART support
The card meets PCI express specification rev 2.0 and plugs into an x1, x2, x4, x8 or x16 slot, one of which can be found on pretty much any motherboard. Besides running a pretty fast Rockstor system with this boot drive, you’ll be supporting our effort and make it easier for us to support you by running Rockstor on familiar hardware. So head on over to our shop and get one today!
45 Drives has been an active part of Rockstor community since the beginning of our partnership. They are excited about Rockstor and have been testing it out themselves. They were also very kind and sent us their new 30 drive model, the Storinator Q30. Rockstor installs easily on this box giving us a quietly humming Rockinator to play with under an hour. We’ll demonstrate the hardware, installation process and provide a overview of benefits of the end result.
Open design and High density
At a first glance, the simplicity of design is appealing. The system showcases their Open design and high density proposition. It has two chambers, each with nice separate covers. One is exclusively for hard drives and the other for components like the motherboard, raid card, root disk and power supply.
In the motherboard chamber, there is a 500GB WD Blue hard drive(center-top of the picture). There’s room to install another one next to it and mirror the Rockstor OS.
They sent us two different HBA cards. (1) Highpoint Rocket 750 HBA (2) LSI SAS 9201-16i HBA. By default, the system came with the Rocket card. It has 10 Mini-SAS SFF-8087 connectors with a total of 40(4×10) internal ports, one for each Hard drive. Since this system has 30 drives, you can see in the above picture that 8 ports are in use.
On the other hand, an LSI card has 4 Mini-SAS SFF-8087 with a total of 16(4×4) internal ports. So we need two of them to be able to use all 30 drives. This is how it looks like with LSI option. In the rest of this post, we are proceeding with the Rocket 750 HBA.
With the Rocket 750 card, there are a few extra steps to install the driver since it is not part of mainline Linux Kernel. We’ll go over these steps after the Rockstor OS install. They are also explained on 45 Drives downloads page. On the other hand, driver for LSI is included in the kernel, so no extra steps are necessary. Here’s the final picture of both HBAs for reference.
Hard drive chamber
Contrary to the motherboard chamber with a lot of components, the hard drive chamber looks a lot simpler. There are three three big fans on each side to keep the system cool. The cabling is very clean and the slots are nicely labeled. They have also labeled the cables connected to HBA making it easy to understand or troubleshoot if necessary. It would be great to test the system at full capacity, but for now, I plugged in 10 old SATA drives of varying capacities. Since Rockstor supports different drive sizes, it is a decent starter configuration.
Rockstor OS installation
There are no special steps to install Rockstor on this box, it’s just like installing CentOS 7. The plan is to install it onto the 500GB hard drive(in the motherboard chamber) and then use 10 drives( in the hard drive chamber) for data. First, download the Rockstor iso and prepare a usb drive to install from, as described in the Quickstart guide. Plug in the usb drive, keyboard, mouse, monitor, network cable and power cable. You may need to go into bios to change the boot order, but once the system boots from the usb drive the splash screen will appear.
Kick off the install from the splash screen and the installation GUI should appear momentarily. Set the timezone and make sure network is connected. Proceeding without network connection is not recommended.
For the disk partitioning, we’ll go with the defaults to install Rockstor OS on the first hard drive(the 500GB WD Blue drive in the motherboard chamber). If we had two drives there, we could configure a mirror setup for redundancy. With Rocket card, you won’t see other hard drives in the installer. Since the drive is previously partitioned, we need to reclaim space. These sequence of pictures make it clear.
After making the right choices for Timezone, Disk partitioning and ensuring that network is configured, proceed with installation.
Set the root password on the next screen while packages are being installed.
The installer prompts for a reboot at the end. Click reboot to let the system boot into newly installed Rockstor OS. Don’t forget to take out the usb drive.
The grub screen shows up and the OS will start soon. It can take a bit longer than normal the first time as Rockstor runs through initial setup process. But eventually, login prompt is displayed with the link to Rockstor Web-UI.
