Should I use HW Raid or ZFS as filesystem for Citrix XenServer?

by Eric B.   Last Updated January 07, 2018 06:00 AM

I've got a dual Xeon X5650 (6core) HP ProLiant DL160 G6 with 72G RAM and an HP P410 4port hardware raid card that I want to repurpose as a NAS and a test server. Additionally, I have 4 x 4T drives in it.

My initial plan was to just RAID5 the 4 drives and install Citrix Xenserver 7.2 (free version) on it. I have a couple of Windows VMs that I want to run, as well as a PFSense firewall. But the primary use would be to create a main VM to run Docker (CoreOS or CentOS or Ubuntu), and a large 8T Virtual Drive assigned to that VM. Then run different Docker images mounted to different volumes created within that large VHD.

Some of the docker images I would like to run:

  • Plex
  • Sonarr
  • Gitlab
  • Docker-timemachine
  • nextCloud
  • ...

I would also like to able to use some of the 8T as a NAS. For sharing space to my disks in the home. So I started looking into FreeNAS simply because it is easy to use and configure. But then I see that FreeNAS suggests using ZFS and using it as the Docker host.

So now, I'm wondering if my approach is sound at all; should I be putting this much faith in hardware raid vs just using ZFS across the 4 drives instead (and ignoring the RAID altogether)?

But that would mean somehow installing Citrix XenServer on ZFS. Is that even feasible? ie: the Dom0 would be installed and running on a 12T ZFS. How would I do something like that? Given that XenServer is based on CentOS7, I figure it should be doable, but not sure how. Or should I simply install it on an external USB drive? Or is that just asking for trouble?

Should FreeNAS even be considered here, or is my approach more logical? Is there a good NAS docker container that I could run with a simple to use GUI/etc instead ? Should I even run FreeNAS in a virtualized environment like that? I would think/expect that I would normally want to run FreeNAS with direct drive access and not using virtualized drives?

Or should this be approached sightly different, running something like FreeNAS or Openfiler instead as a VM with the 8T assigned to it, and then export some of that space to the Docker Host instead? One thing I want to ensure is the ability to backup my data using Crashplan or SpiderOak.

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