mac mini server and storage solutions (raid etc)

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by blackmtn, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. blackmtn macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2010
    Location:
    Northern British Columbia
    #1
    I'm looking to replace my current iMac (first gen intel with ati x1600) because it has terrible graphical glitches with Aperture under SL.

    The iMac has tons of processor power for my use, but only one internal storage drive. It also has the glossy screen that is too bright for photo print matching and it still seems to have this yellow tint problem.

    The Mac Pro would be awesome for my use - lots of power and internal drive bays and I can pick any monitor I want - but it costs a small fortune.

    I then stumbled on the Mac Mini Server version and I'm thinking this might be a good choice because of the two internal drives - my initial thought on set up follows:

    Use the two 500gb internal drives as a RAID 0 and have two small partitions on each as my Photoshop and PTGui scratch drive. The larger remaining partitions would be for my Aperture library and misc data (currently at only 120gb). This way I have the fastest portion of each disk dedicated as scratch (when stitching large mosaics I easily exceed my RAM so WILL use lots of disk cache.) As I understand it, having a striped RAID should speed up the 5400 laptop drives quite a bit.

    I would then have OS X installed on a FW800 drive on a smaller partition (first on the drive for faster access) and use the remaining for Time Machine backups.

    I have a few questions about the viability of this set up however:

    1) Is the OS X software raid option reasonable? I want my internal striped raid to be reasonably reliable (i.e. only to fail if the actual hard disk fails) - I thought I read somewhere once that OS X can be a bit flaky for RAID, but I wasn't sure if that was in relation to set up or ongoing use.

    2) What would be the (roughly) theoretical speed of a striped RAID using 5400rpm laptop drives? My thought is that it would be faster than the FW800 interface is capable of transporting (~ 55-60 MB/s). The whole point of this is to have a fast scratch disk for stitching/editing my large (~200 megapixel) mosaics - I think I would need something on the order of 16gb RAM to avoid disk caching, but that is stupid expensive in an iMac and the Mac Pro is really expensive already, so I think I am basically stuck with disk caching.

    3) Where does OS X go to when it needs disk cache? I can point Photoshop and PTGui manually at the scratch drive I create, but when working in Aperture I will also probably exceed the 4gb RAM that the Mini comes with, so will go into OS X disk cache.

    4) How fast will FW800 be as a boot drive? Will it seem much slower than my old iMac with an internal 7200 rpm drive? (Which, as full as it is, seems capped at about 50 MB/s.)

    5) Will I be able to run Bootcamp from an external drive? I have also heard that it doesn't let you use more than the system + bootcamp partition on the same drive, so if that's the case, I guess I'll need a 2nd external drive for Time Machine.

    6) Is the 9400M better than the x1600 as a video card? While PS and PTGui don't use the GPU at all, Aperture supposedly offloads as much as it can to it, and I would like Aperture to be snappier on my new machine than my current one.

    I've done some tests the last few days on the programs I use the most often on my current computer and have noticed that Aperture is processor bound on regular RAW files but disk cache bound on large files (I only have 2gb RAM currently); Photoshop is the same; while PTGui is almost always disk cache bound, so until I get rid of the disk cache bottleneck I don't think that having an i7 or similar processor will be much better for me than the 2.53ghz processor that comes with the Mini.

    In terms of the Server version of OS X that this Mini comes with, I mainly intend to use it as a print/file server for home use and to serve up my own webpages. I have also toyed with the idea of serving some webpages for some small local companies that I have already built simple websites for (ie charge them). I do want to get into some server side languages (eg PHP) for my own websites, so that would be the attraction of serving my own sites. Is Server overkill for this? Can I already serve multiple webpages with a regular version of OS X?

    Anyways, any help on the above questions would be fantastic! Thanks :)
     
  2. lostime macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 19, 2009
    #2
    Xbench was recording hard drive speeds of around 115MBps and 110MBps with two unmatched 500GB 5400 drives in my laptop when I had them Raid 0'd. (Complete guess but they were over 100MBps). I still have the score saved I just don't have my laptop in front of me at the moment. The reason I went back was I couldn't get windows under bootcamp to work and Parallels wasn't fast enough. I had two equal partitions on each drive, one was to be the windows partition and the other as fat32 storage but I got tired of messing with it. I was impressed with the speed the software raid provided and would have been amazed with 7200 drives or SSDs.

    1) I ran Leopard and SL in a software Raid for a few months with no problems, though I don't have any longterm experience.

    2) Over a 100MBps, hopefully I can remember to look at the score and edit this post later.

    4) A lot of Mac Mini users boot from a FW800 drive, it's faster than an internal 5400, though I would probably just partition a section of the 1TB raid for boot as your Virtual memory will come from the OS disk. You may be able to aim that at another disk but it would probably require some terminal work. I would use the FW drive as storage.

    5) I took my bootcamped windows drive out and put it in a usb/fw case and tried to boot from it and couldn't get it to work. It would boot fine internally but not externally. That's as far as I went with that.

    You should price just buying a regular mini and putting another hard drive in it, really easy with a mini. Just buy a slimline male sata to female sata adapter cable and you're set (cpustuff.com). It would be cheaper to get the base hard drive from apple and buy a matched set aftermarket that way you could go with 500GB 7200's instead of the 5400's apple provides. You could get that and probably enough left over for 6-8gb of ram for the price of that Mini Server.
     
