Guide: How to Build a 8-bay DAS Enclosure SATA/ SAS

Biren78

Active Member
Jan 16, 2013
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I decided to start a little project. Buying an 8-bay DAS enclosure is easy but can be costly. For example, one can buy a Sans Digital TR8X+B for $399. That unit looks really nice but I have heard mixed stories about the power supply in those. The Sans Digital TR8X+B also has a LED fan which is a no-go in the office. I don't want my feet to glow blue under my desk.

Breaking down the basic components of a DAS box:
  • Chassis supporting 8x 3.5" Hard Drives
  • Power supply ~300w
  • Cables from backplane to external connection
  • SFF-8088 SAS ports
  • Power control board (since there is no motherboard to turn on an ATX power supply)

Given that information, I set out to build a BOM

Chassis
Silverstone DS380 $149. This is just cheaper than the U-NAS unit although bigger. Another advantage is that it has 4x extra 2.5" internal bays for caching if I want to go more than 8 storage drives.

I do not like the two cross bars in the middle of the drives but good enough for the price.

Power Supply
I am thinking the Silverstone 300w SFX power supply. 80 Plus Bronze and only $50. I know a lot of people are using the 450w version for this case but it should never peak above 200w.

Other benefits, 18dba max but also fanless operation and 24/7 duty cycle rated design advertised.

SFF-8088 Connectors and Backplane
I am combining these together because really you need to know what connectors to pick a cable. Since the Silverstone case has PCI slots on its rear I figured I will do something similar to the Sans Digital DAS enclosure. I picked a Norco C-8087-8088F which is $30-35. There is another option, a 3x mini-SAS one for $50 which is an option for SSDs. If I do go SSDs I was actually considering getting another Norco PCI one becuase the Silverstone case has two PCIe brackets. I could even velcro 4x more SSDs in there because there is room since I will not be adding a motherboard making it a 16 drive, small footprint DAS.

From here I also need SFF-8087 breakout cables. There are 0.5 meter ones sold by monoprice for around $14 each. Top sellers on Amazon in the category and they are not overly long. The case is small and I do want to keep cable lengths shorter.

The odd thing here is that the 0.75m and 1m cables are more expensive. I like not having too much excees and these all are numbered which is nice for a DAS enclosure.

Total cost for cabling: $58 for 8 drive connectivity.
Option 1: Get this 3x SFF-8088 to SFF-8087 board instead and a thrid internal cable. $51 + ($14x3) = $93 total
Option 2: Moving to 16 bay will be another $58 (plus the original $58) and can be done later. ($116 total)

Power control board
Now we have a case, a power supply, and data connectivity. We need the thing to boot up without a motherboard though. There are really two options a "jumper" method that seems a bit flimsy OR a Supermicro Power Control board. It is $35 so it does cost more than the jumper/ shorting method. The Supermicro is preferable for a good reason: it has onboard fan headers to power the fans in the Silverstone DS380's stock fans. Going the jumper route I would need to find power elsewhere.


This is NOT perfect as I think these only have 3-pin fan headers not the PWM 4-pin ones.

Adding it all up
So I did a few different configurations since you can do 8, 12 or 16 drives (using 4 or 8 SSDs). The total in cart is:
8-bay (3.5") DAS Enclosure: $292.50
Option 1: 12-bay (8x 3.5" and 4x non-hot-swap 2.5") DAS Enclosure: $328.46
Option 2: 16 drive (8x 3.5" and 8x non-hot-swap 2.5") DAS Enclosure: $349.87

All three options are less than the $399 DAS unit and there is nothing that is really going to be really "hacky" about this solution. I think the footprint is going to be bigger but I can support more drives and it is less expensive.

Something else I like: later on if I want to transition it from DAS to NAS this has the mini ITX footprint already. All I will lose is the SFF-8088 to SFF-8087 adapter and the power control board. Using something like that ASUS P9A-I would probably be a very quick swap out since thit would only involve swapping 2 components for 1 new one.

Thanks and credits
thanks to the people in the Silverstone DS380 thread for the information and inspiration behind this mini-guide. Also Jeff @ STH for the Supermicro power board guide and DAS wiring guide.
 

MiniKnight

Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2012
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NYC
Great writeup. Post when you make it.

That point on being able to turn it into a NAS after is a good one. I went from in-workstation DAS, to external DAS then finally to NAS and had to buy a new case each time.
 

Chuckleb

Moderator
Mar 5, 2013
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Minnesota
I am actually quite interested in doing this. My Sans Digital box is giving me SAS timeout errors and an trying to decide what to switch it out with. I was toying with the 45 bay SuperMicro shells but only need 8 bays. I may have to try this dive I have most of the parts.
 

BigXor

Active Member
May 6, 2011
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Pennsylvania, USA
bigxor.com
Bought a Norco C-8087-8088F and had lots of errors reported in MSM. I sent it back. Don't know if it was bad or not enough shielding.

Had to run a sff-8088 to sff8087 cable through a vent hole to backplane and no more errors.
 

Jeggs101

Well-Known Member
Dec 29, 2010
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Could be and also with long cables if you were using SATA drives. I think many people underestimate how far SATA can go when you add up internal and external wiring.
 

matthelm

New Member
Sep 19, 2013
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Chicago, IL
I know this is an older guide, but I'm looking into using it for a simple system I'm building, and was wondering if the Silverstone DS380 is still a good case for doing this?

Any issues like the 'power disable feature'?
 

Aestr

Well-Known Member
Oct 22, 2014
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Los Angeles
I am trying to built something very similar but with a Supermicro CSE-PTJBOD-CB2. I googled in vain to find its manual. Would somebody have it?
Thanks!
Charles
A quick search didn't come up with it, but there really isn't much to know. There's the connector for the ATX cable from the PSU and the front panel connector to allow you to power it on and off with the power button. These connect the exact same as you would a motherboard. There are also two fan headers and an I2C connector all of which are optional.

