Best Speed Bang for Buck: RAM vs RAID

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by hoya87eagle91, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. hoya87eagle91 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    #1
    Hi - have MROOGLED and searched forums but haven't found a quick and dirty answer to this...

    What's the best bang-for-buck upgrade of these?

    1) Software Raid 0 ?
    (Free, but might actually slow some tasks due to adding a workload to the processor?)

    2) Add RAM ?
    ($150 to bump from 3GB DDR3 to 6GB, $300 to bump to 10 GB)

    3) Hardware RAID 0 ?
    ($800 for the apple controller - yikes! )

    I read Lloyd Chambers recs for optimizing photoshop, and while very helpful, it seems overkill for a weekend warrior , non professional like me.

    Using the base 2009 Mac Pro with standard 3GB of DDR3 primarily for
    1) medium photoshopping with file sizes up to 200 - 400 MB
    2) importing / smoothing / editing movies in iMovie and possibly FCE from HDV tapes and a Flip

    Thanks
     
  2. iamcheerful macrumors 6502

    iamcheerful

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2008
    #2
    you might want to consider a 4th option - SSDs

    and to answer your question, i believe it would be how you juggle the RAM & RAID (you may want to avoid Apple's RAID solution, nanofrog would be most pleased to assist) to tailor to your workflow.

    btw, it will be particularly useful if you provide a budget too.
     
  3. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #3
    An SSD is by far the most significant improvement you can make to your computer unless it's starved for RAM.
     
  4. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #4
    Hello,

    Your budget will be sorry to hear my answer, but you would really benefit from all three!

    -PS4 files of a few hundred megs means that you need to have 6-8GB of RAM.
    -Video editing means that you'll need more RAM *and* software RAID0 (forget about hardware RAID cards for your "weekend warrior" needs).
    -And as iamcheerful said, a SSD will transform (speed up) your machine more than anything else.

    On the other hand, you could get all three for the price of that 800$ hardware RAID card! :-D

    Good luck!

    Loa
     
  5. lurkingbf macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2010
    #5
    For a self-described non-professional, weekend warrior, you and your budget will do well by getting as much RAM as you can, along with a generous amount of HD space in a RAID-0 array. There is just WAY too much talk about SSD drives on this board, in my opinion.

    Do you really care if your apps take 5 seconds to open the first time after you boot, or if they take 25 seconds? If you have enough RAM, OS X will store them in cache for future use. Given the cost of SSD at the moment, you'll spend a fortune to have an SSD as anything but your boot and app drive. Let's have some perspective.

    For the price of a decent-sized SSD, you could:

    1) Throw gobs and gobs of RAM in your machine;
    2) Have a three drive RAID-0 array with three 500 gig HD's;
    3) Take the family out to dinner to make up for all the time you spend tinkering.

    You also don't need a RAID card right now at this point in your weekend warrior-ness. Software RAID will do fine. (Make sure to have a solid and consistent backup plan that goes beyond Time Machine.)

    Check out this site for some good tips on how to improve performance:

    http://macperformanceguide.com/

    http://macperformanceguide.com/Mac-BootDriveDogma.html

    (Note that in the seciton titled "Boot Drive Dogma" the site author admits he is sticking with an SSD, but readily accepts the fact that he's doing so only becuse he's a giant propeller-head. ;) )
     
  6. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #6
    A stripe set doesn't present much of a load at all (a few percent at most, and more likely ~1%).

     
  7. iamcheerful macrumors 6502

    iamcheerful

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2008
    #7
    I believed hoya87eagle91 is well informed of the site. He/She did mention reading Lloyd Chambers ... Perhaps missing out some details on bootdrive options.


    Loa, I believe SSD is highly recommended by VirtualRain. I merely suggested a 4th option (vs the 4th option). I can't take credit for the SSD advice. ;)
    My believe was (and still is) "juggle the RAM & RAID to tailor to your (hoya87eagle91's) workflow". nanofrog has just detailed a possible resolution above.

    That said, if TS wants a very simple resolve (i.e. getting only 1 item), I probably suggest adding more RAM. Typically this will result in a noticeable difference, especially with PS. But one thing to note on most if not all computer systems. The bottleneck generally lies with the HDD. I miss the days where we can actually bootup with the RAM Disk ... (off topic thus cutting off here ...)
     
  8. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2007
    Location:
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    #8
    I would add RAM and a second HDD for data (maybe not a stripe).

    HDDs can be had so inexpensively that it might be worth getting 3-4 and making a boot stripe and data stripe.

    I use software RAID on my system and I do not notice any problems.
     
