Project: Building a cheap NAS, part 5

Filed Under (Storage, Windows Networking) by Just An Admin on 28-07-2011

Part 5: Assembly of the parts!

All parts have arrived! Boxes are coming in from different suppliers. I almost feel like a kid at Christmas. After a little break from our NAS project we are ready to get going again.

The Casing

The supplier of our Norco chassis had a little surprise for us. The shipment with chassis did not include our Norco RPC-4220, but to compensate for the long wait and the fact he could not deliver the ordered casing within a reasonable time, we were offered a Norco RPC-4224 unit instead. So we now have the slightly bigger brother of our RPC-4220. This case has 6 backplanes with each 4 disk bays. The top ‘ledge’ which harbors the CD and system disk in a RPC-4220 has been replaced with an additional backplane. So no CD/DVD option and we need to look for another place to mount our SSD disk. But we now have the ability to upgrade up to 24 disks.


Mounting the motherboard

The assembly of the unit was a breeze. The case comes with all the mounting screws and materials imaginable.  We first mounted the motherboard to the base of the casing. All holes line up nicely with the motherboard. There is enough room to move around and mount the motherboard.  No magic there.

The power supply

Next is the power supply. The Norco casing comes with several adapters so you can mount almost any type of single or double power supply. These is enough room surrounding the mounting area, so it will not interfere with other objects, like the motherboard. Feeding the power supply cables to the disk backplanes is easy. The Fan wall in the middle of the casing has two holes in the center and two holes on the right side to allow cables to be passed through. The edges are nicely sealed so you don’t cut or damage the cables or your fingers. Like we told earlier, we do not have enough connectors to connect the fan wall, fans on the back of the case and the 6 backplanes for the disk. One backplane will have to do without power until we can find more power splitters. Connecting the power cables to the backplanes took a bit more effort than anticipated. The fan wall in the middle of the casing was too close to the backplanes to mount the connectors directly. So we had to unmount the fan wall before we could connect the power cables. Not big problem, but it just adds time to the assembly.

Cabling, CPU and memory

We fitted the CPU, memory and connected all the wiring to the motherboard. This is where we encountered the one thing we can complain about when it comes to the Norco casing; Documentation. Before we were able to connect all the wiring, especially the USB connector, we had to do a mini-course USB cables to get it done. Four separate wires (see picture below) needed to be connected to connect the one single USB connector on the front of the case, but it took us 20 minutes to connect it.





SATA Connectors

We have three cables to connect 3 backplanes to our motherboard and the Intel SATA controller. Two ‘SFF-8087 to SFF-8087’ cables are used to connect the Intel controller to two backplanes.  A discrete SATA to SFF-8087 Mini SAS Reverse breakout cable is used to connect four of the onboard SATA ports to the third backplane.

The fifth onboard SATA port is used to connect our SSD SATA disk to the motherboard. This disk will be used as cache for our ZFS pool in FreeNAS. The new RPC-4224 case has no separate placeholder or mount point for the internal disk, so we attached the SSD disk to its 3.5 inch adapter and used double-sided tape to attach the SSD disk to the side of the casing. Not a very common way to do it, but it works out nicely. The SFF-8087 connectors can be connected to the backplanes without removing the fan wall. The tunnels in the fan wall are positioned nicely in front of the SFF-8087 connectors on the backplanes.

The final bits

The last thing to do is to connect the USB stick. The onboard USB connector is placed on the edge of the motherboard, not to close to other cables or expansion slots. We double checked all the cables, connectors, slots and mount points. Done!

We are now able to power and control 3 backplanes of 4 disks, 12 disks in total, although we are only going to use 10 disk for starters.  This does not included the SSD disk. If we want to power and use even more disk, we need an extra power splitter and either split the excising SFF-8087 cables using expanders or we need to add an additional controller. Using expanders will divide the available bandwidth over more disks. This is no problem if the load on your NAS will never be high. But if you do intent to push your NAS to the max, you want to use as much bandwidth as you can get. Either way, we can any of the two.

Next up: Install FreeNAS! But this will be a whole new post….


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