We’ve all been there: Your computer’s 2-terabyte drive has filled itself up again, and it’s time to delete some movies and uninstall some games. But wait! Instead of deleting data like some kind of chump, I have a better idea: Build your own 180-terabyte RAID6 storage array, and never run out of space ever again. With 180 terabytes of storage under the hood, never again will the Steam Summer Sale give you storage anxiety; never again will you have to decide which files get backed up. The best part? Building your own 180TB storage array will cost you just $9,305.
The 180TB storage array, like many of our other hard drive-related stories, comes from our friends at Backblaze. Backblaze is a cloud-based backup company that provides unlimited storage for a fixed monthly price — a service it can only provide because it builds its own Storage Pods, instead of using commercial devices that are well over twice the price. Backblaze originally open sourced the specifications of Storage Pod 2.0 in 2011 — and now, as the company continues to grow and seek out cheaper and higher density storage solutions, it has just published the details of Storage Pod 4.0.
First, the specifications. Storage Pod 4 consists of a custom-designed 4U server case containing 45 4TB hard drives, a single 850W power supply, and a motherboard/CPU/RAM that runs the controller software. The centerpiece of the installation, though, is a pair of Rocket 750 40-port SATA PCIe host adapter expansion boards, priced at around $700 each. These specs are a big step up from Storage Pod 2.0 and 3.0, which required two PSUs, and nine five-drive NAS backplanes that then connected to three SATA expansion cards. By wiring the hard drives directly into the host adapter, Backblaze says Storage Pod 4 has between four and five times the throughput of its predecessor.
Rocket 750 40-port SATA expansion cards, inside the Backblaze Storage Pod 4.0
If you want to build your own Storage Pod, Backblaze does provide a complete parts list and blueprint, but it would be a pretty epic endeavor. Instead, Backblaze suggests that you buy an empty Storinator chassis from 45 Drives, which is based on the Backblaze Storage Pod, and fill it up with your own drives. This method will cost you around $12,500, rather than Backblaze’s cheaper in-house cost of $9,305. In case you’re wondering, Backblaze is currently filling its Storage Pods with Hitachi (HGST) and Seagate 4TB hard drives, but it wants to try out Western Digital’s Red drives in the near future. (Read: Who makes the most reliable hard drives?)
The Thailand hard drive crisis, three years on
What’s odd about Storage Pod 4.0, however, is that its cost-per-gigabyte is almost identical to Storage Pod 2.0, released back in July 2011. Storage Pod 2.0 provided 135TB at a cost of $7,394, or 5.5 cents per gig; Storage Pod 4.0 is 180TB for $9,305, or 5.1 cents per gig.
If the Thailand flooding of 2011 hadn’t occurred, we’d probably be around 3 cents per gig. After the floods, hard drive prices shot up, and it took almost 30 months for hard drive prices to start trending below their July 2011 level. This is why, after almost three years, 4TB drives are still the most cost effective (before the Thailand floods, the cost-per-gig was almost halving every two years, in line with Moore’s law).
The good news, though, is that 5- and 6-terabyte drives are now on the market — they’re just incredibly expensive. The WD/HGST helium-filled 6TB drive is one of the most exciting hard drives to hit the market in the last decade — but priced at around $750, or 12 cents per gig, it just doesn’t make economical sense for large storage arrays.
For a complete parts list, chassis blueprint, and info on how to build your own Storage Pod 4.0, hit up the Backblaze website. It’s worth noting that Backblaze’s controller/RAID6 software is proprietary — so if you do go down the DIY route, you’d probably end up using something like FreeNAS, or rolling your own software. (Let’s face it, 180TB storage arrays aren’t really for home users; this is enterprise- and supercomputing-level stuff).