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I'm looking at building a new home server and would like a flexible filesystem. Both btrfs and zfs are interesting. I want to be able to do soft raid and have flexible solution allowing me to expand storage easily as I add hard drives. Not interested in hardware raid due to cost. Since this is a non-essential server, I'm willing to play around and take some risks. This media server will be available over the Internet for remote playback. Most likely will run Plex Media Server software. I'm thinking of running Ubuntu 12.04 since some of the software I want to use seems only supported on the LTS.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by bodhi.zazen, Mitch, Amith KK, mikewhatever, BuZZ-dEE Feb 25 '14 at 19:11

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

At the momment BTRFS doesn't support RAID-5/6 well enough for me and no wonder it is still labelled as "experimental feature". I also tried to choose between the old soft-raid and BTRFS on top, with the pure btrfs-based solution, and come to conclusion that the critical features wouldn't get to the next LTS release, see the phoronix article – Adam Ryczkowski Feb 25 '14 at 10:22
I don't understand why my post is on hold. I'm asking for advice on what to use for a home media server. I think there might be too many rules on this forum for it to be useful. Is there somewhere else I should post my question? If you make it too hard to use, people will just go somewhere else... – FiftyKnight Feb 26 '14 at 15:09
I understand that the idea is to have a site with questions and answers, that can be used in more-or-less timeless fashion. If you ask for an opinion, then the relevance of the answers will change pretty soon. The solution to your problem is some web forum. On forum the threads are expected to die on its own and never be resurrected, just like a phone conversation with someone. – Adam Ryczkowski Feb 26 '14 at 15:30
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I am currently using btrfs, having used zfs in the past. zfs is quite memory hungry and isn't "linux-native", so if you're happy with a newer / less proven filesystem I recommend btrfs.

If you do go btrfs on Ubuntu LTS I recommend holding out for 14.04 since the recent kernels have a lot of btrfs updates.

A more traditional system would involve LVM + md software raid, this is a tried and tested solution that can give you the expandable storage, software raid, snapshots, etc etc but is not as "cool" as the newer filesystems and misses some features (like checksumming / COW).

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That's a good point. I should consider the less cool, but probably more stable LVM + md approach. I'll check into it. Thanks! – FiftyKnight Feb 25 '14 at 0:44
I'm not greatly informed about LVM but did read a little on it...the newer LVM does support COW (of the snapshots). I have no idea about checksumming however......+1 – TrailRider Feb 25 '14 at 1:52
@TrailRider that makes sense, I thought that might be how they did it. btrfs supports COW for individual files as well (via the --reflink argument to cp), zfs does not. zfs, and more recently btrfs, support online deduplication which LVM does not. – dwurf Feb 25 '14 at 5:03

Hardware RAID is much revered by some, but I think it's like dreaming of having an US army tank as your only vehicle. Sure it's safe, but it's huge, has prohibitive maintenance and fuel costs and actually becomes a trap when it lets you down in the middle of nowhere, with no standard repair service being able to help you.

Plus hardware RAID has well-known flaws that full software-RAID solutions like BTRFS and ZFS avoid.

For the kind of use you're planning, there's no "better" software-RAID solution between ZFS and BTRFS, it's only a matter of choosing the one that suits you best :

  • ZFS and BTRFS are both excellent software-RAID / Volume Manager integrated solutions
  • ZFS and BTRFS both feature copy-on-write, snapshots and blocks check-sum control
  • ZFS can handle much bigger filesystems, but BTRFS can handle way enough TB for any private storage box
  • communities are working on ZFS-ports for Linux, BSD and OS X, based on the last open sources that were available from Sun Microsystems' repository before closing (they don't have the very latest features implemented by Oracle, but it's a mature FS)
  • BTRFS is offered as an optional package in most Linux distributions as it's not considered stable yet, but continues to be developed at a fast pace
  • ZFS uses more RAM than BTRFS as previous poster mentioned it (4GB minimum, 8GB recommended, but the more the better)

Hope it helps.

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The fact that ZFS isn't native linux rules it out for me. Now to choose between BTRFS and LVM/md. I've heard LVM/md is difficult to administer. I'm going to research it more. I've played with BTRFS on 13.10 and it was easy to setup. Going to test various failure and expansion scenarios. Thanks! – FiftyKnight Feb 25 '14 at 4:14
"ZFS can handle much bigger filesystems" : do you have any source for this? – F.X. Jan 3 '15 at 21:55
@F.X. BTRFS Max volume size = 2^64 Bytes [] | ZFS Max volume size = 2^78 Bytes [] | Max file size are the same, but BTRFS supports more files on a volume. – Eric_DL May 9 '15 at 3:08

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