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AZZA Helios 910 12-bay Norco Build


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It's been a long time coming that I solve my never-ending storage problems, which is currently was previously a 1-to-1 software data sync between identically sized drives.  I want to get away from this approach, mostly because I have no way of verifying my drive or data's integrity prior to automated file synchronization.


I haven't been happy with the traditional RAID5 NAS/DAS approach with their quirky behaviors when using cheap drives and high risks of total data loss.  RAID6 only made me feel marginally better (and poorer) and other commercial solutions were not as inexpensive/extensible as I would prefer.  unRAID's approach of not using parity across volumes settled it for me...in my opinion, traditional RAID5/6 died with the advent of 2TB drives.  Thus, I've spent the last few days pouring over the forums here for my build and have finally settled on my design.  I really appreciate all the experts here, especially Raj's prototype builds and others who have posted their builds...it made it fairly easy to define my requirements and settle on a final design.


OS at time of building: 4.7

CPU: AMD Sempron 145 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103888)

Motherboard:  Biostar A880G+ (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813138283)

RAM: Kingston Value RAM 2G KVR1333D3N9/2G (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0019MI1CW)

Case: AZZA Helios 910 ATX Mid-Tower (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811517007)

Drive Cages: 3x Norco SS-400 4-in-3 Bays (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816133035)

Power Supply: Corsair CS600 v2 600W (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004W2T2UQ)

SATA Expansion Card(s): Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816101358)

SATA Cables: 4x 18" SATAII Non-Locking (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001O4EPHA)

SAS Cables:  2x 3Ware .5m SFF-8087 Forward Breakout (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FBYS2U)

Fans: Stock, will change/add if needed

UPS:  APC 1000VA Smart UPS


Parity Drive:  1x 2TB WD20EARS

Data Drives:  7x 2TB WD20EARS & 4x 2TB WD20EARX

Cache Drive:  None (See notes 10/21/2011)

Current Drive Capacity: 22TB

Max Drive Capacity:  22TB / 20TB With Cache


Total Build Cost (without shipping/Unraid/drives/UPS):  $607.89


Primary Use: Media storage, photography/critical file backups, general file storage

Likes: Extensible, inexpensive solution, more fault tolerant than RAID5/6, Linux based, community support, Limetech supports community builders

Dislikes: Slow write speeds, 12 drive max (see build notes), costly to backup, no current data backup solution, no RAID6 emulation

Add Ons Used: unmenu, email notifications, others TBD (Have seen several I like)

Future Plans: Replace parity with WD Raid Edition drive, add 7200RPM cache drive, add space as needed, build backup server, have hot standby drive


Typical Drive Temperatures:  26C during heavy preclear reads, 28C during heavy preclear writes


Power Utilization:


Boot (peak):  TBD

Idle (avg):  TBD

Active (avg):  TBD

Light use (avg):  TBD


Comments On The Build:  I know the power supply is overkill, but I got it for the same price as the 500W unit.  I wasn't comfortable with a 430W since I plan to add at least 2x 7200 drives and would prefer to have some breathing room in case I have to upgrade the CPU down the road.  I also strongly considered a build that would allow me to extend past 12 drives, but without a RAID6 type of emulation in unRAID, I'm a bit uncomfortable with committing that much data to a single point of failure.  My ultimate plan to is to build another server for data backups, sync between them, and reevaluate future storage needs later on.  This will get me though the next 2 years almost certainly...and at that point, we could be looking at 8GB+ drives.  Lastly, I know the 1000VA UPS is also WAY overkill, but I live in the country in Montana and power can be really iffy during the winter months.


Again, I appreciate these forums, Lime Technology and the many who have spent time here helping others, documenting their systems and otherwise helping new folks to confidently build a proper unRAID NAS.


Pics Of The Build:









Edit 1 (10/10/2011):  It's right about now that I'd feel buyer's remorse...a day after hunking down for another grand in IT for my HOUSE.  That thought is distant right now with unRAID on my mind.  This isn't my first Linux project, hardware build or exposure to redundant disk arrays...far from it.  But, it will be my first foray into a sizable software based RAID array that I fully commit to storing my data.  I spent my lunch break finalizing my planning for shares and considering my options for split levels.  I still have before me storage planning and drive allocation, but that should be relatively easy given the system's current extensibility.  Looking forward to the build...parts to arrive by Thursday...and may even try to get a head start on the build Friday night.


