Storage and power consumption costs

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about storage. Specifically, at one point I’ve used a Promise 8 disk IDE to SCSI hardware RAID enclosure, attached to a Sun system, and formatted with UFS.

Hardware RAID 5 eliminated problems with losing data due to disk dieing in a fiery death. I bought 10 Maxtor 120 gig drives at the time, and dropped two on the shelf. Over course of about two and a half years I used two spare drives to replace the ones inside. Once it was a bad block, and the other time drive had issues spinning up. Solaris 8 had support for only one filesystem snapshot at a time, which was better then no snapshots at all, but not great. I’ve had a script in cron running once a week, that would snapshot whatever was there, and re-cycle each week. Not optimal, but it saved me some stress a couple of times, when it was late, I were tired, and put a space between wildcard and pattern in an rm command.

Last little while I’ve been trying to migrate to Mac OS X. Part of the reason was the cost of operation. I like big iron, and paying for an E4000 and an external storage array operating 24/7 was getting costly when one’s a student, as opposed to being a productive member of the workforce. I thought that it’s cheaper to leave an old G3 iBook running 24/7 – after all iBook itself only “eats” 65 watts, right? Generally I’ve turned off most of the other hardware – Cisco 3640 got replaced by a Linksys WRT54GS running openWRT, three other Sun systems got powered down, etc. At this point I’ve only had an iBook and an Ultra 2 running 24/7.

This is when I’ve hit the storage crunch: I were rapidly running out of disk space again, and I still needed occasional access to the data on the old Promise storage array.

Easy enough solution was to buy more external disk drives, place them in MacAlly USB2/FW external enclosures, and daisy chain them off the iBook. Somehow iBook ended up with over a TB of disk space daisy chained off it.

fiona:~ stany$ df -h
Filesystem                Size   Used  Avail Capacity  Mounted on
/dev/disk0s10              56G    55G   490M    99%    /
devfs                     102K   102K     0B   100%    /dev
fdesc                     1.0K   1.0K     0B   100%    /dev
                   512K   512K     0B   100%    /.vol
automount -nsl [330]        0B     0B     0B   100%    /Network
automount -fstab [356]      0B     0B     0B   100%    /automount/Servers
automount -static [356]     0B     0B     0B   100%    /automount/static
/dev/disk4s2              183G   180G  -6.3G   104%    /Volumes/Foo
/dev/disk2s1              183G   182G  -2.3G   101%    /Volumes/Bar
/dev/disk1s1              183G   183G  -1.0G   101%    /Volumes/Baz
/dev/disk3s1              183G   174G -260.8M   100%    /Volumes/Quux
/dev/disk5s1              183G   183G  -1.2G   101%    /Volumes/Shmoo
fiona:~ stany$ 

In process I’ve discovered how badly HFS+ sucks at a bunch of things – it will happily create filenames with UTF-8 characters, however it will not add things like accent grave or accent aigu to normal files. Migrating files with such filenames from UFS under Solaris ended up not simple – direct copying over NFS or SMB was failing, and untarring archives with such files was resulting in errors.

Eventually I’ve used a sick workaround of ext2fsx and formatted a couple of external 200 gig drives ext2. Ext2 under Mac OS blows chunks too – for starters it was not available for 10.4 for ages, and thus Fiona is still running 10.3.9 (Yes, I know that a very preliminary read only version of ext2fsx for 10.4 is now available. No, I don’t want to betatest it, and lose my data). ext2fsx would not support ext3, thus one doesn’t get any journalling. So if I accidentally pull on the firewire cable, and unplug the daisy chain of FW drives, I will have to fsck them all.
fscking ext2 under Mac OS is a dubious proposition at best, and most of the time fsck_ext2 will not generate an auto-mountable filesystem again. Solution to this was to keep a CD with Rock Linux PPC in the drive, and boot into linux to fsck.

I’ve cursed and set all the external drives to automount read-only, and manually re-mount read-write when I need to. Pain in the back side.

Lately I’ve been eyeing Solaris ZFS with some interest. Big stopping point for me was the migration of the volume to a different system (be that same OS and architecture, or different OS and architecture all together). Turned out that migrating between Solaris systems is as simple as zfs export volumename, move disks to different system, zfs import volumename, which is a big win. Recently there were rumors that Linux folks and Apple folks are porting or investigating porting of ZFS to Linux and Mac OS X (10.5?), which gives hopes to being able to migrate to a different platform if need be.
All of that made ZFS (and by extention Solaris 10) a big contender.

