2016 NAS: ASRock Rack E3C224D2I

So lets get started on this 2016 NAS miniseries! If you missed the original post, I have built a NAS with 8TB of storage (soon to be 12TB) for backups, Plex, etc! It’s now time to delve into what makes this NAS a NAS: The motherboard.

I searched far and wide for a mini-ITX motherboard that had a few requirements:

  • At least 5 or 6 SATA ports
  • A PCI-E slot
  • Socket 1150/1151
  • Gigabit NIC(s)
  • Decent quality/server grade

So it turns out, that is not a simple thing to find. Fortunately, ASRock (under their ASRock Rack server-segment name) sell quite a few boards that meet my criteria! They sell the E3C226D2I and the E3C224D2I. Now, the only differences I could find between them was non-ECC RAM support (more on this later) and the number of SATA-III ports you get (the 226 has 6 SATA-III 6Gbit and the 224 has 4 SATA-III 6Gbit and 2 SATA-II 3Gbit).

I decided to go for the 224 since it was a fair bit cheaper and doesn’t lack any features I don’t need from the 226. My boot SSD is only SATA-II so that is not an issue, which left four SATA-III ports for the HDD trays (even though hard drives only barely go above SATA-I speeds :p). I did have to pick up 4GB of Kingston ECC RAM for this board though, but this wasn’t so much that it would have been cheaper to go with the 226. Plus, ECC is nice for running a checksumming filesystem like BTRFS (though it isn’t necessary, it is a nice thing to have).

That said, the board does have not one, not two, but three gigabit ethernet ports!

So, there are two Intel Gigabit jacks and one extra Realtek chip for the motherboards baseboard management. Yes, this board has low-level hardware embedded to control things like powering on the server remotely, and even interacting with the OS over the network. Nuts. Absolutely nuts!

Here is a screenshot of the management page (system is powered off, which is why you can only see standby voltages):

Screenshot from 2016-04-13 17:59:19

It gets better. You can press that “Launch” button with the Java icon near it and everything gets blown out of proportion:

I would like to point out that I never attached a screen to the NAS. This software even lets you mount ISO’s over the network to install the OS.

Yes. That’s right. It’s possible to reinstall your NAS’ OS from anywhere in the world, without even touching the system. If that hasn’t got your nerd juices flowing, I don’t know what would.

Now, the OS can only see the two Intel ports (the two stacked ones). The baseboard management can see the third one off to the side (Realtek gigabit) and the top Intel port, which can be shared between the OS and baseboard management. This allows you to:

  • Have a dedicated cable on a separate VLAN just for the baseboard management, or
  • share the OS’s connection so you only need to use one cable, or
  • completely isolate the baseboard management if you don’t want to use it.

That’s how configurable this system is. Booyah. Also, daisy-chaining your rig to it is also a thing. So is 2Gbit bonded ethernet. Crikey.

You also get dual-DDR3 DIMM slots which allow for up to 16GB 1600MHz DDR3-ECC RAM (at least that’s what it says on the ASRock website, you may be able to install 32GB in this but don’t quote me on that).

As for network performance, it just screams. It just pins out at 112MB/s in simple file transfers, read and writes (more about the performance in later articles!). One day I will be giving this thing 2Gbits to a smart switch and 2Gbits back to my rig. We will see if that starts to make this thing sweat, because right now gigabit just doesn’t touch it.

Oh yeah, that PCI-E x16 slot is just perfect for a 10Gbit card in the future, don’t you think?

Anyway, that’s my overview of the ASRock E3C224D2I. It has not crashed once since I have been using it. Flat out 10/10. Stay tuned in the coming days for more!

The 2016 NAS: Introduction
2016 NAS: Intel Core i3 4360T

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.