Recently, I was invited to do a Linus Tech Tips video with a neat objective: create something that one can edit video on that is cheaper and faster than a Lumaforge Jellyfish. We called it the “Jellyfish Fryer.” The Lumaforge Jellyfish is a CentOS ZFS-based hard drive storage server designed for video creators. It comes out of the box and works. Further, it is supported by a company that provides warranty and support. Without question, this has value that Lumaforge should charge for. At the same time, the premise of our video is that one can build a faster, lower power, more reliable system at a lower cost if they are willing to support the project themselves.
In this article, we are going to show how you can accomplish many of the same things as the Lumaforge Jellyfish offers at a lower cost. In the event you have not seen it, here is the video we are going to talk about:
Let us begin!
Problem Statement: Fry Jellyfish
When Linus and I discussed this project over a stroll in Taipei, he described to me the Jellyfish and I have to admit, I was shocked. If you have 1-2 users, then using a NAS in a direct attach setup is easy, and it is something that we see many users do to avoid the cost of a switch. Once 3-4 clients are added, the cost of a switch becomes relatively low. If you saw our MikroTik CRS309-1G-8S+IN Overview and Unboxing there is a $270 completely silent switch that has 8x 10GbE ports. So the cost to move to a switched network is very low.
We set out the following objectives for the Jellyfish Fryer:
- Have a similar capacity to the Jellyfish
- Use inexpensive 4TB class Seagate IronWolf SSDs
- Direct connect multiple clients
- Use FreeNAS on a 45drives Stornado for the project
- End up at the same or a lower cost than the Jellyfish
With those main objectives, we picked a time a few weeks later to build and film the video. Here are the easy steps you can do to get started.
Step 1: Procure Hardware
There are a few ways to go about this. We used the 45drives Stornado as a base. This has Intel Xeon E5-2620 V4 processors and is ready to go out of the box. Linus previously did an unboxing video and installed the drives in the chassis. You can get the Seagate IronWolf drives at your favorite e-tailer such as Amazon. Inserting drives was very easy and requires little to no technical skill. I was absolutely impressed by the chassis and I came away wanting one for my own use (sans the system part since we have plenty of high-end gear in the lab.)
Another option is to buy the FreeNAS Centurion. This is a $24,900 solution that includes the server, either 2x 100GbE or 6x 10GbE ports, and 26x 3.84TB SSDs for around 100TB of raw storage (99.84TB but we can round.) The plus side to this is that you can just buy a pre-configured system and skip the rest of this guide. You also save $10,000 or more over what Linus and I built.
The pluses for the 45drives Stornado:
- Higher raw capacity (up to 32x SSDs)
- A chassis and fans designed to be used in an office data closet
The pluses for the FreeNAS Centurion are:
- Newer/ faster architecture with a lower cost
- FreeNAS comes pre-installed so you simply need to hook it up to your systems/ network
- Warranty on the entire system from iXsystems versus piecemeal warranties
Longtime STH readers and our forum members are likely thinking they can ebay parts at a lower cost. That is fair. If you want to go into the fully bespoke space, the STH forums are where you should go. We also have our Top Hardware Components for FreeNAS NAS Servers resource to help with component selection.
Next, we are going to assume you have a system with storage and show how to set it up.
Configuring a Jellyfish Fryer NAS
In this section we are going to go through a few key steps:
- Installing FreeNAS
- Initial configuration
- Connecting to your Jellyfish Fryer
- A few words on how to do things better
The overall setup should only take a few minutes.
Installing FreeNAS is a fairly simple affair. You can download FreeNAS here. You then can either remote mount the ISO over IPMI or burn it to a USB flash drive and boot from it. Once you boot, you will see this screen. You can hit enter or just let it automatically boot after a few seconds.
You next select Install/ Upgrade and click Ok.
Pick your installation disk. This should not be a data drive and should be its own drive or two. FreeNAS uses a dedicated boot device. Check out our Top Picks for FreeNAS Boot Drives to see some options.
Next, confirm you want to erase the drive and install FreeNAS.
The installer will ask you for a password
The installer will then ask how you want to boot. If you have an old server, choose BIOS. If you have something newer, use UEFI. The easy way to remember this is BIOS is the legacy technology even Windows 95 PCs used. UEFI is the modern version. Anything that was sold as the new and current generation in 2017 or later, we usually recommend UEFI.
Finally, the installer will ask you to reboot the system.
After clicking OK you may be taken back to the first blue screen above. FreeNAS needs a reboot and shutdown option from this menu but it may take you one more step to select those.
As you reboot the system, here is an important step: connect an Ethernet port to your local network. We typically use the first network port for this, but FreeNAS can use any. On the FreeNAS Mini line, and most Supermicro motherboards this is the bottom leftmost network port. In this shot from our FreeNAS Mini XL+ Review, that is the middle bottom network port. We do this so we can easily logon to the WebGUI after.
After the system reboots you will see a console screen with the IP address of the system. You can simply put one of these into your browser.
Now you should be able to use “root” and the password you selected to login.
You should now be at the FreeNAS dashboard, and your installation is complete. It is now time to do the configuration and we are only 9 clicks in.