Mini-ITX RAID Case Sports Full Size Slot

Sept. 24, 2011
The CFI A7879 Mini-ITX Server Case from E-ITX supports four hot-swap drives and a Mini-ITX motherboard with a full size expansion board.

CFI A7879 front view

CFI A7879 storage bays

3.5- and 2.5-in drives

Adaptec 6805 SAS controller

The CFI (Chyang Fun Industry) A7879 Mini-ITX Server Case (Fig. 1) available from E-ITX supports four hot-swap drives and a Mini-ITX motherboard with a full size expansion board without resorting to a riser card. The platform is ideal for a compact NAS (network attached storage) device or data acquisition system. I used the CFI A7879 with Super Micro Computers' Supermicro X9SCV-QV4 Mini-ITX motherboard.

I have done a number of projects including one based on VIA Technology's ArTiGO 2000 (see Nice NAS). The ArTiGO 2000 was a smaller system but its dual hard drives were not removable.

I really like the CFI A7879 because it has space for a full size expansion board. This is a x16 PCI Express slot with the Supermicro X9SCV-QV4. It might be a PCI slot if you use an older Mini-ITX board.

The primary reason for choosing the CFI A7879 is obviously the four removable storage slots (Fig. 2). The storage bays support 3.5- and 2.5-in hard drives (Fig. 3). Still, the ability to include a full size board is significant. It allows the system to be used as a powerful desktop system with a heftier video card. Another alternative a data acquisition board.

For my project I filled the PCI Express slot with an Adaptec 6805 RAID controller (Fig. 4). The Supermicro X9SCV-QV4 motherboard supports some RAID configurations but the Adaptec board is significantly more powerful and flexible. Its hybrid mode is ideal if there is a mix of flash and hard drives being used. The Adaptec 6805 controller also has a supercap-based backup system that the motherboard lacks.

The case comes with a 200W FlexATX power supply sufficient to handle an Intel Core i7 processor that allows pairing of a significant amount of compute power. The power supply has a tiny fan but this is augmented by a large 120mm system fan. It is directly behind the drives and the drive backplane is split allowing better air flow. The large fan allows the fan to run more slowly and quieter.

The front panel has two USB ports along with a pair of drive status LEDs. There is a power LED, reset and power switch blended into the front panel as well.

The standard CFI A7879 system has a SATA backplane. There is a 2 drive version that is shorter. There is also a SAS backplane version but the minimum order quantity (MOQ) is 5000 units.

If you are developing a system that needs removable storage then definitely check out the CFI A7879.


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