Apex Storage is looking to fund production of an upgrade that packs up to 16 M.2 SATA solid-state storage devices into your network attached storage (NAS) box or server — on a single card.
Designed, the company says, to offer "massive storage at peak performance," the Storage Scalar accepts anything from one to 16 M.2 M-key storage drives, bringing them out to a quartet of SFF-8643 SAS/SATA 3 6.0Gbps connectors — with power provided through a mechanical four-lane PCI Express slot and an additional six-pin PCIe power connector.
"The Storage Scaler prototype has gone through a number of iterations from the original idea," claims Apex Storage co-founder and engineer Mike Spicer. "It began with soldering wires to breadboards to test our idea of being able to use M.2 SATA SSDs. Once we figured out the circuit design our next item was to design the base PCB, to which we soldered on wires and surface mounted M.2 headers. This step further confirmed our design and our idea had a possibility of working."
"Next we went through a number of iterations with our fabricator, which taught us an immense amount of the actual fabrication process and using off-the-shelf cables. Using off-the-shelf cables allows us to provide a cost efficient solution, easily maintained by our potential users. The one unexpected glitch was the global chip shortage, which forced us to reevaluate our design regarding our power supply. This reevaluation process led us to redesign our prototype card significantly. After numerous iterations and long days and nights, we believe we have the solution that we can take to production with your help."
The board itself, however, is only half the solution: It has no drive controller of its own. Instead, it's designed to be connected to a separate Host Bus Adapter (HBA) or hardware RAID card — and in the latter mode, when striped across all the drives, offers impressive performance of up to 7,377MB/s read and 5,712MB/s write.
Apex Storage says the board is ideal for a range of use-cases, including low-cost high-density data storage, high-resolution video editing, storage caching on a spinning-platter system, or even mining and plotting storage-based cryptocurrencies like Chia, Siacoin, Filecoin, Storj, Holo, Augur, Arweave, and the Ocean Protocol.
The board is now funding on Kickstarter, starting at $415 for "early bird" backers. Deliveries are expected to begin in September, though Apex Storage warns that chip shortages and high demand at PCB fabrication facilities could delay things.