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scar45

Building a proper WHS server (Need advice)

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Hello all!

 

Nice to (re)join everyone in the new forums, as I've been a long-time Drivepool user who never really had issues...at least until recently. Don't get me wrong, Drivepool is outstanding, but I have some questions with regards to building a new server, as my current/old one has died on me. (Forgive me for the long post, but I want to do this correctly and cost-effectively!)

 

A little history first. I was running an Acer Easystore H340 server which came with WHSv1. About 2 years ago, I upgraded it to WHS2011 and purchased the Drivepool Add-in, along with a Rosewill RSV-8(?) 8-bay external JBOD enclosure that used 2 eSATA connectors. Everything was working swimmingly. Just a few days ago, I started getting warnings from my SMART add-in that some drives were experiencing CRC errors and bad sectors. Due to concern, I started investigating, and in the end, it appears that my H340 PSU was dying, as the system no longer turns on, or spins up the fans. Rather than try to source a replacement PSU for the H340, since it is long in the tooth and has an Atom CPU, I have plans to build a 'real' WHS server.

 

So, I am leaning towards a Norco RPC-4220 chassis with mini-SAS connectors. I have never had the pleasure (or privilege) of messing around with SAS, so I have some concerns. Basically, I want to keep the JBOD type of setup and continue using Drivepool on top of a more robust I/O lane and system platform (Mobo/CPU/RAM). I already have about 14 SATA drives, and I'd like to continue using them. As far as I believe, the data on these drives is safe, and I understand I can install WHS2011 from scratch, add the Drivepool add-in, then power down and reinstall the HDDs, after which Drivepool should recognize them and add them to my (new?) pool.

 

My main question is if the Norco RPC-4220 and an SAS card that has a mini-SAS SFF-8087 will work together properly to support JBOD along with Drivepool. The controller card is my concern, as I am not sure which would be the best choice. I've narrowed it down to two semi-affordable ones without breaking the bank:

As I understand it, the LSI may be the best bet, as I wouldn't mind paying more for reliability so as to avoid anything blowing up within the next 5-10 (if I'm lucky) years. Would each of these cards be able to work with the Norco chassis? There aren't a lot of good detail pics of the Norco, so I imagine that each backplane would have an SFF-8087 port that I would connect to one port on the controller. Thing is, if I want to support all 20 drives, would I not need either multiple controllers, or an SAS Expander? If one controller plus the SAS Expander would be the best route, can you recommend any SAS Expanders? Newegg would be ideal as a supplier so that I can get the entire shipment at once, but I'm relatively flexible here.

 

Afterwards, I would build everything up, and as I said, install WHS2011 + DrivePool, create a pool with a few blank HDDs, then power down and connect the rest of the drives, subsequently adding them to the new pool. I suppose I would need to re-create the shared folders first though correct? That shouldn't be a problem as I only had about 10-12.

 

I GREATLY appreciate any help/feedback you guys can give, as my server is completely offline and really hindering my home network as I used it for DNS/DHCP and a host of other services that ran.

 

Many thanks in advance! :D

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Hello scar45,

 

I have the same Norco 4220 case and the LSI 9201-16i SAS card because I do not need RAID.  For drive connectivity, I use these mini-SAS cables with an ASUS KCMA-D8 motherboard with a PIKE2008 installed on it.  Both of these use the same LSI controller and both are managed in the same BIOS utility.  This provides all the SATA ports I need and a few extra.  I have been using this server for 2-3 years with 0 problems.  I had to RMA a couple memory modules once is about it.

 

Instead of installing WHS 2011 directly on it, I installed ESXi to an SSD inside the case, used the PIKE RAID capabilities to create an SSH RAID for VM storage, installed WHS 2011 as a VM, and did a Raw Device Mapping of the hard drives so WHS would have direct access to them.  You can also pass the entire LSI controller through to the VM or add all the disks as datastores and create virtual disks in the VM for DrivePool.  This allows me to use server resources for other virtual machines as well.

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otispresley, that's a very nice, higher end system.  :)

 

 

@Scar45:

 

The Norco RPC 4220 is a very nice case. I know, I have one. :)

As for SAS, for the most part, it's nothing to be afraid of. It's higher end storage stuff.  It allows for higher speeds, and a lot more connections. But for the most part, that may not be much of a concern for you.

