Resolved Need help choosing new external RAID for an old Xserve 2.1

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by Xserve2.1, Oct 10, 2015.

  1. Xserve2.1, Oct 10, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2015

    Xserve2.1 macrumors newbie


    Oct 10, 2015
    Berlin | Germany
    Good morning good people!
    I need your combined expertise and help for a buying /modding decision, please.

    The situation:
    I bought an old Xserve (2.1, early 2008), currently running Lion Server and it serves as mediaserver (Plex + musicDB for Sonos) at home. Also included in the package was an old Apple RAID. As its HDD capacities are rather limited and just too small for my intended use, I am looking for an external RAID upgrade. However external RAIDS are new to me, as is fiber channel, etc, up to now i relied on Synology for my server needs. Also I am not that familiar with Xserves so I don't know what the limitations are in terms of connectivity.

    The need:
    Additional Storage capacity for my mediaserver (currently Xserve 2.1). It should work with any other server in case I switch out the Xserve in the years to come.

    The Options as I see them:
    1) NAS (e.g. Synology RS815 plus expansion), connected via ethernet (fyi: we have a 1000 BASE-T copper infrastructure at home)
    2) External Raid (8-12 bays, rack-mountable) connected via:
    a) existing 2x FC-cards (Apple 2 Port 4Gbps FibreChannel card: pci1000,646)
    b) new FC-cards?
    c) new SATA cards? (does that even work? would it work with an Ubuntu running the server?)
    d) any other method of connection?

    I am clueless as to what way I should choose and which products I should buy for that. Or did I overlook a better solution?

    Thank you for your help, I appreciate it a lot!
    Best, Nick

    EDIT: Currently I run OS X Lion Server on it. Should I go for a more up-to-date OS, like Ubuntu? It will run on a stock-Xserve with minimal changes, I researched that. But will it run on a 'modded' Xserve (e.g. new connectivity via new FC or SATA PCI-E cards)?
  2. satcomer, Oct 10, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015

    satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    Then look at your network! How fast is your is internal SWITCH? Are you using at least CAT 6A since you are trying to run a 10Gbase -T network?
  3. Xserve2.1 thread starter macrumors newbie


    Oct 10, 2015
    Berlin | Germany
    We are currently still remodeling our house. We have CAT 7a cables in the floor, but I just now checked pricing on 10GBase switches. :eek: Guess we will have to work with 1000Base Ethernet for the time being. (I edited the first post accordingly).

    But you would suggest not to use a DAS with the Xserve? Rather than a NAS?
  4. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    If the X-Server had Thunderbolt then a DAS connected Thunderbolt would be great? However the quickest port first generation FireWire on that 2008 X-Serve. So any DAS with FireWire ports on it will be hard to find!

    IMHO the current generation of Synology products you could get one that that with it's Apps could do 85% of with older servers could do!
  5. Xserve2.1 thread starter macrumors newbie


    Oct 10, 2015
    Berlin | Germany
    We have several HD (1080p) transcoding streams simultaneously going on (the majority of synology products can handle that) and the computing power of the xserve gives a lot of bang for the buck. Plus it's sitting here, no going back on that. Could not find a FW DAS (also: slow throughput) and Thunderbolt can not be retrofitted.

    Which brings me back to the question: How should I expand the storage of the xserve? Currently I am leaning towards an USB 3 PCI-E card (although only x8, not x16) and an old Sonnet R800 (new: 2.900€, I can get one for 290€). Would I limit myself too much in terms of bandwidth compared to other ?
  6. hwojtek macrumors 65816


    Jan 26, 2008
    Poznan, Poland
    If I used a Mac Mini Server, I'd tend towards such home-user solutions like USB3, however you've got some serious machinery over there and I fail to see any reason to cripple the xserve with low-end hardware.
    That said:
    - the Sonnet idea is great (actually I am that close to Berlin, that I'd consider jumping into this €290 deal if you won't, for another project),
    - the USB3 idea sucks,
    - I would personally rather invest in an NAS and used an iSCSI initiator future-proofing the setup (my xserve is 8 years old and still alive & kicking).
  7. jamall, Oct 11, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015

    jamall macrumors regular

    Jun 9, 2003
    Canberra, Australia
    Any of the LSI-based SAS host bus adapter PCI Express cards that are OEM branded (Dell, HP, IBM, etc) with external mini SAS ports should work without too much effort in OS X and can be had for well under $100. Depending on which cable you use, you can connect to SAS RAID arrays, eSATA RAID boxes, or, if you also supply the power, to as many as 16 naked SATA drives which you can build into your own custom RAID array. You don't need to get one of the more expensive SATA3 cards if you're just going to use big 7200rpm drives either, SATA2 will be fine. Just double-check Mac compatibility with the exact model card before you buy it, some need additional drivers installed.
  8. pmgrnvl macrumors newbie

