July 2001


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Revision 6: July 2001


After much work and travel, I finally got a chance to sit down and finish off the revisions I'd started back in March - moving the balance of the servers into 2U cases. The intervening three months or so had also seen a dramatic drop in processor and RAM prices, so while I was at it, I upgraded all the computers to 1Ghz processors and 512Mb of RAM - it was just too cheap not to.

The result was a bit more room in the rack when all was said and done - the lower part of the rack (above the servers) had 7Us empty, the upper part of the rack (above the main networking group) had 5Us empty.

The only significant issue still outstanding at this point was the drive array problem - trying to get better performance and better reliability out of the drive array. I was considering a large number of options, such as:

Switching the array to SCSI - this is what that 4U drive chassis was designed for. I originally went with IDE because it was cheaper, and the drives were larger. The biggest SCSI drive at the time was 73Gb (for around $1200), and Maxtor made 80Gb IDE drives (for around $350). However, in the nearly a year that had gone by, Seagate started making the Barracuda 180 - a 181.6Gb hard drive, priced at about $1680 each. In terms of dollars per gigabyte, the 73Gb is $16.40/Gb, the 181Gb is $9.28/Gb and the 80Gb is $4.37/Gb. So while the IDE drive was still the cheapest, the 181Gb was a heck of a better bargain than the 73Gb. Plus it was stinky fast and reliable - with a maximum chassis capacity of 1.44 terabytes!
Switching cases - move the 4 IDE drives back into a single case that could hold them all. That would shorten the cables to make it reliable. The problem here was that there weren't any rack mount chassis that could hold eight IDE drives (preferably externally visible), 2 SCSI drives, a DVD and floppy. Anything that came close was 30 inches deep, which wouldn't fit on the rack.
Use a SCSI-to-IDE chassis. This is a rack mount device that allows you to plug in IDE drives, yet provides a SCSI connector out the back. This would allow me to keep the drives I'm already using, even set up a RAID array with them, and then use SCSI to communicate to it, eliminating the cable length issues.

Lots to think about, but there's always more when you least expect it...