Using Host Bus Adapters to Increase Storage Capacity in a Workstation

Your typical consumer-grade high-end workstation has 4 NVME slots and 6 SATA ports. This means you can have 4 NVME SSDs and some mix of SATA SSD and HDDs, which for most folks is totally fine. With NVME capacity peaking at 8TB, SSD at 16TB, and HDD at 24TB, that is a serious amount of storage. However, you are limited when you start using the workstation as a server, or need more high-end capacity.

NVME Limitations

Referencing an Intel Core Z790 board (should be the same on an AMD Ryzen X670), you have 1 NVME slot tied to the CPU, and 3 tied to the chipset. While these are fine in that setup if the drives are independent, you can’t create a RAID array across the CPU and chipset. Creating an array on the chipset-based drives is possible, but limited to RAID0/RAID1/RAID5. Knowing how the RAID5 array distributes the parity content, NVME drives tend to be a bad choice as their performance drops drastically (and then SSD is better from a price perspective).

SSD Limitations

If you’re wanting to build a storage array that has more endurance than NVME, isn’t as expensive, and is faster than HDD, you tend to look at SSD. On a consumer motherboard with 6 SATA ports however, you’re limited to 6 SSDs. Sometimes this works fine, but then you’re maxed out immediately. Large full-tower cases can easily support 10+ drives, some even close to 20.

HDD Limitations

These are mostly the same as SSD limitations, as there’s no change in the interface, only the base technology.

Host Bus Adapter Advantages for NVME

Using an host bus adapter (HBA) for NVME drives allows you to install up to 8 additional NVME drives in your build. Typically a 4-port m2 NVME HBA is a single-slot add-in card with a single small fan, roughly the length of a small video card. An 8-port m2 NVME HBA is a single-slot add-in card with two small fans, roughly the length of a longer video card.

There are U2/U3 and E1.S models as well, with the same switching technology to allow for expansion.

Host Bus Adapter Advantages for SSD

Using an host bus adapter (HBA) for SSD drives allows you to install up to 16 additional SSD drives in your build, per HBA. This allows you to fully use most full-tower desktop workstation cases, and even quite a few rack-mounted servers.

Host Bus Adapter Advantages for HDD

These are mostly the same as SSD advantages, as there’s no change in the interface, only the base technology.

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