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DezGalbie

SATA port expansion on server

I use an LSI 9211-8i card in my NAS.  That one has 2 SAS slots, which in combination with a pair of SAS -> 4x SATA cables allows me to connect 8 drives. 

IIRC you can use further splitters to connect up to 128 drives to a single SAS port.  So that single card can handle up to 256 HDDs.  I reckon that should suffice for most people.

 

Before buying one, keep in mind that they can be flashed as a RAID card or as an HBA.  Which one you should do, will depend on the OS you'll be running on that machine.  FreeNAS for example works best if it can do its own software raid on the drives, so that one should be an HBA.  Windows on the other hand will work best if the card does all the RAID stuff on its own.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I have a Ryzen 3 2200G system attached to my home network operating as a Plex server. I have the SATA ports on the board all populated by drives with my media content. I've been considering the best way to expand my storage as I begin to reach my capacity (and have no free SATA ports left).

I know that you can get pcie expansion cards which will give you more SATA ports. Like this - (click here)

But there's also a limit on how many pcie slots the motherboard has, and I know that products like this - (click here) - are used by crypto miners to expand the number of pcie slots available to them.

So my question is - would I be able to use both of these products together to expand the number of pcie slots and SATA ports in my system? And if so, how many of these could I use before something fails? Obviously I would need to be mindful of the extra power being drawn from the power supply, but what are the hard limits on using this kind of expansion? Is there a limit on the number of drives which the system will recognise? Would a limit on the power able to be drawn from a single pcie slot cause problems at a certain point?

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I wouldn't do it that way but rather get a cheap SATA card, with a bunch of connectors on it. They come with like 10x SATA ports. How many do you need? 

 

Instead of the expansion you suggested you could just aswell get a USB Switch and put a bunch of external drives on it. Wouldn't do it tho. 


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You could use those, but keep in mind you'll be limited to a total bandwidth of PCIe 1x shared between every single card attached. Those breakout boards provide their own power connectors so you wouldn't run into issues there, other than just getting enough power connectors from your PSU.

 

You could also quite easily go with many port controllers such as this one from IOCrest.

https://www.amazon.com/IO-Crest-Controller-Green-SI-PEX40097/dp/B00XI4OL82/


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19 minutes ago, DezGalbie said:

I know that you can get pcie expansion cards which will give you more SATA ports. Like this - (click here)

Is 4 additional SATA ports not enough? How much space do you need, what size HDDs are you using?


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Posted · Original PosterOP
1 minute ago, FloRolf said:

I wouldn't do it that way but rather get a cheap SATA card, with a bunch of connectors on it. They come with like 10x SATA ports. How many do you need? 

 

Instead of the expansion you suggested you could just aswell get a USB Switch and put a bunch of external drives on it. Wouldn't do it tho. 

Expanding by another 10 SATA ports would be enough for a quite a while. I've been using 3tb drives so another 10 ports would give me about another 27tb of usable space.

The cheap SATA cards I've found online have been like the one I linked to with 4 ports rather than 10. If I was only expanding by 4 then I would have one eye on further down the line and the next expansion, hence considering another route.

Do you have any recommendations for a cheap 10 port SATA card?

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Posted · Best Answer

I use an LSI 9211-8i card in my NAS.  That one has 2 SAS slots, which in combination with a pair of SAS -> 4x SATA cables allows me to connect 8 drives. 

IIRC you can use further splitters to connect up to 128 drives to a single SAS port.  So that single card can handle up to 256 HDDs.  I reckon that should suffice for most people.

 

Before buying one, keep in mind that they can be flashed as a RAID card or as an HBA.  Which one you should do, will depend on the OS you'll be running on that machine.  FreeNAS for example works best if it can do its own software raid on the drives, so that one should be an HBA.  Windows on the other hand will work best if the card does all the RAID stuff on its own.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
4 minutes ago, Spotty said:

Is 4 additional SATA ports not enough? How much space do you need, what size HDDs are you using?

I've been using 3tb drives. So (if I continue using 3tb drives) then I reckon another 4 ports would be fine for at least a year or two. But I'm just trying to plan ahead further down the line etc

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2 minutes ago, Captain Chaos said:

I use an LSI 9211-8i card in my NAS.  That one has 2 SAS slots, which in combination with a pair of SAS -> 4x SATA cables allows me to connect 8 drives. 

IIRC you can use further splitters to connect up to 128 drives to a single SAS port.  So that single card can handle up to 256 HDDs.  I reckon that should suffice for most people.

This is a topic that interests me, so I've got one quick question: does that LSI-card allow one to just use the drives as regular AHCI-drives, skipping all the RAID-functionality of the card itself?


Hand, n. A singular instrument worn at the end of the human arm and commonly thrust into somebody’s pocket.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
3 minutes ago, Captain Chaos said:

I use an LSI 9211-8i card in my NAS.  That one has 2 SAS slots, which in combination with a pair of SAS -> 4x SATA cables allows me to connect 8 drives. 

IIRC you can use further splitters to connect up to 128 drives to a single SAS port.  So that single card can handle up to 256 HDDs.  I reckon that should suffice for most people.

I didn't know there was that kind of potential with SAS ports!

Yeah, 256 HDDs would most likely be enough for the rest of my life 😂

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2 minutes ago, WereCatf said:

does that LSI-card allow one to just use the drives as regular AHCI-drives, skipping all the RAID-functionality of the card itself?

