Affordable enclosure for SAS drives?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by HHarm, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. HHarm macrumors regular

    Mar 4, 2009
    I'm left with a bunch of 15k SAS drives from a server hw mixup.

    I have a MP09 that I use among other things for DSLR video editing. I thought that I could maybe get a 4-8 drive enclosure for the HDD's. I already did some research but it was hard to find tips on what to get. Any suggestion on an enclosure and mini-SAS card combo within a $500-$1000 price range? Oh yes, nothing terribly loud as the enclosure will be in a home enviroment next to the workstation.
  2. cutterman macrumors regular

    Apr 27, 2010
    I had an Enhancebox E8 external enclosure. It was attractive and well built and pretty quiet. Supports SAS and SATA.
  3. wonderspark, Dec 23, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011

    wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
  4. HHarm thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 4, 2009
  5. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    RAID cards with external ports are always more expensive than those with internal ports. For example, the ARC-1880I is the internal port variant of the ARC-1880X that wonderspark mentioned, and as you can see by the link, it's $179 cheaper.

    As per why it's as expensive as it is, I'm not sure what you're comparing it to, as proper hardware RAID cards are expensive. In this particular case, it's a full-blown card (one of the fastest available, and has features others don't offer, particularly in terms of recovery capabilities).

    Now if you're thinking about simple SATA or SAS controllers (couple of ports typically under $100), there's a huge difference. Simple controllers use software to implement the RAID levels (uses system resources; CPU cycles and system memory to do the processing), not it's own hardware as a proper hardware RAID card does. So there's no processor or cache (memory) on these types of cards at all.

    The next step up is a RAID on a Chip (RoC), which is basic. It has a processor, but very little memory (everything is integrated on a single die, so there's limited capacity in the low KB range), and isn't capable of the feature or recovery options of the full hardware RAID cards. BTW, this is what the OWC card you're looking at is...

    When you hit proper hardware RAID cards, memory on these is typically 512MB and up on more recent cards, and there are 4GB capable cards out there from Areca via a DIMM slot (just part of the technical reasons the cost is much higher for these types of controllers).

    Hope this helps. :)
  6. HHarm thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 4, 2009
    Thanks. It was certainly informative!

    I'm just wondering what's the best bang for the buck in my use.

    • I'll certainly appreciate speed (not loosing frames with video, a snappier Lightroom library etc) Is there a considerable speed difference between the Areca and Newertech cards?
    • I'm also wondering what I'll benefit from the extra features and recovery options. Of course I'll want to recover from a broken drive when using Raid 5 or 6 but I'm not running a business critical server that requires maximum continuety.

    I'm also bit worried about noice. Any idea how loud a TowerRaid enclosure with 8 15k SAS drives would be compared to the Mac Pro next to it?
  7. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    What you do and how you need to use a potential array will dictate the best approach.

    More information on this would be helpful, such as:
    • What software are you using, and how are you using it?
    • How much capacity do you need?
    • How much reliability do you need?
    • What kind of throughputs do you need (if you can answer this; software answers can actually produce an answer)?

    The array will be both more reliable and offer additional features on the Areca as well. But you pay for it with a larger hit in the wallet...

    How valuable is your time?

    I ask, as cards such as Areca can reduce the amount of time you need to put into a failed array in order to get it up and running again (i.e. don't have to restore from backups every single time something goes wrong).

    The Online Migration and Online Expansion features shouldn't be discounted either, as Migration allows you to change the array level without data loss, and Expansion allows you to add disks to an existing array without data loss. There really aren't words for how nice features can be... :D

    That said, no matter how simple or redundant your storage configuration, you must have a backup system in place. Period. Things can and do go wrong, even with a good RAID system.

    Another note, is that you need a good UPS (one that uses a "pure sine wave" inverter) when using a RAID card.

