can I attach two different PCI-Express cards into new Mac Pro?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by malch, Oct 12, 2010.

  1. malch macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    I should know this but I don't. I have a 5-bay external SATA enclosure made by FirmTek, which I've been using for editing in a non-RAID setup (I edit full HD, but not uncompressed).
    When I take delivery of my new Mac Pro (until now I've been using a MacBook Pro) I'd like to also use a Caldigit HDElement. It uses its own PCI Express RAID card.
    My question is, can I attach both of these units to the Mac Pro? Will I then be able to copy files from one to the other?
    Is two the maximum number of SATA devices I can attach?
  2. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    best answer is maybe. look at the link for this card. Technology/MXPCIE6GRS/

    the card above let me use 2 of the pieces below World Computing/MEQX2KIT0GB/#

    I had the drives setup in raid0 4 x 1.5tb = 6tb in each unit total of 12tb all worked fine.

    they worked fine because the card had 2 ports that can each do 4 drives in a case.

    your caldigit HDElement should have a link see if you can link the pci express card that comes with it.
  3. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    thanks Philip... good information.

    I emailed the CalDigit people to see if I could attach another piece of hardware to theirs, and they said: "The CalDigit RAID card is for HDElement only, you cannot plug in any eSATA enclosure or miniSAS enclosure to it"
    I suspect the FirmTek card (which they call a "4-Port, eSATA Host Adapter with Port Multiplier Compatibility") is also only good for FirmTek hardware.

    I just checked the technical specs for the new Mac Pros, and it seems there are
    "Three open full-length PCI Express expansion slots
    One PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot
    Two PCI Express 2.0 x4 slots"

    That would seem to me to mean that I can attach three separate SATA devices, if each has its own card. And if these devices behave like other external drives I've used with Macs over the years, they should all appear on the desktop, and I should be able to copy files from one to the other.

    Does that make sense?
  4. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    by the way, in Apple's tech specs (below), what does the "x16 slot" and the "x4 slots" mean?

    One PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot
    Two PCI Express 2.0 x4 slots

    thanks, malch
  5. philipma1957, Oct 12, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2010

    philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    the new mac pro has 4 slots:

    a pair of 2.0 x16
    a pair of 2.0 x4

    one slot is used for the graphics card so they list
    one 2.0 x16 because you can only use one of them.... think of them as highways a 16 lane highway moves more so the 2.0 x 16 is faster then the 2.x4 slot..

    that is more in the realm of nanofrog or other board member honumaui they would understand that better then I
  6. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    aha... I'm beginning to understand.

    O.K., so I have access to one very fast slot, and two slower ones.
    If I go with a RAIDED drive (either the CalDigit or the one you linked to), THAT one should attach to the fast (16-lane) port, correct?

    That leaves one of the 4-lane ports free for the SATA2ME4E card that would connect my non-RAIDED FirmTek, 5-bay unit.
    Only 4 lanes, as you say. But might it be as fast as the connection I've had (via the ExpressCard slot) between the FirmTek unit and my MacBook Pro for the last three years?

    Thanks again for your advice. Much appreciated.
  7. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    just checked out the Host Adapter for the CalDigit HDElement, and it says it
    "features the PCI Express x4 interface"

    Does this mean that if I get this, it would be pointless to connect it to the Mac Pro's fast (16-lane) port?

    Something tells me that because it says it's x4 interface, it means it can't throughput information any faster than one of the Mac Pro's x4 ('4-lane') ports.
    Is that correct?

  8. Transporteur macrumors 68030

    Nov 30, 2008
    Right on all points.
    You can use the remaining 16 lane slot (one is already occupied by the graphics card, which leaves another 16 lane and to 4 lane slots), but the card will still run with 4 lane speed.
    But keep in mind that a single lane has a throughput of 500MB/s, so 2GB/s for a 4 lane PCIe card. There are not many cards that can saturate 4 lanes, the Caldigit one certainly can't.
  9. seek3r macrumors 6502

    Aug 16, 2010
    Much faster, the ExpressCard slot is PCI-E v1 x1 and the new MP all PCI-E lanes are v2- the slowest slot is x4, so that would be 8 times faster.
  10. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    You people are great, as usual.

    Sounds like I can leave my x16 port free, and use the two x4 for the CalDigit card (if I get it) and the FirmTek card, and they'll both be nice and fast.

    I wonder, what are people using this x16 port for, if even a x4 gives us 2GB/s?

