I use the Antec Nine Hundred case and three Supermicro 5-in-3 SATA backplanes. I currently have 11 drives installed in the case with room to spare. If and when I ever expand to the full 16 drives (15 data and 1 parity) I have an external 1TB eSATA drive to add to the 15 that fit in the backplanes. The nice thing about having the backplane setup is that you never have to crack open the case to add or remove a drive. Having the drives screw-mounted in the case is a royal pain if you want to make any configuration changes. Once you start populating the case with that many drives you run out of room to work because of all of the data and power cables. With the backplanes, you hook everything up inside the case and never have to deal with it ever again.
Probably the most important feature of having the backplanes is that they're designed to stagger bootup of the individual drives and reduce the load on the power supply. Without the backplanes, every drive would attempt to boot at the same time. If you don't have a hefty power supply, the total load imposed by all those drives booting simultaneously could bog it down and prevent the system from booting up.
I'm using a Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard with an Athlon 64 X2 processor (I forget the exact model) and 2GB RAM.
Originally Posted by sethhorwitz
My question, though, is if I can fill up the existing nine bays first, and then swap out to 3 of the 5-bay backplates without screwing up the array. I assume that each disk's physical address is stored somewhere. Would moving them from 9*1 to the 3*5 layout cause an issue? I guess it wouldn't as long as you use the same ports on the MoBo, but that leads to my next question. Do you need all of your port expanders installed when you build your array, or can you add those as you go just like a hard drive? Thanks guys.
Yes, you can swap out the bays at any time with no problems. An easy way to make sure you've got the drives configured as they were originally is to print out the web page that shows the drive assignment for each slot. When you put everything back together, check the current list against what you had originally and make sure everything matches. If it doesn't, simply unassign the drives and then reassign them according to the printout. It really doesn;t matter which SATA ports you have them connected to on the motherboard as long as the correct drives are assigned to the correct unRAID drive slot.
You can add expansion cards at any time. I started with just the four SATA ports on my motherboard and then added a 4-port SATA controller. I later added an 8-port PCI card to bring the total SATA ports up to the 16 port maximum supported by unRAID. As long as they're supported by unRAID they should be recognized when the system boots after they're installed.