$65-100 Inexpensive fiber channel adapter (QLA21001). Merchant: eBay
$15-40/per fiber channel drive (I used the Seagate ST39102FC, but it’s a bit
old, so I’d look for other options. Check Seagate’s website for drive
specifications.). Merchant: eBay or www.sanfordnsons.com.
$39 HSSDC cable (HSSDC/DB9 cable, Adaptec, MFG. Part #: 1879500). Merchant:
$1.50/per molex connector. Merchant: www.caseetc.com
(I bought the 90 degree
connectors, but, by chance, got a few of the straight connectors shown in the
pictures–which is good, because those were the type I was looking for in the
~$50 Radio Shack/Fry’s/Any other electronics store stuff: 15 watt soldering iron, breadboard (.100 x .100
spacing" .042" hole diameter), Cat 5 Ethernet wire, an extra
soldering iron tip (optional, but useful for beginners), male & female serial connectors (DB9),
soldering jumper wire, 1-Megohm resistors (1/4 watt, 5% tolerance). When buying
solder, get the thinnest electrical ‘rosin flux core’ solder you can, since it
is much easier to work with than the thicker types.
So, a two drive system would probably cost you about $160, minimum, while an
8 drive system would most likely set you back at least $320 (these are just rough
Step 1: Take your AMP connector, turn it upside-down, remove the little black
board-thingy around the pins. Also, push the clip-like pieces of metal on the
sides up and out. Align
the pins as you see below.
Step 2: This can be done before alignment, but you need to get rid of some
pins (bend them up or down, or simply pull them out.)
In any case, you won’t need them in the future. This diagram of the bottom of
a breadboard with the connector put in place shows which pins to keep (the black
dots). Connector plug is oriented down.
Step 3: The red dots in this diagram show where the resistor wires come
through the bottom, and the colored stripes (gold-green-black-brown) show which
direction the resistor should be pointing (I’m not sure if it matters at all,
but I know it works this way.). The blue dots are where the molex connector pins
come through the bottom. In those places, you will need to widen the breadboard
holes a bit.
Step 4: This diagram shows how all the pins should be connected. I used Radio
Shack soldering jumper wire for this and it works, but other types (paperclip?) might be fine as well.
This wiring simply carries power to the drive, so it probably doesn’t need to be
Instructions on how to solder are on the box that comes
with the soldering iron, and remember that although it is a pain to heat the
joint, and not the solder itself, it is going to be easier in the long run
because you will be using less solder, and less is good in tight spaces. But don’t
worry if you end up making tall solder sculptures on the joints of your first
card, since you will get better with practice.
Also glue the molex and AMP
connectors down first with some good glue (superglue does not work, in my
Step 5: Look at the color-coding on the serial connector and the T-Card. You
need to put a length of Cat 5 wire or soldering jumper wire2 between like colors (blue to blue, purple
to purple, etc.). See the third image
for the theoretical final result (BTW, the wires don’t need to be crossed, it’s
just that I found it easier to represent the DB9’s with the wider part up.) The
last image shows a completed T-Card (note that the bottom [narrower] side of the
serial connector is now facing you.). The appropriate colors are traced faintly
onto the image to make the location of the wires a bit clearer.
Step 6: If you want to put these into a loop (fiber channel supports up to
126 devices on a single loop), just put a the T-cards into a
series, as shown below. You may use Cat 5 ethernet wire, or even longer lengths
of soldering jumper wire for the loop wiring. The connectors with the black faces are female (no pins)
and the ones with the while faces are male (pins).
In the diagram, the back of
the female connector has been made ‘transparent’ so you can see how the pins
& holes match up. The advantage of mating the T-Cards to the loop with
serial connectors is that you can remove the drives (just pulling out the T-Card
from the drive will no suffice) and put a pass-through connector, that simply
connects the purple to the yellow and the blue to the bright green.
Step 7: You now have anywhere from one to 126 connectors. Next, you want to
punch out a serial port in the back of your computer (or buy/cannibalize a
serial slot faceplate), and stick the female connector on the far right into the
hole so that the connector faces out. Then, connect it to your HSSDC cable, and
lead the end of that to your QLA2100. Other adapters might accept the serial
cable itself, instead.
Step 8: So, you have all your drives mounted, T-Cards connected, the power is
hooked up, and the serial cables are going where they need to go; fire the thing
up!3 If you are using the QLA2100, it should be automatically recognized, and the
should stick in its little BIOS sequence after the main computer one.
To get into the
screen, press Alt-Q. In there, you can make sure that your drives have
been recognized, you can low-level format them, or even do some rudimentary
testing. There are plenty of settings to play around with, but I won’t cover
those, since they’re all in the manual.
If you are running Windows 2000, the
card should be automatically recognized, and all you might want to do is update
the drivers and perhaps download some of the QLA utilities (they are by no means
If you want to set up a RAID, go into Windows 2000’s Computer Management and then
Disk Management, and create a volume over the drives; it can be striped, plain,
mirrored, or even RAID 5. Unfortunately, those of you without Windows 2000 (or
pretty much out of luck as far as RAID goes, but perhaps there are some
standalone software RAID packages.
Of course, even without one, you can still take advantage of
the cheap and relatively fast storage space.
Well, that’s pretty much it!
1 The QLA2100 has 100MB/s throughput, the next model up, the
QLA2200 has 200MB/s throughput in full duplex mode, and the QLA2300 has 400MB/s
full duplex throughput. I am not sure what changes have to be made to the T-card
hardware to enable full duplex, but if anyone knows, I’m all ears! For now,
though, I’d stick with the QLA2100. Anyway, 100MB/s isn’t bad compared to IDE,
since the ATA100’s 100MB/s is the maximum *burst* speed, while I believe the 100MB/s
(in the case of fiber channel) is the *sustained* maximum.
2 As long as it’s copper cored, since this is, after all,
copper-based fiber channel. Incidentally, if you wish, you may look into the
possibility of converting the copper signals to optical signals, and back again,
over the length from the T-card output to the HSSDC; thus, you would be able to
run your drives quite a distance from your computer. You’d bet totally on your
own with this, though, since I haven’t looked into it at all.
3 If you are making a loop, always first test the T-cards
individually. If the connected drive is not recognized, go over your work and make sure
that everything is soldered together properly and you haven’t shorted anything
Note: This is not a project for someone who doesn’t want to take risks, can’t
do things on their own, or simply doesn’t have time and patience. You will need to solder,
desolder, and solder again, just to get some things right. I hope this guide
will be helpful, but by no means should it be treated as a totally definitive