After some prodding I am starting to do a few more chassis reviews. To continue on this theme, I recently purchased a Supermicro SC933T-R760B which is a 15 bay 3.5″ SAS/ SATA chassis with a triple redundant power supply. In 2010 low-cost 3U and 4U storage enclosures became popular DIY options. Those low cost enclosures like the Norco RPC-3116 lack power supplies meaning that a user can install a standard ATX power supply and have a working system. What these low-cost alternatives lack are the serviceability features commonly found in Supermicro, Dell, HP, and Chenbro enclosures that are meant to keep the servers online while being able to swap out not just drives, but also fans and power supplies.
The Supermicro SC933T-R760B is clearly a storage chassis and its fifteen hot swap bays are a bit of a trade-off. On one hand, fifteen bays allow for fairly high 3U 3.5” drive density. Normally, sixteen drives is about as dense as a 3U storage chassis will get when using 3.5” drives. By reducing the number of drives from 16 to 15, it seems like the case was able to achieve better airflow. Since, as one can see below, there is relatively quite a bit of space between drives in the chassis.
Connecting the fifteen drives are backplane headers that are familiar to most computer users, the simple SAS/ SATA connector. Some users, especially those of the Areca 12xx series of RAID controllers will be able to directly connect individual SATA cables to be backplane which does save some cost over SFF-8088 and SFF-8087 cables. On the other hand, most users will need SFF-8088 to SFF-8087 connectors to connect the SC933T-R760B’s backplane to their SAS/ SATA controllers. I prefer backplanes with SFF-8088 connectors due to the clean and simple installation, however using SFF-8087 cables is not necessarily a negative.
The power supply in the SC933T-R760B is a triple redundant hot-swap Ablecom 760w power supply. What this means is that one has a total of 760w of power output using three 380w power supplies. One reason this is particularly useful is that, in the event of a power supply failure the power is split over two other power sources which reduces the chances of overloading that power feed. In 1+1 configurations, all power shifts to the other feed when a PSU failure occurs.
Hot swap fans are another common feature of a Supermicro chassis. The center fan partition contains four hot swap fans and the rear of the chassis features two. Most Dell, HP, and IBM storage server chassis also have hot swap fans.The main reason for this is to enable a high degree of field serviceability. With cases like the Norco RPC-3116, fans must be unscrewed to uninstall, and then the replacement fan screwed in during install. During these procedures, one risks a screw falling onto electrical components during the process or having to shutdown the server to replace the fan. One will note that the chassis fans produce great airflow, but are noisy!
One other nice feature of the Supermicro SC933T-R760B, like the previously reviewed SC216E1-R900LPB, is the clear airflow channel that directs airflow from the middle partition fans, over the CPUs and memory, and to the rear case fans. This channel does at least two things. Keeping solid airflow over critical components is key to system reliability. This channel also makes it possible, with some CPUs, to utilize passive heatsinks which is a welcome feature for many users.
Finally, one thing worth noting is that the Supermicro SC933T-R760B has only six full-height expansion slots. There are many E-ATX and ATX motherboards with seven expansion card slots, such as the Supermicro X8DAH+-F (which is a very well optioned board) have seven expansion slots meaning that one add-on card will not be able to have a proper rear panel expansion slot.
Overall, the Supermicro SC933T-R760B is a solid 3U storage chassis that comes with a lot of features meant to maintain the up-time of the enclosed system. Street price for the SC933T-R760B is about $850-900 which, though costly, is fairly reasonable if you need the feature set. Be warned though, the chassis is loud and therefore should be located in a dedicated server room or equipment closet, not a living or working space.