It's what the future looked like in 1999
December 28, 2010 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Sanity check: I want to build a large external storage device. I have a tower that I'm not using. I don't want the tower for anything but its case. Can I just hook up hard drives (5 or more) to a hard switched PSU, run the data cables to a SATA port multiplier, then connect that to the eSATA port on my "server"? Oh, I have RAID questions too.

The specifics:

I have a Digital Audio G4 Power Mac that I have some sentimental attachment to. It's been sitting in the closet for years waiting for a repurposing. I'd always wanted to make a home server out of it, but doing so would require additional hardware since it's got the Ultra ATA/66 HD interface, and I've never been too keen on the constant power draw.

Well, this weekend I picked up a new laptop. I'm thinking that my 2006 MBP with it's 85W power supply would make a nice head unit for a server. I'd get an eSata Expresscard and rig up the external storage.

So, I'm thinking of gutting the G4, putting in a fan-less low-power PSU, filling it with low-power hard drives (WDC Green series?), and running this port multiplier. That's all I need, right? What if I have more hard drives than there are power cables from the PSU? Are there power splitters?

I have zero experience in building or running RAID arrays. I get the concept of the different levels, and was considering running RAID 5. I don't quite understand from the User Guide (PDF) for the port multiplier whether this is a hardware RAID controller as well, or whether it works in hand with a software controller. The specs claim compatibility with OS X. But, the instructions talk about a RAID manager for Windows, then some cryptic sentence about not installing the manager for Linux, Mac, and Solaris. If I just hook everything up and set the jumpers, will OS X recognize the disk array?
posted by hwyengr to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think your plan will work. You can get power splitters (or Molex -> SATA converters) from any reasonable computer store.

One small issue is that you'll need a way to actually turn on the power supply. Wikipedia says you can short the black and green wire on the motherboard connector; you could easily wire that up to the front power switch with a little soldering and wire stripping.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:49 PM on December 28, 2010

If the number of power connectors is a problem, and you haven't already bought the port multiplier, you might be able to use something like the CFI-BXX53PM backplane port multiplier boards I'm currently using, made by Chyangfun Industry (I can't find a specific product page, or much information anywhere else). They have two molex power connectors that they use to power the drives, and the drives plug directly onto the board so you don't need SATA cables all over the place.
posted by plant at 4:36 PM on December 28, 2010

Best answer: The main thing in the way of this plan's success is if the expresscard esata device supports port multipliers.

Everything else looks coherent, including the jumper-defined RAID5. I suspect the manager is used for post install management.
posted by tomierna at 4:48 PM on December 28, 2010

I would bet that it has the ability to be RAID all on its own, but possibly gets faster if you have OS support. So it is hardware in that it presents one logical volume to the OS.

One thing to think about trying is to make it into a software raid- if the controller dies you can plug the drives into another machine and start it back up. With this, the drives probably can't be moved to any other hardware than an identical card.

As for the cryptic warning, it appears that the card is able to be configured via the jumpers, OR the Windows-only control program.

Also, I needed one of these, and didn't think they existed. Thank you!
posted by gjc at 6:43 PM on December 28, 2010

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