install Raid card into my MP

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by HSJR, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. HSJR macrumors member

    Mar 26, 2009
    Hi all,

    I like to install Raid card into my MP (2009 model). I did not ordered Raid card with my MP because I haven't thought I will need it. Now I am planning to install 2 X 2TB HDD into my MP and make them as one drive with capacity of 4 TB. How can I install Raid card? Where can I find it? and what is the best Raid card available in the market? Last I am running win7 through bootcamp and I am planning to reinstall it at my new HDs; are there any known issues?

    All ideas and experiences are most welcome

    Thanks in advance
  2. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    You have a choice of either hardware (RAID card) or software based arrays (software = Disk Utility in OS X). What I've no idea of, is if you really need a hardware controller, especially as you seem to want to create a stripe set (RAID 0).

    If you do decide to use a RAID card, then avoid Apple's card or CalDigit. Stick with Areca, ATTO Technologies, or Highpoint's RR43xx line (made by Areca). They have models that are faster, cheaper, and will work in multiple OS's.

    If you're sticking with mechanical, and no more than 4x drives on a budget, take a look at the ARC-1210 (it can also boot OS X once you flash the firmware).

    You can fit both HDD's in the empty optical bay, and connect them to the card via SATA cables. Power is drawn off of the cable for the empty optical drive as well via adapters.

    The power cabling includes the following:
    Backplane extension cable
    SATA Y power cable

    You can also tie into the power wires of the extension cable if needed (i.e. SATA power ends on hand, and you've either a soldering iron or crimp connectors to wire it up). Wire nuts will work too, but not as cleanly.

    A couple of notes:
    • RAID /= backup, so make sure you have a proper backup system in place no matter what your storage situation is. Single disk and arrays both need proper backups.

    • Make sure to check the HDD Compatibility List (if there's one available) to see what drives will work with the RAID card. Areca has one (HDD list * .pdf form), and SAS controllers are even more picky about drives. As a general rule, you're likely going to need enterprise versions (such as WD's RAID Editions = REx series).
  3. joaoferro37 macrumors 6502


    Jul 31, 2008
    Vogon Planet Destructor
    To be honest I think ATTO got the best support.
    They simple answer my email in few minutes.
  4. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Definitely, but Areca does know what they're doing with the support aspect as well. And both companies offer phone support as well (Areca's phone support is in English as well).

    But ATTO has the advantage that their support is based in the US. :D

    Highpoint OTOH, is more of a disaster since they don't design or manufacture anything. Ask a difficult question, and the answer's likely to be "Dur.... umm...". Firmware support is beyond lousy if you need the EFI variant as well as evidenced by those that have them.

    But once you've got the firmware (assuming the need to boot OS X), they will work. The user just has to know what they're doing, or at least how to figure it out on their own it seems. :rolleyes: :( So there's definitely a compromise with the low cost, and not just the fact they don't include internal breakout cables either (which is another reason they're cheaper).
  5. HSJR thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 26, 2009

    Many thanks for your reply; actually, you've notified me about something really important which is lack of backup support in Raid 0. Therefore, Raid 0 is risky since I may loose all my info if any of the HDD fails. I believe Raid 5 can be the best, I won't save money to lose all my info stored in my disk. In addition I am not technical person; I am not sure how will I do all wiring and installation does not look like an easy for non-technical.

    Customer service and support is critical for me; I will contact companies that you've mentioned and I will see what is the best for me.
  6. HSJR thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 26, 2009
    I shall have look at them and see if they are truly as you've mentioned.
  7. breathesrain macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2010

    Sorry, couldn't resist. Option-equals sign on a Mac. Looks much nicer than /=. Good luck, OP.
  8. HSJR thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 26, 2009
    Does not matter if they will do the same job for me.
  9. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    If you want to run parity based arrays (5/6), you need a hardware RAID controller.

    OS X doesn't include it, and some cards, such as eSATA where it's included in the drivers, is still software based. Understand that software parity is a really BAD idea, as it can't deal with the write hole issue associated with parity arrays.

    A proper card uses an NVRAM solution to this issue, and still requires a UPS, and ideally, a card battery as well (UPS is a necessity at this point, not really an option, and will do more for you than the card's optional battery can if it's A or B rather than both).

    Also, I'll remind you to check the HDD Compatibility List that the card maker provides (Areca, ATTO, and Highpoint do). Some card makers don't, such as CalDigit.

    Avoid consumer drives, as they don't have the right firmware (recovery timings are wrong), nor do they have the improved specs or sensors meant for RAID environments. They're definitely worth the extra money. There is a trick with WD's consumer models, though I've recently heard a report that WD has now blocked it (WDTLER utility can be used to change the TLER values, but they're still missing the additional sensors and the MTBF rate is lower).

    As far as backups, NO RAID is sufficient to replace a proper backup solution. Some levels do have redundancy built into them, but that doesn't mean you can skip backups. Things can still go wrong, and then there's user error, which is usually the biggest problem (wipe a file, and it's gone, and in the case of a mirror, the wipe is duplicated on the mirror).

    You can use a RAID to backup a RAID, but the arrays MUST NOT BE attached by the levels. You use backup software to make the copies, and the scheduling features are your best friend.

    As per support, ATTO has a slight advantage over Areca if you want to use email (Areca is based in Taiwan, so the phone calls could be expensive). ATTO has a US toll free number.

    But there are compromises, depending on the specific models. Areca has options ATTO doesn't, such as the ability to upgrade the cache via a DIMM slot on some models. ATTO is also more expensive (notable, not just a few bucks).