It didn’t help that each of the external drive power supplies is also rated at 0.7 amp. One watt is one ampere of current flowing at one volt, so here I am with 3.5 amps. 65 watts that Apple iBook power adapter is rated for is only about 2/3 of the actual amperage, as it also generates heat, so here is another 0.7 amp or more. Oh, and there is the old Ultra 2, that, according to Sun consumes another 350 W, and generates 683 BTU/hr. So, assuming that Sun actually means that it consumes 350 W, and not that the power supply is rated for 350 W, that’s another 3.2 Amps of load.

This adds up to ~7.5A/hr 24/7.

This is where I get really confused while reading Ottawa hydro bills.

Looking at Ottawa hydro rates page, I read:

Residential Customer Rates

• Consumption up to 600 kWh per month	$0.0580/kWh
• Consumption above the 600 kWh per month threshold  $0.0670/kWh

• Transmission  $0.0095/kWh
• Hydro Ottawa Delivery   $0.0195/kWh
• Hydro Ottawa Fixed Charge  $7.88 per month

Regulatory	$0.0062/kWh**
Debt Retirement	$0.00694/kWh***

Thus, some basic math shows that:
7.5 amps * 110 volt = 825watts/hr

600kW/hr that Ottawa hydro is oh so generously offering me adds up to 600,000 watts / 31 days / 24 hours = ~806 watt/hr

In other words, I am using up the “cheap” allowance by just keeping two computers and 5 hard drives running.

825 watt/hr * 24 * 31 = 613.8kW/hr

Reading all the Ottawa Hydro debt retirement (read: mismanagement) bullshit, I get the numbers of
6.7 cents + 0.694 cents + 0.62 cents = 8.014 cents/kWh.

613.8kWh * 8.014 cents/kWh = 4919 cents = 49.19 CAD/month
Now, assuming that I were paying 5.8 as opposed to 6.7 cents kWh, it would still be 613.8kWh * 7.114 cents/kWh = 43.66 CAD/month.

Not a perty number, right?

So I am asking myself a question now…. What should I do?

I have two large sources of energy cosumption – external drives (I didn’t realize how much power they draw) and Ultra 2. iBook on it’s own consumes minimal power, and thus is at most about 10$/month to operate.

Option number one – turn off everything, save 50 bucks a month.

Option number two – leave everything running as is, swallow the “costs of doing business”

Option number three – Turn off Ultra 2, average savings of 22$/month, lose my e-mail archives (or migrate pine + e-mail to the iBook). Continue living with frustrations of HFS+.

Option number four – Migrate mail from Ultra 2 to iBook. Turn Ultra 2 off. Migrate all of the drives into the Promise enclosure (how much power it consumes I honestly don’t know until I borrow from somewhere a power meter – Promise is not listing any information, and neither is there any on the back of the thing), hook it up to iBook over RATOC SCSI to Firewire dongle. This will give me somewhere between 1.5 and 2 TB of storage, HFS+ or ext2 based. If I decide to install Linux or FreeBSD on iBook, well, the more the merrier.

Option number five – Migrate all of the drives into the Promise enclosure, hook it up to Ultra 2, turn off (or do not – on it’s own it’s fairely cheap to operate) remaining iBook. Power consumption will remain reasonably stable (I hope. I still have no idea how much power Promise thing consumes. It might be rated for 6.5 amps on it’s own). I could install latest OpenSolaris on Ultra 2, and format the array using ZFS. No costs savings, lots of work shuffling data around, but also has tons of fringe benefits, such as getting back up to date on the latest Solaris tricks.

I’ve just looked at specs for all the Sun system models that I own (Ultra 2, Ultra 10, Ultra 60 and E4K), and seems like U2 consumes the least power out of the bunch. Ultra 10 is rated for the same, but generates twice as much heat. Adopting Ultra 10 for SCSI operation is not that hard, but would force me to scrounge around for bits and pieces, and dual 300mhz US II is arguably better then a single 440mhz US IIi.

I guess there is also an option number 6 – Replace Ultra 2 with some sort of low power semi-embedded x86 system, with a PCI slot for a SCSI controller, and hook up Promise array to it. Install OpenSolaris, format ZFS, migrate data over. Same benefits as Option 5 with additional hardware costs, and having to use annoying computer architecture.

I guess I will have to decide soon.

Update: Promise UltraTrak100 TX8 is rated for 8 amps at 110 volts (4 amps at 220 volts)