    Those disks are on the noisy side, but SAS has a longer cable length specification than SATA (10 meters/33ft for SAS, which would allow you to put the enclosure in another room :eek: :D). SATA has a passive cable length of 1.0 meters/3.3ft, which is quite a lot shorter (must be located next to the tower).

    So even if those 15k rpm disks sound like a blender, get long enough cables that will allow you to stuff the box in another room or closet, and you won't have a noise problem at all. :p
  8. HHarm thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 4, 2009
    I’m using Premiere Pro for NLE of family events, few weddings and odd jobs. Material comes from digitized 8mm, VHS, HDV and currently 1080p from a 5Dmk2. It’s a hobby but I do enjoy working with a system that doesn’t slow me down. For video I also use Encore and in future After Effects. For 5DmkII photos I use Lightroom 3 and occasionally Photoshop.

    Currently I have 1.5-2 Tb of data. I’m expecting it to grow to 3-4TB in the next 2 years. My MP’09 has been upgraded with a W3580 (quadcore 3.33GHz) and 24 Mb of RAM. I have 3 x X-25M running in raid0 for OS and apps. I’m running Lion 10.7.2. I find little to like in Lion but I wouldn’t want to downgrade to a ”legacy” version.

    I currenly have one Deskstar 7K3000 (3TB) for my data and another one for Time Machine. My original plan was to get an external enclosure for Time Machine and combine the two Deskstars in raid0 for extra speed. Other choise was a OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2 for data and have the internal HDDs for Time Machine. My plan has been on hold because of the rise of HDD prices.

    About my reliability needs…. If I loose a days work it’s not a disaster but of course a raid5 or 6 setup would offer extra reliability. The main thing is that I want to be sure off is that any historical data is safe. I’m relying on Time Machine for that. In the future I plan to make backups with a HDD and SATA dock and place the HDD off-site.

    This SAS path is certainly overkill for my needs. But since there is no cost from the drives it might make sense. What I still question is (1) if the setup would bump my electricity bill (mostly from consuption when iddle), (2) if the setup would be too noisy (especially when iddle, though I’m not expecting whisper quiet) and lastly (3) if the needed hardware is too expensive.

    A TRX8+ seems like a nice enclosure and the price is ok. For the raid controller it’s the question I’ve already posed. If there is real benefit from the Areca (for me!) it might be ok despite the high price. A long service life of the card might be an extra argument although looking some 3-4 years ahead one might see an SSD solutions taking over for video editing.

    And of course if a cheaper raid controller option would be a headache it would not be an option at all.

    Planning an enterprise solution for hobby use is pretty hard! I’m not sure if this desciption offers anything tangible about my needs but I certainly appreciate any advice & tips. And what has already been given!
  9. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Given this, setting up a full-blown hardware DAS implementation is probably not a good idea, given the costs involved.

    You could however, improve matters by using software implementations where applicable, such as a 10 (redundancy of 2 members, and still offers a performance increase).

    Granted, the MP has limited internal bays, but it's possible to use an eSATA card and a Port Multiplier based enclosure to get the capacity you need (able to use more than 4x members). Example kit that would work and looks decent sitting next to your MP.

    As per capacity, if you used 3TB disks in all 8 bays, you'd end up with a usable capacity of 12TB, and performance figures at ~400MB/s or so. Not bad, and won't cost you an arm, leg, and first born child. ;) :D

    This solution won't have the robustness of a hardware controller, but it will be a lot easier to deal with. And you can add a second enclosure to the card for backups (JBOD or single disk would be sufficient here, as well as Green disks). You can use Time Machine to manage the backups, but personally, I prefer using 3rd party software due to the ease of use and increased options (scheduling as well as target locations). Check out CCC and Superduper for this, as they're very popular for a reason (also allows you to clone the OS/applications disk to another drive).

    If you want a bit more speed, use the SSD's for both OS/applications and scratch on the internal SATA ports that are built into the MP (don't use the same volume for both, use separate disks instead).

    Another note, striping disks won't help with random access performance, which is what loading the OS/booting applications relies on.

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