Various Hardware (SAS, SATA, NVM, M2) and Software (VHD) Defined Odd’s and Ends

February 4, 2016 – 10:45 am

Various Hardware (SAS, SATA, NVM, M2) and Software (VHD) Defined Odd’s and Ends

server storage I/O trends

Ever need to add another GbE port to a small server, workstation or perhaps Intel NUC, however no PCIe slots are available? How about attaching a M2 form factor flash SSD card to a server or device that does not have an M2 port, or, for mirroring two M2 cards together with a RAID adapter? Looking for tool to convert a Windows system to a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) while it is running? The following are a collection of odd’s and end’s devices and tools for hardware and software defining your environment.

Adding GbE Ports Without PCIe Ports

Adding Ethernet ports or NICs is relatively easy with larger servers, assuming you have available PCIe slots.

However what about when you are limited or out of PCIe ports? One option is to use USB (preferably USB 3) to GbE connectors. Another option is if you have an available mSATA card slot, such as on a server or workstation that had a WiFi card you no longer need to use, is get a mSATA to GbE kit (shown below). Granted you might have to get creative with the PCIe bracket depending on what you are going to put one of these into.

mSATA to GbE and USB to GbE
Left mSATA to GbE port, Right USB 3 (Blue) to GbE connector

Tip: Some hypervisors may not like the USB to GbE, or have drivers for the mSATA to GbE connector, likewise some operating systems do not have in the box drivers. Start by loading GbE drivers such as those needed for RealTek NICs and you may end up with plug and play.

SAS to SATA Interposer and M2 to SATA docking card

In the following figure on the left is a SAS to SATA interposer which enables a SAS HDD or SSD to connect to a SATA connector (power and data). Keep in mind that SATA devices can attach to SAS ports, however the usual rule of thumb is that SAS devices can not attach to a SATA port or controller. To prevent that from occurring, the SAS and SATA connectors have different notched connectors that prevent a SAS device from plugging into a SATA connector.

Where the SAS to SATA interposers come into play is that some servers or systems have SAS controllers, however their drive bays have SATA power and data connectors. Note that the key here is that there is a SAS controller, however instead of a SAS connector to the drive bay, a SATA connector is used. To get around this, interposers such as the one above allows the SAS device to attach to the SATA connector which in turn attached to the SAS controller.

SAS SATA interposer and M2 to SATA docking card
Left SAS to SATA interposer, Right M2 to SATA docking card

In the above figure on the right, is an M2 NVM nand flash SSD card attached to a M2 to SATA docking card. This enables M2 cards that have SATA protocol controllers (as opposed to M2 NVMe) to be attached to a SATA port on an adapter or RAID card. Some of these docking cards can also be mounted in server or storage system 2.5" (or larger) drive bays. You can find both of the above at as well as many other venues.

P2V and Creating VHD and VHDX

I like and use various Physical to Virtual (P2V) as well as Virtual to Virtual (V2V) and even Virtual to Physical (V2P) along with Virtual to Cloud (V2C) tools including those from VMware (vCenter Converter), Microsoft (e.g. Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter) among others. Likewise Clonezilla, Acronis and many other tools are in the toolbox. One of those other tools that is handy for relatively quickly making a VHD or VHDX out of a running Windows server is disk2vhd.


Now you should ask, why not just use the Microsoft Migration tool or VMware converter?

Simple, if you use those or other tools and run into issues with GPT vs MBR or BIOS vs UEFI settings among others, disk2vhd is a handy work around. Simply install it, tell it where to create the VHD or VHDX (preferably on another device), start the creation, when done, move the VHDX or VHD to where needed and go from there.

Where do you get disk2vhd and how much does it cost?

Get it here from Microsoft Technet Windows Sysinternals page and its free.

Where to learn more

Continue reading about the above and other related topics with these links.

  • Server storage I/O Intel NUC nick knack notes – Second impressions
  • Some Windows Server Storage I/O related commands
  • Server Storage I/O Cables Connectors Chargers & other Geek Gifts
  • The NVM (Non Volatile Memory) and NVMe Place (Non Volatile Memory Express)
  • Nand flash SSD and NVM server storage I/O memory conversations
  • Cloud Storage for Camera Data?
  • Via @EmergencyMgtMag Cloud Storage for Camera Data?

  • Software Defined Storage Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) Algorithms + Data Structures
  • Part II 2014 Server Storage I/O Geek Gift ideas
  • What this all means

    While the above odd’s and end’s tips, tricks, tools and technology may not be applicable for your production environment, perhaps they will be useful for your test or home lab environment needs. On the other hand, the above may not be practically useful for anything, yet simply entertaining, the rest is up to you as if there is any return on investment, or, perhaps return on innovation from use these or other odd’s, end’s tips and tricks that might be outside of the traditional box so to speak.

    Ok, nuff said (for now)


    Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
    twitter @storageio

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