Go to the Web-UI from Chrome or Firefox and finish the setup process and update to latest version of Rockstor. Access to the Web-UI is secure over https, but the certificate used for this purpose is self signed. So the browser complains, but you can proceed.
From the Storage screen of the Web-UI, you can see all the hard drives on the system. If the system has the LSI HBA, there are no additional steps necessary. But in case of Rocket 750 HBA, Rockstor only shows the OS drive. To detect the other drives(the 30 from the hard drive chamber), the r750 driver need to be installed. Fortunately, it’s a straight forward process to install it.
Rocket 750 HBA driver install
Login as root directly in the terminal or using SSH. Then, install a few required packages
[root@Rockinator ~]# yum install -y kernel-ml-devel gcc wget
Download the necessary files from 45 Drives downloads. At the time of this writing, we are installing a later version compatible with 4.0 Linux kernel provided by 45 Drives.
$ wget http://www.45drives.com/support/downloads/files/centos/R750_Linux_Src_v1.1.2_15_04_27.tar.gz
Install the driver.
[root@Rockinator ~]# tar xzvf R750_Linux_Src_v1.1.4_15_05_07.tar.gz
[root@Rockinator ~]# sh r750-linux-src-v1.1.4-15_05_07.bin
Verifying archive integrity... All good.
Uncompressing R750 Linux Open Source package installer.....................................................................
Starting install R750 Linux Open Source package ............
Installing package kernel-devel-3.10.0-229.4.2.el7.x86_64.rpm from yum repository.
Checking and building device driver for R750............
The driver gets installed in /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/scsi.
[root@Rockinator ~]# ls -l /lib/modules/4.0.2-1.el7.elrepo.x86_64/kernel/drivers/scsi/r750.ko
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1506276 Jun 17 11:34 /lib/modules/4.0.2-1.el7.elrepo.x86_64/kernel/drivers/scsi/r750.ko
There is also a web-gui for the Rocket 750 card, which provides a simple visualization of hard drives in the chamber and some helpful management functionality. For details, visit 45 Drives support page.
Reboot the system and the driver should load by default.
Rockstor should detect the new drives now. Just go back to the Storage screen of the Web-UI or if you are already on the page from before, hit the rescan button.
(storage pic before and after rescan)
Rockstor feature overview
In the remainder of this post, we’ll briefly go over key features for Rockstor that showcase the value of our new Rockinator box. For a comprehensive overview of all features, see Rockstor features.
In the Storage screen, we see the erase and import icons next to some drives because there are Rockstor Pools(aka BTRFS) on them from a prior install. We can click on import icon to import the data on those drives back. It’s that simple! In case of some hardware failures, we can transfer drives to another box and import data using this feature.
We can make our Rockstor Shares available to clients via NFS, Samba, AFP and SFTP. These options can be configured from the Storage screen of the web-ui.
It’s easy to take efficient Copy-On-Write snapshots of Rockstor Shares. Powered by BTRFS, snapshots are created instantly and take almost no additional space. We can create snapshots or schedule them from the Web-UI.
With two Rockstor systems, we can setup Shares to be replicated from one to the other. The two systems are securely authenticated and data is synchronized efficiently using BTRFS send/receive feature. This is very useful for redundancy and disaster recovery.
Rock-ons are Docker based apps that leverage features of Rockstor and transform Rockstor into a private cloud server. For example, we can store media in various Shares and stream and share them via Plex Rock-on. Some of the other Rock-ons available are Syncthing, OpenVPN, Transmission and BTSync. This is a recent feature with a long list of Rock-ons soon to be added.
There are many other features of Rockstor that are best explained in separate posts with detailed demonstration. You can find more information in this Blog, Forums and Documentation.
This particular 30 drive model from 45 Drives is a great product if you need a high capacity(upto 30 drives, 240TB) yet quiet Rockstor NAS with advanced features including Snapshots, Replication, Rock-ons and many more powered by BTRFS and Linux.