2.5 *terabyte* hot-swap storage -- for $730

2.5 *terabyte* hot-swap storage -- for $730

Summary: [UPDATE - See follow up blog on setting up the storage array] I still remember the first hard drive I ever bought. The year was 1992, and I had my friend drive me 70 miles into the silicon valley for the deal of the month in hard drives.

TOPICS: Storage, Hardware

[UPDATE - See follow up blog on setting up the storage array] I still remember the first hard drive I ever bought. The year was 1992, and I had my friend drive me 70 miles into the silicon valley for the deal of the month in hard drives.  The prize at the end of that grueling drive without air conditioning was a whopping 200-megabyte IDE hard drive for the mere price of $499, for which I had to save for months as a starving college student. Ah, those were the "good old days."

Fast forward 15 years later, and I just bought 2.5 terabytes of hot-swappable SATA-300 storage for just under $730. [For a closer look, see my image gallery.] 2.5 terabytes is 2,500,000 megabytes of storage. If I count only the cost of the 500-GB hard drives at $120 each (hard drives were on sale), I'm getting 4166 MB of storage for every dollar. Fifteen years ago, I got 0.4 MB for every dollar and that's not even adjusted to inflation.  That's more than 10,000 times the storage for the same dollar, not adjusted for inflation.

Note: I used decimal math, but that's what the hard drive industry likes to use to make its drive sizes sound bigger. Technically, we're suppose to multiply by 1024 twice to convert terabyte to megabyte, but the hard drive industry likes to use decimal math where you multiply by 1000 twice.

Seagate ST3500641AS-RK$119.995$599.95
AMS DS-3151SSBK$129.991$129.99
Subtotal  $729.94

Here are the five 500-GB Seagate hard drives with the hot-swap drive cage. Note that there are 750 GB on the market and even 1000 GB models available any time now, but 500 GB is the sweet spot in terms of maximum bang for the buck. If 1000-GB drives are used in this configuration, that's 5 terabytes of storage!

The picture below explains why I went with the Seagate brand.

Here are the 5 drives out of the box. You also get SATA cables in the boxes, as well as SATA power adapter cables. These drives are 7200 RPM and can support NCQ (Native Command Queuing), which means I/O tasks can be completed more efficiently out-of-sequence.

<Next page - Hot-swap SATA 5-drive cage>

Hot-swap SATA 5-drive cage

Here's a photo of the AMS DS-3151SSBK hot-swap SATA drive cage. The unit fits inside a normal PC chassis using 3 contiguous 5.25" drive bays, and it holds 5 3.5" SATA hard drives. The quick releases felt fairly solid, though not as good as something you get with a high-end server. There are plenty of LEDs in the front to show you drive activity, fan, and power.

The SATA drives are hot-swappable inside this cage.

Hard drives are screwed into the removable trays shown below.

The back of the hot-swap drive cage shows an 80mm fan for cooling along with 5 SATA data ports, which are straight pass-through to the hard drives and 5 power plugs.

Once the 5 hard drives are installed, it feels heavy in the hands.

I can't wait to build a system for this so I can start benchmarking some RAID performance numbers. I'll be using the Intel 965 motherboard with the ICH8R RAID controller, with 6 SATA-300 ports built into the motherboard. From what I've seen so far, the ICH8R has the meanest RAID performance results I've ever seen.

[UPDATE - See follow up blog on setting up the storage array]

Topics: Storage, Hardware

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  • George... you %(^%&$*&!!!!!

    I do NOT need to be led into yet more buying temptation!!!

    However my Myth system is asking for a bit more space...

    Death by girlfriend... big ol' server... death by girlfriend... big ol' server...

    Bury me with my drives, it's my last request.

    Nice lil array you got ahold of there :)
    • Hehe, sorry.

      I know how it is. This is the devil tempting you here :).
  • 500GBs for 117 Euro

    I just bought last Friday a 500GBs Sata2 Seagate for 117 Euros. Thats the best price I could find here in Porgugal, and since prices are going up again I had to take the chance to buy it.
    Then i need to buy a PCI Sata controller (do they really work only at 1,5Gib and not 3Gib??) since I own an old MSI for my AMD 1.9+.
    I even had to disconnect one of my 3 other PATA drives (120 Seagate, 160 Samsung [this drives are so silent and cooler then the others], 200 WD).
    Now my question for you: can you point me in the direction of building/buying my own NAS or external disk rack, where I can place all my PATA disks?
    • FreeNAS

      If you want to build a simple NAS system and you have a spare PC hanging about... check out FreeNAS.
    • Decimal vs. binary

      "Tera" is an SI unit, defined in decimal. So is "Giga", "Mega", "Kilo", etc.

