Open Source Storage Area Network–Part 2

In my previous article, I discussed various options for the Operating System for my Storage Area Network. In this article, I will discuss my choice in more detail. Below you can find links to other parts of this guide.

Operating System

Just to recap from my previous article, I chose to build my Operating System from the distribution up. For me, this provided the most flexibility of all the options discussed. I chose to stick with Ubuntu, but any Linux distribution that has the Kernel 3.5 should contain all the code built in to function as a SAN (More on that later). I will be installing a few other packages on top of this Operating System, but for the most part, it will remain a vanilla install. Here are some other distributions with the required kernel:

  • OpenSuSE
  • Fedora

It is important to note that although the use of a graphical interface can be used, my guide will not require any UI other than a terminal and therefore function from a vanilla install of a server edition of Ubuntu.

There are many reasons that I prefer Ubuntu over other flavors of Linux. For me Ubuntu has been easy from both a desktop and a server standpoint. It has also worked well for me on hypervisor products like ESXi and Hyper-V making it great for testing. Security wise I like how Ubuntu defaults all users to a non-root level terminal. It helps make fewer mistakes when typing commands on the terminal. It also means that logging in is a little more secure as the root account never gets used directly. Ubuntu is also very good at staying up to date with regular releases and packages.

Downsides to using Ubuntu is the use of Debian packages instead of RPMs. This can make some tools more difficult to get running outside of the packages mentioned below. There might also be some syntax differences or path differences between packages. Each flavor of Linux prefers some folders over others.


Once my Operating System is installed and functioning, I needed several software packages to provide functions of our SAN. Some of these packages can be optional and there may be other packages you want to add to this list such as RAID management software. I will not cover these as different products have different tools.


LIO is already technically installed and stands for Linux IO. Linux IO was developed by a company called Datera (formerly Rising Tides). Because this package is in the kernel, I do not need to install it, but you need to understand it. LIO handles communication for all the major storage protocols for Linux. This includes:

  • Fibre Channel
  • Fibre Channel over Ethernet
  • iSCSI

LIO in itself cannot be managed without calling the APIs for configuration. It also does not handle features like replication or snapshots. This is where some of the other packages come into play. LIO does not include functionality for NFS and CIFS. Both of these are handled by other products.


TargetCLI is a free product also developed by Datera for LIO SAN management. They offer a feature rich Operating System that offers much more functionality, but has a yearly maintenance subscription. If you are looking to build this SAN for a small or medium business, I highly recommend looking at the route of the subscription. Because RTS OS requires a subscription, I will use their free tool for basic functionality.

OpenSSH Server

Because I are using this Operating System as a bare metal SAN, I need some way to manage the product remotely. You could connect a crash cart up and configure it as needed, but the choice is up to you. SSH gives me the ability to secure administer the SAN with a remote terminal window. There are free tools for various Operating Systems that will let you connect to an SSH server. In this guide, I will mostly be using PuTTY.


Because I am connecting using Fibre-Channel and iSCSI, I will not go into detail on setting up NFS. If you are following along and using Ubuntu, I recommend checking out this article for more information on setting up the NFS server. NFS can work outside LIO or beside LIO depending on your configuration. You can use LIO to connect a remote iSCSI system up and then use NFS to export paths should you choose.


I am also not going into detail on CIFS or SMB as well, but installing Samba will allow you to make your SAN appear on the network as a normal file server for Windows machines. Just like NFS, Samba can share folders based on configurations of LIO.


In this article I discussed the software aspect of our SAN. This included the Operating System and the supporting software to turn the system into a SAN. In our next article, I will be discussing the hardware I am using for this SAN.

Important Links

Finally, a good friend of mine has an online book on how to use Linux as well as tips for setting up various services such as NFS and Samba:


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