Need advice on configuring storage for current 2011 Mini and eventual 2012 iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Mike Valmike, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. Mike Valmike, Jul 2, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2012

    Mike Valmike macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2012
    Chandler, Arizona
    Hi, folks.

    OK, so my 2009 iMac has been retired into light duty and I grabbed a 2011 Mac Mini to tide me over until the 2012 iMac is released. (For reasons not at issue here, I am able to repurpose the Mini for a family member afterward.)

    What I need to learn is whether a combination of SSD+HDD and Thunderbolt storage will perform the way I need it to, when I buy the eventual iMac. Because if so, I think I might as well buy the TB storage now and get things working with it. Here are the parameters:

    1. The usage of the Mac 80%+ of the time is as a media server to two AppleTV3 devices in the home, for my wife and kids and occasionally even me. :) The rest of the time I use it for personal surfing, photo editing, video editing, writing, and video encoding.

    2. My collection of movies/video, mainly blu-ray rips of ~5GB each and DVD rips of ~1GB each, plus half a terabyte or so of music video, is about 5.5TB total. All of this needs to be servable to the AppleTV, meaning it has to be in
    the iTunes library.

    3. For other reasons not at issue here, iTunes has to "manage my files." This means that I don't get to separate out my music from my movies within iTunes. I tried to do this setting my media drive to an external 3TB USB2 drive, and OMG it was s-l-o-w to do ANYTHING in iTunes, even renaming a song. So at present my workflow is a kludge, keeping music in iTunes and using Rivet to serve media off external drives to an Xbox 360. The Xbox is going away once I make the upgrade. Rivet is a real resource hog.

    4. I would prefer, but not exclusively pick, a solution that I can implement right now with the 2011 Mini and continue with the 2012 iMac.

    My initial thought was: order the 2012 iMac with an SSD plus the largest HDD they offer, likely still 2TB knowing Apple, and use the SSD for the OS and apps and the HDD for the user directories. Then get a Thunderbolt RAID and set the iTunes media directory onto that. The RAID can start at like 6GB for the LaCie ones, and I can actually scale up if needed. I don't mind having additional external boxes in the equation because my desk abuts a hardware cabinet that can conceal while feeding cabling.

    However, there are things I don't know:
    - Is Thunderbolt fast enough do this or will I be in agony every time I try to do library polishing in iTunes? How does the speed of Thunderbolt compare to the speed of an internal SATA drive?
    - Am I creating a bottleneck somewhere for media serving versus my normal usage, where someone in another room won't be able to watch a BR rip smoothly because I'm encoding video over here?
    - I see a Promise TB RAID for $2500 and a LaCie TB RAID for $750 -- why is double the capacity more than triple the price? What is it about the Promise drive that I don't know, that would suggest that I get one?
    - And what if I got the cheaper $600 LaCie TB RAID and ripped the drives out, resold them, and installed a pair of 4TB drives?
    - Finally, if I am building this for long-term use, should I bite the bullet and by WD Black drives for everything, swapping out whatever is already there? I heard something about a temperature pinout in the iMac drives that makes this impossible... or is it? Surely I could use Blacks in whatever RAID enclosure I bought right?

    I do not mind in the slightest using my existing external 3TB USB3/USB2 drives as purely backup media once I have a solution in place, so a pure mirrored RAID is not a dealbreaker, but it would be nice. I could probably prune enough deadwood out of the media collection to use an 8TB RAID of 4+4 with 4TB of usable space. Like I said, my concern is: What don't I know that could make this plan not work and then I've spent a bunch of money I can't recoup?

    EDIT: I just noticed there is a Promise TB 4-bay RAID too? See this is what I mean! Someone out there has to know more about this stuff than me. What if I bought the 4-banger for $1150 and resold the four 1TB SATA drives and slapped in four 3TB/4TB drives? Seems like that would be awesome right? Or is there something about this that will make it too slow/too clunky/not good for storing an OS-managed iTunes library?

    OK that was a mouthful and well beyond the bounds of TL;DR. If you got this far I want to thank you just for reading it. Any advice or suggestions (or warnings!) you have to offer are gratefully requested.
  2. Mike Valmike thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2012
    Chandler, Arizona
    So, nobody knows anything about this stuff? Wow, didn't expect that.
  3. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004
    That's a lot of questions and you are going to do a lot of research yourself.

    The current LaCie thunderbolt raids are only two drives if I recall correctly? That's an entirely different use than a 4-6 drive raid. Totally different products, with different goals.

    What's wrong with using a couple of external 3TB USB3 drives which will be 3-4 times faster than a USB2 drive in real world usage.

    The insistence on using a raid setup to stream compressed video and audio is a little extreme, and very expensive.
  4. Mike Valmike thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2012
    Chandler, Arizona
    Will it? I tried using USB2 drives in this way and you couldn't do ANYTHING in iTunes. It took forever even to rename a song. I mentioned that for reasons beyond the scope, I needed to have iTunes "manage my files." I guess I should clarify now: it's both because of the size and breadth of the collection, especially my thousands upon thousands of music videos, and because of other people in my family not being especially competent at file management and me not wanting the media collection to become a disaster from their constant quick-and-dirty imports. My wife is the worst offender -- my kids actually tuck in and clean it up for the most part, but not always. Anyway, Apple doesn't let you separate out what's managed in the iTunes database and what isn't. It's all in or none of it is.

    So, whatever drive I use, it has to be the drive for all iTunes media. When I tried using an external drive for that it was clearly nonworkable. Macs don't have USB3 yet so I have no way to tell whether that will be acceptable. But Thunderbolt is out there NOW. Is Thunderbolt good enough? Only way I figure I can find out is to ask someone who is using it. I have no idea how fast a TB drive really is -- the published numbers don't really tell me the answer to the question, "Is it basically just as good as using an internal HDD?"
  5. lali, Jul 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012

    lali macrumors regular

    Oct 14, 2007
    Hi Mike,

    I am surprised by the slowness you mention, it might be because of usb2?

    All of my data is stored on external drives in a couple of fw800 enclosures.

    I manage about 4TB of data, which is tv shows, movies, and music. I do not have an ssd nor am I using thunderbolt.
    My iMac is an old one, it is an alu 24" 2.4GHz with 4GB of ram. Nothing extraordinary there.

    Managing my iTunes library is quite simple really. All my tv shows rips and movie rips are tagged with iflicksapp, and my music is eifher purchased from itunes or ripped from original cd's, so my metadata is well organized.

    Importing my whole library into iTunes, from scratch, is not screaming fast but it works well. After it is all loaded I do not see any kind of a slow operation in any way at all. It just works. Renaming a file takes no time, there is no lag.

    I am feeding this media to 2 appletv2's (not hacked or anything) an ipad, etc. Etc....

    So I am writing this long text just to tell you that with my old hardware, on fw800, the setup is solid. But to make sense of all this media, it needs metadata encoded in the files. I just add files to my library and the hardcoded metada tells itunes how to manage my data.

    Now I am in the same boat, looking towards my next upgrade with the new I/O ports (tbolt, usb3) so I am looking forward to the recommendations of others who have moved to the latest platform.

    Best of luck

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