      Only an old pedantic fart would still go on and on about how k's used to be bigger when they were young.

      The correct terms for the binary measurements are explained here:

      • There must be a lot

        of use out there! Thank you for the information. I was unaware that (what are to me) the hard drive makers standards are 'actual' standards now. Very informative, and I will stop misusing the terminology when trying to explain to new users where their hard drive capacity went....

        Twice in 1 day - information in talk backs!
    • Maybe ...

      In a smaller store ("loja da esquina" :) ) you can find cheapper.
      I think that is the price at fnac.pt ? Right?
      But it will never be much cheaper them that ... (VAT at 21% as consequences and it cuts gains over the Euro/Dollar exchange + transport + bigger overall taxes forces businesses to always charge more).
      About the NAS, if you have a PC ready to take hhd's OpenNas is a good solutions.
      At Ebay there some SATA NAS solution pre-built but they all cost about 1200$US ... so this case solution is a great value.

      • loja da eskina

        Actually it is the best price at "loja da esquina" and not a FNAC price.
        If you think you can beat it please let me know where.
        I checked 3 diferent stores, and even a close~friend of mine.
        • Corner shop ...

          You are right.
          Your "loja da esquina" = corner shop price is unbeatable.
          The only way is to try the old method of buying through the web in the US and maybe get lucky in customs.
          The exchange rate will compensate the "damage".
          Problem is warranty if something goes wrong ...
          I thought I had a nice price for a 500GB WD in fnac, but it costs 139e and it is not a hdd. It is an external USB enclosure.

    • The controller with 6 ports cost more than a new Motherboard

      The controller with 6 ports cost more than a new Motherboard and it won't perform as well as the Intel 965 ICH8R.
  • Should have bought six drives...

    "Hot swap" is ok, so long as you can still find a drive which is the right size for doing the swap.

    The way things are moving I wouldn't bet on being able to find the right size drive a couple of years from now. Maybe it's best to buy a spare drive today, just in case.
    • Never buy before you need it!

      Never buy before you need it! Price always go down, not up.
  • Technically george, that backplane is just for convenience

    technically you got that storage for 130 less than your title, that caddy is just a convenience item and completely unnecessary as far as raw storage is concerned.

    Valis Keogh
    • Important convenience!

      The ability to quickly swap a malfunctioning drive with a fresh one is probably worth the $$. This caddy allows many PC cases to have that feature. Otherwise, you have to turn the computer off (am I correct that SATA drives can always be disconnected "live"... or does that depend on the interface used?).

      I have been looking to put together a micro-pc with ESATA, connected to an external enclosure. But this may address my concerns (hot-swappable drives while the system is running).
      • not at all!

        I have currently a 3 terabyte raid 5 array, using highpoint rocketraid 2320 card, hot swap capability is a function of the controller, not the caddy. i've swapped and even ADDED drives into that array and never had to turn the machine off. sure you have to open the case and remove two screws, but that's no problem if you are used to getting your hands "dirty" as they say ;)

        from the looks of it, if the controller he's using doesn't do hotswap then the caddy wont mean a hill of beans, he'll still have to shut down. chances are tho, that the controller will support this functionality.

        i'm just saying that yeah , it's nice, but not necessary.

        Valis Enterprises
        Valis Keogh
      • External doesn't perform as well

        External doesn't perform as well unless you've got one port per drive which gets very messy.
    • Sure it is, but it's a BIG convenience

      For $130, it isn't so expensive per drive. Convenience is worth it.
      • Sure, unless your like Sabz

        $150 bucks (decimal) for a guy like him could mean the difference between death-by-girlfriend and life in prison! ;-)

        Sabz buddy, spend the cage money at Victoria's Secret and bury the treasure in a SAN in the garage. Live long and prosper!
        • Sadly, this blog entry could result in a lot of death-by-wife

          Sadly, this blog entry could result in a lot of death-by-wife or death-by-girlfriend :).
  • Genuine Hot-Swap convenience

    While it only holds four drives, the video demo of Drobo shows that it allows drives to be hotswapped, and that you can mix any size of drives you want all in once carrier. In addition, the gizmo seems to be mirroring the data, because you can swap all of the drives out (one at a time) and still have all of your data.

    It's an external storage system that seems very cool. Unfortunately, it costs almost as much as George's drives. But it'll hold your data!