  9. hoya87eagle91 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    #9
    Good input everybody. Thanks for your help and for saving me $$. I don't have a fixed budget per se, but I like $$ to go farther when possible, and dropping more than a few hundred right now after recently dropping 2k on refurb seems unconscionable...

    I'll definitely skip the hardware raid for at least a long while given everybody's feedback. I'll get the RAM for certain as you suggest and experiment with software RAID 0. If the RAID seems slow, I can always drop it, right?

    From what research I've done, I tend to agree with everyone too that SSDs are great for boot speed, app launching, etc., but not a performance enhancer when crunching photo and video files (happy to be proven wrong here!)

    A few years from now the upgrades might be be a small SSD for OS/ apps as prices drop. Adding that to optical bay #2 will free up all four drives to run some combo of raid stripe and mirroring (plus a hardware raid of course if necessary!)
     
  10. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #10
    Pretty sure that's actually not true until CS5, when it goes 64-bit and can actually use more than 4 GB of RAM...it'll have to page out to the HDD every time you get to that limit right now.
     
  11. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #11
    It's not that they won't enhance performance, it's that photo and video files are way too big for this to be efficient in any way (Fast SSDs are very expensive and low-capacity). That said, only recently have SSDs acquired sequential write speeds that can compete with HDDs. And HDDs have such a nice sequential write speed that it's just not worth using SSDs for this yet except as your Photoshop scratch disk.
     
  12. Full of Win macrumors 68030

    Full of Win

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2007
    Location:
    Ask Apple
    #12
    I was going to past similar comment, however, I did not because in a way it is correct. True, CS4 is 32 bit, but there are other processes ongoing at the same time. With the 6 - 8 GB of RAM, ~4GB can go to the application and the rest to the system. Also, this would allow for two memory hungry apps to be open concurrently; rather than planning which can be open and closed.

    With my 4GB of RAM, I need to close Safari if I want to use LightRoom; because they both love that memory.
     
  13. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #13
    Oh no, it's quite true. I've tested it myself, as have a lot of other PS4 Mac users.

    PS4 *is* limited to 3GB, but OS X is a lot more flexible / powerful / intelligent with memory usage than most people give it credit for. Having more RAM, even above the 3GB limit, will help PS4 avoid page-ins & outs.

    I don't have the time to fish out the threads about this, but PS4 will perform better with more than 3GB RAM. No doubt about it.

    PS5 will make that even better, for sure. But ask anyone working professionally with PS4 (like Lloyd Chambers) , and they'll tell you to get as much RAM as you can.

    Loa
     
  14. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #15
    LOL! :D

    I think one benefit of SSD's that's overlooked, is in situations where your workflow is regularly loading media files such as images, video, audio, etc. from storage as well as committing history and edits (scratch) to disk. The random read performance in these kinds of situations is an order of magnitude better than mechanical drives. That means less beachballs and spinning progress indicators. This is particularly beneficial while you are waiting for your favorite pro-apps to become 64-bit and support mass quantities of RAM.

    As an example... I've recently become a heavy Aperture 3 user and I've noticed a lot of folks in the Digital Photography forum complaining about the performance when processing large RAW libraries. While these folks all have tons of RAM, one thing they all have in common is mechanical hard drives. I can only shrug my shoulders in response and tell them to get an SSD.

    Unfortunately, SSD's are expensive enough that most people can only afford enough solid state storage to house their OS/Apps... not their media files. However, there are enough well-heeled users in this crowd to pony up what it takes to have another SSD for media files. Even if you can't store your entire media collection, figure out some kind of strategy that has your active media, whether it's your recent RAW images, AVCHD video, or what have you, on your SSD. Then you will start to wonder what you would ever do without SSD's... and you'll be chompin at the bit for more.

    As Charlton Heston said... "From my cold dead hands!" :D
     
  15. iamcheerful macrumors 6502

    iamcheerful

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2008
    #16
    That is why I miss my RAM Disk as my bootdrive. Pretty much everything was responsive and you won't have the equivalent of the spinning beachball of OS X. RAM was costly but software were apparently more optimized then.

    However, in this thread, TS wanted "best speed bang for buck", and taking into account his/her workflow. RAM & RAID appears to be "best speed bang for buck".
     
  16. mason.kramer macrumors 6502

    mason.kramer

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2007
    Location:
    Watertown, MA
    #17
    Find out if RAM will help you:
    1. Restart your computer to clear your system statistics.
    2. Use photoshop with whatever you do with it.
    3. Monitor Activity Monitory->System Memory. You are looking for pageins. Pageins are what RAM is supposed to avoid: they mean the system has had a need to use its Virtual Memory (data that a program thinks is in RAM but which is really written to disk).

