Mac Pro 8-core (08) + RAID + bootcamp

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by mlabs, Dec 29, 2009.

  1. mlabs macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2009
    #1
    Ok well I have scanned the numerous threads about this but there is so much information and some of it may be out of date by now - I was wondering what the final score was...
    Seems to me the Apple RAID card is a non-starter, so i'm looking at the CalDigit. I've seen both bad and good reports about this .. and maybe the bad ones were just down to the usual headaches the brave early adopters have with these things - I don't know. Also, folks rarely post reports unless there is a problem .. so things might be a little skewed?
    I have spoken to CalDigit and they say there are plenty of the cards available now (they have been hard to find in recent months) ..
    They also said they don't work with the newer 2009 (Nehalem-based) Mac Pros, because there is no ipass connector from the motherboard.. so new MP owners are SOL ... Apple RAID only for you folks...
    SAS capability - don't care .. big SSD drives will come down in price eventually..
    So What I want to do is simple, but I bet it isn't in reality:

    - I want a dual-booting OS X/Windows 7 machine, each with it's own internal RAID volume. The system boot disks don't need to be on RAID - in fact I would like to have each one on it's own 80GB SSD SATA disk ..

    Has anybody achieved anything like this?

    CalDigit have some sort of connector that allows you to boot windows off the first of the internal drives .. so you have windows on drive 1, drives 2,3,4 for RAID and a 5th drive up in the optical drive bay for OSX .. sounds promising.. has anyone got this set up? Can you switch out the SATA system boot drives for SSD drives? Can both OS's see the RAID volume?

    i'm new to RAID so excuse me if i'm totally missing the plot...
     
  2. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    Location:
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    #2
    Unless you use an Apple RAID card you cannot use the PCB traces for hardware RAID with the regular HDD ports. So people use adaptors between the drives and the Sata headers. Those adapters route the power from the Sata header to the drive and allow you to plug in a standard Sata cable from a RAID card.

    I run an Areca Arc-1210 4 port RAID card with internal SATA connectors in the 2009 Mac Pro. It is capable of booting into EFI and into OS X so I can use a RAID0 array of two 80 GB Intel Gen2 SSDs. I also use a 180 GB Intel Gen2 SSD on the ODD port "B" for Windows7. All three SSDs are located in the second optical bay. I'm using an Addonics 5,25" to 4x 2,5" internal enclosure for that. My four HDD ports are reserved for mass data storage with 2 TB WD green disks.

    I'm not sure how good the Caldigit card is. It may not be the best solution for what you want to do.

    If you use SW RAID with the Mac Pro ICH10R south bridge chip you need to install Windows before you install the RAID array. As a work around you can remove the array for installing Windows.

    If you want to use the ODD port "B" for Windows you need to first set it up on a HDD port and activate the AHCI driver on the 4 port SATA device.

    If you have further questions I can perhaps answer them for you but I hope that nanofrog will come along soon and pick this up.
     
  3. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #3
    that sounds like a great setup you have there.. very close to what I want ...
    So now i'm re-reading nanofrog's comments about the CalDigit .. and that has lead me to revisit the ARC-1222 as an alternative...

    hopefully as you say, nanofrog will spot this and give his latest advice...

    thanks!
     
  4. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #4
    Both Apple's and CalDigit's card are crap (though CalDigit may be a bit better than Apple's POS). Avoid them like a plague.

    If you want a real RAID card, not software based RAID (or a Fake RAID controller, such as Highpoint's 1xxx, 2xxx, and 3xxx series), stick to Areca or ATTO Technology. Both can be loaded with either EFI or BIOS based firmware, and have drivers that allow them to work in quite a few OS's (OS X, Windows, and mulitple flavors of Linux). Of the two companies, Areca offers both additional features (certain cards) not available in any ATTO (i.e. ability to upgrade the cache capacity), and they tend to be less expensive as well (better value).

