What does it take to make a HDD storage bay ?
How to use it for a NAS ?

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I have reconfigure a NAS system with an external disk bay. Instead of a USB 3.0 connection, I used the eSATA. How can the storage bay give access to multiple disk via a single eSATA connection ? Instead of using NAS Box, can I make my own NAS with an external disk bay ?

While reconfiguring my NAS setup made of a ReadyNAS 104 and a ICY BOX IB-RD3640SU3, I tried to connect the external bay to my laptop to access the drives. Only a single drive was accessible when configured as JBOD. With the RAID enable, the bay register differently and a different capacity is available depending on the RAID mode. Connecting the bay to the NAS, the 4 disks are listed and accessible.

The disk bay is made of a SATA Port Multiplier. Two interface can be used, a SATA connected with the eSATA connector or a USB 3.0 connected from a USB3.0 to SATA controller. SATA port multiplier is not widely supported. Intel doesn't and it's why I can't access the 4 disks individually. A USB 3.0 interface comes handy then.

SATA Port Multiplier controller can be bought individually.

They are a couple things to look for to make the selection.

  • SATA revison ( SATA II 3Gbps, SATA III 6Gbps)
  • USB 3.0 Interface ( useful to access all the drive )
  • RAID Feature
  • JBoD support
  • Storage capacity supported
  • Mounting points ( 4 screws is nice )
  • NCQ Support
  • SMART Support

As mentioned, SATA port multiplier is not widely supported. Finding a suitable host takes a bit of research. A good start was found on Wiki SBC. The wanted features are as follow :

  • Gigabit Ethernet Network connection
  • Sufficient system memory RAM + Flash
  • USB ( USB 3.0 would be nice )
  • SATA Features
    • SATA III - 6Gbps
    • SATA port multiplier Frame Information Structure (FIS) based switching would be nice

Some of the SBC I have reviewed :

BoardSATA Comment
Banana PiSATA II
BeagleBoard-X15SATA II - PM CBSHDMI interface is not necessary for a NAS. Expensive SBC for a NAS.
Freescale i.MX 6 :
TBS 2910 Matrix
Wandboard Quad
SATA II - PM CBSNote that due to internal i.MX6 buses the Ethernet 1000Mbps interface speed is limited to 470Mbps.
MinnowBoardSATA - NO PM
Intel Processor
Orange PiSATA to USB 2.0 BridgeLimitted Bandwidth
ARMADA SOM ClearFogSATA III - PM FISMarvel Processor, expensive
PC Engines APU
AMD - needs more research

The ClearFog SBC would be nice with up to 4 SATA ports. The SBC with its enclosure is $230 making it quite expensive. A good compromise is the Linksys WRT1x00AC series featuring a Armada 385 dual core processor with WIFI AC, Gigabit Ethernet and SATA III - PM FIS. The WRT1200AC is a good trade-off between performance and price.

I found a refurbished WRT1200AC for $100 on ebay. The router is made with OpenWRT in mind. There is a good OpenWRT community for those system. Finding the right software and configuration is easy. SATA Port Multiplier support in the SATA driver must be enabled. The following Kernel configuration must be enabled : WRT1200AC : Configuration for SATA Port Multiplier.

The cost of that support is the inability to use OpenWRT default release image and install missing kernel driver ( and any dependent packages ) from OpenWRT repository. Building your own Kernel is done with the most recent update. The Kernel version is not the same thus any module required would have to be built also. In OpenWRT default release image, the Kernel has support to every package making the Kernel a little bigger but more compatible. I learn the hard way when I wanted to have Bridge Firewalling support enable : OpenWRT Bridge Firewalling.

In order to test my configuration, disks and the port multiplier needed to be connected together and powered. The goal of this project is making available the 2.5" HDD laying around. 2.5" HDD are nice because they only require 5V power supply. 3.5" HDD need 5V and 12V making them harder to power. A cable from an old PC PSU with connectors for the 2 HDD and the PM connects every things together. Use a 2.1mm barrel jack adapter on the line to connect a 5V power adapter.

The default Linksys firmware supports SATA Port Multiplier out of the box. I reach transfer speed up to 32Mo/s. After...

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  • 1 × USB 3.0 / eSATA (6Gb) to Dual SATAIII RAID External Disk Bay Interface ( 2 Disks )
  • 1 × ESATA And USB3.0 Host To 5x SATA Feature Hardware RAID/JBoD External Disk Bay Interface ( 5 Disks )
  • 1 × 2.5-Inch Dual Bay Trayless SATA III - 6G Mobile Rack MRK-225S6-BK - Support for two 2.5" SATA drives
  • 1 × Shock-Proof 3.5" Hard Disk to 5.25" DVD ROM Bay Mounting adapter Can help limit vibration from the disk. Support for MRK-225S6-BK
  • 1 × 4" Double-Locking SATA III/6Gb/s Cables Short SATA Cable to connect the controller to the disks

View all 6 components

  • Disk Bay Power Supply

    Stanislas Bertrand08/26/2016 at 02:15 0 comments

    After burning out my 2 HDD with a 12V power adapter, I was looking to get a more wide voltage range power supply option. I would like to design my own PCB with the proper power supply and system indicator but for just one unit it is overkill. Moreover switching regulator design can be hard to do correctly and component selection is a nightmare.

    I have came across the following power supply option :

    The PicoPSU are quite interesting power supplies. A NAS system designed around a regular motherboard could use such option. It could be used as a lab power supply with the suitable breakout board. In any case 80W is a little too much for my 10W-Max disk bay.

    The boards from micro4you made me realize that I had one from the recycled LCD screen I got. The screen had this step down converter board generating 12V. From the board layout and the IC datasheet, I changed the feedback to generate a 5V output. 5.35V is within the supply range of the HDD and the PM.

    I got a new HDD to put in my DIY Disk Bay and assembled everything together.

    The power board input range is between 9V and 30V. A 12V power adapter powers correctly the Disk Bay.

    I connected the disk bay to the router and tested the performance. I had SATA Port Multiplier disconnecting randomly at the beginning. Changing the eSATA cable solved my issue. Under Linux, I have successfully copied files at 45Mo/s on both disk simultaneously over my Gigabit Ethernet connection.

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