Edit 2 (10/13/2011):  Woot!  All the parts arrived today and I spent the better part of this evening building the server.  Pretty happy with how it turned out!  As for the Azza case, I really like the design and how it all came together.  No need to bend the drive rails and cable management options were supreme.  I hate the screws that came with it...at least the drive mounting screws.  I had 4 of them shear off with only minimal torque from a manual screwdriver.  I almost had disaster because the power supply's molex plugs were just a hair short for the Norco bay's power placement.  I had to salvage the splitter from the front case fan (that was removed) just to get enough length and it was barely enough to get all three bays supplied with power.


I'm running Memtest86 at the moment to make sure the stick is good.  I installed four 2TB drives in the bays and plan to register for my pro license & start preclearing tonight.  I've also rethought my plan and I think I'm going to drop all 8 of my 2TB drives in there once I'm able to get the data off my set of two mirrored 2TB drives I have in production now.  I've also salvaged a 500GB 7200 Barracuda from my main machine for cache.  I've also decided that I need a couple more parts.  I want to extend my 12V 4-pin CPU plug so I can route it behind the rear of the case.  I also need a couple lengths of 12V molex wiring so I can route the fan wiring a little better and also properly fix the power extension hack job I mentioned above.  I'll order those the next time I place an order with Newegg, no big hurry...system is up!  Pictures of the build will be coming soon!


Edit 3 (10/14/2011):  Added pictures of the build, updated the cache drive from none to the 500GB Barracuda and reflected my decision to go ahead with adding all 8 of my owned WD 2TB drives to the array.  (That should be the last and final update to the original build...all future changes will be conducted as edits below.)  I received my Pro license today (bought the 2-pack, just in case) and four of the eight drives are still in preclear.  Plan to run 3 passes on my new drives (qty 4) and a single pass on my existing (qty 4) drives, unless I see problems in the SMART reports.  I finished the setup last night and am ready to start assigning drives and move files once the preclears finish, probably in a couple days.


Edit 4 (10/21/2011):  I went back on my word and edited the original configuration again.  Sorry.  I have finally decided that I do not want a cache drive.  Transfer speeds have proven sufficient enough for my purposes, but more importantly, I didn't realize the risks involved with getting duplicate folders across multiple drives when using split levels across multiple drives.  This, for me, was unacceptable because I absolutely need to be able to see when I get duplicates in a given share, rather than have folders concatenated.  I'll probably still have a warm spare at some point, or at least a precleared drive that's ready to go on the shelf.  On the hardware front, I've pushed about 4TB to my box and added two more cleared drives added.  (For a total of 6 so far)  I also did some drive/assignment rearrangements that I probably could have avoided with better planning.  Oh well.  She's coming along!  Another few TB & she'll be totally where I want her!


Edit 5 (10/23/2011):  My machine's been flirting with the limit of 2GB of RAM, even though I'm not running more than a couple minor addons.  I've decided to up the memory to 4GB, mainly because I want to run a few other addons like cached directories.  I'm hoping 4GB will be enough or I'll have to wipe what I have and go for 2 sticks of 4GB.  Parts should be here Wednesday and I'll upgrade then.


Edit 6 (10/30/2011):  OK, I think I'm in my final configuration.  RAM's been updated to 4GB and the system is running smoothly.  All eight 2TB drives are now in the system with another 4 bays to grow into.  Couldn't be happier with the solution, to be honest.  I still have a few more tweaks to go, like setting up cached directories and trying my hand at the APC UPS integration, but these are minor things.  I did find that a couple of my WD20EARS have over a million LCC's (dang you, WD!), but I'm just gonna run 'em until they fail or I replace them through attrition.  Short of adding drives and upgrading to 5.x when the time comes (post beta), this server is solid!


Edit 7 (04/10/2012):  I added a couple new 2TB drives to my unRAID server today.  I was hitting about 80% on a couple media drives and wanted some more room.  THIS is why I invested into unRAID!  But, now I'm down to two available slots for drives.  So I've got to either start thinking about a second server or possibly moving to 5.x & 3TB drives.  I'm not quite ready to walk away from perfectly operational 2TB drives though, so I'm inclined to start looking at another server.  I think, if anything, I'll look into a proper virtualized setup.  I like the builds I've been seeing and a proper VMWare setup would accomplish other goals for me.  Possibly looking to late 2012 for such a move, if necessary.  Lastly, I didn't update earlier, but I gave caching a proper spin.  Ultimately, though, I didn't feel that the performance gained was quite worth the issues I experienced.  Due to the way I've organized my drives, total drive spinup isn't a typical problem.


