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tmchow

Critique my motherboard, SATA and drive plan and give input on server upgrade for 10 drive array, 2 parity and 2 cache

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I'm in middle of contemplating hardware upgrade to my Unraid system and wrapping my head around it all since there are so many things inter-related. Would appreciate some help.

 

I currently have:

  • 6 drives in the array
  • 1 parity
  • 1 cache (512GB SSD)
  • 2 drives precleared but un-assigned. These are on standby in case I need to replace a drive so I can do it more quickly.
  • All drives directly connected to my ASRock E3C224D4I-14S motherboard which an LSI 2308 onboard, which supports "8 x SAS2 from 2 x mini SAS 8087"
  • Intel Xeon E3-1231 v3 3.4Ghz
  • 32GB ECC DDR3 RAM
  • Rosewill RSV-L4412 4U case. This is a 4U case that fits up to an enhanced ATX motherboard so my motherboard options are unrestricted.

 

My plan is to upgrade my motherboard and CPU (for another reason), and in process I may as well look at how I'm connecting my drives. What I want ideally (changes in bold)

  • 6 drives in array
  • 2 parity (add redundancy)
  • 2 cache (add redundancy and change to NVMe)
  • 2 drives on standby
  • New Motherboard
  • New CPU (Likely switching from a Xeon to a Core i7)
  • 32GB ECC DDR3 RAM (I've read I can continue to use ECC RAM on a non-ECC supporting CPU)
  • Dedicated SATA card (improve perf, better scalability)

 

SATA CARD

For the SATA card, my research indicates that a good bang for the buck is either the LSI 9207-8i or LSI 9211-8i, and their only difference seems to be PCie 3.0 vs 2.0 (specific post talking about it). Since I plan to go NVMe for cache drive away from SSD connected to my SATA card or motherboard, seems like there's no real difference to me so I should just go for whatever is cheaper which seems to consistently be the LSI 9211-8i.

 

On ebay they seem to run between $50-$75 from theartofserver (a regularly recommended eBay seller on this forum and on unraid subreddit). These cards from this seller come already flashed for IT mode (Example LSI 9211-8i, Example LSI 9207-8i) which simplifies things.

 

I realize the evaluation whether a card is good for my situation depends on # of drives and motherboard compat. Since I'm vying for a new motherboard, my guess is that's a non-issue since I can tailor the choice.

 

So 2 questions:

  1. What do you think of my choice of LSI 9211-8i? Anything I'm missing in my decision making criteria?
  2. How do I get support for 10 drives since a single LSI 9211-8i card maxes out at 8? I've seen "expanders" for $200+ dollars (most commonly recommended one is the RES2SV240 which is $250) which makes sense if I'm using RAID functionality natively on the cards. But since these will be in IT-mode, I'm using them as a simple HBA controller, so is it OK to just buy 2 x LSI 9211-8i for approx $100 total and connect 8 drives on 1 card, and 2 drives on the other? (which leaves me expansion for 6 more drives in future). Alternatively, I've read I could use an inexpensive HP Expander card like this HP 468405-001 HP SAS EXPANDER CARD ($20 renewed) and according to this comment on reddit, it doesn't even need to be connected to the motherboard if I'm short on PCie slots, it only needs power. Note: One thing i don't like about this last approach it is looks like I need to connect to the card using external cables outside of the case to connect the LSI 9211-8i to this HP 468405 expander? Not end of the world, but feels sloppy.

 

MOTHERBOARD + CPU

Mentioned above, but I was thinking about a Intel Core i7 4770 or 4790 for balance of performance and Quick Sync support for hardware accelerated transcoding for Plex. Question: Good idea or should I go with a more recent CPU so my motherboard choices open up?

 

For Unraid, I like the a USB directly on the motherboard since I plug my tiny USB key directly, without it dangling outside the case. Question: Do most motherboards have this feature? The last motherboard research I did was like 5 years ago when I got my ASRock which has this.

 

NVMe for Cache drive instead of SATA SSD

Seems like prices are cheap enough to just go with NVMe now since they range from $50-$80 for 512GB. So my cost is 2x that since I want 2 cache drives for redundancy. Question: Seems like as long as I get a motherboard with two PCIe x4 slots, I'm good, right? Or are there other considerations?

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NVMe drives can disable PCIe slots and/or SATA ports if installed.

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1 hour ago, jbartlett said:

NVMe drives can disable PCIe slots and/or SATA ports if installed.

I thought NVMe plugged directly into PCIe slots? Also, given that I am going to a LSI SATA card, extensive onboard SATA ports on the motherboard isn't as important, right?

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1 hour ago, jbartlett said:

NVMe drives can disable PCIe slots and/or SATA ports if installed.

Yeah but emphasis on “can”. It really depends on the motherboard. Always read the manual before buying the one you are looking at to see how the lanes are laid out and tied together.

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33 minutes ago, tmchow said:

I thought NVMe plugged directly into PCIe slots? Also, given that I am going to a LSI SATA card, extensive onboard SATA ports on the motherboard isn't as important, right? 

NVMe drives can plug in via different methods, via a m.2 slot, PCIe adapter, etc. m.2 slots are known to disable PCIe slots if in use. As ramblinreck47 said, be sure to check the MB manual to check for any usage restrictions.

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