    Actually, it's not as bad as you might think. The '09's use PCB traces on the logic board to transfer data to and from the drives to either the ICH10R or Apple RAID card if installed (it requires a firmware feature to do this, and isn't available to 3rd party cards). But MaxUpgrades make a solution to use the HDD bays with 3rd party cards. The disadvantages are that it's an additional $165USD, and you loose the ability to use the 4x SATA ports on the logic board.

    But in your case, it doesn't apply, as the '08's have that handy little iPass cable (aka MiniSAS SFF-8087 connector). You can just shove that from the logic board to the RAID card. Then you can regain the logic board's SATA ports with a cable (SFF-8087 to 4i*SATA breakout cable; depending on the card, Areca even includes these with their internal port cards, which is really nice, as they're almost $30USD each :D). Beyond brilliant, and I think will help you, given what you want to do for boot drives (hint: use this cable + one SSD per OS, stuffed in the empty optical bay). Those ports will be capable of booting either OS on the SSD's. :D

    That's another reason why the '08's are my favorite MP model ever made (the cabling details also apply to the '06 - '07 models, but they're EFI32, not EFI64 based firmware as yours is). You've really lucked into it in terms of hardware RAID. :D

    Very possible in your system. See above for how to attach the drives. Mounting is easy as well, and inexpensive (Scythe Rafter). Power is easy too, as you only need a Molex to 2x SATA power adapter (I tend to use eBay for easy cables like this, as the total cost isn't bad; BIN + Free shipping or cheap shipping).

    This will depend on a few things:

    1. Does the card have drivers for both OS's (boot functionality doesn't apply to what you're wanting to do now, but if you change that down the road, they can only hold either EFI or BIOS, not both). So for boot capabilities, you could end up needing separate cards (one per OS in a MP). This doesn't happen on the PC side.

    2. The filesystem used (i.e if it's NTFS, FAT32, HSF+). Of the 3, FAT32 is the only one that will natively be usable by both OS's (or if software such as MacDrive will work in a RAID array - I've never tried that).

    To go any further though, I'm going to need some details:
    • Port Count (best to add 4 to that for future expansion, or you'll have to get a new card each time you want to expand the array)
    • RAID levels desired
    • Throughput requirements
    • Do you need/want to use the HDD bays with the card (you can use internal ports with external enclosures, it just requires the correct cable, and a PCI bracket to run out of the system)

    With the above, I can point you to the right card. ;)

    Other advice:
    1. Use a UPS (+ card battery too = ideal, if possible, but the UPS takes precedence if it's one or the other)
    2. Use enterprise drives (more reliable than consumer models, and built for RAID; if the card is a SAS unit, which can run SATA disks <that's the direction cards are going, as it's less expensive>, they're picky with SATA drives, and you'll end up having to run enterprise to make it work)
    3. Always check the HDD Compatibility List before buying drives (not all card vendors have them, but those that actually manufacture their gear are more apt to have them, such as Areca and Atto)
     
  5. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    #5
    oops

    I actually missed the bit about your Mac Pro being a 2008 model. I would plan to use Windows from one of the HDD ports on that machine. There are reports around that the ODD ports on this particular MP model do not work with Windows.

    If you still want a Raid card the Areca seems the way to go. Nanofrog recommended a cost effective SSD holder for that.
     
  6. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #6
    The '08 is easier to deal with for such implementations. Even though the SSD's are mounted in the empty optical bay, they're attached to the SATA ports used in the HDD bays as configured at the assembly point by a simple cable.

    It completely skips using the ODD_SATA ports for anything, so the SSD's will be able to boot and work in AHCI mode for either OS. Simple and effective. :D
     
  7. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2009
    #7
    thanks so much nanofrog! .. you really make it clear to us raid-noobs :)

    ok so to answer your questions :

    * Port Count (best to add 4 to that for future expansion, or you'll have to get a new card each time you want to expand the array)
    > ok I will take +four :)

    * RAID levels desired
    > well I have a 4TB NAS RAID5 box currently ... so why not stick with 5, but I have also heard good things about 6 ..

    * Throughput requirements
    > I'm a software developer, so I want RAID to hold my development branches.. and compilation should be fast there.. so I guess ... pretty fast... but I'm not making movies...

