64bit kernel issue with Drobo, Recommendation for high capacity external storage

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by androsyyz, Dec 4, 2010.

  1. androsyyz macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    I use a new MacPro 12core with Snow Leopard. Altoghether, I use about 15 terabytes of data spread across the 3 Drobo devices and am looking to replace external drives since the ones I have are not working with my new MacPro in 64bit mode.

    I currently have external storage devices by DataRobotics - 2 DroboPro and 1 DroboElite. I bought the new MacPro 2 months ago and have been having problems with the Drobo devices disconnecting constantly. After a lot of diagnostics including Apple replacing the logic board in my MacPro, it was identified that the issue was with the iSCSI initiator that DataRobotics uses. It is not 64bit kernal compatible and as a result, the drives disconnect randomly especially when moving data from one external drive to the other. I am forced to boot the MacPro in 32bit kernel mode for the drives to work properly. DataRobotics is not committing to fixing the 64bit kernel issue so I'm now looking to replace this technology.

    I found some interesting technology by Netgear and was considering buying their product, however, I had the worst experience ever with dealing with pre-sales & technical support department, after dealing with 4 different individuals, I concluded that they have no clue about their own products, the staff is so junior, it's as if I called a completely different company when talking about their own product. I am therefore going to stay away from that company.

    Would anybody be able to recommend a reliable company with proper technical support that will work well with a MacPro running in 64bit mode? My parameters are:

    - MacPro compatible
    - Snow Leopard 64bit kernel mode compatibility
    - reliable and fast
    - good technical support (if required)
    - relatively quiet (I have my computer and drives in a studio where I bring clients)
    - about 15 terabytes of storage space (It's OK if it's in a single external box or more than 1).

    Any input you could provide would be appreciated.
  2. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    Are you sure what you heard was correct? If the iSCSI initiator works at all under 64 bit kernel, then it's 64 bit compliant. 32 bit kernel extensions won't work at all under the 64 bit kernel.

    Apple's explanation seems fishy. Regardless, maybe this is a silly question, but couldn't you just use a different iSCSI initiator?
  3. TuffLuffJimmy macrumors G3


    Apr 6, 2007
    Portland, OR
  4. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I was going to say this as well. The OP is going to shell out $$$ to avoid using the 32 bit kernel. And honestly, as more and more machines move to the 64 bit kernel by default, Data Robotics would have to fix their drivers. The entire story seems fishy.
  5. androsyyz, Dec 5, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 5, 2010

    androsyyz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    Someone finds the thread fishy so I'll provide more details, I tried to keep the original post short although the following will give more context to my original request.

    I had the 3 Drobo drives connected to a first generation MacPro and they worked fine. I only started having the disconnection issue after buying the new MacPro (Model identifier MacPro5,1). I bought the DroboElite at the same time as the new MacPro. Prior to this, the two DroboPros were working fine on the previous MacPro, however, I was having video choppiness. I added the Droboelite since it was supposed to be faster and I did confirm that the video choppiness was gone once I loaded the videos on the DroboElite.

    With the drive disconnection issue, at first, Apple went through the typical diagnostics with me of isolating the issue, I installed the MacOS on a separate internal drive with nothing else other than the Drobo Dashboard app that is required for the Drobos to work. After doing so, I continued to have the issue. DataRobotics was identifying that it was the MacPro that was the problem and didn't take ownership at all, they pointed me to replace my Ethernet cables, eliminating the switch or replace it, getting a separate Ethernet card with its own driver, running through all possible combination of drives testing and saving diagnostics files (drive a+b only, dribe b+c only, dribe a+c only, only using one drive at a time, copying from internal drives to Drobos and vice-versa,.... DataRobotics were telling me that the ethernet port speed was switching down which was resulting in the Drobos disconnecting and suggested that there might be a problem with the Ethernet port driver so they pointed me to add a separate Ethernet card in the Mac which I did and also to only have drives on the switch (ie: remove printers,....).

    i came across a company SmallTree that manufacturers high end Ethernet cards so I bought a PEG6 card, the company creates their own drivers. After spending $900 on the card and also replacing all Ethernet cables to CAT6, that did not resolve the issue at all. The SmallTree tech support was the one that suggested it was likely the iSCSI initiator that was the problem and that they had come across this with a company they were affiliated with and also other companies that they interface with in their products.

