Other Add external storage eSATA with disk enclosure and zfs

I've got a FreeBSD 11 box running and now I'm in the process of adding storage to the machine. The machine is a mini-itx box and therefore I don't have any physical space left to add internal drives.

I'm running ZFS on the system today and I want to run ZFS with raidz on these new drives as well. I've got a i7 and plenty of RAM. Storage speed is not the main requirement.

After researching I've come up the the following solution and I'm mainly looking for advice on the hardware and/or any recommendations if someone has done anything similar before.

SATA controller
StarTech PEXESAT322I
Chipset ASMEDIA ASM1061

Seems to be a cheap SATA controller with two eSATA ports. According to the manual it's supporting port multiplier and can run up to 4 drives on a single SATA port. I only got a x16 port in the machine and this SATA controller is x1. If my research is correct it'll work to put this x1 card into a x16 slot.

This controller seems to be working fine in FreeBSD.

"Both controllers use the AHCI interface and should work really well, plug
and play. I've tried ASMedia 1061 and it seems to work ok. Performance is
as expected with PCIe 1x gen2."


"If you need to expand SATA ports ASMedia ASM1061 or ASM1062 based cards are highly recommended as they follow AHCI specs which pretty much no other low-end controller chipset does (Marvell, Silicon Image),"

Disk enclosure
Icy Box IB-3664SU3
Chipset JMB575

This was a bit tricky since I don't want any kind of raid when running ZFS. I found the Icy Box and it supports eSATA and according to the manual also supports port multiplier.

eSATA connection
Note: Port multiplier at host needed, if connected via eSATA. If no Port multiplier is
available, your computer can only recognize one disk.

Size shouldn't really matter. I looking at 4 x 4 TB or 8 TB WD Red at the moment.
Combination of eSATA controller and external enclosure is pretty cheap, but that is the only benefit of it. While FreeBSD supports that kind of hardware, due to its low cost it is also often known by its low reliability. Performance may also suffer, since IIRC this ASMedia chip does not supports FIS-based switching (only Marvell AHCI chips I remember capable), and lack of one may limit drives from handling requests simultaneously, that will be deadly for RAIDZ performance.

Since you are going to invest up to thousand dollars in hardware, I would instead just bought slightly bigger main case for you mini-itx system and moved all disks inside, connecting them directly to motherboard SATA ports. External enclosures may be acceptable for backup or data movement purposes, but I would not use them for main storage, if possible.
I'd look into an SAS-HBA with external connectors - LSI SAS2008 or 3008 based HBAs are cheap to get, e.g. the IBM M1015 or M1215 (PCIe 3.0).
A PCIe 1x Port for a storage HBA is bound to end in misery as there is merely any bandwith available. Don't waste a full x16 port to such a bottleneck.

For the enclosure have a look at used ones e.g. from supermicro. I got myself a supermicro SC836 (full-sized chassis) for 230 EUR half a year ago, which is less than i've paid a year before for 2x5-bay IcyBox SATA-backplanes for another system. The IcyBox stuff is "kinda OK", but has a lot of limitations and drawbacks compared to 'enterprise'-hardware, which is available (used) for the same money...
Depending on what you get, you can put the mini-ITX system inside (and get HBAs whit internal connectors) and safe a bit on space and external cabling...

For the disks i'd go for SAS over SATA anytime. The price difference has become minor to nonexistent in the last few months, so IMHO there's no reason to get SATA-drives.
Thanks a lot for your input!

Since I read your feedback I've decided that my initial plan was not the best way to go forward. Now I'm not entirely sure how I'll do with my storage.

Maybe buy a bigger case or look into a solution using SAS instead.

Haven't had much time to do more research but I'll discard my initial plan with the IcyBox and eSATA.
I like the Lian Li PC-Q25 case - it supports mini-ITX and 5 hot-swap bays plus an additional 2 3.5" drives on a lower mount. I've had 2 of these, once for BSD zfs storage and the other for a vmware box for 2 years with no problems.
If 4 bays are sufficient, there's also the Supermicro CSE-721, which is also used for the FreeNAS Mini by iXsystems. The MiniXL uses the 8-bay Ablecom CS-T80, which should be available from supermicro sometime soon (I'm also waiting for this for a NAS in one of our branch offices).
The Chenbro ES34069 is also a 4-bay mini-ITX case - although on the last Chenbro case I had in my hands, I didn't really liked the drive caddies. They were not as easy to insert as the supermicro ones and the locking mechanism also needed some fiddling. Otherwise I really liked the desktop chassis from Chenbro - they had a nice "tools-free" design and really good build quality.