    * Do you need/want to use the HDD bays with the card (you can use internal ports with external enclosures, it just requires the correct cable, and a PCI bracket to run out of the system)
    > I want to use the four internal bays for RAID ... I have four 1TB drives in there right now... and as mentioned before, reuse my onboard SATA -NON-RAID ports for the OS boot drives... I'd like to have one RAID volume dedicated to Windows... and one to OSX ... for whatever code I am developing on each platform ... sharing between platforms isn't really that important .. an external expansion port might be nice, but if i can reuse my 4 internal SATA ports via the empty ipass socket... well.. then it might not be critical (especially as I have another ~3TB RAID5 NAS storage for archival) ...

    all OS boot disks will eventually be SSD .. and kept small, easily cloneable, very reliable.. no real need for RAID there ...

    thats basically my plan... so if you could point me to some cards.. that would be MUCH appreciated...

    cheers



    With the above, I can point you to the right card.
     
  8. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #8
    4 port card with an SFF-8087 connector for the iPass cable, 0/1/10/5 capable at a min....

    The ARC-1212 ought to do you. :D

    Even with only 4x enterprise in a RAID 5 config (since that's its max drive count), you should be able to avg. ~275MB/s reads on the outer tracks.

    Fast enough?
     
  9. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2009
  10. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    #10
    I was wondering how you would be booting your Windows drive. If all four HDD ports are dedicated to the RAID array you are left with the two ODD ports only. That is fine for OS X but there could be a problem to boot Windows.
     
  11. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2009
    #11
    well my understanding is that I re-use my now empty ipass connector to reclaim an additional four regular (bootable) HDD ports..? This is something you can't do on an 09.. (as you don't have an ipass connector on the motherboard) ... don't need to touch the ODD ports... that was my understanding anyway...
     
  12. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    #12
    OK, that makes sense. And the drives would go into the 2nd optical bay?
     
  13. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #13
    yup - two little SSD's ... squeeze them in there :)
     
  14. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #14
    That's one of the really nice things about the earlier systems ('06 - '08). It would have been possible in your older MP, but no longer in the '09, as they went to PCB traces for the HDD bays.

    Booting Windows off the ODD_SATA ports in the '08's is impossible, but the SFF-8087 to 4i*SATA breakout cable allows it to boot from the original HDD ports (4 port group in the ICH). Just plug in the connectors in the right locations, and voilà. Sweet. :D

    Mounting is really easy, and the Scythe Rafter is cheap enough there really isn't a need to DIY a mount any longer to save on funds where possible. :)
     
  15. Varmann macrumors member

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    Jan 3, 2010
    #15
    I am impressed by the level of knowledge of this forum!

    I am in a situation similar to that in this thread.

    I have:
    MacPro 2008
    Bootdisk: intel 160 GB OSX
    Internal Storage: 5 x 2TB (3 bays + 2 in 2nd optical storage, non-raid)
    External storage: 2 x 5 x 2TB (Firmtech and Sonnet via Sonnet E4P)

    I want to change this to:
    Bootdisk: intel SSD160 GB (triple boot with win 7 and Linux)
    Fast work disks:3x fastest SSDs I can get in raid0, together with the bootdisk in a Transintl DX4, not needed for other OS.
    Internal Storage: 6 x 2TB (4 bays + 2 in 2nd optical storage, non-raid)
    External storage: 2 x 5 x 2TB (Firmtech and Sonnet via Sonnet E4P)

    What is the best layout for this (cards and cables)?
    Something like this?
    * SFF-8087 to 4i*SATA breakout cable to the DX4 and 4 SSDs
    * ARC-1212 to the Ipass cable (and the 4 2TB disks in the bays)
    * 2 x 2TB in Optical storage to the 2 ODD sata ports on the motherboard
    *
     
  16. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    #16
    You may have problems with three partitions on a 160 GB SSD. If the controller doesn't find enough empty space for wear leveling the SSD will lunch itself quickly.

    As a rule of thumb there should always be at least 20% unused on each partition.
     
  17. Varmann macrumors member

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    Jan 3, 2010
    #17
    Thanks for the advice!