And yes, the Norco has 5x mini SFF-8087 connects. As well as 5x power connectors for the drives. So you'd need those cables.

Well, I'd recommend a "reverse breakout cable" to connect 4 of your motherboard ports to 4 of the bays. 

http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816133033

 

 

As for the controller cards, I have a HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL card. And "JBOD" isn't the term you're looking for (at least not with this card). If you do get this card, then you'd just want to attach the disks, and "be done with it". It will set the disks into "Legacy Mode", which is what you want. This will pass the disks to the OS, and will pass on the SMART data (if you enable "UnsafeDirectIo").

 

As for the other two, I'd recommend LSI over the other. But that's because I'm m ore familiar with LSI.  I believe the BIOS for that allows you to just pass the disks through (but I'm not sure, as I hacked mine to use the "IT" firmware, which acts as just a controller card, which is what I wanted). 

 

However, with the cards that you have listed, you'd need two of them. And you'd need four of the SAS cables:

http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816133034

(or 3 cards and 5 cables, if you don't get the reverse breakout cable and connect 4 of the motherboard ports)

 

 

Either way, once you get the parts and the server installed, and the drives connected. As soon as DrivePool is installed, if it sees the drives, it will immediately recreate the pool. You will need to "reshare" the folders. To do that, download the WSS troubleshooter, and run the "Restore DRivePool shares (reinstall)" option:

http://wiki.covecube.com/StableBit_DrivePool_Utilities

 

 

Also, if you do buy any hardware, I would recommend boards that support ECC RAM. This is more expensive (both for the RAM and the mobo usually), but it's more reliable, and less likely to experience issues. That, or most AMD boards do support ECC RAM, but check. 

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Thanks for the awesome replies fellas!

 

@otispresley - That is an impressive setup indeed! I think it may be overkill for my needs, but it's great to see the variations that can be achieved for such setups.

 

@drashna - I appreciate the extra info about recovering the DrivePool, as hardware is one thing, but being able to access my existing data once I've built the server is obviously important. I think I am going to go with the Norco 4220 case, but with regards to the controller, I'm leaning towards the LSI card, however I'm not sure if I should get two, or just the one and then use an SAS Expander from Chenbro or something. I think it would be nice to have the extra ports with the Chenbro in case I wanted to add another external enclosure (disks only of course), then loop that into the external ports on the SAS Expander. Of course, the expander should also be able to handle all 5 backplanes within the Norco case.

 

I have an AM3+ system with GSkill memory, and while I know this is a mainstream/desktop base, I have acquired the parts previously, so I might as well put them to use. Again, compared to the old H340 running on 2gb of RAM + an Atom CPU, I'm sure this will still be a reliable step up. I also have a SeaSonic 1050 watt gold PSU that I'd like to use, but since it has more SATA power connectors than Molex, I may have to get some SATA power --> Molex adapters.

 

This leads me to another question though. I understand the Norco backplanes have two Molex ports each, with one designed to be for redundant PSUs. If I only have the single (12v rail) SeaSonic, would I actually need to connect TWO power cables to each backplane? I don't see much of a point if both would be connected to the same PSU, but alas, I don't want to starve the HDDs/backplane of power.

 

Hoping to get your (or anyone's) thoughts on the 2nd LSI controller VS 1 LSI + an SAS Expander, as well as advice on how many power cables are required to be connected to each Norco backplane.

 

I'm excited to get this going, but the toughest part will be waiting for the parts to arrive, and also sourcing out a good SAS Expander if that's the better route for future expandability.

 

Thanks again!

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If you want the LSI card, and don't mind hacking, get an IBM ServRAID m1015 (or m1115) and "cross flash" it to the LSI firmware. You can use the "IR" mode (RAID) or "IT" mode (HBA/just controller card).

That is what I did, and I'm VERY happy with it. Though, you'd want two of these cards.  

That or spend the cash on an official LSI card. They're good qaulity.

 

As for the storage, just connect the backplanes in the case to the cards. I've linked the cables that you'd need. And then you can just put drives in the bays (SAS or SATA drives will work).