Edit 8 (07/23/2012):  Well, that's it.  I've filled my drive bays with another two 2TB drives.  I've reached maximum capacity on my server with about 8TB to spare at this moment.  Man, that happened quick.  I'm definitely now at the point of having to build another server within the next couple months or to extend my existing server with new hardware.  (I never thought back in 2011 that 22TB of data was even feasible!?  HD video is a HOG!)  I think I'm inclined to just start a different server and have one for HD video and the second for everything else.  Haven't decided yet whether it will be a VMWare behmoth or just another plain-Jane Unraid server.  I still look at Unraid as one of the best choices I've made for storage.  Server's been rock solid....and I'm glad I bought my two-fer license!


I've learned a couple things.  One, storage goes quick...especially when you have it.  My next server will be ready to extend with 5-by drive bays and and insane amount of room for expansion.  (I now understand these people with behemoth 20+ drive bay setups!)  Two, I'm glad I didn't waste room on cache drives or spare drives.  I used up every one of twelve slots, even though I started with less than half that amount.  The relatively low-end hardware is holding up just fine and suits my needs and considering the number of drives I'm running, it pulls a remarkable little amount of power.  So, soon enough, I'll be plotting out my extreme video storage server.  And like this post, I'll create a UCD post to keep track of it all.


I hope you've enjoyed my journey into Unraid!

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Updated the original post with pictures of the build!  It was a piece of cake to build and unRAID's been a breeze to get going so far.  It's been a great experience thus far.  I learned a lot that I can apply to my next build because eventually, even this probably won't be sufficient!


Had I to do it over again, I would have more strongly considered a 15-bay build (or possibly more) because the bang-for-buck would have been slightly higher.  (Budgets being what they are, I insisted on staying within mine!)  Nonetheless, I'm happy and this will allow me to grow my storage with confidence!

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nice clean build...


other then that ugly fan on the side panel, i do like that case. i have hovered over the purchase now button several times in the past.

I would prolly rip my side fan off and glue a plexi window in its place for unraid if I ever bought one.

that or try and buy a blank panel from vendor.


Some people might tell you that those u-bends in the sata cables are not good for them..

I have not had issues doing that myself personally.. If it is working, don't worry about it now.


don't sweat the 15 drive build... by the time you need more storage, the 4 or 5tb drives will be out... you'll get more consolidated storage in the same space.

I am sure in the end you'll end up with  extra parts to build a second sever down the road... you can go bigger then if you still need it!

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  • 1 month later...

Some people might tell you that those u-bends in the sata cables are not good for them..

I have not had issues doing that myself personally.. If it is working, don't worry about it now.


Bending SATA cables too much can break or damage the conductors inside but you can manipulate them a fair bit before this happens. As far as I can see the bends you have are fine, just dont bend them flat like you can with PATA ribbons or they most certainly will not work properly afterwards. Obviously they shouldn't be zippy-tied to power cables either but it doesn't look like that is happening anywhere.


Looks mad, you should start a parity check and take a photo of the server with the lights off.. unRAID nightlife is hawt.


A+ for the cable management  8)

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I love the Helios 910.  I use it in several of my builds and it's both strong and I think elegant looking. 

your cable management is great looking.  It takes a fair deal of time and patience to do it right like this but the reward is great airflow and reliable connections.  A solid investment.

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  • 1 year later...

Sorry to resurrect my old thread here, but have some new developments.  Thought I'd provide a brief update on this server.  Sadly, the hardware above is out of date...but (at least to me), these UCD threads are about the lifecycle of a server.


I experienced my first HDD failure over labor day weekend here.  Not bad, considering I built the server close to two years ago.  It failed during a parity check, glad it's doing these once a month!  The email notifications I set up were well worth it.  I knew I had a problem when I saw my "UnRAID" Outlook folder with an excessive number of messages for a day...strongly recommend setting up that feature if you haven't all ready.


The replacement went smooth as heck, textbook really.  This is precisely the reason that I went with an UnRAID solution and it's proven it's worth to me.  Fortunately, I had a drive ready to rock as a replacement and have another drive on order to replace my standby.  It took about 7.5 hours for me rebuild the array using 2.0TB drives.


I'll probably be building my second server later this year.  I will soon have some spare hardware when I finish my main PC's upgrade in a month or two.  Planning a virtualized build based on ESXi, since my hardware is well above and beyond the requirements for UnRAID alone.  I'm strongly considering a 5.0 beta build (good God, 5.x is STILL in beta?  Haha.) and beefing up the controllers to accept more drives than the server above.  Also want to build it around the newer 4.0TB drives, since these have come down quite a bit in price.


Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks again to the developers and community here.  If you're on the fence about unRAID, take it from me...it's worth every penny when you see a drive red ball and you know your data is still safe.

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