Ok after many hours of reading up on NAS boxes and the limitations with them and the fact that a £600 nas box is still considered a home workgroup grade peice of kit... ive decided to try and make my own.
I've been granted around £600's to spend to try a NAS box out for use with deploying software on 30 - 60 workstations at a time, or ghosting images across many machines.
I feel that the £600 would be better spent on a custom build using FreeNAS or OpenFiler.
Here's the spec's...
6 x Seagate ST3500320AS 500GB Hard Drive SATA II 7200rpm *32MB Cache* - OEM
The only thing i would add is a 6 disk hot swap bay or two for you're disks. Not sure you can get a six disk you can definitely get a 5 disk one. IF you can fit two into you're server case you can have one on each internal channel of the SAS controller, you could then if you wanted to stripe across two raid 5 or raid disk groups in software for a 10 or 12 disk RAID 10 or RAID 50. Not sure how you'd set up the hot spare(s)
But that's more or less how the xserve raid works.
Don't forget to buy cables - nothing worse than having everything all ready to be plugged in and then finding you have nothing to plug it together with...
You'll also want a decent case to shove all that in - personally I liked the Antec 900 "gaming" case, with around 5 huge adjustable fans, 9 5.25" slots and blue glowing lights all over the place (will also take 6 harddrives by itself in two removable modules, but I'd say spend the extra and get the hot-swap bays). Makes it look like the person paying for the server is getting value for money, you know? These £10,000 rack servers look so underwealming sometimes.
Don't forget you'll need something for the OS to boot off. I'm using USB sticks, I'll let you know how that works...
Awesome, looking at those bays, the connectors on the back are standard SATA ports... how do I connect them to the sata controller i've spec'ed up?
The documentation for the bay reckons it supports both SATA and SAS drives - that's what the second row of connectors on the back of the device is for. I can't see any difference between the two, though (I've checked on the one we own, too - you can plug SATA cables in to both sets of ports). Unfortunately, we have no SAS drives so I don't know exactly how one connects up.