Requesting Advice on a FreeNAS upgrade / rebuild

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Aug 21, 2013
Hello Everyone! I could use some advice on what path to take to and whether I should upgrade or rebuild my old FreeNAS box. I've added quite a lot background here so if you are not interested, just skip down a few paragraphs!

Due to work I have spent the majority of the last 2.5 years away from home and in my absence the 'ol FreeNAS has served my family well. While I have been around from time to time and have done some general maintenance, due to my travels the majority of time at home has been spent with the family. Now I am back home for good (hopefully, I got laid off and am seeking new employment...) and need to spend some time on my own IT infrastructure! I have a background in IT but mostly on the networking and the Windows admin side so I am not a complete noob but I see a lot has change around here in the past few years and most of the FreeNAS knowledge I had built up in the past has since escaped me.

Now let me geek out a little bit... When I originally built my NAS I was doing small business consulting and the box did dual home / business work for me. That is still true to a small extent but the primary use now will be for home. The system is quite capable as it is but her pools are filling up and I would like to increase performance in some areas. I've become spoiled working on 10 & 40Gb networks in the corporate world for the last couple of years!

The specs as she stands...
SuperMicro SC933 case w/ 15 3.5" spots.
SuperMicro X9DR7-LN4F Motherboard (only 1 cpu populated) (10 onboard Intel SATA + 8 SAS2 via LSI 2308)
Xeon E5-2620v1
6x3TB Greens in RAIDZ2
6x3TB Greens in RAIDZ2 (second separate array)
2x3TB Greens in Raid1
1x240GB SSD (type forgotten)
FreeNAS 9.10.2 w/ current uptime of 101 days!

I have recently added a 320 series Chelsio dual 10Gb card to the NAS and will be outfitting a few other machines with the same in single SFP+ models. One interface is intended for general network use (SMB) and the other for ISCSI. I have acquired an HP 5406zl2 chassis switch and it contains 68 1GB PoE+ ports as well as 10 SFP+ ports. (Thanks Ebay!) So, obviously I'm wanting to take advantage of my new 10Gb gear. I intend to outfit 3 Windows PCs with single SFP+ cards so myself, my wife and my oldest daughter can speed along together. They are GoPro fanatics and generate an obscene amount of bits to be transferred and stored. As for myself, well they can't have better than me! I also have a Dell C6100 that is used mainly for lab stuff including one blade that does HyperV and one that runs ESXi. The C6100 storage options are a bit limited, I would like to use ISCSI to mostly replace the onboard storage. The ESXi blade is currently shut down and HyperV is presently running two domain controllers, Exchange, Skype and SQL machines, two windows 8.1 instances and a couple of linux boxes. One of the linux boxes runs the surveillance system and a Ubiquiti controller and the other has a bunch of RRD databases that serve a home automation project I started but never finished a couple of years back. It still running and monitoring away despite my failed efforts.

The two Z2 volumes hold mostly family photos and videos (going back 20+ years now) and I have a fair amount of data related to my old business but it also acts as a backup location for both my uncle and my mom whom I previously outfitted with FreeNAS Minis! We all back each others important stuff up. We run Plex on the NAS so there are some movies and tv shows on there. The two 3TB drives act as a storage location for our video surveillance system and thus are constantly written to at a fairly good pace. The SSD holds Plex and was intended to hold other jails but I never got around to playing with any.

SO... I need to expand the capacity of the Z2 volumes and I'd like to add some fast storage for ISCSI. I also need to read up on ZIL and SLOG again as I think w/ 10Gb networking write speeds may be a bit disappointing. She'll fill a 1Gb pipe R/W without issue, I'm not sure how far up the 10Gb ladder she'll go. The chassis is currently full, there is no more room for additional drives. The thought of resilvering 6 times to replace drives in place sounds kind of scary since if memory serves me right this was all built around five years ago. I noticed the other day that one of the volumes is degraded already, it has lost one drive. I have no idea how long ago that occurred. I'll be making a trip to Microcenter this week to pick up a replacement drive assuming that is the issue.

Options I'm considering are upgrading the chassis and adding a HBA or two + larger drives, or doing the upgrade in place with larger probably 8TB drives. I probably should have added RAM long ago and as mentioned I need to relearn about the ZIL and SLOG options to see what might apply. For the ISCSI storage I was just thinking of adding maybe 4 ~500GB ish SSDs and running raid 10. I think that would more than serve the performance needs (low utilization VMs) and if capacity ever becomes an issue it would be easy to upgrade.

I've considered getting a second SC933 and running it as a daughter chassis to this one but that seems unnecessarily complicated when higher capacity options are available at around the same price. I'll be sticking with Supermicro though, they have served me well since I was a wee lad.

So if you've made it this far and were in my shoes, what would you guys and gals do? I plan to dive into this in the next month or so and update as I go along.
Feb 2, 2016
It sounds like you are only lacking drive bays, right? You've got plenty of CPU and the ability to add more RAM? Why not just pick up an external storage bay? It looks like that motherboard has plenty of slots so you can add both an external HBA and a 10/40G ethernet card and still have slots to spare.

If you're looking for bulk storage, you can probably go for a cheap, low-speed, 3gpbs model. Put your big, slow media and backup pools over there and use your internal, 6gbps ports for SSDs or conventional drives running at full speed. Or, for double the price, get a 45-bay, SAS2 unit. There are plenty of external storage options available; these are just two examples.

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