NanoPi M4 can now be used as a multi-drive NAS with new HAT expansion board

; Date: February 21, 2019

Tags: NanoPi »»»» Linux Single Board Computers

The NanoPi M4 is a powerful single board Linux computer, and with the addition of this new addon HAT it can directly power four SATA drives. With a suitable case you can easily build a RAID NAS using OpenMediaVault for a very cheap price. This combination should offer similar capabilities to the Drobo 5N I have - both run Linux on an ARM CPU and support several SATA drives. The difference being that with the NanoPi M4 one has an open system to configure as desired, whereas with the Drobo is closed and hard to customize.

The key to this combination is that the NanoPi M4 includes a PCIe header. The new HAT plugs into that header, and contains four sockets for SATA cables.

To assemble a complete system one must arrange for the following:

  • NanoPi M4 and the SATA HAT
  • Suitable case to contain the two, plus up-to-four SATA drives
  • Suitable power supply for the NanoPi M4 and SATA board -- The SATA board takes a 12v supply, and it's not clear whether its 5v DC/DC will power the NanoPi M4

As for the case for the SATA drives, there are several cases available that have multiple eSATA ports. It should be possible to attach the NanoPi M4 to such a case, and perhaps power it from the case. For some options see Network Attached or Direct Attach Storage

The SATA ports on the HAT are rated to handle as much as 6 Gbps. It will be interesting to learn whether an actual system built with this can run at that speed.

FriendlyElec has many operating system images available including an OpenMediaVault build.

This posting will be updated if/when I follow through to learn more.

Source: FriendlyElec

The four SATA ports supports rates as high as 6 Gbps. There is a 4-pin power connector, and a barrel jack for a 12 volt power supply, and on the board there is a 12v to 5v DC/DC power supply. To round off the board, there is a connector to power a 12v fan.

The NanoPi M4 40-pin connector appears to pass through allowing it to still be used for other purposes.

NanoPi M4 w/ SATA HAT assembled, Source: FriendlyElec
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This simple little board is more-or-less a Raspberry Pi clone, having the RPI footprint, but with a more powerful featureset. With 4GB memory it can execute larger more complex software, with FriendlyElec claiming this board is suitable for Artificial Intelligence projects. With a multi-core ARM CPU running at up to 2 GHz clock speed, it should have excellent computation, and the on-board GPU appears to be powerful. It has a GPIO header for DIY projects, supports Gigabit ethernet, USB-3, WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI, RPI compatible camera and display ports, and more. There is a custom pin header supporting SATA and other interfaces. This package includes an 8GB eMMC card which is faster and more reliable than using an SD card as the boot drive.
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Links:

(www.friendlyarm.com) https://www.friendlyarm.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=69&product_id=234 -- NanoPi M4

(www.friendlyarm.com) https://www.friendlyarm.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=86&product_id=254 -- 4x SATA HAT for NanoPi M4