Building a 14 Bay DISKLESS (Max 56TB) NAS For $480. (Reality &/|| Market Forces may apply.)

Like most people, I often find my high definition pornographic films - usually starring Scarlett Johansson in full Black Widow costume and Hayley Williams (in full clown costume) penetrating each other1 and simultaneously being explored by an assorted collection of ibices, Macrauchenia, and guitarists - take up a bewildering amount of hard disk space.2

As I post this in June of 2013, current prices for systems without disks are:
NETGEAR ReadyNAS Ultra 6 (6-bay, diskless) RNDU6000 : $638.99 ($1,323.99 with 6TB (3*2TB))
Synology DiskStation 12-Bay (Diskless) DS2413+ : $1,699.99 (12-Bay, no disks option -- and nice false advertising (you can connect another one, to get that 96TB))
Qnap Network Storage Server (TS-1079-PRO-US) : $2,545.00 (10-bay, no disks)

And for something with disks, how about:
Drobo® B1200I 12-Bay Storage Area Networking, 12 TB : $14,410.99

Definitely a bargain --- why, it's even got free shipping!

Sarcasm aside, pre-built NASes seem pretty overpriced.  On the one hand, you get support, hardware someone's vetted as being compatible, and some of the specs (read/write speed) are impressive.

However, you also get troublesome technology.

Here's what worked for me, to build a NAS on the cheap.

First, the system, without disks, for under $500.

Disclaimer: These prices are what I paid Black Friday, 2012.  I've noted the retail prices (then) in addition to the sale price, and the current price as of this blog, where applicable, for comparison. (Prices were either Newegg shell shockers/Black Friday eBlast specials/etc, or Amazon Lightning deals, or bought full price.) (Everything with free shipping/Prime shipping, except where noted.)
Diskless Total: $476.76
    View of Inside Chassis
     Case /  PSU / Motherboard
    Picture of Hot Swap Cage
    3x5.25" to 5x3.5" Cage
    For those looking at specs and wondering why there's only 14 bays, and not 15, it's because there're 6 SATA ports on the mobo, and the M1015 gives another 8, for a total of 14.   That leaves one 5 1/4 and one 3 1/2 bay unoccupied
    .  For a total of 16 bays, one would need a more expensive RAID card (allowing 12 devices) and a 5 1/4 <-> 3 1/2 bay adapter.


    Picture of an M1015 Raid Card
    M1015 Raid Controller
    I originally looked at the 6-bay cases, until I realized I didn't care about form factor. Having a lot of room inside is nice, and the Fractal is particularly well built.  The memory I bought is on the compatibility list for the C60M1, which I chose  particularly for the six onboard sata ports.   The M1015 is supported out of the box by FreeNAS, and easy to flash to HBA mode.

    The mobo/cpu are severely under-powered, and I needn't have gone with the ITX form factor, with my choice of case. However, since this is on all the time, I wanted the lowest power consumption I could get.  (With 8 disks, power consumption is ~40w idle, ~85w copying).

    Screencap of BIOS Showing Drives
    It's always nice when the
    BIOS detects your drives.
    Picture of populated hot swap cage.
    Hot Swap Cage Populated
    Because of the low end processor, you won't be using ZFS's dedup, and/or getting very good performance with any of the on-the-fly (de)compression.  Not an issue for me; to make this system more ballsy, if power consumption (or cost) isn't an issue, dropping in a bigger motherboard (like this beauty! 22 sata ports!) with a real processor and oodles of memory would make this a monster. (And add another $300-$500 to cost.)

    For storage, I'm using 5 3TB drives, in a RAIDZ2, which gives me ~8TB.  With RAIDZ1, it'd be ~11TB.  And, of course, JBOD would be ~14TB.  Also, I'm using a 120gb SSD for L2ARC cache, (wouldn't be worthwhile as ZIL for me) and 3*500gb in a ZFS mirror, to hold my most important stuff.  While I can still add 5 more drives, the next upgrade'll be just 4 4TBs, put in a vdev as a 2x2 mirror. (Redundancy being far more important than capacity, for my needs.)
    Storage Total: $664.91

    The Seagate drives are the same model, but apparently whatever the difference is, is enough for the price variation from Amazon and Newegg last November; oddly, it's reversed now.

    Picture of Flash Drive mounted internally
    FreeNAS loaded on a 4gb
    flash drive, mounted internally.
    Finally, I like having the flash drive with FreeNAS inside the chassis;
    Picture 02 of inside of my NAS Chassis
    The End Result
    I can't remember what I paid for the 4gb one I'm using, but I'd suggest that if you don't have a bunch of spare ones clacking about, this isn't the project for you. (Protip: Windows 8 would be an unwise choice here.)  I did end up buying this, though:

    StarTech USB A to USB Motherboard 4-Pin Header F/F 2.0 Cable, 6" (USBMBADAPT) - $3.75

    For a grand total of: $1145.42

    For my ultra-important data, I can lose 2 500gb drives, without losing a byte, and for storing my fellow primates coupling in varied and interesting ways (aka 'youtube') I can also lose 2 3TB disks without losing a byte. (Of course, that third one'll fail the second I start the resilver...)

    Useful References:
    Recommended SATA/SAS controllers
    IBM M1015 Firmware - What to flash with
    How-to Flash LSI SAS 2008 Controller with LSI IT Firmware

    1 That link is completely not safe for work. At all. This message is only here to caution people until I figure out how to get affiliate links with Amazon. ;-)
    2 Despite what Rule 34 has told you, I'm afraid that no, your search will be futile. There doesn't exist such porn as you are looking for, but try these droids, instead.

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