If you flash it to "IT mode", the card will not do any RAID stuff itself.  It will be a HBA (Host Bus Adapter) and show all individual drives to the OS so the OS can handle that.

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1 minute ago, DezGalbie said:

I've been using 3tb drives. So (if I continue using 3tb drives) then I reckon another 4 ports would be fine for at least a year or two. But I'm just trying to plan ahead further down the line etc

Could just look at larger capacity HDDs. 6TB and 8TBs are very common and often good value $/GB these days.
 

5 minutes ago, Captain Chaos said:

I use an LSI 9211-8i card in my NAS.  That one has 2 SAS slots, which in combination with a pair of SAS -> 4x SATA cables allows me to connect 8 drives. 

IIRC you can use further splitters to connect up to 128 drives to a single SAS port.  So that single card can handle up to 256 HDDs.  I reckon that should suffice for most people.

Good luck finding a PSU with 256 SATA power connectors though :D


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1 minute ago, Captain Chaos said:

If you flash it to "IT mode", the card will not do any RAID stuff itself.  It will show all individual drives to the OS so the OS can handle that.

Oh, hmm. That's good to know, thanks. I suppose I should try to find two cheap cards, then, and some cables.


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Posted · Original PosterOP
3 minutes ago, Spotty said:

Could just look at larger capacity HDDs. 6TB and 8TBs are very common and often good value $/GB these days.

 

Yeah, I get where you're coming from. It's just that I have a specific guy I go to for the drives. I get a good deal on used 3tb drives. He gets them out of enterprise environments as they're upgrading to the higher capacity drives. Even when I factor in the extra cost of additional backup drives due to the paranoia about drive failure due to them being used it's still a good deal.

And thankfully none of them have had any problems in the year or so I've been using them.

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3 minutes ago, DezGalbie said:

Yeah, I get where you're coming from. It's just that I have a specific guy I go to for the drives. I get a good deal on used 3tb drives. He gets them out of enterprise environments as they're upgrading to the higher capacity drives. Even when I factor in the extra cost of additional backup drives due to the paranoia about drive failure due to them being used it's still a good deal.

That's pretty sweet, I envy you! I'm a data-hoarder and I am ALWAYS out of space, but due to being unemployed my budget is about 20€ a month, so ain't got much to buy new HDDs with 😀


Hand, n. A singular instrument worn at the end of the human arm and commonly thrust into somebody’s pocket.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
11 minutes ago, WereCatf said:

That's pretty sweet, I envy you! I'm a data-hoarder and I am ALWAYS out of space, but due to being unemployed my budget is about 20€ a month, so ain't got much to buy new HDDs with 😀

😂 Yeah, data-hoarding is a sickness! I have it too. Lol

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Keep in mind that your main pci-e x16 slot is only x8 when you use the Ryzen with integrated graphics... and it may or may not accept raid cards in that slot.

 

The slots created by the chipset on AM4 boards are pci-e 2.0, so you get 500 MB/s per lane. Typically on a B450 board, the second pci-e x16 slot is x4 electrically, so you get a maximum of 2 GB/s in both directions.

You can use those pci-e x1 to pci-e x16 (physical) things, they work just fine, i used them personally during the mining craze, but you'll still have only x1 worth of speed to the drives.

 

There are x16 cards are there, like this  250$ RocketRAID 2840A HBA card ... this gives you 16 ports at decent speeds. It's not bad for 15$+ per port.

 

If you think you're gonna end up with more than 16 drives + the ports on your motherboard, then there may be a more cost effective way.

 

For example, there are these Highpoint EJ340 port multipliers/expanders which take a SAS connector at the input (4 ports) and create 16 ports at the output, basically each incoming port is split into 4 ports

 

119$ - 132$ HighPoint EJ340 SATA 6Gb/s SATA 6Gb/s 16-Channel SATA Port Multiplier Expander

 

amazon : https://www.amazon.com/High-Point-Port-Multiplier-Rocket-EJ340/dp/B00DWV4SKM

newegg https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA4M541E5697

bhphoto : https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1280759-REG/highpoint_rocket_ej340_6gb_s_sata.html

 

This doesn't work by itself, you still need a separate card that creates that 4 port SAS connector, and such cards are not cheap, probably over 100$.

For example, the 155$ RocketRaid 2721 would work : https://www.amazon.com/HighPoint-RocketRAID-2721-Internal-External/dp/B0044CPEUQ/

 

So for just 16 ports, you may just as well just go for the 250$ standalone card and be done with.

 

The savings come up if/when you combine two of those expanders with a card that has 8 SAS ports.

For example, if you're lucky you may be able to get RocketRaid 2722 which has 8 SAS ports, so you could connect 2 of those expanders to it

176$ : https://www.amazon.com/High-Point-Rocket-2722-PCI-Express/dp/B007F9VP3A/

 

This means you'd end up with 32 ports for 176$ + 2x119$  = ~ 416$ or 13$ per port  ... ah and you may need cables, which could be around 25$ per cable.

And another downside is that each incoming port (which gets split into 4 sata ports) is limited to around 2.4 gbps ... so four drives at a time will saturate at SATA 2 speeds.

 

See examples suggested by Highpoint: http://highpoint-tech.com/USA_new/series_EJ340-management.htm

 

The cable to connect the expander to the card (whatever you choose) is another 25$ or so.

 

It may also be worth looking into datacenter hardware put on sale by various companies. You may find a very good deal for a server that has a motherboard with loads of SATA or SAS ports by default.

 

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