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Direct Disk Access for Media Applications

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Hi Everyone,

I'm currently using unRAID as my media server. I use Docker for just about everything. Currently I'm using PlexRequests, CouchPotato, Deluge, NZBget, Plex, Sonarr, and a few others.

I love unRAID for what it is but the speed is starting to bug me a bit. I have a cache drive but it's only 256GBs and I do run a few VMs from that. I would love to move to FreeNAS but I have some issues I'm not sure how to get around.

My main issue is being able to give the applications I use direct access to the storage array. In unRAID the applications access the disks as if they were connected directly via SATA. How can this be done with FreeNAS? I don't want these applications to have to access my storage through something like NFS or SMB. From what I understand this can cause issues with downloads failing, poor performance, Plex not updating when a new movie or episode is added, etc.

How are you guys handling this with FreeNAS? I know there are Jails but I honestly have no experience using them. I'm willing to learn. I work in IT so I'm at least not a complete nooby.

Any help with this would be appreciated!
 

Ericloewe

Server Wrangler
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Feb 15, 2014
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In unRAID the applications access the disks as if they were connected directly via SATA.
Not individually, I hope. Since it's unRAID, I have to ask - I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the thing mines bitcoin (which it then throws away) as part of storing data.

I don't want these applications to have to access my storage through something like NFS or SMB.
ZFS presents storage just to the OS just like any other filesystem. Applications remain blissfully unaware.

How are you guys handling this with FreeNAS? I know there are Jails but I honestly have no experience using them. I'm willing to learn. I work in IT so I'm at least not a complete nooby.
You set up ZFS datasets as storage for a jail. There's really nothing to it, you're just telling the OS and ZFS that the specific dataset can be accessed by the jail (the default it to keep the jail locked up, hence the name).

The question I might regret asking is "what kind of ugly hacks does unRAID need for such simple functionality as local storage?"
 

charlie89

Explorer
Joined
Dec 26, 2013
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AFAIK there is sadly no way for docker to directly access your storage.
UnRAID is based on Linux, so it can directly run docker. FreeBSD is based on Unix, and docker does not run on it.

At the moment the only way docker runs on FreeNAS is inside a Linux VM. This VM can only direcly access its own storage from its designated zvol, everything else can only be accessed over some network protocol (nfs, samba,...). Under FN Corral there was a 9pfs filesystem to directly mount your storage inside a VM, but this is not available in FN11.

I would really love to see native support for docker inside FreeBSD, that would give us direct storage access.
 

KrisBee

Wizard
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Mar 20, 2017
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I’ve never used unRAID and I’ve not used Docker extensively, but I am a Linux user and it’s worth being clear about a possible move to FreeNAS.

1. Docker can only run inside a Llnux virtual machine which runs under "bhyve", the FreeBSD in-built hypervisor. So your docker apps have no direct access to your zfs pool data. Access to pool data would have be via NFS/CIFS shares with the possibility of the problems you’ve mentioned.

2. As Eric has said the best performance for these media application is had when using “jails”. When you’re reading threads about the various applications you should distinguish between FreeNAS plugins which are pre-built jails, and jails which are manually configured. Of the top my head, most of the docker apps you have listed are in common use within “jails”. You can find this sort config listings on github:

https://gist.github.com/MikeRatcliffe/62ab43a8f7823c495369

But as to your “others” … ?

3. Unless you list your hardware and its current configuration in some detail, no one can venture an opinion about what performance gains may, or may not, be possible.

4. If you run unRAID on multiple large HDD as a server without ECC RAM, don’t be surprised if you get some negative comments.

5. If you are new to zfs, hopefully you are doing some prep, and of course in a FreeNAS you are setting up a true RAID system. Be clear about the limitations of setting up zpool vdevs and how the system might grow and adapt to your needs.

I’ve no idea what alternatives to unRAID you have considered, or what you have used before, FreeNAS is not necessary the best fit for everyone. If you are more comfortable working with Linux and want to stay with docker, then this kind of alternative to unRAID might appeal to you: https://www.linuxserver.io/2017/06/24/the-perfect-media-server-2017/

It's combination of Debian, docker, mergerfs and snapraid, administered with a combination of a cockpit control panel and Portainer.io. No unRAID fees and like unRAID it's kind of JBOD + parity. (Actually what does unRAID use?)
 
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