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Thinking of Raspberry Pi for a first-time server - questions about USB external HDD and speed.

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi,

I have recently had interest in using a Raspberry Pi for a home server, and a second Raspberry Pi for a slim HTPC that will stream from the server RPi. I've never maintained a server before, but I have some knowledge of Linux operating systems and CLI. I currently use ARCH as my desktop OS, so I am familiar with at least installation/setup/use of a Linux distribution.

I was planning to set up the server as a fileserver, and possibly a FTP. I also want to use it to teach myself more of the ins-and-outs of Linux and server administration. I am interested in learning to setup and host a webserver, email, database (apache, MySQL), and any server security related practices I can apply. I would also like to teach myself bash scripting and a programming language at some point.


I see that RPi only has 2 USB2 ports, and a SD card port. Since the main OS will be installed onto the SD card, I was planning to attach 2x external HDD via USB2, using 1 HDD as storage and the second as backup (via rsync) of the first. With USB2 external HDDs, will the RPi be an effective home fileserver?

I am concerned that the USB2 connection will be too slow to properly fileserve large video files or music to my devices. I currently have my desktop, my wife's laptop, an iPad, and a planned RPi HTPC for the living room. I probably won't be serving files to more than 2 devices at a time.


If the RPi will not work well for this purpose due to its USB2 ports, would something like a CubieBoard work instead? It has a SATA port, as well as a 1GHz processor and 1GB DDR3 RAM. However, it doesn't have as much support or community.

If I can get away with using the RPi, then I will go ahead and purchase a few of these and forget the Cubieboard.

Thanks for any replies, have a nice night.
post #2 of 9
you can get a Cubieboard which has a native sataii port
     
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post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PedroC1999 View Post

you can get a Cubieboard which has a native sataii port

I mentioned this board as an alternative in my previous post.

Here is what I have found:

-RPi has 2x USB2.0 ports (these are on the same USB hub and share bandwidth) and 10/100Mbps ethernet (also shares the USB hub bandwidth)

-USB2.0 is specced to 480Mb/s aka 60MB/s (2x 30MB/s due to RPi shared hub)

-10/100Mbps ethernet can transfer 100Mb/s max aka 12.5MB/s

-10/100/1000Mbps ether can transfer 1000Mb/s aka 125MB/s

-A SATA2 port has a max transfer rate of 3Gbps (2.4Gbps accounting for overhead) aka 300MB/s

-A 7200rpm HDD has ~1Gbps transfer rate (according to wikipedia) aka 125MB/s



From what I can see here, the 10/100 ethernet on the RPi is the limiting factor, and after that the USB2.0 connection. If these two factors can be avoided by using a different board, then the limiting factor is a combination of HDD and gigabit ethernet, although 125MB/s is pretty much overkill for fileserving and HTPC tasks.


Since the Cubieboard also has USB2.0 and 10/100 ethernet, it might not be a solid SoC option for a home server.


Any other (reasonably) cheap options?
Edited by PsycoCarrot - 5/18/13 at 10:37pm
post #4 of 9
The RPi can still be enough, depending on what you use it for. I tested an 18GB bluray and it only use 3-4MBs during playback. It does spike for a second to around 20MB when you seek though so it would be slowed a bit on seeking.

For the ftp, webserver and others, it depends if you have a fast enough internet connection(over 10mb).

It also depends on how many people would use it at the same time. If it's only you and maybe someone else from time to time, it will do the trick, but if there's more, then it could become a problem.

You're best bet if you want something better for cheap would be to find the cheapest pre-built workstation you see. They pretty much all come with gigabit ethernet these days. It won't last as long as a real server, but it will do the trick just for having fun.
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post #5 of 9
The RPi's ethernet goes through the same controller as the USB, so speeds are split among the 3ports (Internet, USB1,USB2)#

A Cubieboard has a controller for each thing, so one for USB, one for Ethernet, and one for SATA. This will let you get higher speeds with most things.

Also, I read somewhere that you can convert a few GPI/O pins on the Cubieboard to add another SATA, or another USB
     
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post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
I am probably going to purchase a Cubieboard this week, and use as a home server with ArchLinuxARM. I may also pick up a RPi for use as a small+cheap HTPC.

If anyone has any suggestions for alternative SoC's that have gigabit ethernet and a SATA port, let me know please.
post #7 of 9
Im pretty sure the HackBerry has one, and maybe the Pandaboard, but their both 3x the price
     
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post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by PsycoCarrot View Post


-RPi has 2x USB2.0 ports (these are on the same USB hub and share bandwidth) and 10/100Mbps ethernet (also shares the USB hub bandwidth)

-USB2.0 is specced to 480Mb/s aka 60MB/s (2x 30MB/s due to RPi shared hub)

-10/100Mbps ethernet can transfer 100Mb/s max aka 12.5MB/s

-10/100/1000Mbps ether can transfer 1000Mb/s aka 125MB/s

-A SATA2 port has a max transfer rate of 3Gbps (2.4Gbps accounting for overhead) aka 300MB/s

-A 7200rpm HDD has ~1Gbps transfer rate (according to wikipedia) aka 125MB/s
The theoretical specs are nice and all, but there's no way you're going to get even close to that performance from a RPi. A USB 2.0 port will struggle to hit 40 MB/s considering all the overhead and polling delays. Add in a 100 Mb Ethernet controller hammering away on the same bus, and I would be impressed to see 5 MB/sec in sustained throughput. Not to mention having to handle all this throughput as well as a software network stack on an anemic 700 MHz CPU. You might pull it off, but I have a feeling it will be a letdown.

My suggestion? Use a single mini-ITX board for both HTPC and file server use. This cuts out the whole USB HDD -> USB Hub -> RPi 1 -> USB Hub -> Network controller -> Fast Ethernet (really too slow for streaming anyway) -> Network controller -> Hub -> RPi 2 -> HDMI, and replaces it with HDD -> Sata -> CPU -> HDMI.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
I'm thinking I will just plunk down a few hundred to upgrade my desktop CPU/Mobo and some DDR3, then just migrate my current hardware to a server setup. I already have a case and a Corsair PSU I can run it on.

Probably will go with a hypervisor + 2 virtualized installs; one barebones server install, and a graphical HTPC install.

Just gotta find a good upgrade for myself.


Thanks for the help all.
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