    Card management is done via the Web Browser for Areca (not difficult to use, though under OS X, Safari tends not to work properly, and sometimes not at all, so use Firefox), ATTO has their own interface (well written, easy to use).

    Ultimately, the behavior of either is the best out there (predictable, and stable so long as you use the right drives, which is why you want to chose off of the list rather than play guinea pig).

    As you indicate you want really good support, skip Highpoint all together, as you're basically on your own from the start in my experience with them. If you know what you're doing, then it's an acceptable card, as Areca is the ODM for the RR43xx models.

    NO. I refuse. :eek: That, and I don't have a MP any longer. :D :p
  10. joaoferro37 macrumors 6502


    Jul 31, 2008
    Vogon Planet Destructor
    I am a Apple consultant and specialized in Video Audio post production.
    I used to sell CalDigit, please avoid. They never deliver the performance as they advertised.
    ATTO, good product, outstanding support and always answer emails and calls.
    High Point, epic failure. Their tech supports have no idea of solving the problem.
    Never reply, never pick up calls and never admit the problem.

    BTW, check this out...
  11. HSJR thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 26, 2009
    How can I differentiate between eSata card & card that uses NVRAM. The specification of card that I've reviewed at this website do not indicate anything regarding that.

    For sure I will check my system compatibility with the card itself and HDD that can be used with before spending any penny. I am not sure what do you mean by avoiding consumer drives; do you mean I shouldn't update the drive once I install the raid card or I shouldn't install any third party drives?

    To be honest I may purchase 3 HDD, and link 2 HD together and keep the third for backup. I believe this may be the perfect combination. I am not going to buy External HDD. I am not sure if that right or wrong but I believe it best option I have right now.

    I am not sure how will I use backup features with RAID; but I will have my third drive for backup. I will figure how do I use RAID backup once I have it; but now I feel it is really hard to speak about details because I do not have any experience about RAID.

    I live outside US; so I believe that it won't make any differences, expect ARECA may have international number while ATTO have a US only number; which I believe its advantage for ARECA over ATTO in my opinion. Moreover both of them will be responding to mails and that is really fair enough for me.
  12. HSJR thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 26, 2009
    I saw the video, that more than I need in my entire life! moreover that for professional, while I need something to fit my personal need.

    For sure I will go for ATTO or ACTERA as many recommended them. High point and Caldigit are out of my list.

    Thanks for your reply.
  13. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    NVRAM = cache + optional battery

    Areca and ATTO are both proper cards, and do have NVRAM solutions. The easiest way to determine this, is look for a separate processor and cache, as it's possible that cache can be added to an eSATA controller (though it's not usually done).

    The Oxford 936 series is such an example. That chip uses an ARM processor, and the SE verion (capable of RAID 5), also has a bit of cache. But it does NOT have a battery in it. So for it to be capable of dealing with the write hole issue, it needs to be run with a UPS.

    But the UPS is really a necessity with any card, including anything by Areca or ATTO. Ideally, you run both the battery and the UPS, but in some cases, such as ATTO, they list a battery they've never produced. And Areca doesn't actually recommend them as being necessary. :eek:

    Just make sure you've a decent UPS (really a true online unit, which always draws its power off of the batteries = no switching, and is almost always a pure sine wave output due to the better inverter design used).

    Areca or ATTO will work in the MP. But you must pay detailed attention to the drives you select (and that includes the drive firmware revision as well, as the earliest versions may not work, and required an update to function - card makers work with drive makers on this).

    Consumer HDD's would include models such as:
    WD Caviar series
    Seagate 7200.xx series
    Hitachi Deskstars

    Enterprise units:
    WD REx (i.e. RE3 or RE4)
    Seagate ES.2 series
    Hitachi Ultrastars (I recommend avoiding them due to total lack of support in my experience - needed firmware, and I got the run-around from hell)

    Any SAS drive.

    It would certainly work. But please realize that using a card with the internal HDD bays requires an HDD adapter kit in the '09 models that will set you back another $165USD (here). In the '08 systems, it means you'd likely need an extender cable to get the iPass (SFF-8087) to the card (here; $75USD, used to be $90USD).

    But 2x disks would limit you to either 0 or 1, as you'd need a bare minimum of 3x drives to build a RAID 5.

    And if you leave it at 0 or 1, you may not really need to bother with a card (you can use OS X's Disk Utility to create the array). At this point, I'll presume that's not going to be the case for very long.

    The OS and software run under it will see the array as a single logical disk (i.e. Drive Letter: under Windows, Disk n/Partition x under Unix).

    Backup software (Time Machine or otherwise), won't have a problem with it. Just select the locations and you're done. But I seriously recommend spending the time to set up the automatic scheduling features.

    Either way, you can call, but it will cost you to do so.

    Areca's aren't that hard to use, and emails take up to 3 days to obtain a response (time zones have an influence in this). They're also cheaper than ATTO's, and can outperform them (certain models with upgraded cache).

    ATTO's are slightly easier to use, but cost more. The time zone issues won't be as bad as it would be for me with Areca I should think. Figure 24 hrs or so for an email response (assuming you can't adjust your schedule to be active during US East Coast business hours).

    As per enclosures, there's also Enhance Technologies (E8-MS or E800MS) and Sans Digital (TowerRAID TR8XHA) to consider. They're all basically the same internally, so go with what's cheapest and suits your sense of style (they all offer silver anodized aluminum versions, though they're harder to find in the Enhance branding).

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