Saturday, June 22, 2013

Seagate Constellation

A recently ordered package from AlleKabels (literally meaning All Cables) has finally arrived from Holland. It contains a few cables -a 20m HDMI cable and -important!- a 22-pins SATA SAS cable for a nifty Seagate 4TB Constellation hard disk that I bought on ebay for a very nice price.  Constellation disks are quite a bit more expensive than "regular" disks (read, double to almost thrice the price) because the former are made much more sturdy for use in servers, since in servers disks are constantly severely in use 24-hours a day, seven days a week...

Problem is that this Constellation disks appears to be of the SAS variety. SAS is a variation on the SATA connection (PATA was Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment and had a 4-pins molex for power and a 40-pins flat-cable for data; SATA is Serial Advanced Technology and has a 15-pins power cable and a 7-pins data cable)

PATA and SATA (as well as SAS) are protocols used to communicate between mainboard/operating system and the hard drive.

SAS (which stands for Serial Attached SCSI) has the possibility to attach more than one hard drive to the same mainboard connection, while SATA is always one-on-one.  Normally, the difference is the kind of cable: instead of a one-on-one cable, you have, for example a one (for the mainboard) on four cable (for four SAS hard drives).

But that isn't the problem.  Where the shoe wrings in my case, is that SAS hard drives have two sets of connections: the regular 15- plus 7-pins and a 22-pins.  Now, the amount of pins and their purpose are the same, but with regular SATA and/or SAS, you have the pins on the hard drive sitting under an L-shaped ledge, with the short end of the "L" sitting left for the data cable and right for thepower cable.

The second type of SAS is just one connector with one long, straight ledge on the drive.  Which means there's no way you can fit the regular L-shaped plugs on the drive.  That's why I had to order this 22-pins cable...

Second slight inconvenience is that my mainboard doesn't have the SAS protocol.  That means of course that, even with the right connector now in my possession, I won't be able to use the Constellation hard drive since the latter can't communicate with the operating system -and vice versa- because the mainboard lacks the needed hard- and software.

Only thing I can do -besides reselling the drive- is to buy a new mainboard.  Since I already wanted to buy a new mainboard because of having run out on SATA connectors (got ten connectors on the current AsRock P67 Fatal1ty Pro board and have eight hard drives and two burners).

But the baord I was going to get would normally have been a so-called socket 2011 board.  The socket (also called LGA -Land Grid Array) is the space where the CPU (Central Processing Unit) is sitting and is mentioned by way of the amount of copper connections it has on the bottom.  For the "Pentium IV" it was first 416 and later 478 copper pins or Socket 478.  For the Pentium D and then the Core Duo processors, it was 775 contacts (they did away with the pins because sometimes, when swapping a processor, the CPU got stuck on the back of the cooling block through the cooling paste you have to apply in order to get smooth, overall cooling, and when removing said block you pulled the CPU out of its socket before you could shift the handle that blocks the CPU in its place, sometimes resulting in one or more CPU pins breaking off and you could throw away the CPU).

For the i7 generation it was first the socket 1366 (X58 chipset, running on triple-channel DDR3 RAM) and later the socket 1156 (P55 chipset, running on dual-channel DDR3 RAM). For the LGA1156, new i5 and i3 processors where developed.
Then came the i7 Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge which have a socket 1155 or 2011 and the latest are the socket 1150 boards...

So, back to the socket 2011 board I wanted to buy, the AsRock X79 Extreme 11.  This a board would entice that I also buy a new processor, since I own an Intel i7 Sandy Bridge 2600K CPU.  The thing is that the three processors in the socket 2011 range are either the same price as my 2600K and perform the same too, or are much more expensive and don't give enough of an advantage over my 2600K to warrant the exessive investment.

Problem was that this socket 2011 board was the only one that had more than ten SATA connectors (14, to be exact).  But AsRock came to my rescue when releasing that Extreme 11 mainboard for the socket 1155.  Which means I don't have to buy a new processor.

To complete my joy, the AsRock Z77 Extreme 11 has fourteen! SATA connectors, of which four support the aformentioned SAS protocol.  It is (was?) also the only board which had the SATA controller under one Intel driver, as to where before the Intel driver supported only part of the SATA connectors and an other part was supported by Marvell.

I must add that I experienced problems with both drivers from Intel and Marvell when all 10 connectors are occupied.  After reading a round-up of the Extreme 11 board on Tom's Hardware, I was pleased to learn that the sole Intel driver was more than capable of steering all 14 connectors, which is exactly what I need.

Now, I'll probably have to find some kind of sponsorship -or go down to the pub and sing for a few pop a song- as that AsRock Z77 Extreme 11 motherboard costs over 400 euro...

Wish me luck.

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