Bootable external RAID w/ Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Bwa, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. Bwa macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Location:
    Boston & San Jose
    #1
    I am looking for some kind of external RAID that I can boot from. There's a few options:

    1. eSATA bracket plugged into motherboard; LaCie 4big 4x1 TB external.

    2. CalDigit HDelement or HDone. The HDelement feels a bit cramped for the price ($1500 for 4 drives). I really like this solution from a simplicity perspective. I don't care that the card locks me into CalDigit. The HDone is more interesting, but more than doubles the price of entry at $4000.

    3. Some kind of mixed vendor solution, e.g., RocketRAID card + some kind of external chassis.

    4. Something + Sans Digital 8 bay enclosure. I have a 2 bay Sans Digital case and it's quite nicely done. The 8 bay enclosure is cheap at $300. It comes with a RAID card that is known NOT to work with modern Mac OS X, so it would need some kind of RAID card in front of it. But what?

    5. I don't really care if my Mac can sleep or not, since sleeping disrupts my VMs, so I never let it sleep anyway.

    6. I don't care about internal drives. I'd rather have external.

    7. I have a Drobo Pro for Time Machine. It's great, but not fast enough for what I'm trying to get done. I also have a Drobo Elite for other purposes, which might be OK, except it's not bootable.

    8. I think $4,000 is my upper limit on this, though the cheaper the better.

    Thoughts? Is anyone using the LaCie as a bootable RAID by plugging into the motherboard SATA? Any ideas what the performance of this thing is? Not that excited about LaCie in general, but willing to give it a go.
     
  2. joaoferro37 macrumors 6502

    joaoferro37

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    #2
  3. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #3
    What exactly are you trying to do?

    I need details;
    How many disks in the set now, and what do you predict your capacity needs will be over time, say the next 3 years?
    What RAID level (array; 0/1/5/....)? (i.e. do you need redundancy?)
    Throughputs (software use can give me a clue as well)?
    Does the budget include the drive budget as well, or do you consider them separate from the equipment needed to access them?

    If you're not sure about the levels, take a look at the RAID wiki page. There's quite a bit of useful information there. ;)

    You've a good sized budget, but I don't know if eSATA (via software RAID) would be sufficient, or do you need a parity based array, which would mean a proper hardware controller (Areca or Atto are bootable, as is the Highpoint RR43xx series as a last resort; they're cheaper, but the support is lousy).

    Ultimately, it comes down to usage. That is, are you doing video/graphics editing, or are you just trying to keep a large video and music library for example?

    I know it's not what you where hoping for at this point, but I don't want to send you down the wrong path. It's expensive at best (i.e. overkill with the equipment), disasterous/fatal (in terms of data security) if it's not the right solution.

    That enclosure is eSATA based (Port Mulitplier unit), so the Atto wouldn't even work. :eek:

    It would work with a simple eSATA card, so long as it can boot and work with PM enclosures, which means the Highpoint eSATA for Mac card ($230USD at macsales.com). Total cost would be just over $900USD before shipping (sans drives of course). Add in ~$800USD for drives (consumer models would be fine here; say 8x Caviar Black 1TB). Total cost ~$1700USD.
     
  4. Bwa thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Jun 20, 2007
    Location:
    Boston & San Jose
    #4
    Mostly looking for higher throughput on random I/O. Even 100-200 MB/s on random I/O would be awesome. Emphasis on reads. Capacity I don't care about beyond TB logical. RAID 0+1 is my preference. 4 TB logical would be fine.

    It looks like the Areca ARC-1680x would work well. Anyone know if that's the card in the Sans Digital TR8X-HA bundle ($1,100)? I could buy the TR8X enclosure separately, I suppose ($450).
     
  5. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #5
    You'd be able to get the random access performance you need out of 1+0 or 0+1 (1+0 is a tad safer).

    As per the controller, it appears to be from the picture, but you'd need to call Sans Digital to be sure. It might be an OEM variant they make specifically for Sans Digital (features cut from the 1680 series, such as SAS expander capability).
     
