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What's the least cumbersome way to extend existing server's storage capabilities?

I have a SuperMicro custom server and a Dell PowerEdge 2950 and I would like to extend their storage with budget hard drives, not the server ones.

I'm looking for something like a JBOD chassis (12+ 3.5") that can be connected directly to the server via some kind of controller/extension card - and then be just in /dev ready for LVM/Raid.

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Is this for a long-term or short-term solution? –  tombull89 Jan 15 '13 at 8:46
    
Long-term, but not mission critical, academic experiments on big data. –  Zeratul Jan 15 '13 at 8:48

3 Answers 3

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While there's lots of smaller enclosures about (1-5 drives) I've not seen anything big enough for 12 drives. And since you probably want the disks in caddies, I'd go with a large PC case (or 2) and several esata connectors.

A quick google turned up this, this and this, if you hunt around there are probably cheaper cases about. Or you could use a more convenitonal case and disk bay doublers like this. The problem with this approach is that you're going to need a cable for each HD (I believe that there are esata multiplexers availalbe - but they're very commonplace outside of dedicated enclosures).

It might be a better idea to stick in a motherboard, OS, 10Gb ethernet and hook up the drives as an iSCSI target (don't route this through your existing network - use a direct connection / dedicated NIC or 2 in the server).

(NB I'm not recommending these specific products just giving you an idea of what's involved).

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Thanks for idea with iSCSI, for case I'm considering something like this with some kind of SATA backplane conencted via some robus interface to SATA expander in the main server. Wanted to avoid buying MB/CPU/MEMORY –  Zeratul Jan 15 '13 at 12:15
    
what is 'some robust interface'? While there are SATA cards supporting 24+ drives, they get very expensive very quickly - and they don't come with lots of external ports meaning that you start using up expansion slots for adapter plates - sata still requires one cable per disk. Find your hardware, do the sums, multiplexing across iSCSI looks a lot cheaper and less complicated to me. But if you disagree (or even if you don't) I'd be interested to see what you chose. –  symcbean Jan 15 '13 at 13:40
    
These links might be useful: openfiler.com blog.backblaze.com/2009/09/01/… –  symcbean Jan 15 '13 at 14:11

The simplest way is probably to buy a cheap NAS and to then stick the harddisks in there. Mid-range NAS devices will typically allow you to export their hard disks as iSCSI nodes, so you could then use them directly on your server. This might put quite a bit of strain on your network load, however.

Alternatively, stick in a PCI-E storage controller with external connectors in there and just hook up SATA hard disks externally.

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Server systems should not use disk storage in any non-redundant fashion - not for the OS, not for anything.

JBOD itself is a huge no-no in server environments, as it offers no redundancy whatsoever.

Instead, you could invest in a proper HBA such as a card with an LSI SAS2008 or better - this offers 2 mini-SAS 6Gbs connectors (4 lanes each), and allows you to connect 8 SAS or SATA drives directly, or one or two SAS expanders in an external chassis.

These can then be RAIDed using md or lvm2 into RAID-10 and/or RAID-6 arrays.

A basic HP SAS expander allows a further 24 or 28 drives to be connected; presumably, this will suffice for the near future.

It all depends on your requirements - OS, storage space, transfer and access speed.

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Thanks, seems good. Don't worry - my terminology might be inaccurate. As I wrote in OP, I have LVM and md. JBOD was meant literally to host bunch of disks, not as logical layer. –  Zeratul Jan 15 '13 at 8:54

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