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How to roll your own NAS cluster

Having trouble finding a good out-of-the-box network-attached storage (NAS) clustering solution? Roll your own.

This article first appeared in "Storage" magazine in their June issue. For more articles of this type, please visit

Sometimes it's difficult to find a good out-of-the-box network-attached storage (NAS) clustering solution. That's the situation that Todd Moore from Dynamic Graphics Group found himself in. "We needed a cluster of NAS servers that could share with CIFS, NFS and HTTP, provide both availability and scalability and would integrate with our legacy applications," says Moore. He wasn't satisfied with available out-of-the-box products, so his team rolled their own, leveraging PolyServe's Matrix Server, a SAN file system.

Dynamic Graphics' solution consists of a four-node Linux cluster sharing 11TB of StorageTek storage area network (SAN) storage with Matrix Server. Two nodes act as NAS servers using open-source Samba software, while another serves a legacy application. The last is a dedicated backup and administration host. Matrix Server allows applications on all four hosts to see the same storage at the same time -- at SAN speeds -- and share it with a variety of protocols.

At first, Moore had reservations about the system. He was skeptical about mounting the same LUNs on four separate servers at the same time, and also about the difficulty of implementing the PolyServe software. In fact, neither PolyServe nor StorageTek had ever implemented the architecture Dynamic Graphics wanted. But after a customized demonstration Moore felt like "PolyServe's biggest customer." Technicians from both suppliers kept an open mind and worked together to make everything come together.

"It really does work," says Moore. "Thinking outside the box allowed us to have a system that does exactly what we wanted it to do. We couldn't have had that otherwise."

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