Best Cheap G5 RAID Solution: What Would You Do?

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by Makosuke, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Ok, I've got a semi-hypothetical question about a reasonably safe, comparitively cheap RAID solution for a G5 owner.

    I'm thinking out loud here, but here's the executive summary: I've got a G5 and am looking for some hardware data safety. I'm thinking an internal RAID1 array, plus an external RAID5 array, would offer the best combination of price and reliability. Which would work better, though: a hardware RAID5 box ($850 + drives), or a roll-your-own Linux server ($550 + drives + a lot of hassle)?

    Long form, for those interested in my logic:

    My theory is basically that, since the G5 only has two internal bays and there are currently no RAID-capable SATA cards for the Mac (that I know of) to combine with one of those multi-internal-drive brackets (plus they increase fan noise), the most obvious solution is a pair of RAID 1 drives internal to the G5 (either Raptors or 250GB IBMs, depending on the taste for speed vs. space, presumably using Apple's software RAID) for OS and fast, readilly accessable data, and a RAID5 array external for bulk storage (video projects, etc) with security without having to mirror the whole mess. There would of course be an additional, offline backup of the really important stuff floating around somewhere, but I'm more concerned with hardware failure than my stupidity or data corruption in most cases.

    The question, assuming there isn't a more logical option that I'm missing, is what is the best combination of data safety, power efficiency, convienence, and price for the external array.

    The options I've thought of:

    Option 1) Hardware FW800 RAID5 Box. The best deals I've found are from FireWire Depot on the QUAD5 LCD RAID ($1200, 5 bays with no drives) or Q3 RAID 5 ($850, 3 bays with no drives). Fill either one up with 250GB drives, and you've got a heap of available, automatically backed-up storage. Downside: pricy. I'm also worried about how twitchy they are; all the hardware failure security in the world is useless if there's some obscure Mac incompatiblity that corrupts the data on it.

    Anybody ever used either of these things? Do they work as well as advertised, or are they better in theory than in practice?

    Kano also makes a nice looking 3 drive RAID5 box, but they only ship with drives, and charge too much for them.

    Option 2) Build a cheapie PC in a relatively small case, put a Promise RAID card and a gigabit card in it, install a stripped down Linux distro, and hook everything together with a Gigabit hub. I estimate this would come in at a little over $500 (sans drives) if I shop carefully, and would give up to 4 drives in a RAID5 configuration. The advantages of this would be that it would have the other advantages of a server, and I could also connect to it via VNC and maybe rune WINE or something to give myself speedier Windows "emulation" for the rare days when I need it. The downside would be the latency of the ethernet connection, which I'm guessing wouldn't be sufficient for things like video capture. It'd also be a pain to get working initially.

    So... if anybody is still reading, what do you think?
  2. rhpenguin macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2003
    London, Ontario
    I would go with the linux box. It will be more configurable and can provide a lot of extra featrues if need be. As for a distro to put on it, i would check out ClarkConnect or Smoothwall. They are very well thought out server oriented distros and are very easy to setup and use. Everything is web configurable and can be done with a click of a button. ClarkConnect doesnt come with X11 installed, so as far as using WINE on it, your going to have to do some work. But on its own, the bos is ready to go with very little configuration.
    Also you could just SSH into the box using console to work on it.

    There is my oppinion. Hope it helps.

    PS: If you want some screenshots of the web interface for ClarkConnect i can setup a login for you to play on my box.
  3. varmit macrumors 68000


    Aug 5, 2003
    Best configuration, is to have the OS a Raid 1, so that can be done internally on the G5 with just 2 Disks. Then Data storage can be external if you want, but there was an article of some guy getting more internal storage into a G5. But externally, you need at least 3 disks for a Raid 5, Preferabally large too.

    They tell you what raid is best for what type of thing you are doing. For external, you could do a Firewire Hard drive Raid, with 3 External Hard Drives and would be tied right to the G5 for quick access unlike making a full file server, which slows down the access to the storage. Unless you want that file server to be web server and other stuff, its best just to go with attached storage.
  4. crazzyeddie macrumors 68030


    Dec 7, 2002
    Florida, USA
    How about this 8-channel RAID SerialATA 64bit PCI-X card?

    Despite what the page says, there are 10.3 drivers for the card.

    I wouldn't get another computer for the RAID. It will slow down transfers no matter what. Get an external Firewire 800 with a 4-channel Firewire 800 card. At that point, the Firewire 800 with 4-channels will be faster than any hard drives you could put into the RAID.
  5. Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    First, thanks much for the opinion and advice, rhpenguin--having an in-house server isn't the fastest option, but as you said it does have advantages (I particularly like the thought of using one with VNC to get around a copy of VPC for IE-Win web page testing). Then again, crazyeddie points out another potential option that apparently just became available today:

    Indeed, I just read about the available Mac drivers for that card this afternoon on a couple of different sites. Being the first internal card to support RAID5 on the Mac, it combined with one of those multi-drive-brackets certainly offers a viable additional option, and it'd be cheaper than any of the others.

    Now the question is, does it support deep sleep and/or spinning down the drives when idle... and it it bootable. If it's bootable, you could just go with a massive 5-drive internal array with a boot partition. If not, then you'd still have a RAID1 array to boot off of, and a 500GB RAID5 array running off that card. Maybe even add an external SATA case with some passthrough connectors on an unusued PCI-X slot, although I imagine power-up timing with a setup like that would be an issue. Makes me wonder about hot-swap, too.
  6. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    i'd get 4 400GB hitachi 7400k HD's internaly in the g5 with that bracket thing.
  7. Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    If it were all about space, that'd be nice (though I'm not entirely sure how much faith I'm putting in these first-gen Hitachi drives--remember the disaster the last time IBM tried a 5-platter drive). However, keep in mind that a 250GB drive costs around $165, and the 400GBs are running around $450--nearly twice the price per megabyte. So unless you REALLY need the density and large volume, they're just not a very good deal.

    For the price of a pair of 7K400 drives, you could get four 250GB 7K250s plus a bracket plus a SATA card. I think I'll wait for the price to come down and some real-world experiences before I'll start thinking about one.

    (In fact, now that I think about it, you could buy a pair of 74GB Raptors, three 200GB Seagate drives--all of which have 5 year warranties--plus one of those new 8 channel RAID 5 cards, giving you 400GB of useable RAID5 storage, 74GB of way-fast mirrored Raptor storage, plus an extra 5 SATA channels, all for less than the price of two 7K400s.)

    Now, if only Seagate would release a 3 platter version of their 100GB/platter drive... although perhaps the 2-platter design is why they can offer a 5-year warranty across the board.

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