    I hired a network expert as I am not a network engineer and he identified that my network was configured and working properly. He did some benchmark tests and said the Drobos would need tuning with the iSCSI intiator to do bigger I/O size. he said he estimates the DroboPro do I/O at around 120K and he suggested that the iSCSI initiator could be amended to at least 1meg. I provided this info to DataRobotics technical support although I have not heard any feedback if they will consider doing so or not.

    After having a possiblity that the iSCSI initiator was the problem, I provided my findings to Datarobotics.

    Drobos require an application be running 'Drobo Dashboard' in order to get the drives to work at all and there are very few parameters to set, everything is hidden behind the scene. I don't know where to look for an alternative iSCSI initiator and even if one is found, I don't know that it would work with the Drobo drives and the Drobo Dashboard. If anybody can point me in a direction of something to try out, I'll do so.

    The DataRobitics engineer told me verbally that they engineering has identified a problem with running in 64bit kernel mode although he did not obtain any commitment at all from their engineering if they will resolve it nor when. I don't know anything about that level of engineering (ie: iSCSI initiator), what it does, where to get a replacement, how to find out what is compatible....

    To answer the question about why I want to run in 64bit mode, I don't have a specific need for it although I purchased the new MacPro and DroboElite to resolve some video choppiness issues that I was having. DataRobotics were telling me that my older MacPro was too old and was likely the problem so I replaced everything so I'm merely looking at having a better and faster environment to resolve the issues I was having before. 64bit kernel is the default configuration of the new MacPro and I was guessing that the system would run faster all around. I didn't even know that this was an option to run in 64bit kernel or 32bit kernel until Apple asked me to try it out. After investigation, it was discovered that this was one of the differences between my older MacPro and the new one. After restarting in 32bit mode, I no longer had any Drobo disconnections issues. I have been looking for a solution so that I can boot in the 64bit mode as I am assuming that the system does not run as fast as it could and I dropped $12,000 on a MacPro, I would like it to run as fast as it can.

    After Apple replaced the logic board, they had escalated it to engineering and were requesting information from DataRobotics to confirm if they could identify if the problem was with DataRobotics or if it was a problem with Apple. The Apple engineer told me that the Apple engineering would deal with Intel if it was their problem. I requested written confirmation from DataRobotics although they have not provided anything at all
    in writing to date. The Datarobics technical support got me to rerun some tests I had already done and I did so 2 weeks ago although had no response yet.

    To date, I spent over 100 hours of time to get to a state that at least the Drobos are operational in 32bit mode.

    I also suspect that Datarobotics will eventually upgrade the iSCSI initiator or whatever it is they do with the Drobo Dashboard that may be having an issue with 64bit kernel although I don't know how long it will take.

    I bought the DroboElite at the same time as my new MacPro and dropped $4000 on the device + another $1,500 on 8 drives. Since the technology is not working well, I have an option to return it and get something else. I'll still have the 2 DroboPros that are not working in 64bit mode in doing so, however, I am looking at other technology that may work in 64bit mode.

    The reality that took me time to discover is that the DroboPros are quite slow compared to other technology. They are nice looking machines and very quiet and when working, are great, although I had numerous issues over the years. One of the more serious issues that was not resolved with the DroboPros was video choppiness when playing back videos stored on the device. The DataRobotics engineer told me the drives are not intended for primary storage and that they are intended as backup drives. I didn't see this documented in the marketing material anywhere, I had bough these devices for primary storage. The DroboElite does playback videos stored on it without the video choppiness so that resolves that issue however, I'm now left with drives that are apparently only supposed to be used for backups.

    I had many issues with Drobos over the years and the new 64bit issue was the icing on the cake for me after spending over 100 hours of my time and all of the money that I spent replacing cables, replacing the switch to a SMB class, buying a separate network card and the technical support expert that I hired. In all cases, DataRobotics have pointed the finger at Apple although in most situations, it eventually was identified that the issue was with DataRobotics and they would eventually resolve the issue in updated firmware or Drobo Dashboard though not usually acknowledging that the issue was theirs to begin with. I find this absolutely aggravating.

