OpenSolaris and ZFS: Hardware

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Having heard that ZFS is the last word in filesystems, and after talking to a few people who have implemented it, I decided to take the plunge and set up a test system with intentions of replacing my current Linux fileserver with it.

Solaris (and OpenSolaris) is pretty picky about hardware, but at least there's a hardware compatibility database that is OK to navigate. Here's the hardware I ended up buying:

These, in combination with some hardware I already had, such as a Seagate OS drive and an Antec Three Hundred case, made up my system.

The biggest decision to make was the motherboard. The S3200SHV was a great choice because it incorporated Intel Gigabit LAN, the Core 2 Duo architecture, and 6 SATA ports. Onboard video was a good thought, but I came to find out it doesn't work in OpenSolaris 2008.11 (more on this later). Intel LAN is important because it's known to work well with OpenSolaris and be very fast. I know the ICH9R bus will be supported and is also very fast.

It has turned out to be pretty good hardware, and I also didn't spend too much.

Which brings us to the one big problem: OpenSolaris 2008.11 does not support the integrated graphics in the S3200SHV. Short version: Buy an Nvidia graphics card. On to the long version... So the graphical installation doesn't work? Well, I can just use the text mode installer right? Uh, no. There is no text mode installer. >_< OK. Intel's OS compatibility guide for the S3200SHV says there is a fix once you get it installed. Googling for a solution, I found you can install it using the GUI using X11 tunneling over SSH.

You can use the GUI installer over SSH by booting the text console, logging in (jack/jack) and assuming the root role (su, with password 'opensolaris'). After this you must start the SSH service and SSH from another *nix machine with the -X flag to forward X11. Then execute 'pfexec gui-install' to launch the installer. Sweet, it's installed to disk. On a side note, it's kind of cool that I can install an OS over SSH with X11 tunneling. But should I have to? NO!

Intel's OS compatibility guide states that for Solaris 10, one must:

"Edit /usr/bin/X11/Xserver and use the following arguments to make color depth not larger than 16 bit: SERVERARGS="-depth 16 -fbbpp 16""

So I rebooted, entered text mode, and followed that simple instruction to change the color depth. Still no luck after rebooting again, so I gave up and ordered a cheap PCIe graphics card from Newegg which was supported from the start.

Hoping that my compatibility issues have all been resolved, I pushed forward with configuration.

If you managed to get the integrated graphics working, please leave me a comment or shoot me an email!

Posted by Craig Younkins at 10:03 PM 3 comments