You can get most of the details in the appendix of many chassis manuals such as:

https://www.supermicro.com/manuals/chassis/4U/SC847J.pdf

Let us know what questions you have about the board as we're more likely to get you a better answer here than you'd find in the manual:)
 

madbrain

Active Member
Jan 5, 2019
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Nice guide. Is there any way to add a SAS expander in such a box ? Which one would work, and how much would it add to the cost ? This is for HDDs, not SSDs, since a SAS expander would reduce performance too much for SSDs.

My NAS is running with an LSI 9207-4i4e with a single external SFF-8088 miniSAS connector. I have a second LSI 9207-8i inside also.
In theory, I could convert one of the internal SAS to external SAS with a bracket. However, I'm using all 12 internal ports in my NAS already.
I don't have any more x16 slots to add a 3rd SAS controller. I do have three free x1 slots that could provide power for a SAS expander in the NAS itself. Not sure which expander would work, though
 

gregsachs

Active Member
Aug 14, 2018
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Nice guide. Is there any way to add a SAS expander in such a box ? Which one would work, and how much would it add to the cost ? This is for HDDs, not SSDs, since a SAS expander would reduce performance too much for SSDs.

My NAS is running with an LSI 9207-4i4e with a single external SFF-8088 miniSAS connector. I have a second LSI 9207-8i inside also.
In theory, I could convert one of the internal SAS to external SAS with a bracket. However, I'm using all 12 internal ports in my NAS already.
I don't have any more x16 slots to add a 3rd SAS controller. I do have three free x1 slots that could provide power for a SAS expander in the NAS itself. Not sure which expander would work, though
The two most common expanders in use i've seen are the HP expander which is available for $15 or so on ebay, but only runs SATA drives@3gb/s, and the intel expander which runs closer to $75. The hp expander requires a slot for power, while the intel expander can do slot power or a molex connector. The HP also has 8x internal connectors and an external, while the intel has 6 total. I used the HP for a while as the "brains" in a homemade JBOD box, before moving to the intel. The HP required using a mining type fake PCI slot, which the intel eliminated, but I had to get a sff-8088-sff-8087 bulkhead cable which supermicro sells. My box only has 12 bays, so the intel doesn't limit me in terms of connections.
Regarding performance, remember it is 3/6/12gb/s per lane on the cable. so 12/24/48gb/s theoretical bandwidth per sff-8088 cable.
 

madbrain

Active Member
Jan 5, 2019
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The two most common expanders in use i've seen are the HP expander which is available for $15 or so on ebay, but only runs SATA drives@3gb/s, and the intel expander which runs closer to $75. The hp expander requires a slot for power, while the intel expander can do slot power or a molex connector. The HP also has 8x internal connectors and an external, while the intel has 6 total. I used the HP for a while as the "brains" in a homemade JBOD box, before moving to the intel. The HP required using a mining type fake PCI slot, which the intel eliminated, but I had to get a sff-8088-sff-8087 bulkhead cable which supermicro sells. My box only has 12 bays, so the intel doesn't limit me in terms of connections.
Regarding performance, remember it is 3/6/12gb/s per lane on the cable. so 12/24/48gb/s theoretical bandwidth per sff-8088 cable.
Thank you very much ! Just the info I was looking for . Good to know the Intel expander can run with Molex, that seems like a better idea, despite the higher cost.
I'm aware of the bandwidth limitation. With single SFF-8088 and my 9207 host, that would limit it to 24 Gb/s. I think that's plenty for the cheap older drives I have. Most of them don't reach 200MBytes/s which is 2 Gb/s when counting signaling overhead. So one SFF-8088 should be good for 12 or 16 HDDs . Of course, forget SSDs. But I still have plenty of room in my NAS case for SSDs, with SATA docks attached to the SFF-8087 internally.
I want to use the enclosure mainly for backing up the NAS, so this should work fine. Just wish the enclosure could be built for a little less., or there was something used I could pick up with built-in expander.
 

madbrain

Active Member
Jan 5, 2019
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I would almost want to use an old AT power supply for this rather than SFX or ATX. Wouldn't have to worry about the power control board then. But it probably wouldn't fit into this DS380 case. Maybe it would fit in the slightly cheaper CS380B. That case will accommodate a few more drives too, but is a lot bigger.
 

Patrick

Administrator
Staff member
Dec 21, 2010
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This reminded me I need to sell my SansDigital 8x SAS/SATA 2.5" box!
 

gregsachs

Active Member
Aug 14, 2018
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Thank you very much ! Just the info I was looking for . Good to know the Intel expander can run with Molex, that seems like a better idea, despite the higher cost.
I'm aware of the bandwidth limitation. With single SFF-8088 and my 9207 host, that would limit it to 24 Gb/s. I think that's plenty for the cheap older drives I have. Most of them don't reach 200MBytes/s which is 2 Gb/s when counting signaling overhead. So one SFF-8088 should be good for 12 or 16 HDDs . Of course, forget SSDs. But I still have plenty of room in my NAS case for SSDs, with SATA docks attached to the SFF-8087 internally.
I want to use the enclosure mainly for backing up the NAS, so this should work fine. Just wish the enclosure could be built for a little less., or there was something used I could pick up with built-in expander.
For backup purely, for $25 or so you can get an hp expander plus a mining PCI slot adapter. The 3gb/s shouldn't matter...
Other option is watch the bay for used xyratex 1235 units or netapp ds4243. Just make sure it has caddies...