    My quest to get new drives was initiated by the Drobos not working in 64bit mode and after what I discovered about the drives not being intended for primary storage, this added motivation for me to replace the technology with something that I can use for primary storage. Perhaps I can continue to use the DroboPros for backups although I will return the DroboElite.

    Someone posted a response to this thread with suggestions for hardware and then deleted it. I'm stlll interested in finding out what you suggest, I think it was Sans Digital solution.

    The noise level of the Drobo devices and the MacPro are totally OK with me. The studio lights I use also have some fans although these are not too loud either. I don't really know how to identify what is the noise level that would be acceptable other than to say that imagine yourself as a client in a studio and what the experience would be like if you heard loud fans as you were being photographed. I used to use PCs several years ago and some of them were very noisy, I find I like the quietness of the MacPros as well as Drobo so I'm looking for something similar.

    The vendor I deal with in Toronto offered me some solutions although they told me they are professional storage solutions and are noisy and that for some of their clients that required a quieter environment, they sell them a noise cancellation box although they told me that these are big and I don't have a lot of space in my studio to store such a thing. The three possibilities they offered me are:

    - CineRAID 32TB Rackmount EditPRO
    - CalDigit 16TB HDOne RAID - 2 units
    - Stardom SohoTank 8 Bay SATA Chassis with eSATA PCIe card - 2 units

    Also, SmallTree mentioned a couple of other manufactures:

    - GraniteStone
    - CoreRaid

    I'm not partial to any company at all although I want it to fit the critieria I already mentioned (ie: works with MacPro 64bit kernel, capacity I need, quiet, reliable, fast, good technical support).

    Any advice you could provide, be it prosumer or pro level would be appreciated. Although I'm not made of money, I will spend the required $'s to get what I need although I want it to be able to have the storage capacity that I need, a quality product with proper technical support if required and for it to be reasonably quiet.

    It's not easy for me to figure this out as there aren't any stores that carry high capacity storage solutions like what I use, I cannot go to and see the different options and hear what they sound like so I'm looking for input from anyone that has experience with what I'm looking for and could provide some direction. I thought I had found something through Netgear and was highly disappointed with my experience with technical support and pre-sales so I'm turning here for input.
  6. Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Sep 12, 2007
    There is barely any benefit to be running 64-bit anyway, I shudder to think about the costs involved for the 1-2% benefit that will eventually be fixed because 64-bit is becoming mainstream.

    Save the cash and use 32-bit mode???
  7. androsyyz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    Thanks Concorde Rules (and others for their input).

    Perhaps I'm best to run in 32bit kernel mode if there isn't any substantial benefit in running 64bit kernel mode. This would enable the Drobos to run properly.

    I have 2 DroboPros that are paid for and are about 1 year old so I need to keep them. I have an option to return the DroboElite, I already paid $4,000 for the device and can get a store credit for something that would be faster so I'm still interested in exploring another option that would be faster and adequate for primary storage since DataRobotics told me their devices are not meant for primary storage. If you have suggestions for something I should look at, I would appreciate the input.

  8. Mikey7c8 macrumors regular

    Sep 15, 2009
    Montreal, Canada
    So basically you're looking for something to use locally connected storage, similar to how you might connect to a SAN or similar but you're after something in your home.

    Something like this:

    Would be the direction I'd be looking in, and mate that with an 8-port external SAS card. Going this way would require you to have all the drives be the same size though, at least for each array.

    Course, you could always set up a linux file server using iScsi and maintain your current workflow.
  9. Torster macrumors member

    Jun 30, 2010
    Folsom, CA
    We sell a lot of the SOHOTANK units and the noise is very low--especially with Hitachi drives.

  10. Cynicalone macrumors 68040


    Jul 9, 2008
    Okie land
    I have Drobos and they work fine with the 32-bit. But have never worked right with 64-bit. Data Robotics has promised an update for 64-bit compatibility but so far has not delivered on this. The last firmware update for the DroboPro 1.1.11 still gives me issues with iSCSI when booting in 64-bit. Even though 1.1.11 was supposed to enable support for 64-bit.

