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 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!
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.