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I have a dream...

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Well, sort of. An idea in my head mostly. I'm having difficulty making it a reality and thought I would 'bounce' my idea here off the forums and see what some of the rest of y'all think and maybe offer some suggestions that I'm missing.

I have this idea in my head of coming up with a very small, compact file server capable of raid5 or raid-6 redundant storage with a hardware card, and capable of 8 hard drives up to 2TB per drive and have a lot of multi-TB redundant storage in a small package. Oh also and to try to be cheap with it (before the cost of the drives). I know, you're thinking "hardware raid card and cheap shouldn't equate together", but it can be if we're creative and willing to think outside of the normal box.

So first thought of my mind "How am I going to fit 8 hard drives in a small case" and I stumbled upon the IcyDock drive bays to put multiple 2.5" laptop drives in a single 5.25" bay. Previously they were a bit expensive, around $80/each, but I managed to snag two for $34 each on black friday.

They look like this:


And some of you will think, yes, IcyDock does make an 8 in one for a single bay, but those limit you to smaller (smaller as in physical drive height) 2.5" hard drives, which in turn limits us to 500 GB or 750 GB per drive. So the only way to support the larger (up to 2TB) 2.5" drives is to use the models with 4 trays instead of 8 in each one, which will support up to 15mm high 2.5" drives, and in turn the big 2TB ones.

So that's settled, I now have two of those. On to the other ideas.

Next is to try and find a motherboard and case to fit my idea. Mind you it only needs to be able to sustain 130 MB/s gigabit speed for read/write over the network, so something as simple as a cheap 3ghz Core2Duo chip would be enough for this task. Or even a modern sandy bridge (or newer) celeron dual core would be fine for this. It doesn't have to be fancy.

The other issue is the raid card. Most of those are super expensive, but I have several of the older Dell PERC 6/i cards laying around here and batteries for em, so if possible I would prefer to try and find a system either based on LGA-775 (probably also very cheap used today), or like LGA-1366 possibly, or something like that.

I suppose if I had to with this build I would look in to some of the more expensive raid cards, but that would be sad to have to spend $400 on a raid card for something simple like this. But regardless it would need to be some sort of hardware card that supports both hotswap and auto-rebuild.

For the case I was thinking of some sort of rather small cube case. All it needs is to fit a tiny motherboard with 1 pci-express slot (up to 8x mandatory) for the raid card, and have 2 x 5.25" external accessible bays. I don't care nor want or need any sort of internal 3.5" or 2.5" bays. And if they exist in what ever we find together, I would probably just remove em anyway. Cooling fans not really necessary, this won't be getting very hot and the IcyDock bays have their own built in fans for the hard drives to keep them cool.

My biggest issue is motherboard and then case right now. I'm not even sure what the correct form factor to search for with this is.

I've found this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813138386

Which claims to be "Micro ATX", and looks like the correct form factor. But then I search for older "Micro ATX" motherboards and they're all much larger than that one. So I started looking for "ITX" or "Micro ITX" which seems to be more what I'm looking for, but all the older cheap ones only have PCI ports. I found some that go up to pci-express but they're like nearly $150.

So figuring out the case and board is going to be the next hurdle.

I'm still looking but not having much luck out there. So any suggestions would be helpful.

I'm looking at other raid cards that may work in a newer system. Something like this might be an option: www.ebay.com/itm/321710875252
post #2 of 5
The MicroATX standard is 9.6"x9.6". Most desktop motherboards out there today marketed as micro ATX are actually significantly smaller than that. For instance, my 'MicroATX board is listed as 8.90" x 6.69". Going MiniITX will limit the potential for expansion slots. You specific case needs will dictate your board choices. Since you are using 2x5.25 bays it will limit your choices of MiniITX cases. There would be plenty of MicroATX choices in with those bays, but it may or may not fit into the idea of what you want. I am a big fan of the small cases, but I would suggest you break out a measuring tape and figure out your actual space requirements vs forcing yourself into an unnecessarily small case or for that matter one that is slightly too large in one dimension. Also, you shouldn't have any issue fitting a MiniITX board in a larger case.

Simply going by the number of threads and reviews I have seen over the years about boards where people have issues with add-in cards, I would say your chances of a new motherboard working with your card choice is nearly equal to that of choosing an older board, which seems to be very hit and miss. Once you have chosen your case you can try to find a board that will fit it and search to find one where they have done something remotely similar. The chances of you finding someone using the exact card and motherboard combination are extremely slim. It would be very wise to buy from a place with a very good return policy even if that means spending more than other places. I've been buying smaller boards for years now and have read tons and tons of poor reviews because someone wanted to build a small server out of a desktop board and X card wouldn't work.

If you really want a good chance of your card working then you may need to cough up some bucks and perhaps go up in your size allotment. Using a server board would have a substantially higher chance of working. Companies like SuperMicro do make smaller boards in MicroATX and MiniITX form factors. There are ~60 available on Newegg that you can look at to get an idea of prices and what is available. I haven't bought any of those boards, but I would imagine support for your specific instance would be much better from a company used to dealing with people setting up systems similar to what you are looking for.

Your best bet is probably to scour the internet and see what boards have a good reputation with RAID cards. I would advise against looking at old used boards because they have no warranty, may not be returnable, and would most likely be used which means the potential for a drastically reduced lifespan. I just saw today that they have Intel Skylake Pentium Processors for only $65 which is comparable to the price of similar speed Pentium processors of the last few generations. A more modern board will also have better input and output connections, such as USB 3 ports. This would make it fast and easy to add storage or copy some files to take with you on an external hard drive or even a USB flash drive. Any socket 115*, AM1, other sockets or even some SoC boards like Bay Trail could probably do what you need with a warranty and lower power draw. If you were going to buy a complete used system for cheap then that would be one matter. I don't think it would be wise to build a new system around a motherboard more than a few years old.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Hrmm, thank you for your comment and suggestions. I'll give all of this some thought and thinking. I didn't know supermicro made anything that small. I will definitely have to take a look in to that and see what they offer there.
post #4 of 5
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128565&cm_re=gigabyte_am3%2b-_-13-128-565-_-Product


+ a amd fx maybe



At least you will have more than enough horsepower for anything in the futur smile.gif
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Gaming PC
(18 items)
 
HTPC
(13 items)
 
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Amd Fx 8300 95w Gigabyte 970A-UD3P 8 Phase Sapphire 7950 G.SKILL Trident X DDR3 1600 7-8-8-24 1x8gb 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1tb Corsair H110i GTX Windows 10 64bit Pro 1440x900 Acer 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Coolermaster Devastator Red Corsair RM650 Coolermaster Haf XB Coolermaster Devastator 
Mouse Pad
E-Blue COBFACE 
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post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
I was thinking some sort of small cube computer case sorta like this: http://amigakit.leamancomputing.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=162

But with a universal power supply mount and available in the USA.

I think I've found it on my own!

http://www.ebay.com/itm/161899198843

Probably will go with this. Small enough, 2 external 5.25" bays, and takes standard ATX power supplies of all kinds. Also takes both the full matx spec and itx spec boards.

Not sure on that AMD board, I already own an intel 2000 series i3 chip, and a couple 1155 heatsinks, I'll probably look for a matx 1155 board.
Edited by kithylin - 12/10/15 at 12:09am
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