The system I'm assembling resembles iXsystem's FreeNAS mini. The main difference is that I went with the Supermicro motherboard instead of the ASRock motherboard. I'll compare the two motherboards later and/or in a separate blog post. However, I'll summarize my decision as The ASRock is better if you are going for a pure storage (NAS) box. I went with the Supermicro as a better general purpose system with USB 3.0 ports and 4 x GbE ports.
- Supermicro AISAi-2750F Motherboard
- Supermicro Chassis and 250W Power supply 721TQ-250B
- 16 GB: 2 x 8 GB Crucial SO-DIMM with ECC
Case and Power SupplyOne of the most difficult decisions was trying to find a good case and power supply. There is a lot of poorly designed cases. There aren't many reviews for mini-ITX NAS-style cases. Through the reviews that are available I found one good choice which is also the same case that iXsystems uses for the FreeNAS Mini, the Ablecom CS-M50. Unfortunately the Ablecom isn't sold in the US directly. It is primarily sold to OEMs in large quantities. I stumbled around for a while until a kind person clued me in that Supermicro sells the Ablecom CS-M50 as the Superchassis 721TQ-250B. It is even linked from the page for the A1SAi-2750F motherboard and I didn't notice it or assumed it would be yet another crap case.
The summary is the Ablecom CS-M50, aka Superchassis 721TQ-250B is a very nice case with real hot swap drive support. The most detailed reviews are actually for the FreeNAS Mini. You can also find some reviews searching for the Ablecom CS-M50.
The one problem so far is that the front panel USB ports are USB 2.0. The A1SAi motherboard has header connectors for USB 3.0, which use a different style header connector. Currently, I've got no front panel USB ports. I've emailed Supermicro support.
Other People's BuildsHere are some of the sources that I used in making my decisions:
- My FreeNAS Build with The Supermicro A1SAi-i2750f (reddit, billakay)
- /My FreeNAS Build with Supermicro A1SAi-2750F (FreeNAS Forum)
- Determine what combination of hypervisors and operating system
- Linux Host + VirtualBox
- Linux Host + KVM
- VMware ESXi
- FreeNAS native FreeBSD
- Solve Front Panel USB port connectivity problem:
- Ideally there is a board from Ablecom, Supermicro or someone else that will give me USB 3.0 front panel ports.
- Alternatively, an adapter cable that gives me USB 2.0 ports would be preferred.
Things I've Learned
- The Supermicro 721TQ-250B case is the same as the Ablecom CS-M50 and is available at retail in the US.
- The AST2400 IPMI BMC controller with fully integrated keyboard, video, and mouse, iKVM is very nice. I could have configured the system out of the box without ever attaching a monitor to.
- The Supermicro/AST default Username and Password for IPMI is UPPER CASE and CASE SENSITIVE. I mistakenly thought I couldn't access the BMC until I configured it through the BIOS. The whole problem was the the default username and password were both all upper case.
- As a result, the system is INSECURE out of the box. Change your IPMI/BMC username and password from the default as soon as possible.
- IPMIView from Supermicro/AST is pretty nice. It is a standalone Java Application. However the web browser interface is just as good or better for a single system.
- The BIOS watchdog feature causes the system to be reset every 5 minutes. Nothing is logged to the event log. Don't set it, at least until you understand how to use it. I think the Linux kernel is setting the hardware watchdog.
- An improperly seated SO-DIMM, caused the system to hang at BIOS POST, with the code B4. However there were no beeps and I couldn't find a description of text error codes. The manual only gives the beep codes.