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You sometimes get what you pay for and that's what happened with the Foxconn case. It's not that it is a horrible product, just not well suited for my use. The good news is that it comes with a 300W power supply, which seemed like a good deal. But the bad news is that the power supply fan is annoyingly loud, drowning out even the noise from the four drives! So once I am done with the initial set up, it's moving to my back room while running tests. I might even replace the power supply with a silent one, if anyone can suggest one.

It turned out, however, that the top bay really was partially blocked by a bracket that was stiffening the front chassis panel (Figure 4).

Chassis bracket blocking drive
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Figure 4: Chassis bracket blocking drive

This made the drive stick out over the power connector of the ASUS mobo (Figure 5). It took some tricky maneuvering of the drive, but I was finally able to squeak it into place and even managed to get the power connector seated, too!

Drive blocking  power connector
Click to enlarge image

Figure 5: Drive blocking power connector

Why didn't I use one of the "external" 3.5" bays? Well, I tried. But the chassis screw holes were misaligned with the drive holes by about half a hole and I didn't want to let the drives just float in the chassis. The end result is shown in Figure 6. Not pretty, but it all fits. By the way, that's an ASUS P5A2-8SB4W CPU cooler, which I chose because it was inexpensive and had good ratings from NewEgg users.

Fast NAS test bed
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Figure 6: Fast NAS test bed

Table 1 has a summary of the components and costs of the Fast NAS test bed, which came to $355 (not including drives, shipping and taxes and including $120 for what a Core 2 Duo E7200 would have cost me, had Intel not provided it.

Updated 9/4/2008: Corrected power supply info in Table 1
Component Cost
Case Foxconn TLM776-CN300C-02 $50
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 $120
Motherboard ASUS P5E-VM DO $117
RAM Corsair XMS2 (2x1GB) DDR2 800 $57
Power Supply ISO-400 (included in case)
Ethernet 10/100/1000 Intel 82566DM (included in motherboard)
Hard Drives Seagate Barracuda ST31000340AS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s $640 ($160 x 4)
CPU Cooler ASUS P5A2-8SB4W 80mm Sleeve CPU Cooler $11
Table 1: Fast NAS Test Bed Component summary

Closing Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, component selection turned out to be more time-consuming than I thought, especially for the case, which I ended up being unhappy with anyway. I'm sure that the picks won't please everyone, particularly AMD fans. All I can say is that this is a starting point, and we'll see where it takes us.

Speaking of which, I have already chosen the first OS to be tested, which will be Windows Home Server. The main reason for this is that the HP MediaSmart Server (EX475), which runs WHS, has yet to be beaten in the 1000 Mbps Write Charts, turning in an average 67.1 MB/s for 32 MB to 1 GB file sizes. I have also seen other mentions of WHS' high performance, along with Windows Vista, so figured I might as well start there.

But first, I need to make sure that my iozone test machine is up to the task of testing the high-performances NASes that I'm trying to create. That story is in Part 2.

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