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Do not try this at home: Man spends $5,000 on a 48TB Raspberry Pi storage server
It was not good
YouTuber tech whizz Jeff Geerling has found it is possible to spend $5,000 on a Raspberry Pi build.
He did this silliness because he's a self-described "creative person who builds great software" with a sponsorship from Lambda that keeps him from redirecting his own paycheck to quirky projects.
He's also undoubtedly generating some income from Amazon referral links throughout his post and hawking wares from his merch store, but you know, capitalism. Can't blame the guy for seizing an opportunity.
Anyway, about that machine – Geerling started with this Taco gizmo from Radxa, which is a complete NAS/router solution built on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4.
He then turned everything up to 11, adding as much SSD storage as he could afford to his Taco to "see what it could do." As it turned out, "what it could do" was five Samsung 870 QVO 8TB SSDs and one Sabrent Rocket Q NVMe SSD. The result was a NAS packing 48TB raw storage, albeit at slow speeds compared to a modern desktop.
But overall, the device's performance was ... mostly disappointing.
Despite being able to load it up with as many SATA III drives as one could want and choose a decent SATA controller, the thing was limited in bandwidth.
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"All RAID levels (including RAIDZ1) basically maxed out the Pi's bus on sequential reads," said Geerling, who added that the Sabrent NVMe drive was bottlenecked, only seeing "a few hundred megabytes per second of throughput in the best case."
But where the machine really fell apart was when an increase in network traffic collided with the CPU bottlenecking.
"I think the ideal setup for a Pi-based storage device would be low-end SSDs (or even 3.5" HDDs – they work with the Taco too, though you will need SATA/power extension cables), and RAID 1 or RAID 10 (or ZFS stripe+mirror). That way the Pi's CPU will be free when it comes to putting through more network traffic," mused Geerling.
He reckons the Frankenserver is perfectly adequate over gigabit networks, less so for faster ones.
A board-only Taco should be available for sale for under $100 by the end of 2021. A full kit with the board, a nice metal case, and a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 will be available early next year for $200.
Does he recommend doing this at home? Well, no, he does not. And The Register doesn't either unless you also have a sponsorship. There's a reason things come off the shelf these days.
You can view his video below. ®