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Norco Hot-swap backplane issues


Andne
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First, a little bit of history. A while back I bought a Norco-3216 case to use as the basis for a SAN server. I wanted to make some drives available via iSCSI to my WHS box to store my DVD and Blu-ray collection on. I managed to put things together with a 4-drive RAID card and a spare motherboard/CPU/memory that I had around. I put 4 WD green drives in the bottom row of the case and things were going pretty well.

 

Now, I finally got all of the parts I needed to upgrade my server to something a little more capable - new motherboard, core i3 cpu, more RAM, 8-drive RAID card, bigger/better power supply. I spent the past week backing up the storage pool on the existing machine and finally got the new parts in the case last night. I booted the system and all was looking good, but there were no hard drives in the case. I took a spare 80GB drive that I had around (recently replaced by a 500GB in my drobo) and stuck it into one of the bays on the second row - the computer was on at the time (they are hot-swap bays, right?). I then heard a snap and smelled something and could see what looked like a small fire on the backplane behind where I had just connected the drive. Cut power to the case and everything looked ok. After deciding nothing looked too bad, I powered things back up (drive removed) and started to test other bays as well. The bay above the previous one had a similar effect, a bay on the bottom row was fine, etc... I did notice that three of the LEDs on the first row I tried now appear to be stuck in the red 'Faulted' state even when the bays are empty. The RAID card was connected to the bottom row and next row up, the third row that also burned only had power, no data connection.

 

My question for people is this: has anyone else had these kinds of problems with norco's backplanes? I've looked online some and there are plenty of stories where they just fail completely, but I can't find much about actually burning the PCB. I haven't had a chance to pull out the backplanes and see what the actual damage was, but I'm not sure I want to use this case anymore. The problem is that in the 16 and 20-bay size, you either get a norco case or pay near $1000+ for some other manufacturer's case. Any thoughts on what I should do? I'm currently leaning towards a supermicro 8-bay 2U case, lose a few bays, but I don't actually have 8 drives to put in one yet anyways. The new board I bought is a supermicro board, and from what I can find you do want one of those for their cases.

 

Your thoughts?

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Wow, that's 2 posters in the past week with fires in their servers. Different hardware, but still, is this a trend? Scary. Sorry, I've never even seen a Norco case in person, but a few members have used them so, hopefully, they will chime in.

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Wow, that's 2 posters in the past week with fires in their servers. Different hardware, but still, is this a trend? Scary.

 

I was thinking the same thing. In this case it's related to inserting the drive into the hot swap bay. Perhaps alignment of the drive wasn't very good and 2 adjacent connections were shorted. I am surprised it can actually draw enough current to start a fire but anything is possible.

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I took out one of the burned backplanes and a good one and took a picture side-by-side. Looks like the burn started on a transistor, which would imply some kind of over-current situation. I think the chip next to it got damaged from the heat afterwards.

 

Good vs. Bad

 

Anyways, I ordered a Supermicro CSE-825TQ-563LPB today. Hopefully their backplanes are a little better. It's a smaller case, 8 bays, 2U height, but I think it'll be big enough to work for a while at least. I think I'm going to avoid Norco cases for a little while, they are cheaper, but given the number of comments I've seen online and the experience I've just had, I'm not so certain. It's not much of a sample size to work with given the number of people here that like them, but two in a single case seems a bit suspect to me.

 

And I'll have to figure out how to post inline images somehow.

Edited by Andne
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