FreeNAS on the Lenovo TS440

With a recent build fresh on the brain I figured I’d share some thoughts on the hardware used as I hope it helps others. I googled and tried to find information ahead of time and found sparse info.

Recently, I set out to replace my current small office FreeNAS box. From a performance standpoint the box looked great on paper: AMD 8core @ 3.4Ghz, 32GB of “good” memory, an expensive Seasonic power supply, and 16 drives attached to a pair of Dell PERC H200 controllers packed into a high end Lian Li full tower. The tower had a SAS backplane and the 5.25″ bays had two 4 disk SATA enclosures installed. The towering behemoth worked like a champ for quite sometime. Day in and day out, the trusty homebrew served up NFS exports to ESXi, Proxmox, and numerous other LAN hosts ranging from RaspberryPi’s to FOG imaging VMs and things of that nature.

LIFE WAS GOOD AND IGNORANCE IS BLISS.

Once or twice while physically away from the box, meaning out of town, I received alerts from an external monitoring service that some of my VMs were down. Of course this only happens when you are away, and only to systems that DON’T have a hardware level remote access solution like IPMI, Intel vPro, HP iLO, or Dell DRAC. But I digress for surely it is OK for your entire FreeNAS box to just mysteriously power off. Not a UPS failure, just an old fashioned “who knows”. Take all that plus the frustration of not being able to power the box on remotely and you begin to see why the homebrew had to go.

Some cursory searches online and a quick check with the fine folk over in #freenas got me thinking about custom vs prebuilt boxes. After comparing prices of various boards and form factors I determined that the Lenovo TS series of towers servers might be a good fit. Several people on #freenas and the internet in general had info on the TS140 which is the smaller and cheaper of the two, but I wanted at least 8 drive bays. The TS140 looks nice if you only need 1-4 cabled drives, hot swap isn’t an option on the little guy.

Armed with what seemed like proper info at the time, I ordered the 4bay variant of the TS440 since it was on sale for a meager $299.99 with free shipping. My plan was to test the system as it came and then add the secondary drive cage and backplane for a grand total of 8 hard drives. As it turns out, my plan was ill-conceived as I could not locate any vendor selling the hardware I needed. I reached out to a well known IT and Lenovo vendor to get the info I needed. Much to my dismay, I was informed that Lenovo does not sell the parts needed to take the 4 bay all the way up to 8 drives. This detail is quite frustrating since the documentation I found stated that the system can be used with a 4 or 8 bay config. That is technically true, but only if you order the right SKU/Lenovo specific part number in the first place.

I am happy to report that the TS440 with XUX SKU is humming along happily now. The XUX model comes with the drive cage, backplane, and add-on controller necessary to run 8 drives. The RAID controller included in the system happily recognized my 4TB SATA disks and 3TB SAS disks. The controller supports RAID levels 0/1/10 out of the box but defaults to exporting disks as JBOD as long as you don’t manually set them up in a RAID array, perfect for ZFS. An option that I also decided to go with was the second power supply. The TS440 comes with a single hot swap supply and a spacer/blank slot for the second.

Hope this helps you with your small office NAS builds if you are condering a Lenovo TS440.

–himuraken

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