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Possible storage expansions

Hey all!

I'm looking to replace my kinda aging old laptop that serves as a NAS at the moment. Due to some very specific software, I'm looking for a small footprint Intel SBC.

Right now the UP2 seems to be the best option, but before preordering, I wanted to make sure I could use it for all I need.

I'm aware that it has a SATA-III port, an M.2 E-key slot, and an mPCIe slot. I'm exploring possible use of all these together to have a 4- or 6-bay NAS built around the board.

One HDD is simple enough, pop it onto the SATA-III header. One can add up to four more HDDs using an mPCIe card that has a controller and four SATA-II interfaces (SATA-III is already way too much bandwidth for a regular HDD as it can't usually make use of the 600MB/s throughput. Best 3.5" HDDs top out around 300MB/s, and that is at reading.), providing up to 500MB/s speeds. Say, I have three HDDs there, giving each roughly 150MB/s.

However there's the E-keyed M.2 slot. It is PCI-e 2x, meaning twice as much throughput as the mPCIe interface. As I found no information on the version of PCIe used on the UP2, I'll go with the assumption that it uses v1.x, which would result in a total of 2GB/s total throughput. If we could connect a SATA controller onto that, with either an SAS port or a vertical extender board with up to 4 SATA-III ports, we could have up to 8 HDDs connected to this bad boy!

As there aren't many consumer-level devices that expose PCIe interfaces in general, and I personally know a few people who'd kill for such a solution, I think it might be a market to break into. There are some people, mostly tinkerers, who want a low-power, but powerful NAS solution. Stronger NAS builds cost a stellar amount of money and support 2-4 drives, maximum. They are big and noisy, and eat power like cops eat donuts. Even a lower-powered Synology NAS eats 60W under load, not counting hard drives.

The UP2 eats, in the beefiest config, 20W. Add a few hard drives, say, 6x2.5" regular 9mm laptop drives. The largest usual power draw stops around 2.5W - so 5V 0.5A should be more than enough. This means, at 6 drives, we stop at exactly 15W extra, during heavy load. In total, you have a NAS beating the top-of-the-line Synology models, with half the power requirement, with 6 drives already installed.

I was also looking at the EXHAT port, but by my (limited) understanding, it is more for things like the generic RasPi HATs - sensors, and low bandwidth devices only, nothing heavy-duty storage related.

My question is - would this be a viable plan for a NAS? As for the M.2 card (so far I found no ready-made solution, unfortunately), I have a friend who is pretty good at designing such things, and is totally into the open-source hardware scene, so at worst, we could have a PCB design that could be mass-manufactured even. What do you guys think?


  • Michael MillerMichael Miller Posts: 94New Member
    edited February 2017
    this might work for exposing the x2 mPCIe on the E key m.2:

    or for 2 full size PCIe x1 slots:
  • Stefan SmietanowskiStefan Smietanowski Posts: 39New Member
    Depending on exactly what you want to power off of it though you may come across power issues, remember the PSU is a 5V/4A one, and that includes powering the board, etc, etc as well.

    Glancing briefly at those adapters I'm not seeing a way to power them? I mean the 11F (PCI-E x2) board has SATA Power but it's not described when I glanced if that's a way to add power or what it's for.

    But yes, apart from power it looks like exactly what you're after.

    However, keep in mind that there is no guarantee that it will actually work due to BIOS issues for instance. A similar question arose on the kickstarter page and they simply stated they haven't tried it.

    So while I would guess it will work there is no guarantee.
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