Real World Backblaze Costs

30 Aug 2011 Real World Backblaze Costs

BioTeam’s Backblaze 2.0 Project – 135 Terabytes for $12,000

Backblaze pricelist Image source: blog.backblaze.com

$7,384? Nope. Here are the real costs for our backblaze pod project

When it comes to accurately characterizing the out-of-pocket costs for building a single backblaze-style storage pod, the kind folks over at the blog post that started it all are actually being a little bit too honest with their pricing data! It looks like their published pricing data takes into consideration volume price or “VIP customer” type discounts be cause we had a hard time trying to match those prices when researching on our own.

Drives: $6,192

The price discrepancy is easy to see with the recommended 5400 RPM consumer-grade desktop Hitachi Deskstar 5K3000 HDS5C3030ALA630 3TB disks. We did a lot more than just basic googling – we reached out to friends and contacts who own storage and storage related businesses to see if they could pass on ‘bulk’ drive pricing to us. None of our friends could access those Hitachi drives at prices anywhere close to $120/each. This might have to do with the fact that our friends mainly use enterprise-class drives and thus don’t purchase the consumer-oriented ones by the pallet load. Our best quoted price from this channel was roughly $186 per drive.

Ultimately it was a sales rep at CDW.com who sold our client 48 drives at a price of $129 each for a total cost of $6,192. This number includes the 45 drives needed for the chassis plus 3 additional drives to keep around as spares.

Everything Else: $5,672

  • Backblaze “everything but the drives” kit from protocase.com: $5395
  • Ground shipping to Massachusetts, USA: $160
  • Openfiler.com Administrators guide: $72

Actually we took the lazy way out here. We started searching out individual parts — there are roughly 19 items and close to 300 actual parts involved!

Many of the parts listed are priced for volume sales to system builders and integrators so it’s actually hard to save money or get a similar price for people like us looking to purchase in small quantities. At the time we were searching, some parts (such as the recommended power supply) were in incredibly short supply and effectively unavailable at the time.

We also realized that even if we did find all the individual parts, we’d still be building our own wiring harnesses. This was almost a deal breaker for moving forward on this project. We love hardware and we love DIY projects but after years of experience in high performance scientific computing environments we have seen enough custom wiring disasters. In production business or scientific settings, wiring assembly should be done by specialists, not geeked-out amateurs like ourselves.

Backblaze wiring

Make our own cables and wiring harness? Hell no.
(Image source: backblaze PDF diagram)

Protocase.com to the rescue!

Here is where the backblaze chassis builder, protocase.com becomes the hero. They have a separate product page for backblaze related items at http://www.protocase.com/products/index.php?e=Backblaze

They sell the chassis only for $879 and are also helpfully willing to sell some of the rarer items (disk backblanes and nylon anti-vibration fittings) for self-assemblers.

They also (wonderfully) offer an “Everything but the drives” kit for $5395 + $160 in ground shipping for single-unit orders.

Products backblaze emptyProducts backblaze full

Barebones chassis or “everything but the drives” options are both available from Protocase.com. (Image credit: protocase.com)

Guess what we ended up ordering? Yep. We got the “everything but the drives” kit and boy are we glad we did. The system is fully tested prior to shipping (including running it with 45 data disks installed) and when it arrived at our location the system had a fully-usable and bootable 64bit version of Ubuntu Linux already installed on the single boot/OS disk. Slick.

Haters gonna hate

Anyone idly adding up the price of the parts listed on the backblaze blog post and comparing it to the $5395 cost of the “kit” might be inclined to accuse protocase.com of inflating their profit margins a little too much – this is an inaccurate and short-sighted viewpoint. The price premium charged by the folks at Protocase is justified (in our mind) entirely by the fact that the kit means that you DON’T HAVE TO BUILD YOUR OWN DAMN CABLE HARNESSES. If you include the fact that the kit comes with lots of fiddly bits that are hard to source in small quantities AND the darn thing is burned in and tested before shipping out as a bootable unit than we (BioTeam) consider this to be a value and a good deal all around. Yeah our view might be different if we had to build hundreds of these things but for small-numbers we absolutely love the kit option and want Protocase to have the kudos they deserve for going above and beyond to support backblaze pod builders.

Adding it all up

Grand Total

$11,819 USD

2 Comments
  • Travis Hershberger
    Posted at 10:56h, 07 January Reply

    Your complaining about having to do a custom wiring harness and using Openfiler on the same page. Something here does not compute. I don’t like loosing my data no matter how temporary it may be (Openfiler has a track record for loosing data now.)

    • Lonnie Holcomb
      Posted at 00:42h, 27 August Reply

      When did openfiler lose the data? be specific please.

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