    A second video card, I guess. But anything else?
  11. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    Video cards. Sending video to a display is way way way more bandwidth intensive than pulling data off hard drives.
  12. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Do you already own the CalDigit gear?
  13. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    Hi... no I don't own the CalDigit HDElement, but I'm thinking seriously of getting it. I know at $1500 it's expensive (which is why I haven't put money down on it or anything; I'd have to save up for a while first), but I've read very good reviews of it. There are better known (and still more expensive) CalDigit RAID drive setups, but this one has drives that I can replace myself (I'm not sure the others do), and it's cheaper.

    I remember seeing a post in which you said the new USB3 Caldigit drive isn't very good, but have you heard anything bad about the HDElement?
  14. JesterJJZ macrumors 68020


    Jul 21, 2004
    G-Tech is better than Caldigit if you ask me. Lot's of us videos guys use their gear. Give them a look.
  15. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Both the HDElement and CalDigit RAID card that goes with it (HDElement won't work with any other card, as they tied them together via firmware authentication), are junk. The card is slow, and the drives in the enclosure are Hitachi consumer models (why the enclosure is junk). Enterprise grade disks should be used with true hardware RAID cards, as the recovery timings are different, and are significantly important (OS handles recovery for software implementations, but the the RAID card takes over that function, and has a different approach that's suited for RAIDs). I do understand they've apparently worked out the kinks/bugs that plagued the unit I was dealing with, but given their history (promises never kept, and lackluster support) and use of consumer grade components when it should be enterprise, I wouldn't touch their RAID gear ever again. The type of issues that occured have happend with other RAID products in the past as well, so it's not an isolated incident.

    Seriously, you can do much better with other makes. Areca for cards (ATTO too, but they're more expensive than Areca's), and Sans Digital enclosures. Stay away from Highpoint, unless you don't need to boot OS X, and never need to deal with support (useless as well).

    There was quite a bit of information on their problems (other products mentioned) on the CalDigit USB 3.0 thread (pg. 2), so please read it carefully, and take it seriously. Dealing with their product was a nightmare I don't wish anyone else to have to deal with.
  16. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    O.K., timely advice. I'll check out Areca cards, and ATTO. And then, from what you're saying, I just need a nice enclosure (Sans Digital, let's say) and then I buy the drives separately? (Sorry for seeming dense about this... it's just that I know one of CalDigit's big arguments is that you're best to get everything, all together). re drives: would you recommend the WD Black Caviar (they're what I've been using in my FirmTek enclosure).
    Thanks for the advice!
  17. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Getting the parts separately isn't that big a deal.

    As to what you need, it will depend on you're exact requirments.
    How many drives/capacity requirement for now?
    • What kind of capacity expansion do you need?
    • What kind of performance?
    • Will you be running everything externally, or internally (there is a kit available that allows you to use the HDD bays with a RAID card)?

    If it's external, you'd only need an external port card (8 port), enclosure (Sans Digital includes the necessary cables), and drives. A mixed system (some internal, some external is a bit trickier as to the cables, but not that big a deal), and internal only is actually easier (cheaper too, but you're limited to what you can fit internally; 6x 3.5" disks if you keep the optical drive installed, 8x if you don't, and more if you're going with 2.5" drives).

    Of course, there's a couple of other things you'd need as well.
    1. Proper backup system in place (no form of RAID eliminates the need for this). Your current enclosure could be re-tasked for this purpose. ;)
    2. Good UPS unit (Pure sine wave, Line Interactive unit would be the minimum IMO, but an Online/Double Conversion unit is even better; both can be had as refurbished units to help with the cost, as they're quite expensive new).
    Enterprise mechanical disks must be used with an Areca or ATTO. The Caviar Black series wouldn't be stable if you even get an array created (drop-outs).
  18. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    philip - I'll check into these drives.
    nano - I'll read this many times, try to digest it, do some research (this will take a few days) and post back. Too much for me to quickly grasp. But thank you for your generous advice. I will follow up on it.
  19. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    :cool: NP :)

    BTW, smart move, as mistakes can get expensive. ;)
  20. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    o.k. I've checked out the Sans Digital enclosures that you referred to, nanofrog, and they look very nice, and the prices are great.
    The drives that Philip mentions are expensive, but I understand that for a RAID setup, a person should use these "enterprise" drives. So I'll get them.