  3. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2010
    Location:
    Northern British Columbia
    #3
    Thanks for your reply!

    The only bummer part seems to be that Bootcamp won't work properly from a partitioned internal drive and from your post it seems that it won't work at all from an external volume. I'm keeping my old iMac anyways for a while, so I guess I'll just leave any Windows work I need to do on there.
     
  4. lostime macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 19, 2009
    #4
    don't let it get you down, others have gotten it to work which is why I tried it in the first place. Someone may post with better results.

    You can always do the "eSata hack" and run sata out of the mini to an external eSata drive with a WD Black or Velociraptor in a case. That way you'll be able to dual boot, not have to worry about the problems with Raid, and have a faster drive than two raided laptop drives anyway. Requires opening the case but it's not hard to do at all, I'm planning the same mod with the cables on the way.
     
  5. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    #6
    I've been using software raid on OS X for a few years on multiple platforms and have never experienced a problem with it.

    While copying a 10GB file to /dev/null, Activity Monitor reports a typical read speed of 125 to 130 MB/Sec, with a peak of 148 MB/Sec.
    (Mac mini Server running Snow Leopard, OS X Software RAID, striped)

    A.
     
  6. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2010
    Location:
    Northern British Columbia
    #7
    Whoah, eSata hack! Never heard of that before, must go research it.
     
  7. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2010
    Location:
    Northern British Columbia
    #8
    Thanks very much for the info - it sounds like a striped raid on the internal drives will be much faster than my current set-up.

    Is it possible/feasible to have 3 partitions on the striped internal set? Small partition on the first part of the drive for PTGui/PS scratch, second larger partition for OS X/apps, remaining for data...
     
  8. lostime macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 19, 2009
    #9
    sure, you can have multiple partitions. Just boot from the disk, partition the two hard drives up as you want them (equal sized partitions of course) and then Raid each one of them. Then install a fresh OSX or "restore" your clone if you made one from a usb/fw drive.
     
  9. Badger^2 macrumors 68000

    Badger^2

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2009
    Location:
    Sacramento
    #10
    Saw this on another mac board I visit:

    Promise RAID 5 box via eSATA using the mini server, heres some of his post:

    Via FW800 I was able to sustain 66.3MB/s throughout the image creation. The peak was 66.8MB/s. Shut down the Mini and added the eSATA cable to the internal second drive connector and restarted the Promise RAID and the Mac Mini. Ran the same test creating a new image on the RAID. I averaged 134.7MB/s and peaked at 143.2. More than twice the speed.

    AJA Kona test. What paramaters should I be using for the test?

    I did a 720x486 8-Bit test with a 1.0GB files size, Disk Read write and game up with:
    165.6 MB/s Write
    229.5 MB/s Read


    I did a 2048x1556 10-Bit test with 4.0GB files size, Disk Read write and game up with:
    167.4 MB/s Write
    244.5 MB/s Read

    [​IMG]

    Theoretically you could do that same setup with an iMac using the optical drive SATA connection -- there are posts here on this board where people have replaced their optical drive with a SSD drive instead.

    And regardless of what you may *think* how the glossy screen looks, I can think of at least a dozen professional photographers who use iMacs and MBPs with glossy screens and have had no issues with them.

    Lots of testimonials at steves-digicams and DPreview.

    Of course, having the right color calibrator is very important as well...
     
  10. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2010
    Location:
    Northern British Columbia
    #11
    Thank you for posting that chunk of thread - where did you get it from?

    Question about this eSata conversion: is there an extra Sata connection just sitting unused inside the Mini or will I be losing the 2nd HD (or Superdrive if in a reg. mini)? I tried looking up some pages on adding the eSata but they weren't clear on that point (at least not clear to me!)

    Regarding the glossy monitors, my wife has one and even when calibrated the colours are far too saturated and the monitor can't be turned down enough in brightness to print match (my old matte iMac is pretty much a perfect match if there aren't any colours out of sRGB gamut). Maybe the newer 27" monitors on the iMac are better in this regard, but I'm not willing to risk it with that much money! I'd rather just get a good NEC pro monitor and skip all that bother.
     
  11. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #12
    The newer iMacs (both screen sizes) have LED backlights that can be dimmed down much farther than the older iMacs could. Don't rule them out. I've got a Mac Mini Server that I, surprisingly, use as a server. I've also got a 27" i7 iMac. I wouldn't trade either for the other. The iMac does let you go to 8GB RAM without having to buy the expensive stuff.
     
  12. lostime macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 19, 2009
    #13
    no, you would pull out either the internal hard drive or the superdrive.....or both (either hard drive for the server). There is no traditional Sata port on the motherboard, the mini uses a plastic caddy with an interface to the motherboard. With the cable I linked to above you would just unplug either device and plug in the cable to the data side (since your external will have power) and run the cable outside of the case, that was the hardest part. http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Mac-mini-Model-A1283-Teardown/659/1

    I did the mod yesterday and ran the eSata to a Newtech Ministack with a 1.5TB 7200 and it reads it like an internal drive. It's not as fast as a Samsung F3 or a Western Digital Black would be but I'm over a 100 both ways, it'll do for now.

    Side note, I did look at my raid scores and they peaked at 144MBps Write and 122MBps read (xbench) with the internal 5400's.
     

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