 

No need for expanders. If you plan on using RAID, than an extender wouldn't be a bad idea. But if you're passing disks through, then you are better off NOT using expanders (due to disk throughput, vs PCIe throughput).

 

Per lane (each direction)

v1.x: 250 MB/s (2.5 GT/s)

v2.x: 500 MB/s (5 GT/s)
v3.0: 985 MB/s (8 GT/s)
v4.0: 1969 MB/s (16 GT/s)
So, a 16-lane slot (each direction):
v1.x: 4 GB/s (40 GT/s)
v2.x: 8 GB/s (80 GT/s)
v3.0: 15.75 GB/s (128 GT/s)
v4.0: 31.51 GB/s (256 GT/s)

 

And by "Lanes", this is the x# for the card (x4, x8, x16)

 

 

As for power, you only need to connect one set of the power connectors (I can verify that, as that's all I need with my 4220 case). However, if you have the spare molex, no reason not to connect them. Just incase.

 

 

 

And I definitely understand the whole "excited" bit. It is. 

And have you checked out my server, link in signature. Surprisingly similar to what you've described. :)

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I had the Norco case and found it very loud in a home setting. 

 

I went with a cheaper Fractal case that is much quieter. To deal with the lower drive count capacity, I upgraded to WD Red 3tb drives (you might go 4tb). This also meant that I did not need a second controller.

 

If noise isn't an issue, the Norco was a good case.

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Psilberman,

 

Did you use the stock fans, or did you swap them out for quieter fans? I've swapped them out and it works much better.

 

But yeah, the Norco's aren't exactly quite. But they're not meant to be. They're server grade. But personally, I don't mind.

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I have a Norco 4220 I'd love to get rid of.  It comes with 20 3.5" drive trays.I have the original noisy fans and lower velocity quieter fans are in it now.  The lower velocity are suitable for the later generation of 1T to 4T drives. 

 

You can use a standard 750-850 watt power supply, or I also have the 3 section power supply with 3 AC connections designed to make power redundant if the AC inputs are on electrically diverse sources or ups's.  This power supply is loud, but effective.  

 

Also have the deep rack slide rails for the case.  There are also available two AMCC/3Ware RAID controller cards and interfacing cables for 8 SATA drives each.

 

There's probably other stuff too, once I start looking through everything.

 

This is a heavy case, so shipping could become an issue if you're too far from the San Diego (southern CA) area.

 

I'm not going to be picky about the prices of things, I just need the room. 

 

Any questions about this stuff, please email me at bblue@netoldies.com.

 

Make a reasonable offer and it's all yours.

 

--Bill

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Wow, I've never heard of the Norco 20 bay servers.   If put quieter fans in could be great!

 

Cheaper on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/NORCO-Mount-Hot-Swappable-Server-RPC-4020/dp/B001NO7THO

 

I wonder if SuperMicro has a similar option?  My friend is a dealer and could be me one at cost.

http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/

 

My USB 3.0 based system is not 100% stable. (reboot fixes things for awhile) and I'm leaning on going back to real SATA.

 

Here's my complete setup:

http://community.covecube.com/index.php?/topic/274-1x-zotac-zbox-id-83-mini-pc-x3-mediasonic-usb-30-enclosures-x12-wd-red-3tb-drives-x1-anker-usb-30-hub/

The Media Sonic boxes support both USB 3.0 and eSATA so I could also try a new PC that supports at least 2 PCIe slots for eSATA compatible controllers. 

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Wow, I've never heard of the Norco 20 bay servers.   If put quieter fans in could be great!

 

Cheaper on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/NORCO-Mount-Hot-Swappable-Server-RPC-4020/dp/B001NO7THO

 

I wonder if SuperMicro has a similar option?  My friend is a dealer and could be me one at cost.

http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/

 

My USB 3.0 based system is not 100% stable. (reboot fixes things for awhile) and I'm leaning on going back to real SATA.

 

Here's my complete setup:

http://community.covecube.com/index.php?/topic/274-1x-zotac-zbox-id-83-mini-pc-x3-mediasonic-usb-30-enclosures-x12-wd-red-3tb-drives-x1-anker-usb-30-hub/

The Media Sonic boxes support both USB 3.0 and eSATA so I could also try a new PC that supports at least 2 PCIe slots for eSATA compatible controllers. 