    Honestly I would give them time to get the update out if I had invested the money in 2 DroboPros and 1 DroboElite.

    You can use the Drobos without Drobo Dashboard but you will not have access to the Tools that Data Robotics provides. They will just act like normal external drives.

    I admit there have been several issues over the last year that have me a bit worried about Data Robotics and where they are headed. The lack of 64-Bit support on the Drobos has been an ongoing issue. And just recently the release of the 2.5TB and 3TB drives has revealed that the Drobos do not support drives above 2TB. Data Robotics is supposed to be working on a solution for this but like the 64-bit compatibility nothing has been released.
  11. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Data Robotics is very slow when it comes to producing the updates they promise to provide; that makes it very disappointing and annoying to me. For example right now I'm running low on disk space, but cannot buy the 3TB HDDs; I wouldn't even bother upgrading to the DroboPro or DroboElite since I don't want to spend more money with a company that can't provide timely updates.
  12. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    First, you have to share what the hell you are doing that needs 15TB of data! :eek:

    Then assuming it's not just a large p0rn collection :p, I would go with something like this...



  13. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Avoid this like the proverbial plague. You won't be happy with tech support.

    There's multiple solutions, so besides capacity, what kind of througputs do you need?

    I ask, as you've already spent a good bit on what you have. If it's fast enough, stick with 32 bit, and be done with it (assume you've a good backup solution in place).

    If you need faster than what it can do, there's solutions (seems to be one system from what you've posted, so a good DAS could do you quite nicely). But there's other options as well, including if your storage pool must be shared between multiple systems.

    It uses a Highpoint RR2722, which isn't the best brand to go with. The enclosure itself is great, but a better card by a different maker would be in order (better tech support, performance, and stability). ;)
  14. zzigge macrumors newbie

    Dec 6, 2010
    Have you considered trying another iscsi sw on the mac

    I am in much the same situation, two Drobo Pro connected via iscsi, for now I have simply choosen to boot the 32bit kernel since I see no downside yet.

    Should things change before Drobo gets on the ball with a 64bit iscsi driver, I would at least consider replacing just the iscsi initiator. There is a free one from named globalsan from Studio Network Solutions, and a paid one called Xtend from ATTO.
  15. androsyyz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    Thanks everyone.

    For most of what I do, the throughput is OK on the DroboPro and with the DroboElite, this has resolved the one outstanding issue I had with video choppiness.

    My applications are:

    I do pro photography with high end cameras and wind up with lots of files after each photoshoot. When editing TIF files, they easily become 50 to 100meg so literally gigabytes of storage of storage gets used up. All of this depends on the jobs I get, I often get photoshoot requirements that don't require large posters, however, for a model photoshoot, I still wind up with hundreds of files per photoshoot. Add that to the fact that I keep all of the images on record since I regularly get clients that come back to me years later wanting reprints so I must keep the images available. I used to use tapes though hated it, sometimes I couldn't find which tape it was on or the tape no longer worked (defective probably due to time or incompatible with the newer technology as it evolves).

    Several years ago, I converted about 2,500 CDs that I owned to MP3 and that with all of the other music that I buy online works out to be about 800GB. I had playback choppiness when I moved my music collection to the DroboPros at the beginning though through a firmware upgrade from DataRobotics, this resolved the issue.

    3) MOVIE and VIDEOS

    From the photos I take, I also do some videos synched to music depending on my clients' needs. The videos are not too large in size although this requires streaming video speed. I don't really need what speed is needed, all I know is that playing some of them through the DroboPro sometimes results in a video being chopppy, pausing a second and then continuing.

    I'm an avid movie watcher and last year, I decided to convert all of my VHS and DVDs to the computer as the Drobos offered larger storage solutions than internal drives. I ripped all of my DVDs in their native DVD format although now I'm questioning if this was a good idea, perhaps I should have converted them in MP4 format.