    A few questions now please. Which Sans Digital enclosure should I get?
    Honestly, they all look quite a bit the same: TowerRAID TowerRAID Plus (NEW), and TowerSTOR. I don't need a huge one, because, frankly, I don't want things to get any more confusing than they already are. Right now I've got editing projects (finished and a few unfinished) spread out over so many drives (Black Caviars) that it's hard for me to keep track of what's where. If I end up putting six or whatever number of these drives, not RAIDED, inside my Mac Pro (how many do actually fit inside, by the way, without having to get special hardware?; size-wise, I'd want to be able to use whatever size these Black Caviars are, because I have a number of them... so I guess that means a maximum number of six drives*), and then keep my other Caviars (for backup) in my FirmTek unit, then maybe I could use the enterprise drives in the Sans Digital enclosure just for the one or two current projects that are most important. I doubt if I need more than 4GB (ah, but I just remembered that in RAID, you need double the space, right?).

    Then on the subject of connecting the Sans Digital enclosure to my Mac Pro... should I get a card from Sans Digital or get a card from ATTO or Areca?

    And on the subject of the card that goes into my Mac Pro... would any of the above-recommended cards allow me attach not just the Sans Digital enclosure, but also my FirmTek unit?

    Just so you know, I'm a cameraman/editor. I shoot full HD1920x1080 HQ on a Sony EX-1, and then edit in Avid Media Composer. Never uncompressed. DNxHD 220 (not sure how that stacks up to uncompressed).
    I've been editing on a MacBook Pro for the last number of years, and it's been going well. I've been saving my pennies to get a Mac Pro for all those years though, and I'm hoping some tasks (like importing AVCHD footage into Avid) speeds up.
    Hope I'm not testing anyone's patience with all these questions.
    P.S. *I have an external Blu-ray burner, by the way. I don't know if that negates the need for the internal optical drive or not.
  21. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    The RE3 1TB (WD1002FBYS) unit is an easier pill to swallow (even though you need more, you end up in the "sweet spot" in terms of capacity, performance and cost; performance is dependent on parallelism, not capacity = the more members, the faster you go, and they also increase capacity at the same time, and happen to be cheaper capacity wise than the 2TB RE4).

    For a RAID card, you'll need a unit with an SFF-8088 port per 4x disks (aka External MiniSAS cable that plugs into the port on the enclosure; take a look at the blown up pic to see what the female end looks like).

    4 Bay unit (TR4X)
    8 Bay unit (TR8X)

    The basic models you've seen are variations (ports can differ, and some are kits). BTW, the Sans Digital enclosures come with the external cables you need to attach to the card, so you won't have to buy those too (more common that you do).

    4x in the HDD bays, and 2x in the optical bays = 6x total 3.5" disks (you'd have to pull the OEM optical disk out).

    There may be a way to get more in, if you use some 3rd party or DIY'd adapters, but you'd also need additional ports to connect them (only 6x SATA ports on the ICH = system's built-in SATA, USB, and Ethernet ports).

    Physically speaking, you can get more in using 2.5" models (4x in each optical bay). 2x of those, + 1x DX4, and 4x HDD bays, you can stuff 16x of these inside.

    It depends on the level.

    RAID 0 = n members * capacity of a single disk (based off of the smallest capacity member if they're not the same)
    RAID 1 = same as a single disk
    RAID 10 = n/2 * capacity of a single disk
    RAID 5 = (n - 1) * capacity of a single disk
    RAID 6 = (n - 2) * capacity of a single disk

    Get a separate card. Going externally, I'd go for the ARC-1880X (6.0Gb/s compliant, and definitely capable of handling SSD's for later on). There are other cards, but it will depend on what you need, as they may not be much cheaper (i.e. less value than what this model has to offer).

    More specifics would help (number of disks that will be attached).

    The Areca *might*, but I've never tried it myself. Usually you use either 1x port per disk (i.e. your current enclosure would need 5x eSATA ports on the back) , or use SAS Expanders (SAS version of a PM chip/enclosure; some are separate units, others included in the enclosure) to run more than 1x disk per port.

    But as I've not tested what you're asking, I'm not sure if the SAS chip will also recognize a standard PM chip (what's in your enclosure). Even if it did, you'd have a problem with your drives as they are anyway.

    If they're not all that new, you can get a copy of the WD TLER utility and adjust thier timings, but you may also lose the data on them (not sure what you've set up, but here's a How-To and a way to get the utility).

    It might. How do you connect it to the system?
  22. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    People! Is it too late to nominate nanofrog for a Nobel Prize? (is there a "Computer Advice" category?).

    nano—thanks so much for all the notes above. Again, it will take me a while to digest it all (I think you exhale more information in one breath than I can take in in a day), but I will do just that.

    All the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together and I'm very thankful for that.

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