My homelab is a constant experiment and hardware components are moved around for various testing, especially when it comes to networking and storage. When needing to move around an M.2 NVMe SSD, complexity of taking apart a system will vary on the platform but generally it is inconvenience. When I came to learn that Icy Dock, a manufacturer of storage enclosures, will be releasing a removable M.2 NVMe SSD tray that is connected to PCIe expansion slot, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
The good folks over at Icy Dock were kind enough to send me an early evaluational unit of the upcoming MB840M2P-B which is now available for $69.
will be released in August and should retail for around $80 USD (final prices are still TBD). The use case above may not apply to most folks and is probably unique to my specific hardware usage but I think this is still a very interesting solution that is still useful to be aware of if you are your own homelab whitebox and have a spare PCIe slot. Icy Dock also produces many other types of storage enclosures that you might find interesting based your own needs.
For my setup, I installed the MB840M2P-B into my Intel NUC 9 Pro, which is definitely not easy to take apart. This is especially true for the two M.2 which is attached to the NUC Element but even more painful to get to the 3rd M.2 which is located under the baseboard. For my specific use case, this was well worth using up one of the PCIe slots on the NUC 9 Pro! This enclosure can also be added to the new 2019 Mac Pro which is another platform that Icy Dock sees benefiting from this solution.
Installation could not be easier. The PCIe card just plugs right into your system and for the M.2, flip it upside down and then place it on the tray. After securing the M.2 by pushing it to the very end of the tray, you attach the cover and insert it into enclosure.
Here is a quick video of inserting the M.2 into the enclosure and hearing that final click sound is strangely satisfying 😂
I am obviously using ESXi on the Intel NUC 9, after powering up the host, it will automatically detect the M.2 NVMe as shown in the screenshot below. What would have made the MB840M2P-B even cooler would be support for hot-plug, which it does not. Not a deal breaker but it certainly would have made this accessory even more compelling.
Jonathan Levitt says
Most new desktop-PC motherboards, and the logic boards on some new laptops, incorporate slots meant for much smaller SSDs. That's especially important in thin laptops, where interior space is so scarce. Icy Dock has quality products at a good price with a lot of positive reviews from https://redbytesite.com/. I would recommend this product.
According to Icy Dock tech support, the MB840M2P-B fully supports hot plug operation. However, for it to work, the host system itself has to support hot plug. In Windows, if the OS doesn't automatically detect the change, you simply have to manually refresh the hardware in Device Manager to detect the new drive.
Did you have to do anything in the BIOS to enable the Icy Dock? I have the same setup - NUC Pro 9, Icy Dock PCIe card, and ESXi 7 - however, I'm not able to see the adapter or storage. Any info would be appreciated.
William Lam says
Nothing special, its just PCIe to host. However, remember that the underlying device MUST be supported by ESXi (e.g. drivers to see the storage or networking device). This is often miss-understood and assumed it should be visible. Is your NVMe on the VMware HCL? If the answer is no and its a consumer device, more than likely, you're hitting https://www.williamlam.com/2019/05/quick-tip-crucial-nvme-ssd-not-recognized-by-esxi-6-7.html (BTW this trick still works with latest 7.0+)
Good info to know, so the Icy adapter itself will work fine, it is the drive that has to be supported. I ask as i have a T620 tower to replace my T5610 and i wanted to add in 3 x NVMe PCIe adapters with NVM'e for a vSAN lab set up (currently running a single node vSAN on my T5610) and was worried if the PCIe NVMe adapter would even work or show up in ESXi 7.