Offering an unlimited online backup service takes a lot of cloud storage. When Backblaze was started in 2007 we needed a way to store our customer's data inexpensively and safely. We developed the Backblaze Storage Pod as the key building block of our cloud storage, putting 45 hard drives in a 4U sized server. We then did something a bit unconventional and open sourced the hardware design so others could build it. Over a half-a-million people have read the original blog post “Petabytes on a Budget”. We’ve been updating the design with improvements since. The price of the Storage Pod has dropped over the years; our most recent pod 4.0 costs Backblaze $9,305 for 180TB of storage which translates to $0.0517 per GB.
• Pod 1.0: Petabytes on a Budget
• Pod 2.0: Revealing More Secrets
• Pod 3.0: 180TB of Good Vibrations
• Pod 4.0: Direct Wire Drives – Faster, Simpler
and Less Expensive
After the first blog post, a few resourceful people started building Backblaze Storage Pods for themselves and began to send in pictures and stories of their home made pods. Even companies like Shutterfly and Netflix were inspired to build their own storage pods.
A Building Block
The Backblaze Storage Pod is just one part of building a cloud storage service. In order to boot the machine you will need to have a software layer. Backblaze uses all free software, Debian and Apache, to connect the pods to our network.
Starting at the bottom, there are 45 hard drives connected through SATA controllers. We then use the fdisk tool on Linux to create one partition per drive. On top of that, we cluster 15 hard drives into a single RAID6 volume with two parity drives (out of the 15). The RAID6 is created with the mdadm utility. On top of that is the EXT4 file system, and the only access we then allow to this totally self-contained storage building block is through HTTPS running custom Backblaze application layer logic in Apache Tomcat 5.5.
After that the formatted (useable) space is 87 percent of the raw hard drive totals. One of the most important concepts here is that to store or retrieve data with a Backblaze Storage Pod, it is always through HTTPS. There is no iSCSI, no NFS, no SQL, no Fibre Channel. None of those technologies scales as cheaply, reliably, goes as big, nor can be managed as easily as stand-alone pods with their own IP address waiting for requests on HTTPS.
We built our own software layer to monitor the pod, decide where to store data and how to encrypt it, deduplicate it, and index it. This process is proprietary technology that we have developed over the years.
Buying vs Building
If you are interested in buying a Storage Pod we recommend you talk to the folks at 45 Drives, a division of Protocase. They are very capable of building you a Backblaze inspired Storage Pod that can be customized if desired. They also can sell you a Storinator™, their 180TB storage solution. The Storinator is similar to Storage Pod 4.0 in many ways, and is readily available at $5,403 for the non-redundant version and $6,888 for the redundant version. This does not include the price of the drives, tax, or shipping. While the 45 Drives system does not include hard drives, they test each system they build with drives before they ship the unit to you. Then it’s up to you to buy and install the hard drives. Remember that while the 45 Drives products are inspired by Backblaze, we do not build, test, or warrant them. Since we don’t sell the Storage Pods and don’t make money off of ancillary services, we don’t provide support for people who buy them from 45 Drives or other manufacturers.
The prices listed are from the sources noted and are as of the date of this page. Taxes and shipping are not included. You may find better prices with a little more research. Good luck.
Pod 4.0: Updated June 27, 2014
4U Custom Case
Includes case, anti-vibration assemblies, cross supports, etc.
8GB DDR3 RAM
Kingston 4GB – KVR16E11S8 DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
Direct Wire SATA Cable 4/24
Direct wire cable SATA/Power 4 connectors – 24″ length
Direct Wire SATA Cable 4/30
Direct wire cable SATA/Power 4 connectors – 30″ length
Direct Wire SATA Cable 1/24
Direct wire cable SATA/Power 1 connector – 24″ length
FrozenCPU ele-302 Bulgin Vandal Momentary LED Power Switch 12″ 2-pin
Standoff: Round 6-32 X 1/4 Dia X 5/16 Lng: Motherboard mount (15TSP054B)
Tips for Assembly
When it comes time to assemble, here are a few resources that could help.
45 drives.com Wiki
They have step by step photo instructions, a list of compatible hardware, FAQs and a lot more. A great resource for getting started.