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I apologise if this isn't an appropriate question for this forum.

I've an elderly server that works well and that I'd therefore prefer not to scrap entirely. But I would like to replace the current U320 drives with SAS/SATA drives as the old ones wear out.

I could do that as a batch job by simply pulling the U320 drives, putting SAS/SATA drives in their place, and hooking them up directly with cables in place of the current backplane. But I'd lose the hot-swap capability, so I'd rather not go that route.

The alternative is to find, or kludge, a backplane. If I could find small cards each with power and data connectors for one drive, I could assemble them. Or, if I could find pre-made backplanes for horizontal rows of 6 drives mounted vertically with connectors on 32mm centers, I could use those.

All constructive suggestions welcomed!

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Since I can't add a comment...

Thanks for your responses, and you've (especially Evan, who sounds like a Scot) pretty much convinced me. I'm a Scot, and genetically cheap, so it'll be a wrench. I won't mention what that old server is since you're already laughing and I'd hate for anyone to stroke out :-) but it belongs to me and, far from gathering dust in a garage, is in daily use as a toy webserver for development. It's really quite a nice old thing.

So my current plan is to leave it in place in its current role with the U320s, and build up a new server running FreeNAS to concentrate all the SAS/SATA storage that's now distributed across the LAN. Does that sound reasonable?

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  • No details on what type of server this is? Make/model?
    – ewwhite
    Oct 15, 2014 at 18:49
  • Is this an old server that you've got sitting in your garage at home?
    – hookenz
    Oct 16, 2014 at 0:13

2 Answers 2

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Realistically speaking, you're doing your employer a disservice trying to drag a machine with such old technology into the future. It's time to buy a new machine. By the time you spend the time cobbling together this bespoke solution you'll have spent more of their money than just buying a new machine. You're also leaving a major headache for the next person who has to support it.

(I say this as a really, really cheap guy who is fully on board with the idea of using out-of-warranty or off-lease equipment in production roles, provided that adequate spare parts are available on-site.)

If you really want to continue using this machine buy an external disk storage unit of some type (DASD, iSCSI, fibre channel, etc) and attach it to the machine. At least then you're not leaving a horrible nightmare for somebody else to support when you're gone. It can also be attached to a new machine in the future, allowing it to outlive a host server that's already likely well past its prime.

Doing anything inside the box isn't financially realistic and creates a nightmare for the future. Don't do it!

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  • My phone could probably outperform this ancient beast... Oct 15, 2014 at 18:46
  • I'm not sure about your phone, @MichaelHampton, but TomTom's surely could. :)
    – EEAA
    Oct 15, 2014 at 19:00
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This has definitely been. covered. here. before.

The short answer is that it does not make sense to pursue this in any way today. It's irresponsible to consider keeping a 10+ year-old server on life-support in this manner.

The historical context is that the industry moved away from Parallel SCSI (U320) to SATA and SAS beginning in 2004. New servers designed in and after that time defaulted to SAS/SATA backplanes. PCI-Express was becoming the standard as well to replace PCI-X. This also likely means you're on the wrong side of the 32-bit/64-bit fence. There may be other compelling reasons to upgrade hardware.

Remember, there are practical limits to work with here. You're at the edge of what your original hardware is capable of. The cleanest approach to handling failed disks on the extant server is to find like-model U320 SCSI equipment to replace the drives as they fail. Ebay is the best resource for that. There's less risk and cost involved, and it leaves you with time to focus on better long-term solutions, like virtualizing or migrating this system to modern hardware.

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  • Agreed about being irresponsible. My guess is that this is not a production server but something sitting in his garage at home. No one in their right mind would have working production servers that old... would they? lol
    – hookenz
    Oct 16, 2014 at 0:14
  • 1
    I have about four systems of that vintage out in the field... and one from 2003. They will go away soon.
    – ewwhite
    Oct 16, 2014 at 0:15
  • I used to work at an outfit that regularly grabbed obsolete hardware and put it into production. It wasn't 10+ years old but 5+ years old. Worked ok. Bit like buying a used car. Supporting it was a pain because you had to source second hard parts to upgrade them.
    – hookenz
    Oct 16, 2014 at 0:20

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