Flash storage on the new MP

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by MaskAndWig, Jul 11, 2013.

  1. MaskAndWig macrumors member

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    Mar 11, 2009
    #1
    I use my Mac largely for audio recording, mixing, editing, and restoration. I also do a fair bit of HD video editing and encoding. So far I've done this on a high-end iMac with a regular HDD. Although I don't make my living off it, I spend enough time doing this (semi-professionally) that I've been considering switching to a Mac Pro for a while now, playing the waiting game since the current MPs are essentially three years old. While I'm disappointed that the new MP doesn't offer FireWire or an internal ODD drive (both of which would be very useful to me), I realize I could connect external devices, and Apple's claimed performance boosts and USB3 support still manage to make it an appealing offer if the price is right. A wild card for me, though, is the onboard flash storage. I don't have any experience with SSDs, but I'm under the impression that flash-based storage -- for all its benefits -- still has the drawback of limited write cycles and decaying performance over time. Since I do a lot of intensive editing work (as I assume most of the MP's target audience probably does), should I be concerned about this? If I do step up to the new MP, I'd hope to get 8-10 years out of it. Would creating, editing, and deleting files on a daily basis be enough to cause a noticeable slowdown in that time? Or does Apple assume I'll work off an external scratch disk? I suppose time will tell how easy (or not!) it will be to replace the onboard flash storage in case of failure or serious performance drop, but has flash storage improved enough in terms of durability and ruggedness to make it the *only* option for a prosumer machine like this? Am I right to be worried or is this a non-issue?
     
  2. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

    Joined:
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    Oregon
    #2
    Wow, 8-10 years is pretty optimistic, but I think the flash storage and entire Mac Pro will still be working fine in 2024, if properly maintained. It will just be very old technology by then, with newer systems and software making your work seem like it's taking way too long to complete.
     
  3. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

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    Mar 10, 2009
    #3
    First, you probably would not get 8-10 years out of a HDD either. So the fact can't get it out of a SSD isn't really a "new" issue.

    Second, the SSD in the new Mac Pro fits in a socket. It is old? Buy a new one. Just like would have done with iMac or any other Mac with an HDD. 3rd party vendors of SSD has shown up for the 2-3 previous SSD-on-a-plug-in-card variants Apple has rolled out. It is hard to say why that wouldn't also happen for this new Mac Pro. Apple's SSD prices are so out of sync with the market for BTO options that they practically invite vendors in to fill the vacuum.





    Unless doing something particularly at odds with the SSD's Flash controller the SSD wear will likely lead to a lifetime around that of an HDD. You aren't going to get significantly better lifetime when loose the spindle and the motor to drive it, but it isn't particularly worse either.

    [ There is a corner case with LSI/Sanforce SSD controllers where they don't play well with highly compressed data (e.g., extremely likely you video is highly compressed) in very abnormally large quantities. Those as an intensive scratch drive for video work is probably not a great idea for maximum lifetime, but Apple's implementation isn't likely going to use one of those. ]

    For bulk storage they do. If video projects are multiple TB in size then yes. If talking 10's GBs then no.


    If Apple says they are going "cheaper" by using TLC ( triple bit storage ) Flash then slightly worried may be at issue. If it is the normal MLC that has been in widespread use for last 4-5 years then no. It is mature at this point.
    The whole thing of "HDDs are a known quantity and Flash is speculative and risk " is moot at this point.

    Similar issues ( but different impacts ) apply to SSDs as HDDs in terms of avoiding filling them up to the brim with data. If don't give them enough room to work then not going to improve lifetime. If have some large, bulky iTunes library ( or iPhoto library ) kick that stuff off the internal SSD.
     
  4. MaskAndWig thread starter macrumors member

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    Mar 11, 2009
    #4
    Haha, yes, I realize 8-10 years is optimistic, but very do-able, I think. I'm not one who always needs to have the "latest and greatest." I dislike the hassle of upgrading to a new machine every couple years or so. I use my newer Intel iMac for the video work, but I still do a lot of my audio editing and restoration on a 2005 iMac G5 -- it has some PPC legacy software I still prefer. It does the job well, it's just slow. I've replaced the power supply in it twice and the hard drive once, but having got 8 years out of it, I'm ready to let it go when its next component fails. I think an entry or mid-level new MP would satisfy my needs for quite some time to come -- as long as the onboard flash storage is up to the task.
     
  5. MaskAndWig thread starter macrumors member

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    Mar 11, 2009
    #5
    Thanks, deconstruct60, for the informative reply. Glad to hear newer flash storage is rugged enough for moderate to intensive workloads. I'm happy, too, to hear that replacing/updating it shouldn't be a problem. With Apple's trend towards fewer and fewer upgradeable components, I was unclear whether the flash storage would be hardwired or not (and thus not easily removable/replaceable). Whether I get the forthcoming MP or a refurb of the current one, extra HDDs for mass storage will be a must. (I really liked the ability to have four drives internally on the "old" MP -- I'm not thrilled with the thought of having to buy an external enclosure for the new MP.) Most of the files I deal with -- even video -- are 10GB or less, so I've been using the internal HDD as a scratch disk for now. I don't think my external FW and USB drives have reliable enough connections. Eyeing the new MP, I've been hoping the onboard flash storage would be large and rugged enough to use as the scratch disk.

