Okay, so you are ready and willing. The NAS-server I plan to build has very specific requirements. In IT jargon, these servers are often referred to a "COLD-STORAGE". The incarnation of a backup system. You write to it occasionally, and you much more frequently read than write. It can be hours or days between accesses. I prefer to call it my MEDIA JUKEBOX instead of cold-storage but the requirements are very similar. If you are planning on streaming four or five 4k-HD movies at the same time, you will first need to update your network before you worry about the NAS server's performance : 1080p needs 12...19Mbps, 4k Bluray delivers at least 50Mbit/s. The bitrates you see in the WIFI commercials are best-case scenarios and streaming a single 4k Bluray over WIFI already can be a challenge for many WIFI receivers -- if in doubt use CAT5 cable & gigabit ethernet
-) Favor huge storage volume in compact size (and low noise and low power)
-) Low access times and sustainable speed to stream 1...2 1080p videos is important, there rarely is a task requiring frequent & fast file accesses (no need for indexing ...)
What can be equally important are power-management features
-) unused HDs should go to sleep / stop spinning whenever possible
-) CPU should be a low-power, passively cooled version
-) hopefully the fans in the case are off most of the time
Selecting the "best" case for the job, I decided the Silverstone DS380 is the one (read more /stargazer95050/36361168 ). 8 x 3.5" bays, easy to swap (plus another embedded 4 x 2.5") make this the case with the most Terabyte per cubic-inch.
Since this is an embedded server, the PCIe slot will not host a power-hungry graphic card
You need an additional 300W...450W SFX power-supply. A rough estimate of 12 x 25W for the HD plus 100W for MoBo & CPU means a 450W is more than sufficient. IMO, that calculation is overly pessimistic. For a system like this CPU & MOBO should consume < 60W (peak) and assume 4HD at typ power and 8 HD in standby or even sleep (total < 120W for HD) , means even a 300W P/S has ample of margin. HOWERVER !! -- when choosing a low-power supply the software and hardware must make sure NOT TO POWER ON ALL DRIVES AT THE SAME TIME !!
For this application, a low-power CPU & MOBO should be sufficient and those don't need bulky coolers.Some use passive heatsinks - pick those, if possible.
Now comes the first choice -- what CPU & MOBO combo do you pick ? -- These are suggestions and you can pick whatever you like. Given the DS380 mechanical constraints, only Mini-ITX boards qualify. Alternatives : /stargazer95050/36361168
Here are some of the candidates I have lined up -- especially with large capacity and good looks (living room) in mind.
If I would plan on putting that server into a closet or an enterprise environment, the choice would be easy -- either recycle a used ATX tower or a non-descript 19" rack unit. Since this will reside in my office or living-room for easy access to the drives, the look also is important. Smaller size (no huge ATX tower) also is a requirement. For this task, I really like the Silverstone DS380
The radest solution -- one which may go well above the home-user setup -- would use a motherboard with multiple SAS (instead of SATA) ports and provide you with the option to add more external SAS storage
A) ASUS Mini ITX board with C2550 CPU & 4 x MiniSAS could connect up to 16 SAS/SATA drives. Plus an additional 2 x SATA-only ports. Like similar boards, this doesn't include a fancy graphic card and even the PCIe slot is only a x8 wide instead of the x16. You're looking in vain for USB3 headers. On the upside, you get 4 x Gigabit Ethernet jacks which can be important to stream 4 x 4K-Bluerays concurrently to different parts of your house.
This MoBo may be too specialized for my use and if I'd pick it, I would add a 4-port USB3 PCIe card. 2 external connectors and an internal 19-pin Molex connector. also I'd add a bracket with 2 x SFF-8087 to SFF-8088 adapters. Those two SAS connections I would use for future expansion beyond the 8 HDs inside this box.
This isn't a cheap system -- in all approx $460. (quad-core) MoBo (CPU is included), 2 x $30 for the add-ons, SAS-cables also add more costs. (still need to add DDR3 RAM. case, P/S and drives. Plus the OS -- I exclude those in the comparison, as they are the same for all systems I describe)
To EXPAND option A), you could add another 8 x HDs utilizing the 2 x ext MiniSAS connectors. and build a 2nd case -- MINUS the CPU-board -- and fill it with discs. Stylish -- YES. Expensive -- NOT REALLY. Off-the shelf 8-bay SAS enclosures start ~ $450...$530. 19" rack solutions cost more. In contrast : $150 for the DS380 chassis, $60 for a 300W power supply, $40 for the internal SAS cables & brackets.