    What I discovered and have been attempting to resolve was video choppiness while watching movies. DataRobotics have been unable to resolve the issue eventually stating their device was not designed for streaming videos nor primary storage.

    I bought the DroboElite for two purposes:

    1) I wanted an easy way to backup all of the contents of a Drobo to another Drobo and since I use data across 2 Drobo devices, I need a third one to do backups otherwise I lose access to the data of one Drobo if I take out the drives and replace them with blank ones for doing a backup. I've toyed with the idea of using a tape drive to do the backups although my previous experience with tapes going bad or no longer being compatible has left me searching another solution.

    2) The DroboElite is supposed to be considerably faster than the DroboPro and I have confirmed that this resolves the video issue I was having. Videos are playing 100% from the DroboElite.

    When I backup one Drobo to another Drobo, this takes several days. I backed up 10 terabytes of data last week and this took almost 6 full days to complete. As I mentioned in an earlier thread, the iSCSI that DataRobotics uses appears to not be optimized according to the network expert I hired. I'll look into the iSCSI initiators that were suggested by zzigge, thank you. Perhaps the replacement of the iSCSI initiator with something that may be better optimized may also resolve the choppiness of the video playback from the DroboPros.

    Essentially, even in 32bit mode, everything seems to work properly and the speed is OK for what I do (except the backups that take several days) so perhaps I can be patient with DataRobotics as it seems to do the job for my needs.
  16. androsyyz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    Thank you for letting me know. The vendor I'm dealing with couldn't tell me for sure.
  17. androsyyz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    Thank you very much. I'll try these out and see how that works out. Perhaps it can do two things at once, resolve the 64bit kernel mode issue and also perhaps improve performance for data transfer and maybe even with video choppiness from video playback of files on the DroboPros.

    If I replace the iSCSI initiator, will I have conflicts with updated DataRobitics installations of firmware and Drobo Dashboard? I'm wondering if DataRobotics will be overwriting the iSCSI initiator in their installations which would then overwrite the iSCSI initiator that I would install separately.
  18. Mikey7c8 macrumors regular

    Sep 15, 2009
    Montreal, Canada
    The enclosure looks good, I agree with the opinion shared on the controller though - you can do heaps better.
  19. androsyyz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    I asked them the same question and was told they're working on it although no date was provided when the new drives would be supported.
  20. androsyyz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    Do you know if the fans are quiet in the unit?
  21. androsyyz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2010
    Toronto, Canada
    What would you suggest for a better controller?
  22. T u r b o macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2009
    $4k+drives seems crazy for something like a Drobo.

    iSCSI performance over 1Gbps ethernet is going to be limited to around 100MB/s. This isn't really any better than Firewire 800, and substantially less than an eSATA connected RAID.

    If your storage capacity and performance needs are really high, I would look into FibreChannel connectivity - something like a Promise V-Trak or used Apple X-Serve RAID would run circles around this configuration.

    For your stated needs, I'd probably just buy a Firewire 800 card (or eSATA card) and a couple of FW800 (or eSATA) hardware RAID enclosures. Put them each on their own channel and you should fly.

    - Turbo
  23. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Your throughput requirements aren't that high, so if this will work for you, it might be best to save the funds for now.

    Additional speed will end the "choppiness", but streaming video won't need but 40MB/s for uncompressed 1080p. The Drobo's should be capable of doing this.

    Where it could get messy, is once you're past the 50% full mark on a mechanical disk (applies to arrays as well), it slows down, and drastically as you continue to fill it (you're running on the inner tracks).

    The Sans Digital units are typically quiet. And worst case, you can swap the fan out for a quieter unit, such as Noctua (done this before with such enclosures).

    Areca, as it has the best price/performance ratio. ATTO is good as well, but it's more expensive when comparing equivalent models between both of these brands. ATTO would be a bit easier to deal with Customer Support, as it's based in the US (NY to be specific), while Areca is based in Taiwan (but they do speak English and know what they're doing; they design and manufacture what they sell).
  24. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    If he just wants to use this as a JBOD enclosure (assumption here) wouldn't this card be plenty good enough? However, if he wants to run a parity RAID array... I agree with you.

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