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond with your thoughts.
     
  6. Tesselator, Jul 11, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013

    Tesselator macrumors 601

    Tesselator

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    #6



    I think the basic intention of the internal flash drive is for booting, installing apps, and maybe storing music and some iPhoto libraries but not for editing or capturing video. Assuming HD 1080P formats I think the ideal way to use the MP6,1 is to designate the internal SSD as a VM scratch (besides boot and apps) and then connect a USB3 enclosure with three or four 5.25 bays. In one of the bays place the DVD or BRD burner and in the rest set up a RAID0 using something like Seagate's 3TB or 4TB drives. USB3 will support the full speed of a 2-drive RAID0 using any rotational drives currently on the market (380 to 420MB/s sustained).

    If you intend to edit 10bit 4:4:4 HD 1080p you will need a faster solution tho. In that case I would probably build my own enclosure using two of the USB3 ports with three 1TB Seagates or similar drives on each adaptor. But a DIY case like that is a bit of a project. Alternatively you could get three of these at $60 ea. for about 1 to 1.1GB/s or two of these:


    and realistically expect to get the 850 to 900MB/s using the same 1TB drives at like $65 ea - three in each 4-bay enclosure. If you used the two 4-bay dudes (with 3drives in each) that would be like $550 and if you went with the three 2-bay guys that would also be about the same - tho faster and using up an extra USB3 port (leaving only one USB3 port left open).

    To get the same basic thing (6-drives) with the same speed (1.1GB/s max sustained) via thunderbolt you would have to spend about $1,500 - if you shopped around for the very best deals.

    You need about 800MB/s (minimum) in order to smoothly edit or composite 10bit 4:4:4 uncompressed HD 1080p. If you intend to edit 2K or 4K video I think you need to use SSDs. I guess you would need three in a RAID0 array. The SSDs near to 1TB in size start at around $800 and the TB enclosure to connect 3 of them is about $600 to start. So for 2K or 4K editing you're looking at using one TB2 connection and spending about $3,000 Or go with three 512GB SSDs and spend about $2,000 in total. :p
     
  7. MaskAndWig thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2009
    #7
    Thanks for the tips on external HDDs. I'll keep it in mind if/when I pull the trigger on the new MP. To be honest, I do far more audio than video work, and the kinds of RAID0 arrays you suggest would probably be overkill for me (no 2K or 4K video on the horizon for me!). However, I would be interested in setting up a couple drives in RAID1 for safety. (And a nice tray-loading ODD in the same enclosure would be very nice instead of the flimsy standalone units flooding the market. Tesselator, do you have any recommendations for a TB or USB3 external enclosure that could house 4 HDDs in paired RAID1 configurations *and* an ODD?)

    I'm aware of the TB-FW converter, but I don't think that would be suitable for my purposes. I've got several bus-powered FW audio devices that serve as microphone preamps and I've heard that they don't work well when run through TB converters. They're perfectly good units that cost me plenty a few years ago. They still do exactly what I want and need them to do, and I'm not keen to see them turned to fancy paperweights anytime soon. It's *almost* enough for me to discount the new MP in favor of the current generation just to keep direct FW connectivity. It all comes down to what the new MP costs and whether it will leave enough in my budget to replace the microphone interfaces.
     
  8. Tesselator, Jul 12, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2013

    Tesselator macrumors 601

    Tesselator

    Joined:
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    #8
    Ya, just search for the cheapest thing. You don't need or care if it has RAID internally so that will help you sort to the cheaper units. OS X software RAID is fine - even somewhat better IMO.

    Myself, I would probably get an old PC case for $15 or $20 and buzz-saw the back half off, place the PSU under the drive cage and then bondo just the back-plate back on. From there I would search around for some splitter backplanes USB3 --> SATA bla bla, and like that - you get the idea. I guess after everything it'd probably cost me around $80 to $100 and give me two 5.25 ODD bays plus four to six 3.5 HDD bays. I would hope to run two USB3 cables from the Mac into the custom enclosure.

    But again you can find these already made for between $120 and $200 fairly easily. The main advantage of the DIY project would be a high grade 250 to 400W PSU - hopefully included with the case (off ebay for you and from the storage pile in my garage for me) and the active cooling slash ventilation.


    Ah, I see. Yeah, I read your post and went: there's gotta be adapters for this. I searched USB3 to FW and learned that there are some fakes available which will likely damage your components but nothing sanely sanctioned. Then I looked for TB -> FW and that Apple link came up. And that's the total sum of my experience with that. :p

    I used FW once to network a PC to my Mac just to benchmark and compare but besides that I've never used FW. My video has always either been Digi Beta/SP or direct to HDD on-camera - so I dunno FW from that. And my Audio has always been USB2 / 3 or Optical so I'm dead with FW there too. :rolleyes:
     

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