B) Intel + ASrock have build a chip & MoBo nearly custom tailored for this job : The C2750D4I / C2550D4I have 8/4 cores, 12 SATA ports and the CPU uses 20W/14W. Naturally no (2D/3D) graphic engine and video is limited to a VGA connector.
That system LACKS USB3 and since there IMO is no additional need for any PCIe peripherals, I would add a 4-port USB3 PCIe card. 2 external connectors and an internal 19-pin Molex connector.
For a server system, this CPU + MOBO + USB3 combo is "cheap" : ~$400 for the octa-core system, $300 for the quad-core. Adding more discs to this system isn't as easy as with the SAS-motherboard but with a USB3 connection, you have a fast link to add a few more drives.
In the roam of enterprise server motherboards you often have to pay a lot more -- and usually you have to add even more expensive processors. The above MoBo has server features and if you don't need 12 drives and ECC-DRAM modules, there are other less-expensive options using "consumer-grade" boards :
C) ASrock sells different FM2+ boards with USB3 and 6 x SATA-III. The built-in graphic is quite powerful and there even is a decent Audio-IO. When you combine this board with a AMD-A6 or even a A8 Kevari, you have a NAS-server with very strong graphic / HTPC muscle. Once you add a PCIe card with with additional SATA ports, this system outperforms the C2550DI at lower cost. Power-consumption & cooling will require more effort : 65W CPU, 8W Mobo. Even if you throttle the CPU down to 45W, that's twice as much as the C2550DI4, making silent / passive cooling all the more difficult. To boost the number of SATA ports, add a PCIe card (~$60 for 6 SATA channels)
Cost comparison : $80 for FM2A78M Mobo, $70 for a CPU (slower A6 Kevari), add $30 for CPU cooling fan & $60 for additional PCIe-SATA ==> $240 but no option to add extra graphic. The built-in graphic of the FM2A78M + A6K is way superior to anything the C2550 has to offer. If you choose a SAS instead of a SATA card, you can expand HDDs more easily -- unfortunately I haven't seen affordable cards.
Not a real NAS-server, this is a half-breed, a HTPC with tons of storage (possibly shared via SAMBA).
D) HTPC / high-end AMD : It is diffcult to find INTEL boards with all these peripherals while I have seen several AMD chipsets to fit my needs for numerous USB3 + 6 or more SATA-III. The A88X chipset plus Kevari A10 CPU can boost the performance of the system I've outlined under section C). IMO this additional power/heat (95W CPU) is problematic or at least noisy in such a small case.
Opting for for graphic power over more storage, you can add a PCIe-x16 graphic card -- the case has room for that.
While I'd like to have a compact HTPC power-server, the DS380 case lacks the optical CD/DVD drive I require for my HTPC systems. Compared to other mini-ITX chassis, this one allows for quick swap of HD and you may be able to swap a HD tray for a 3.5" expansion / card-reader. The other two cases are bigger on the outside but also are designed for mini-ITX boards with a double-wide PCIe slot. These two cases have the DVD slot I want, but in return, swapping HDs requires more work and total capacity is less -- especially if you add a graphic card.
With the BitFenix case you can choose either Mini-ITX or Micro-ATX form-factor -- the latter naturally is beneficial if you want custom graphic _AND_ sound. And of course there always is the option to use a regular mid-sized ATX tower
This still is a plan. A work in progress but I lean towards OPTION C) and OPTION A).
With A) I get the expansion to 16 easily swappable drives in an attractive & compact combo at a low price (compared to other 16-bay solutions).
With C) I have a good performing HTPC with at least 6 swappable drives and up to 12 drives total. Lacking a built-in DVD-drive is the biggest complaint I have, while others will point to low 3D gaming performance.
PS : I'm not the first to come across this NAS case.
$150 for the case, $60 for the P/S, $80 for 8GB memory = $290 plus the cost of the MoBo combo. With option C) that $240, Option B) ~$300 and Option A) about $460.
Pre-built diskless systems with 8 x 3.5" bays cost from $800...$2800. The expensive one sport a powerful Xeon E3-1200 v3 3.4GHz Processor
And you can skip the DIY part and buy a 4-bay chassis like this for $300 : www.zdnet.com/pictures/best-nas-drives-for-work-and-play/6 The feedback is scary -- and it is not just one or two : www.amazon.com/Cloud-EX4-Diskless-High-performance-reliability/product-reviews/B00G4JZ2T0
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