 

It's the wonky controller in the Mediasonce box,  I used the datoptic USB3 to sata adapter for a while, and it's rock solid, never dropped a disk with my mediasonic sata2/USB2 box.

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Wow, I've never heard of the Norco 20 bay servers.   If put quieter fans in could be great!

 

Cheaper on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/NORCO-Mount-Hot-Swappable-Server-RPC-4020/dp/B001NO7THO

 

I wonder if SuperMicro has a similar option?  My friend is a dealer and could be me one at cost.

http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/

 

My USB 3.0 based system is not 100% stable. (reboot fixes things for awhile) and I'm leaning on going back to real SATA.

 

Here's my complete setup:

http://community.covecube.com/index.php?/topic/274-1x-zotac-zbox-id-83-mini-pc-x3-mediasonic-usb-30-enclosures-x12-wd-red-3tb-drives-x1-anker-usb-30-hub/

The Media Sonic boxes support both USB 3.0 and eSATA so I could also try a new PC that supports at least 2 PCIe slots for eSATA compatible controllers. 

Yeah, it's not quiet at all. However, it's not *that* loud.

 

But then again, I have the "SAS" model of the one you linked as my server. And I'm used to hearing it all the time. Great white noise generator....

Though I got mine from a friend for just the shipping. 

 

And yes, Super Micro has similar cases.

http://www.supermicro.com/products/chassis/4U/

The SC846, SC847, and SC848 cases are all 4U cases with 24 bays, I think.

 

 

And as for your USB issue, I'm not surprised. Its why I don't like USB. It has it's uses, but long term uptime isn't one of them, IMO.

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It's the wonky controller in the Mediasonce box,  I used the datoptic USB3 to sata adapter for a while, and it's rock solid, never dropped a disk with my mediasonic sata2/USB2 box.

 

Hey thanks for the idea!   I was about to drop money on a whole new server but I'll go ahead and try three of the datoptic adapters first.   

U3esata

http://www.datoptic.com/ec/usb3-usb2-to-esata-with-port-multiplier-mac-windows.html

http://www.amazon.com/Adapter-Support-Multiplier-Patent-Pending/dp/B005DCCMII/

 

 

 

If that doesn't stabilize my system, I have my eye on the

http://www.lian-li.com/en/dt_portfolio/pc-v2120/

Here's an older video

   

 

(new one has USB 3.0)

 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112312

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Hey thanks for the idea!   I was about to drop money on a whole new server but I'll go ahead and try three of the datoptic adapters first.   

U3esata

http://www.datoptic.com/ec/usb3-usb2-to-esata-with-port-multiplier-mac-windows.html

http://www.amazon.com/Adapter-Support-Multiplier-Patent-Pending/dp/B005DCCMII/

 

 

 

If that doesn't stabilize my system, I have my eye on the

http://www.lian-li.com/en/dt_portfolio/pc-v2120/

Here's an older video

   

 

(new one has USB 3.0)

 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112312

I might suggest to give one a go first,  for a couple of reasons,  I'm not sure how large your spacing is between ports but you might can do two of them one on top of the other, but there's no way to do two of  them side by side, the units would be too wide, and secondly, make sure it solves your problem,  all systems are different.

 

Your going from one end of the extreme to the other with the size of your sever. 

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I might suggest to give one a go first,  for a couple of reasons,  I'm not sure how large your spacing is between ports but you might can do two of them one on top of the other, but there's no way to do two of  them side by side, the units would be too wide, and secondly, make sure it solves your problem,  all systems are different.

 

Your going from one end of the extreme to the other with the size of your sever. 

 

I just got the U3esata units today  in the mail.    So Far So Good!    File transfer performance is just as fast as it was before. (lightning quick >110-140)     No dropouts or slowdowns yet.   I can fit 3 side by side no problem in my USB 3.0 hub.   If things continue to stay stable, you just saved me $$$!   I prefer having my drives in the external units anyway in case I need quick access after a server crash etc. 

 

EDIT: It looks like I lost S.M.A.R.T. monitoring ability in Scanner via the new U3esata adapter.  I just opened a support ticket.   Hopefully they can add support for it, or else I'll have to look into how to enable the unsafe method again. (been awhile)

 

 

 

6xIjr4bl.jpg?1

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Very nice.