  6. Bwa thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Jun 20, 2007
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    Boston & San Jose
    #6
    Good point on the OEM variant. Do you have a favorite place to buy external SAS cables? 1 meter is about $60 on NewEgg, so if I go separates, I'll need to find a place to buy them.

    I'll call Sans and see what they say. I wonder how much I can trust what they say. I bought an eSATA 2 bay enclosure a while back that is pretty nice, but I have no feel for how much I trust them.
     
  7. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #7
    pc-pitstop.com


    As it happens, they sell the 1.0m SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 cables for $47.00USD, and great service too. :)

    I also like ewiz.com for Areca's cards (you do have to check often, as they pull the listings when out of stock). But they're cheaper than other locations most of the time. Just pay attention to the return policy, as some are listed as non-refundable (they will do an exchange, and is how you deal with a defective unit during the entire warranty period if you should ever have to deal with such an unfortunate event). Unfortunately, the ARC-1680X isn't available there right now.

    You can even use an internal port card as well, as pc-pitstop has internal to external cables (SFF-8087 to SFF-8088). Might be worth looking at, as you can attach the HDD bays to an additional SFF-8087 port if the card has it (i.e. ARC-1680ix12; adapters may be required to make the HDD bays work, depending on the model - there's a kit for the 2009 systems, the '08's may need an extension cable to reach the card, both available at MaxUpgrades).
     
  8. Bwa thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Jun 20, 2007
    Location:
    Boston & San Jose
    #8
    I finally got around to ordering the PC-pitstop kit, thanks for the link! Looking forward to it.
     
  9. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #9
    Took you a while. :eek: :p

    Let me know how you get on with all of it. :)
     
  10. Bwa thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
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    Boston & San Jose
    #10
    OK, here's the Xbench performance results with the set-up. 7 drives in the raid set, one is a spare. On the left is a single 2 TB 5400 rpm drive. On the right is the raid configured as a raid-6. I haven't done any real world tests yet.

    [​IMG]

    Pretty good results. Looking forward to seeing if it will boot or not... :)

    Thanks a bunch for the pc-pitstop recommendation. Really happy with the product so far, only negative was $110 for 2-day shipping.
     
  11. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #11
    :cool:

    2 day and overnight shipping can can definitely take a bite out of your wallet.

    As per booting, just make sure you flash the firmware with the EFI portion first, or you may end up pulling your hair out (...WTH, it won't boot! :mad:). :eek: :p
     
  12. Bwa thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Location:
    Boston & San Jose
    #12
    Yep -- saw your EFI posts back in January in another thread. It seems to work fine so far, but I've only booted it once. It was a bit disconcerting as the newest Mac EFI firmware I could find is dated April 2008, but I guess neither the card nor EFI (nor Mac Pros...) are changing that much :)

    Thanks so much for your help.
     
  13. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #13
    Glad you got it working.

    The EFI was originally created for Itanium based systems, but works in any EFI based board (MP's, as well as Intel's more recent server boards which run either BIOS or EFI - user's choice).

    What you may not realize, is the firmware is in multiple parts, each needing to be flashed for an upgrade (not sure if you've gone this far into the card or not).

    Flash Proceedure:
    1. Download version 1.48 for your card and and decompress it from the .zip format (though it must be for the correct model, as there are small differences, namely the port count).
    2. Flash each part.
    3. Then flash the EFI again to be sure you're not running the wrong BOOT section.
     
  14. Bwa thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Location:
    Boston & San Jose
    #14
    This is good to know -- the issue I ran into was that the latest for the 1680x didn't contain an EFI folder. I'll look again tomorrow. I believe it was 1.48.
     
  15. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #15
    Get 1.48 from the support site (assuming your card doesn't already have it(). To check, look on the box label that has the S/N on it (not the one you have to cut through to open it).

    The EFI firmware is on the disk that came in the box (not seen it on the support site). Worst case, email them; i.e. lost disk, and they'd either send the file or a link to it in the reply.

    Hope this helps clear things up a bit. :)
     

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