    I normally use little space on my system disks (my OSX bootdisk have about 25 GB used). I intend to do the the same with the win7 and Linux partitions, having most data on external disks.
    I do not plan to use the triple boot much, most times VM does the job perfectly well, only occasionally is it wort the hassle to reboot.
     
  18. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2009
    #18
    got my RAID card... hit a little snafu on the install though ...

    basically I need a cable that will extend the existing Apple 4xHDD cable (SATA data+power) that plugs into the iPass socket on the motherboard... because that won't reach the socket on the RAID card .. so what i need is a cable, about 12" long, on one end is the equivalent of the ipass socket on the motherboard and on the other end, an internal mini-SAS 4i plug ...

    any ideas where I might get one?

    thanks

    ps: the caldigit works only because the card is much longer than the arc 1212 .. so it can reach the hdd ipass connector....


    update:
    still no luck :(
     
  19. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #19
    There is one company that does, and it's for Macs. I was hoping you could find a way to re-route the cable (this works in some cases), but if it's not possible, then use the MaxUpgrade's MaxConnect Cable (it's the right version), but it's also $90USD.

    I've never found another supplier. It would be a custom order from a place like cs-electronics, and they'd get it made for you. I've not priced it from them, as the Maxupgrades cable is ready-made, and easier. Not to mention, either it's not going to be cheaper or their supplier may not be able/willing to make it, as you essentially need a project box to house the female connector PCB. You can try though, but don't let them see what Maxupgrade's site, or they may set the price at the same amount, even if they can get it for less.

    Just give them a description of the following if you request a quote (do it over the phone, they're knowledgeable, and easy to work with):
    length
    Male SFF-8087
    Female SFF-8087
     
  20. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2009
    #20
    once again - nanofrog to the rescue! :) thanks!

    the ipass cable in the mac pro is *just* long enough to reach the ipass connector and 8-pin power connector over on the right hand side of the motherboard.. however there's a good 8 inches from there to the connector on the RAID card... so I just couldn't see a way to do it..
     
  21. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #21
    There's variances in the length of the cable, and even 1 cm can make a difference. You could pull the system appart, but I'm not sure it will help in this case, as I'b getting the impression yours it rather tight (i.e. remove the fan assy. to re-route IIRC).

    The card certainly matters, and the CalDigit (POS in my experience), is fairly long. Longer than most these days (though the Areca's that have a DIMM slot to upgrade the cache tend to be longer than the other versions where the cache is fixed to what's soldered to the board).

    At least MaxUpgrades has a solution, though a bit pricey IMO.
     
  22. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2009
    #22
    well i took the thing apart .. and even removed the ipass cable connecting the drives ... it is this :

    http://www.welovemacs.com/9227682.html

    there's no wiggle room with this thing... probably 'by design' ...

    the caldigit card is 'full length' .. in that it reaches the slots in the fan case... the areca card is tiny in comparison...
     
  23. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #23
    The cable used in the system was a custom unit for that system, and the length was only meant to get it from the HDD bays to the logic board, and it's not that long as a result for 3rd party cards.

    It's been made to work with the longer Areca's (ARC-1680ix models), that have the DIMM slot for the cache (adds length). It was still tight, but it did make it in an instance or two, after re-routing a bit to get ~1/2" IIRC. It was definitely tight. The shorter cards, no. I forgot to mention that. :eek: Sorry.

    At least there is a solution, and it's still cheaper than the adapter kit needed with the '09 systems. ;) I'll take a $75USD savings any day. :D
     
  24. mlabs thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2009
    #24
    oh absolutely .. and not to forget all the $$ I saved by *not* buying the apple or caldigit cards too ... :)
     
  25. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #25
    I was only thinking in terms of adapters to make the 3rd party card work, but as an overall statement, quite true. It's amazing what the ARC-1212 can do, especially when compared to the Apple and CalDigit cards. For less $$$ no less! :D

    WAY faster processor and better features on that card. :) I just need more ports than what it can offer, and I like the ability to upgrade the cache. :p
     

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