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Need help choosing between two motherboards for a Free NAS system (mini ITX)

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March 13, 2013 7:51:32 AM

I've been lokoing at both the http://www.amazon.com/GIGABYTE-GA-E350N-USB3-Dual-Core-... as well as the http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168....

A few things to note:

    This board will be used solely as NAS.
    I have a mini hot swap server case that supports 4 drives.
    the OS can and should be installed on a flash drive


Pro's and cons as i see them:

    The Supermicro board has better reviews
    The Supermicro board has an internal USB port to install OS.
    The Supermicro board appears to be made for this purpose
    The Gigabyte board supports 8gb of ram ( 4gb < required for ZFS cache)
    The Gigabyte board is sata 3.
    The gigabyte board appears to be more powerful


Overall the two boards appear evenly matched with pros and cons. I was hoping to get a few opinions to help me make my decision.
a c 121 V Motherboard
March 13, 2013 8:13:50 AM

Honestly both will work very well for your purpose.

There is one other spec you didn't mention, which is that the SM board also has dual NIC's. I don't know what kind of load you will be putting on it, but that may or may not make a difference for you.

Also, is ZFS Cache necessary for you? If so, you kind of only have 1 option.

Brand wise either board is a solid choice.
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March 13, 2013 8:56:18 AM

Hey, thanks for the quick reply!

Your questions point out the limitations in my knowledge of motherboards/networking.

I don't see too much potential for any load that will be heavy on the processor, I have multiple servers for that. This is simply meant to be storage with software raid. To break it down even further I am backing up my local backups and storing some resources that I want to share with close friends/colleagues.

I do like the dual NIC's. Which has the higher potential to cause a bottleneck in a file-server, the NIC vs dual NIC's or the sata 2 vs sata 3?

I'm not sure if ZFS Cache is necessary or not. I'm trying to look into it but honestly I haven't found a lot of documentation on the subject to point out its benefits. What I do know is I'll be transferring fairly large backups nightly (mostly sftp). On the bright side they'll be tar-balled so most likely wont be too bad on resources.

I guess what I'm scared of is transfer time. I don't want to tie up resources on other machines with long backup times. My ideal board would be dual core Atom with 8gb ram, 4+ sata 3 ports, and dual NIC's. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell these don't exist from a reputable source.
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a c 121 V Motherboard
March 13, 2013 9:09:30 AM

Honestly neither a single NIC or SATA2 should cause a bottleneck, but since it sounds like you are backing up multiple sources to a single destination my gut feeling is that the dual NIC's should work better for you. Using Spinny drives (physical Hard Drives) you are not going to really be able to use the extra bandwidth that SATA3 offers (unless you are using 10k or 15k nearlines) If you are worried, you can always get a PCIe RAID card.

The fact that the backups are zipped, is really going to help out since it is only writing a single large file instead of a bunch of small ones.

I really don't expect the CPU or RAM options to affect what you are doing.
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March 13, 2013 10:16:25 AM

Thanks Again!

I think you've helped me sort through this. I'm going to order the Supermicro. It has great reviews and I've found a few forum posts that are saying it easily supported more than the 4gb of ram stated. I'll start with 4gb and upgrade if I see room for improvement.

The only question now is should I go with the more supported 2tb drives or the 3tb drives for $20 more each. I think I've read that the Supermicro board supports them, just not as boot drives. A little more Googling should turn up an answer here. I completely forgot about the limitations of spinning drives. I'm going with WD red drives, they don't state rpms but I think its somewhere around 5,400-7,200rpm.

Update: You wouldn't happen to know how a high end (for its time) kingston SSD (it's a sata 3 drive running on sata 2)I have laying around would perform in comparison to usb 2.0. I ask because the Supermicro board has 6 sata 2 ports but I only need 4. I have an extra for an OS drive if it makes more sense. (I'm thinking SSD is best at 3.0Gb/sec? usb 2.0 seems to bottom out at 32mb/sec?)
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a c 121 V Motherboard
March 13, 2013 10:37:58 AM

I think you should be fine with the 3TB drives, since the boot limitation does not apply to you.

The WD Red drives are great! Excellent choice! and you will notice no difference on those between SATA2 or 3 They are 7200RPM

I actually have 3 of those SSD's in my system, and I would hands down use that over a USB drive for OS. First because of the read / write speed, also because I personally don't like USB dongles sticking out that could be accidently unplugged.
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March 13, 2013 11:04:05 AM

Thanks again for all of your help. I feel 100% better going into this than I did this morning. I got really paranoid after some drive failures near the end of last year. I have a pretty solid backup system now between Amazon AWS and dual local backups, some of my data is for high profile clients and some of it is priceless family stuff; Definitely not something I want to loose.

I have to say though (small plug for Kingston) I had a Kingston SSD fail on me for the first time ever in December 2012 (I have 5+ so this isn't a common thing) literally 90% through a eulogy video I was making for my dads funeral. They were phenomenal. A real live person picked up the phone asked me what I needed then passed me to tech support. Within 5 minutes I had a pre-payed packing slip and a new SSD being sent next day air. Hands down the best support I've ever had. They really saved the day. If it wasn't for Kingston support I would have been rebuilding a PC with 12 guage holes in it.

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a c 121 V Motherboard
March 13, 2013 11:10:02 AM

No problem! Data backups can be critical for sure, and knowing you have a solid system in place will really help with stress levels.


I agree on Kingston's support. Absolutely phenomenal. When I first got the HyperX SSD I was running benchmarks and not getting the read/write numbers I was expecting, so I gave them a call half expecting a "We're sorry, but that is normal" or something. Instead, I got fairly quickly bumped up to tier 2, then tier 3 with all super polite techs. Then the tier 3 guy said "let me look into something and call you back in about 10 minutes" and true to his word he called back shortly. He then proceeded to tell me that the guys in the lab had ran across the street and were building a replica of my system in the lab, and were trying to duplicate the problem. The next day I got a call telling me they had duplicated it, found the issue and were patching it in the next firmware update.

Kingston buyer for life.
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