Today, everything is in High Definition (HD) – movies to TV shows to music and now high-definition audio from your favorite radio station. One defining characteristic of HD content is the space it consumes. A DVD holds between 4.7GB and 8.5GB while a Blu-ray disc holds between 25GB and 50GB – that is an average 5.6 times more space required for HD content! Where are we going to store all this data? More importantly, how will we distribute content throughout the digital home?
One of the current solutions is something called a NAS-in-a-box. NAS – Network Attached Storage – is a storage system that consists of one or more hard drives connected to a network. NAS-in-a-box solutions are available from a multitude of companies. They are pre-packaged boxes with one, two, three or four hard drives. Multi-drive solutions offer some form of RAID 0, 1, 10 and 5. Some RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configurations offer redundancy (levels 1, 5 and 10). Others opt for performance over data redundancy in the form of RAID 0. These units are available in sizes between 300 gigabytes and 6 terabytes (6 000 gigabytes) depending on brand and the number of hard drives. Some units make you buy the hard drives yourself.
There are several problems with the NAS-in-a-box concept. They lack customization. They lack the necessary ability to expand storage as demand increases. How can the storage needs of millions be identical in nature? When you do expand, it means purchasing a second unit. Now you have two places to look for content instead of one.
I have a ton of storage on several different devices. My first NAS was a Buffalo 300GB single drive unit. I followed that up with a Maxtor Shared Storage II 1TB dual drive box. Two years ago, I added a Thermaltake Muse-NAS RAID unit. This one had four drive bays. I filled it up with 1.86 Terabytes (TB) of storage. It has lasted me a long time, but I did need to pick up a 1.5TB external hard drive for my computer in the mean time. When my Muse-NAS suffered a hardware failure it completely obliterated my RAID 0 array. I now have several hundred DVD's to rip again. I vowed I would build a NAS that would not fail me and satisfy my storage needs for several years.
My plan includes consolidating my storage and hosting a media server capable of on-the-fly transcoding. Transcoding is the process of converting a media file into a player-compatible format. In my case, it needs to be compatible with the Playstation 3 media console.
The MegaNAS project begins. I did some research on brand name high-capacity storage solutions. It will cost $30 000 - $50 000 for a network storage solution that meets my requirements. That is well beyond my budget. It is up to me to design and build a system capable of meeting my high capacity and processing power requirements.
I opened my standard component spreadsheet in Excel, modified it a bit and started spec'ing out a high-end system. I planned for two quad-core Xeon processors, sixteen gigabytes of RAM, a high performance Velociraptor 300GB system drive, Adaptec's top-of-the-line SAS/SATA RAID controller and twenty 1.5TB Seagate hard drives.