Building a ZFS based home storage server – Part 1

Feb 11, 2009

I’ve been reading up on building my own storage server to meet my needs as a photographer. I have tested pre-built NAS devices (Infrant/Netgear 1000S), servers with shared storage, and Windows Home Server (wrinkles and all). HP has promised me one of their new MediaSmart Servers and I plan to do some interesting things with it, but what I really need is a solution to safely store all of my photos and provide me with a nice networked Time Machine target. I am also keen to keep the costs down as much as possible.

First up, big thanks to guys over at for cluing me in toChenbro ES34069 Chassis Chenbro ES34069 Chassis (open)this nice little Chenbro chassis. The ES34069 is a mini-ITX form factor chassis that looks perfect for the job. Sporting 4 hot swap SATA drive bays plus an internal drive bay, this little fellow will fit the bill nicely, assuming I find a mini-ITX mobo worthy to the task. I found this chassis available online at for $197.

Next was finding a mobo. Mini-ITX is an embedded form factor designed for appliances and industrial computing applications. MostDQ45EK Mini-ITX mobo tend to lean towards the lower-end, lower voltage processors but I was looking for one capable of handling a Q6600 CPU. As luck would have it, Intel provided a solution in the form of the DQ45EK desktop board. Sporting a Socket 775, 2 DDR2 RAM slots, and Core2Quad enabled, this little wonder fits the bill. I found this board at for $143.99.

As mentioned, I want to install an Intel Q6600 quad core CPU in this system and I happen to have 2GB of Dominator DDR2 RAM lying about.

For my OS choice, I decided to try NexentaCore OS which is based on OpenSolaris and sports a lot of features for storage servers not the least of which is the Zetta File System (ZFS).

So here is a table of the parts in the queue for this project:

Item Cost
Chenbro ES34069 Chassis $197.00
Intel DQ45EK Mini-ITX mobo $143.99
Intel Q6600 CPU $199.00
2GB Corsair Dominator DDR2 free
NexentaCore 2.0 Beta 1 OS free
Sub Total $539.99

In the next installment, I will look at the drives and possibly a SATA controller to handle them all. Plus, if my budget allows, I will use a SSD to house the operating system and the storage caches to improve the speed and durability of the system.