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Suggestions for internal PCIe JBOD SATA/SAS controller?


Jaga
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Going to start on my server upgrade project soon, and need suggestions as to which internal PCIe SATA/SAS controller to use.  The server is going to have ~12-16 internal 3.5" and 2.5" SATA drives in it (it's a large Mountain Mods case), so I won't be using a specific drive enclosure/backplane/etc.  Just SATA or SAS connectors internally, drives all configured in JBOD mode.  I may create a 2xSSD RAID 1 volume for caching purposes, but I can use the on-board RAID for that if necessary.  It will probably be running WSE 2016.

I like the idea of controllers+expanders, but I really don't want to dump a ton of money into this portion of the build.  I do care about performance, but won't be streaming 8+ UHD files at once at any time, so it doesn't have to be a beast.  On-board cache would be nice, but not totally necessary.

All of the 8-10 data drives are going to be shucked 8TB or larger, probably a mix of Reds and Whites (no Archive drives).  I have four older 4TB Reds I'm going to be using initially for SnapRAID parity, that will probably sit on the motherboard SATA controller connections, and later be moved into external USB enclosures (or a small 4x enclosure).  So the PCIe card(s) need to support around 8 drives at a minimum, later on up to 16.  Breakout cables or expanders..  whatever gets the job done well without burning a ton of money.  I don't see $500+ as feasible - $300 or less is ideal.

I was originally considering cards like these, but that was a cursory lookup around 6 months ago, and may or may not be ideal anymore:

I'd also like to get recent tech if possible.  I understand completely that some older generation tech is well received and works great, but this build is for longevity and functionality.

Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

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Well, I'd still recommend those cards.   Between one of them and the motherboard, that should get you 10-12 ports that you can use. 

And while I know that you don't want to dump a bunch of money into it.... keep in mind that if you get a cheap consumer card .... you may end up doing so anyways, as they may have issues and you may end up getting something like this ANYWAYS. 

As for SAS Expanders ... wow, they've dropped in price:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0042NLUVE/

 

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That is a really good price, going to bookmark it for later.  Thanks for the confirmation (and the information) Christopher!

That expander is already EOL, unfortunately.  Still - great price.  Down the line I may end up expanding the array and put them all into a rackmount chassis.  That's long-term thinking though - ~48+ TB will suit my needs for some time yet.

 

Edit:  Dug up this compatibility info for the expander.  Looks like mostly Intel, and some LSI.

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The LSI LOGIC LSI00276 6GB 16PORT adapter is a pretty good deal with the caveat that you will have the cables looping out and then back in to the case. When I got it @ $35 I figured I could deal with my already ugly closet server looking a lil bit funnier. And it's held up quite well.

Amazon no longer has them @ $35, but Server Supply has them at $60. That plus some cables and that's still under $100.

Amazon's cables to match: CableCreation Mini SAS 36Pin (SFF-8088) Male to 4 SATA ~ $15 each.

editing to add: I found another 8 port internal only @ $66 at the same place.

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The first of those two (the LSI00276) isn't a bad card per the specs vs price.  It's date of introduction on Amazon (the only date I could find on any marketplace) was Oct '13, meaning it's been around for 5 years or more.  Well-received technology and good enough capacity but might be nearing EOL, especially since Broadcom acquired LSI 4 years ago.  I suspect Server Supply is clearing them off the shelves with good pricing to make room for other product.  Amazon's lack of stock kinda supports that.

The second one is a refurb, which I probably wouldn't get unless I was swapping out for a damaged card already.  New builds to me are..  new builds. :)

I'm definitely split on the cost vs lifespan tradeoff of products that have been on shelves 3+ years.  Sure you can get them cheaper, but is the risk to the data worth a card with a reduced lifespan?  I haven't put enough older cards through their paces to know.  I do know I look at manufacture dates on spinner drives when I buy them new, and anything over a year goes right back to the seller.  They are after all, just spinning rust - they decay whether used or not.

(Any thoughts on that premise are welcome - it'd be nice to hear other people's experiences)

Apparently it's harder to find new (<2 year old) controller cards.  That, or the newer cards that handle this number of ports are all over $300.  Probably going to have to do a comprehensive website search/review with introduction/manufacture dates to know for certain.

Thanks for the investigation and pricing @nauip !

 

Edit (update):  Did some reading online and the 16e with breakouts routed back in may be a good solution, but found so many horror stories associated with ServerSupply that I'll be steering clear of them.  The same card is still within my budget on Amazon, so it's clearly in the lead right now.  Especially since I can later adapt it to external backplanes/enclosures or internal expander(s) as needed.

Still haven't found an affordable 16i style card.  They all hover around the $400+ mark.

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On 7/22/2018 at 2:50 PM, Jaga said:

That expander is already EOL, unfortunately.  Still - great price.  Down the line I may end up expanding the array and put them all into a rackmount chassis.  That's long-term thinking though - ~48+ TB will suit my needs for some time yet.

SAS2 is EOL, actually.  That's why we're seeing a lot of SAS2 hardware for super cheap.  SAS3 is the current standard, and the SFF connectors are not compatible. 

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Quick update:

I went with the LSI 16e that you suggested @nauip, so thanks for that.  Couldn't find any other options that were as robust or had as much capacity without taking a large leap in cost (more than double).  The card already arrived (OEM version), and was in immaculate condition - clearly never opened or handled.  It's shiny, new, properly flashed and humming along in the server now.  Having seen it myself, I'm less worried about manufacture date.

Mini-SAS cables are on the way, and I've already picked up the 7x8TB drives (in USB enclosures) for shucking later.  The drives are being tested by Stablebit Scanner as we speak (of course!).  Go figure - the very first unit ended up having controller/sector issues, so that's being returned today.

Small side note on the USB enclosures:  they have horrible heat dissipation characteristics.  Stablebit Scanner was able to push them to 50c within 20 minutes, at which point it suspended surface tests to throttle heat (as it should).  The drives sat forever and didn't cool off more than 2c, until I put them on top of case fans blowing up.  After that, I was able to resume the surface scans at full speed, with a temp range of ~30-38c thereafter.  I'm absolutely certain this is why they have lower warranty periods, simply because the drives in off-the-shelf USB enclosures are going to run hotter, and even thermally throttle on large jobs (which I never even suspected).  The catch-22 is that they are 8TB drives, and typically would handle larger jobs...  so they are poorly engineered, and should come with internal fans.

I think I'm going to try to setup the new Pool drives on the old server and transfer data across locally between the two pools, then build the WSE 2016 server on top of a bare-metal Hyper-V 2016 install before adding the new Pool back in.  The thought of transferring >10TB of data on a 1Gbit network makes my skin crawl.  :wacko:

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Found a way to generate SMART data through the LSI adapter.  Funny thing is - it was lurking on the Covecube forums the entire time.  :D 

Simply enable advanced settings in Scanner, stop/start the service, then turn on Unsafe DirectIO.  Problem solved.  And it only took 2-3 hours of research to bring me right back here.

Where's that facepalm emote when you need it?

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