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RPi CM4 based local storage server launches on Kickstarter

Oct 26, 2021 — by Eric Brown 425 views

KubeSail has launched a compact, $250 “PiBox” NAS and local clouding hosting server powered by a RPi CM4 with dual native SATA SSD bays for up to 16TB plus GbE, HDMI, 2x USB, 40-pin, and KubeSail software for private clouds.

Self-hosting cloud startup KubeSail has gone to Kickstarter to successfully fund its compact network-attached storage (NAS) and storage server called the PiBox. Built around the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 (RPi CM4), the system offers dual, PCIe-driven native SATA bays for 2.5-inch SSDs.

Although dubbed the PiBox on Kickstarter, KubeSail more specifically refers to it as the PiBox 2 mini. KubeSail plans to launch a PiBox 2 model for 3.5-inch drives, as well as 5-slot PiBox 5 mini (2.5-inch SSDs) and PiBox 5 (3.5-inch) variants.



PiBox with Raspberry Pi CM4 (left) and rear view
(click images to enlarge)
Source: image at right is from Jeff Geerling

The PiBox 2 mini has already earned over $70K in Kickstarter pledges. The $250 Standard Bundle provides a kit with the PiBox carrier board, SATA board, and a Raspberry Pi CM4 with 8GB RAM, 8GB eMMC, and WiFi/BT. The kit also includes a steel case, a 5V PWM fan, a 15W USB Type-C wall adapter, and an external WiFi antenna. You also get a programmable 1.3-inch LCD display that mounts on the front of the PiBox.

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A $450 bundle builds on the Standard Bundle with a preconfigured system with 2x Crucial MX500 1TB SSD drives. There is also a board-only $100 Hacker Bundle without a CM4, in which case you could bring a CM4 with up to 32GB eMMC. You also need to supply your own power supply and, if desired, display, and you can 3D print your own case with supplied files. The Hacker Bundle ships in January while the other packages ship in March.

As noted by the Jeff Geerling post that alerted us to the product, the system is pre-installed with MicroK8s, the stripped down, single-node version of Kubernetes, which is often used for clustering projects. This forms the foundation of the Linux-based PiBox OS, which includes KubeSail Agent software for accessing the Kubernetes based KubeSail cloud platform.

The KubeSail service proxies traffic to the cluster for easier self-hosting. The subscription service also includes an app store with KubeSail Templates for downloading and hosting open source applications. These include PhotoPrism, which can be used in place of commercial cloud platforms such as Google Photos, and Nextcloud, which can replace DropBox.

There is a free “Community” KubeSail package for a single cluster and user with limited proxy traffic and dynamic DNS, as well as a standard $5 per cluster per month package and a $25 per cluster per month Pro package. The full KubeSail feature set includes encrypted backups, dynamic DNS and web-forwarding, remote access, deployment from GitHub, and other software to help set up a private cloud.



PiBox carrier board with CM4 plus open chassis (left) and chassis with SATA board and Samsung SSD
(click images to enlarge)

The PiBox carrier board is equipped with I/O ports, connectors for the CM4 module, and a PCIe x4 edge connector that plugs into a separate SATA backplane daughter board. The SATA board includes an ASM1061 SATA-III controller, dual 2.5-inch SSD slots, and the status display. Geerling’s benchmarks showed real-world SATA throughput of about 3.6Gbps, which he says is about what he would expect given the constraints of the CM4’s single PCIe Gen2 x1 lane.

The PiBox is equipped with an HDMI port, which enables 4K media server applications with applications such as Plex. You also get a GbE port, 2x USB 2.0, and a USB Type-C port for power input. There is also a microSD slot, 3x LEDs, and inside the box, a 40-pin GPIO connector.

The PWM fan is touted for quiet operation. All the parts are accessible and modular — you can even pry the CM4 module free for use elsewhere.

 
Further information

The PiBox (PiBox 2 mini) is available on Kickstarter through Nov. 24, with shipments due in January ($100 Hacker Bundle) or March, 2022 (Standard $250 or Pro $450). More information may be found on the PiBox Kickstarter page, as well as the PiBox.io project page, PiBox Docs page, and the KubeSail website.
 

 
Further information

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