    [​IMG]

    If you don't have pageins after using photoshop, then RAM will give you 0 benefit. If you do have pageins, then 6 gigs is enough. edit: Ignore my stats, which say that I have received pageins with 9 gigs. I have gone for months and months of uptime with 0 bytes of pageins while heavily using photoshop, however recently I executed a program I'm developing that caused an infinite loop and filled my ram up quickly.

    Hardware raid is a terrible choice for you. I don't recommend software RAID 0 because I value my data. RAID 1 is good because the read performance is up there with RAID 0. Neither RAID0 nor RAID1 will cause a noticeable CPU load. Please erase that notion from your brain.

    Finally,

    get an SSD.
     
  17. iamcheerful macrumors 6502

    iamcheerful

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2008
    #18
    mason.kramer, I do believe you meant "Page outs" instead of "Page ins".

    Here's Apple's documentation ...
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1342
     
  18. wisty macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    #19
    Here's one option, if you like fiddling -

    Buy 10G RAM.

    Create a 6G RAM Disk. You now have a 6G hard-drive that is lightning fast, and 4G RAM. Or maybe a 5G-5G split. Whatever.

    Copy your movie to the RAM Disk.

    Edit.

    Move the edited movie back.

    And never ever ever use RAID-0 unless you already have a wonderful backup regime that you will actually adhere to.

    Edit: RAM drives aren't great. This site: http://macperformanceguide.com/OptimizingPhotoshop-Conclusions.html suggests 8G+ RAM, 1 disk for apps, and 2 disks for data. I'd almost always say RAM - RAID-0 will give you a 2X speedup for 2X drives at best. More RAM can mean OSX caches more, which gives you massive speedups. And running out of RAM gives you a huge slowdown.
     
  19. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #20
    That's not a real argument... Regardless of what single drive / ssd / RAID setup you have, everybody should *always* have a good back-up regime. Always. With drives as cheap as they are, there are no excuses.

    I've been using a 3 or 4 drive RAID0 set for the past 6 months or so, with my Mac running and working 24/7. Not a single RAID failure whatsoever.

    We must not go crazy about RAIDs failing. They can fail, and statistically will fail more often that single drives. Alright. But in reality, it's still pretty rare that a drive will fail. Since I bought my first Mac Plus way way back, I've only had 1 drive fail on me. It was my only work drive at the time, but since I had a good back-up, it was merely a loss of time.

    If RAIDs were so bad and failed so often, nobody would be using them. As it is, if you want performance, as of 2010, get a SSD boot drive and a RAID0 set. And, of course, as always, a good back-up plan.

    Loa
     
  20. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #21
    You make a good point, but I thought we were both operating on the same assumption that any user with a Mac Pro would want to have more RAM than the minimum (I know, OP doesn't have it yet). I guess I was arbitrarily separating OS X's ram usage from Photoshop's.
     
  21. mason.kramer macrumors 6502

    mason.kramer

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    Apr 16, 2007
    Location:
    Watertown, MA
    #22
    Page outs aren't nearly as bad as page ins. Page outs happen whenever a process has allocated so much ram to itself that some of it has to exist virtually. This happens a lot. It would be difficult to buy enough RAM to zero page outs (edit: while using memory intensive software). Fortunately, page outs happen to data that the process is not currently addressing, so it can happen asynchronously with whatever the process is actually doing: it doesn't slow you down (unless you are experiencing disk contention, I suppose). When the process is paging IN, that's that the real issue. Ask John Siracusa, my coworker and all-around mac expert.

    http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2001/10/macosx-10-1.ars/7
     
  22. iamcheerful macrumors 6502

    iamcheerful

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2008
    #23
    Thanks for the good read.

    In other words (simply put), you mean that Page ins to be kept minimal? And that can be achieved by putting in a decent amount of RAM into the mac.


    To TS, here's another article you may want to read
    http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/404/kb404440.html

    This is just a fraction of what the article. I'll let you read the details yourself.
    Here's a fellow user who appears to be doing something similar to what you intend to achieve.
    - http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2313019&tstart=0
     
  23. slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #24
    So true.
     
  24. hoya87eagle91 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    #25
    I think the first step:
    is to run the existing stock set up of 3GB DDR3 with my typical tasks, then check the activity monitor as some of you suggest.

    The next step is to bump to 6-10 GB of RAM if activity monitor suggests it would help.

    Then if still necessary consider software raid 0 in bays 2 & 3 ( + internal time machine backup to drive in bay 4 to save clutter).

    Thanks again to everybody for your input.

    P.S.
    And If i get rich ...run a hardware raid 5 with the three empty bays

    And if i get really really rich.. run a raid 1+0 over four bays and get an SSD for the 2nd optical bay
     

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