How to install an Asus PIKE 2008 card

  As a non-standard PCI-Express card, the Asus PIKE card involves a slightly different installation procedure.   asus-pike-card-01   The PIKE slot sits on either side of a gap in the motherboard:   asus-pike-slot   You’re definitely not going to mistake it for a regular PCI-Express slot. The card only goes in one way, with the heatsink facing the PCI slots; it can be a little hard to get in sometimes as it needs to be inserted from almost directly above.   asus-p9d-e4l-pike-card-in   Motherboard-side view:   asus-pike-installation-03   The card is secured on either end; on the side closest to the SAS/SATA ports, it hooks under a latch on the slot:   asus-pike-installation-01   Here you can see the metal part of the PIKE card latching underneath the slot’s edge. You can also see how close other board components often are to this end! The other end sits over one of the motherboard mounting holes:   asus-pike-installation-02   Don’t install the card without taking this screw out first, otherwise you’ll be taking it out and starting over. Now the card will activate the SAS/SATA ports next to it:   asus-p9d-e4l-sas-pike-ports   Easy done! Taking the card back out can be a little challenging with the metal clip on the side where the ports are, particularly if you have PCI cards still installed while you try to remove it (e.g. when the motherboard is still in the chassis). On the topic of removing the card while the motherboard is still in the chassis – as the card is quite short and the insertion pressure is reasonable so it’s quite difficult to remove in the chassis if there’s not a lot of space on both sides. A better idea is usually to take the motherboard out in these cases to minimise the risk of damage to the card or other board components.   You can buy the Asus PIKE 2008 card from Amazon.com:    

Asus PIKE 2008 card review

  Many storage enthusiasts are familiar with the IBM M1015 card, an IBM rebadge of the LSI 9220-8i host bus adapter (HBA), based on LSI’s SAS2008 chipset. Less are familiar with Asus’ PIKE card – essentially the same thing in Asus’ own form factor, fitting only their proprietary PIKE slots.   asus-pike-card-01   This card activates the onboard eight 6gb/s SAS/SATA ports featured on server boards with PIKE slots. The straight 2008 model acts just like an M1015 in IT mode; the IMR model gives you RAID capabilities, namely RAID1/RAID10/RAID0/RAID1E.   The card itself is quite small, fitting into 1U chassis’ – at a mere 1.57″ high and 6.44″ long, it’s quite a bit lower than your usual PCI-E cards. Operating system support for the SAS2008 chipset is excellente – it has worked out of the box with every modern OS and hypervisor we have tried recently (e.g. Windows 7, Ubuntu 10.04-12.04-13.04, OpenIndiana, ESXi 4+ etc.).   asus-pike-card-03   The card itself is readily available, at least in the US and AU – at around $130/140 new it’s actually extremely reasonably priced vs. picking up a used M1015 on eBay. With a PIKE card you’ll get a warranty, make use of an otherwise-unusable slot and keep one of your PCI-E slots free for other uses, so there are quite a few reasons to consider one.   asus-pike-card-02   One caveat exists, primarily affecting those attaching a number of SSDs to the controller. Not all Asus motherboards have the same electrical connectors to the PIKE slot – some are PCI-E 2.0 x4, some PCI-E 2.0 x8, some PCI-E 3.0 x8 – there may be other combinations but these are the ones we have tested so far. A x4 connector may bottleneck a number of SSDs in use simultaneously; it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll hit that limit with spinning disks. It’s worth being aware of what electrical connection is present to you PIKE slot if you ever intend on hooking up a lot of fast drives as you may end up unintentionally bottlenecking their performance.   In terms of performance, it acts exactly the same as plugging in an IT-mode M1015; eight extra ports are activated without fuss and drives hooked up to those ports should appear immediately in your OS. lspci should show something along the lines of:  
03:00.0 Serial Attached SCSI controller: LSI Logic / Symbios Logic SAS2008 PCI-Express Fusion-MPT SAS-2 [Falcon] (rev 03)
  Super straight-forward – couldn’t be easier. The card supports hot-swapping, too.   The PIKE card is well worth a look in as an alternative to a secondhand M1015/LSI card for those enthusiasts with an Asus board with a PIKE slot.   Also see: How to install a PIKE 2008 card You can buy the Asus PIKE 2008 card from Amazon.com:

Intel Gigabit CT Desktop Network Adapter Review

  intel-pro-1000-ct-gigabit-nic-01   Intel’s network cards are popular due to their speed and reliability, which is often greater than the onboard chips in devices/motherboards. The Intel Gigabit CT Desktop Network Adapter is a PCI-E x1 add-in card with a single gigabit port, usually selling for around $30AU. It is low-profile and should come with a low-profile bracket – handy for thin HTPCs or servers – and is passively cooled as you would expect. It auto-negotiates – so you don’t need to worry about crossover cables – and is PCI-E v.1.1, which supplies more than enough bandwidth for a single gigabit port and should work fine in V2 and V3 slots. It is also supposed to be compatible with x1, x4, x8 and x16 slots. The network controller is Intel’s 82574L – a design released in 2008, with an expected discontinuance of 2018 – Intel certainly expect to get a lot of mileage out of that chip!   intel-pro-1000-ct-gigabit-nic-02   The 82574L has a TDP of below a single watt, so this is going to be quite a power-efficient add-in card. Intel state that the typical power consumption is in the range of 1.9W for the entire card. Driver support is excellent across virtually all operating systems – it’s plug and play with many Linux distros and works perfectly well with the provided drivers in Windows machines. It also has support for teaming/bonding/link aggregation and 9K jumbo frames. Physically the card is 11.92cm long and 5.53cm wide.   In our tests the card managed an impressive average of approx. 950Mbit/s – very close to the theoretical maximum throughput of a gigabit line.   intel-pro-1000-ct-gigabit-nic-03   If you are in the market for a reliable, fast PCI-Express network card and only need a single port this card is well worth a look – between the features, low power usage, low profile option and driver support it’s an excellent buy for the price.

Intel X520-T2 Visual Overview

There’s not a great deal to say about these cards apart from that they allow you some crazy network speeds, if you have the disk speed to keep up. They can certainly alleviate network bottlenecks if gigabit is holding you back! This particular card has a fan to keep the chipset cool; it’s not going to be heard in a server room but if your workstation is quiet the high-pitched whine is probably going to be audible. The card does get reasonably hot, particularly if you’re making good use of it’s capabilities – make sure you have enough airflow in the chassis to keep the card cool. Keep in mind it’s assumed that these cards will be used in an environment where there’s at least 200 linear feet per minute of airflow passing over them. 10-gigabit cards are coming down in price quite significantly, though switches are still out of reach of most enthusiasts/small businesses. Watch this space, however, as 10GBe connections are making their way into high-end server boards more regularly and that will slowly filter down to the consumer level. SSD arrays becoming more commonplace will only help with that, as will the new 12gb/s cards from LSI – it’s hard to make use of all that bandwidth if you’re piping it over gigabit!