As Easy As Openfiler

Need an easy and powerful storage solution? Openfiler is one excellent option. Let's check it out.

Managing storage isn’t easy but Openfiler makes it less painful. You can create NFS and CIFS shares, iSCSI targets, web services, LDAP authentication, FTP services and Rsync services with Openfiler. You can setup quotas to limit those annoying space hogs and limit renegade connections with network security settings. For universal access to network attached storage, there may be no easier answer than Openfiler.

Openfiler is an appliance, which means that it has a single, specific function. When the system boots the first time, you receive a text-based welcome screen that directs you to use the web interface for Openfiler management.

The Basics

The quick method for the impatient is to download an ISO image from the Openfiler website, burn to a CD-R, boot from the CD image and install. This demonstration uses the Openfiler ISO x86 image. Use at least 512MB RAM* and any standard disk (1GB or larger) for Openfiler. Note: For a very efficient system, you can install Openfiler to a USB pendrive.

You can install Openfiler without a knowledge of Linux or storage systems. You’re only a few mouse clicks and a few minutes of patience away from a successful installation. Since Openfiler’s management interface is web-based, it’s conceivable that someone with no Linux skills could install and manage an Openfiler server. For example, Figure 1 shows the default primary disk setup provided by the Openfiler installation wizard.

Figure 1: Default Disk Layout for Openfiler
Figure 1: Default Disk Layout for Openfiler

Using Openfiler

Figure 2 shows you the initial boot screen directing you to the web-based interface. It’s possible to manage the system from the command line but it’s not recommended for most users.

Figure 2: The Openfiler Console Screen
Figure 2: The Openfiler Console Screen

The first thing you need to do is point a browser to the IP Address and port (446) displayed on the Openfiler screen. Next, select the System tab and select the Launch system update link. Figure 3 shows the System Update page that opens for you to list the updates needed to bring your Openfiler system up to date. Select Update All Packages, Background Update and click the Install Updates button to update the system.

Figure 3: Openfiler's System Update Application
Figure 3: Openfiler’s System Update Application

After your system update completes, it’s time to setup your storage volume(s). To begin this process, select the Volumes tab and click the create new physical volumes link provided. You’re directed to the Block Device Management screen as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Block Device Management - Volume Setup Step One
Figure 4: Block Device Management – Volume Setup Step One

Select a volume, by device name, /dev/sdb1, for example. On the next screen, create any partitions that you want and return to the Block Device Management screen, when finished. These screens are basically web-based fdisk and have nothing to do with presenting storage yet.

Create a new Volume Group by clicking the Volume Groups link in the right-hand pane. Name your new Volume Group, select the physical volume(s) to add and click the Add volume group button as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Creating the Volume Group - Volume Setup Step Two
Figure 5: Creating the Volume Group – Volume Setup Step Two

Now you need to add a Volume to the Volume Group you just created. Select the Add Volume link, select your Volume Group from the dropdown menu, scroll down until you see your selected Volume Group. Name the Volume, enter a Volume Description, use the slider, or manually enter a number (1024), to select an amount of space you wish to allocate to that Volume, select the filesystem type from the dropdown (XFS, ext3, iSCSI) and click the Create button to create the new Volume, Files1 in the Files Volume Group. See Figure 6.

Figure 6: Creating the Volume - Volume Setup Step Three
Figure 6: Creating the Volume – Volume Setup Step Three

Figure 7 shows you the results of the Files1 Volume creation and the current status of the Files Volume Group.

Figure 7: The Finished Volume Status
Figure 7: The Finished Volume Status

Your volumes aren’t ready to use by remote systems quite yet. You need to setup the services that make them available to remote systems and users. To do so, select the Services tab and click the NFS server Enable link to start the NFS service.

Click the Shares tab, select the User Files link and create a new subfolder (Users1) that the system will share via NFS. Select the Users1 link created and click the Make Share button. When you’re redirected to the Users1 share page, scroll down to set access modes, user permissions, host access configurations and click the Update button.

You will now see an entry similar to the following in /etc/exports.


Your users may now connect via NFS to the Users1 share.

Advanced Openfiler

To change the root password, you’ll have to boot up in single user mode, change the password and reboot again. To change the root password using this method, boot the system and when you see the boot menu, press the space bar to stop the countdown. Press the ‘a’ key on your keyboard to append a command to the boot parameters. The grub append prompt looks like the following.

grub append> ro root=LABEL=/  quiet

To enter the command, press your SPACE bar once and enter the word “single” without the quotes as shown below.

grub append> ro root=LABEL=/  quiet single

Press the ENTER key to accept and continue booting the system. After a minimal startup, you’ll drop to a single user root prompt.


Use the passwd command to change the root password to something you know. Type init 3 at the prompt to continue booting the system into multi-user mode. You can now login at the login prompt as root or via the web console (System tab->Secure Console).

Your Volume Groups are actually directories under the /mnt directory and the Volumes you create exist under that directory. For example, for this demonstration, the Volume Group and Volume are: /mnt/files/files1. Any shares you create are under this directory tree. Keep this in mind when using Openfiler and creating new Volumes and shares.

This very abbreviated introduction to Openfiler will get you started but is by no means complete or exhaustive. There is a user manual available for a small fee. You can also purchase commercial support for Openfiler through the website.

Openfiler is a free solution for small to medium-sized businesses or for personal use. It solves the problem of a higher-end storage solution with good security and an easy-to-use web interface. I strongly recommend purchasing commercial support for business use. Anything this easy to use is also just as easy to put you into an accidentally-induced disaster that might prove difficult to recover from.

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