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Build Your Own 135TB RAID6 Storage Pod For $7,384 239

An anonymous reader writes "Backblaze, the cloud-based backup provider, has revealed how it continues to undercut its competitors: by building its own 135TB Storage Pods which cost just $7,384 in parts. Backblaze has provided almost all of the information that you need to make your own Storage Pod, including 45 3TB hard drives, three PCIe SATA II cards, and nine backplane multipliers, but without Backblaze's proprietary management software you'll probably have to use FreeNAS, or cobble together your own software solution... A couple of years ago they showed how to make their first-generation, 67TB Storage Pods"
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Build Your Own 135TB RAID6 Storage Pod For $7,384

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  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @10:47AM (#36834756)

    Because, for this project, raw storage capacity is much more important than performance. Besides, they claim their main bottleneck is the gigabit Ethernet interface - even software RAID, the PCIe x1, and the raw drive performance is less of a limiting factor.

    Yeah, in a situation where you need high I/O performance, this design would be less than ideal. But they don't - they're providing backup storage. They don't need heavy write performance, they don't need heavy read performance. They just need to put a lot of data on a disk and not break anything.

    PS: SAS doesn't really provide much better performance than SATA, and it's a lot more expensive. Same for hardware RAID - using those would easily octuple the cost of the entire system.

  • Re:My God... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dillon2112 ( 197474 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @11:24AM (#36835096) Homepage

    My problem with Backblaze is their marketing is very misleading...they pit these storage pods up against cloud storage and assert that they are "cheaper", as though a storage pod is anything like cloud storage. It isn't. Sure, there's the management software issue that's already been mentioned, but they do no analysis on redundancy, power usage, security, bandwidth usage, cooling, drive replacement due to failure, administrative costs, etc. It's insulting to anyone who can tell the difference, but there are suits out there who read their marketing pitch and decide that current cloud storage providers like Google and Amazon are a rip off because "Backblaze can do the same thing for a twentieth the price!" It's nuts.

    You can see this yourself in their pricing chart at the bottom of their blog post. They assert that Backblaze can store a petabyte for three years for either $56k or $94k (if you include "space and power"). And then they compare that to S3 costing roughly $2.5 million. In their old graphs, they left out the "space and power" part, and I'm sure people complained about the inaccuracies. But they're making the same mistake again this time: they're implicitly assuming the cost of replicating, say, S3, is dominated by the cost of the initial hardware. It isn't. They still haven't included the cost of geographically distributing the data across data centers, the cost of drive replacement to account for drive failure over 3 years, the cost of the bandwidth to access that data, and it is totally unclear if their cost for "power" includes cooling. And what about maintaining the data center's security? Is that included in "space"?

    On a side note, I'd be interested to see their analysis on mean time between data loss using their system as it is priced in their post.

    You could say the Backblaze is serving a different need, so it doesn't need to incur all those additional costs, and you might be right, but then why are they comparing it to S3 in the first place? It's just marketing fluff, and it is in an article people are lauding for its technical accuracy. Meh.

  • Re:My God... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x6060 ( 672364 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @11:50AM (#36835308)
    Did you notice how they even gave you the alternatives to their software? Essentially they are saying "We developed this for our own internal use and if you would LIKE to pay for it its cool. If you dont then there are these other free alternatives." But then again just because some company is mentioned in the article it MUST be a slashvertisment.
  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @12:02PM (#36835412) Journal

    No. Hardware controllers are the right solution in this context. These pods are not designed for individual users, but for corporations that can afford stockpiles of spare parts, so replacing a board can be done easily. Using hardware controllers allows many more drives per box, and thus per CPU. A populated 6-CPU motherboard is going to be less reliable, dissipate more heat, require more memory, and likely be less reliable, than the special-purpose hardware approach that allows for a single CPU.

    Software RAID makes sense when you have a balance of storage bandwidth requirements to CPU capacity that is heavy on the CPU side. This box is designed for the opposite scenario, as the highly informative blog describes:

    http://blog.backblaze.com/2011/07/20/petabytes-on-a-budget-v2-0revealing-more-secrets/ [backblaze.com]

    (Yes, I know, expecting someone to read the blog would mean that they would have to read the linked article and then click through to the original post, a veritable impossibility. Still, it is recommended reading, especially the part about their experience with failure rates and how they have *one* guy replacing failed drives *one* day per week.)

  • Re:My God... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @12:27PM (#36835632) Journal

    First: ALL Marketing is misleading. That is what marketing does. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. So complaining about that is just idiotic.

    Second: You could have a couple dozen Backblaze units, pay for a tech to monitor them 24/7/365 and replace all the drives twice over for what Amazon charges for the same thing. Sure that doesn't included cost for premises, and HighSpeed Internet to multiple locations. But still, that is aggregated with all the other clients.

    Third: what are you paying for in the "cloud", I mean besides ethereal concepts. Does Amazon tell you how they do things? You probably know less about Amazon (and the others) setup so you're comparing something you know something about (not everything) verses something you know almost nothing about, and the complain that they aren't doing it in a comparable way. You don't know.

    Fourth: Your basic assumption is that Backblaze has no contigency for drive replacement, which is false. Since these are "new" drives there might be insufficient data about failure rates and therefore the actual cost of replacement (never mind warranties) or having drives in both Hot and Cold Spare setups. I'm sure that Backblaze in their $5/MO service figures what it costs to store data, have spares, keep the Datacenter running and profitable. Even if they double the cost to $10, it still puts the others to shame.

    Have you compared the data loss rates for the last three years between Amazon and Backblaze? Can you even compare or is that data held secret (see point 1b). My point here, is that you're pulling shit out of your ass and thinking it doesn't stink. Even if it isn't directly comparable, it is at least in the realm of consideration, EVEN if everything you said is true. And at 10 times less in cost, that can buy a lot of redundancy. It is just a matter of perspective.

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