 

And glad to hear that these are more stable for you.

 

And responded to the tickets. Hopefully we can get SMART data working for you again.

 

Thanks, just responded.  Several of the DirectIoTest results look promising so I'm confident Alex will add support again as usual. :-)

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Thanks, just responded.  Several of the DirectIoTest results look promising so I'm confident Alex will add support again as usual. :-)

 

Yeah I forgot about the smart issues, something happened after the 2.4 or maybe 2.3, worked fine before I up graded, Alex did a remote session, and everything was back up and running, don't recall what he did, but I also recall that he was going to change something on his end so that it would be a permanent fix, maybe they can pull my ticket to see what they did.    if you are are using homeserversmart, you can pull the smart data with it until you get the issue with scanner sorted out.

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Yeah I forgot about the smart issues, something happened after the 2.4 or maybe 2.3, worked fine before I up graded, Alex did a remote session, and everything was back up and running, don't recall what he did, but I also recall that he was going to change something on his end so that it would be a permanent fix, maybe they can pull my ticket to see what they did.    if you are are using homeserversmart, you can pull the smart data with it until you get the issue with scanner sorted out.

 

Thanks I installed WindowSmart since I use Windows 8.1 (no longer on Home Server)

https://www.dojonorthsoftware.net/Downloads.html

 

It can only read 1 of 3 of my U3esata (4 of 11 drives)

 

I submitted a bug report

https://www.dojonorthsoftware.net/bugtraq/Issues/IssueDetail.aspx?id=43

 

OMwxD1Z.png

QlqFXgw.png

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Strange that it only works on one. 

 

I sometimes wonder why we go through all this trouble,  I spent over 8-10 hours trouble shooting a problem on my server over the last several days, I was having issues with a new SATA controller dropping drives, long story short,  it was my freaking Intel raid 1 running the OS,  no warning from the Intel tools, but after finally losing my mind, I unplugged the sata cable to the oldest drive in the mirror, rebooted, and the system is running like a champ, aside from the error regarding the missing drive.

 

Intel's diagnostic tools are crap. 

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Actually, the "only works on one" isn't an uncommon thing. Silicon Images suffer from this problem. That or listing the same information for ALL disks attached to the system. (so you'd have no idea that hte second+ drive is failing....

 

And as for why we go through this trouble.... There are two reasons:

  1. because once we get it all working properly, it's awesome. You can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, and the effort it took to get there. That feeling of "it's finally working" is just ... Words don't describe it. :P
  2. because we are all masochists

:)

 

And as for the intel, this is the onboard controller, right? ICH##R, right? If so... yeah, they're crap. :(

And this is a reason I'm not fond of RAID. I'd rather just have a daily backup, and restore to a disk if it fails or needs to be replaced.

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Ok, so I spoke too on the U3esata (mSata to USB 3.0 adapter) being the magic fix. (will be returning them)  While not as often, my drives still still drop freezing up network access.  

 

I think it's time I officially throw in the towel for USB 3.0 NAS.     The main original reason I chose a mini-PC + USB 3.0 enclosures was to keep everything as compact as possible. (bedroom setup)  Now that I have more room in my hew house, I might as well get a legit server where everything is connected via real SATA connections and in a separate room. 

 

This seems to be the best case out there that can hold 12 hard drives easily.

http://www.lian-li.com/en/dt_portfolio/pc-v2120/

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112312

The 5 star reviews say it all too.

 

Now I need to figure out which motherboard to buy, and which add-on PCI-e SATA controller cards to buy.  (unless their is a motherboard that can do 12+ Sata Connections?  I also want to get the most stable setup I can put together.  Suggestions? 

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I'm sorry to hear that.

 

And yeah, I've always been partial to Lian Li. Great cases.

 

As for a motherboard:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157470

 

22 Sata ports is enough? right? :)

And two mSATA ports? :)

 

 

Kidding aside, If you don't mind flashing firmware, then the IBM ServRAID M1015/M1115. Otherwise, I'd recommend the HighPoint cards (Rocket 2720SGL). You'll need "breakout cables" (SAS to SATA), but aside from that, each card would support 8 drives.

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