    Aug 21, 2014
  9. pmgrnvl, Oct 12, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2015

    pmgrnvl macrumors newbie

    Aug 21, 2014
    I wouldn't get too hung up on things with this unit. It's a solid (if somewhat old) server but still plenty reliable. Lion Server is solid enough, and as long as the Xserve is kept cool, it should work nicely. No way, however, would I worry about fancy Fibre Channel or whatever with this old unit. I think that's overkill and potentially wasted dollars. If it were me, I'd buy something like an OWC Mercury Rack Pro:

    You can connect this out of the box via FireWire 800, and though that isn't living up to the potential speed, it actually works quite well in RAID 5 mode (I have done this with three of these).

    You can also connect via an eSATA card if you want: The Sonnet Tempo SATA Pro 6Gb 4-Port should work well. It's $170 or so. USB3 is also a valid option with the OWC Mercury, but finding a suitable USB3 card for that age Xserve may be challenging, though they are out there. Yes, in theory, that's faster than FW800. In practice, you may not see any difference due to the limitations of the network -- and the Xserve. Anyway, I'd use an internal Xserve drive to boot, and set shares up on the OWC.

    What I like best about this solution is that if (really, let's be honest: when) the Xserve dies, you can replace it with a Mac mini i7 (get 16gb RAM, 256 PCIe flash and use that for booting), then hook the OWC up via USB3, and you're off to the races with darn near zero effort if all your data is on the OWC. Trust me, that flies.

    And, for the units we have on our 2006 and 2008 Xserves via Firewire, they serve a prepress department daily with a 12-20 users pushing huge files.

    To me, this is straightforward, cost-effective and offers you options down the road that protect your investments.

    P.S. After I posted this I saw the notes about transcoding video. That's going to take horsepower, yes. But -- as someone who "parents" a bunch of Xserves from that era, I'd warn you not to spend a ton of money on an Xserve specific solution. Those units will fail, and when they do, they will be a pain in the neck to fix. Sure, you can scrounge scrap units and such and buy stuff on eBay (been there) but the reality is that if what you are doing generates income, i.e. it is production-level revenue-generating work, I'm not sure limping along an old unit is economically smart. The solution I described above is cheap, and would actually do well for backups or a storage dump. But for your needs, I can't help but think a Mac Pro connected to something like this:

    would be better.

    "Fibre Channel DAS has been dethroned. Featuring Thunderbolt 2 speeds of up to 1330 MB/s and 48 TB in a 1U rackmount size, the LaCie 8big Rack has seized the crown. Video pros, meet the king of storage for 4K workflows."

    I have one of these connected to a new (2013) base-model Pro and the speeds are incredible. You could in theory even set this up with a Mac mini, then move to a Pro as money allows. The mini likely would exceed the base performance of that older Xserve.

    Sorry for the length of all this; just giving some ideas.

    Good luck,
  10. hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.
    Setup my department is running now, that is 24/7 rock solid for up to 200 users connected over AFP and SMB.

    iStorage mini-SAS storage using the Areca PCIe RAID card. The RAID card is mounted in a 2009 Xserve, but once that is retired, it can be moved to an external Thunderbolt box and connected to any modern Mac, or we can drop it in any other platform server, preserving the ability to use the hardware connected to just about any hardware. Our setup:

    RAID Card
    mini SAS storage

    If you were running Thunderbolt now, you could commit to that, but that is out of the question unless you replace the xserve.

    Very happy with this setup. Fans are little loud on the storage box, but fairly normal for rack mount gear. Other than issues in about 18 months of use. If you don't need that many slots, you can shave the price down with a smaller unit. Areca has a cheaper RAID card, with lower max throughput too.

    And...yes, you can get other mini SAS enclosures from the source of your choice (RAID cards too), but I bought here cause I wanted to be sure that the gear was tested for Macs, on Macs, and came with support from Mac fans and users.

    Lots of enterprise storage suppliers are not Mac folks, so be careful when choosing.
  11. Xserve2.1 thread starter macrumors newbie


    Oct 10, 2015
    Berlin | Germany
    Thank you all very much for your time & input! It helped my A LOT!

    I just wanted to come back to this thread to post my results for future use by s/o stumbling on this thread:

    The old xserve will get an ATTO ExpressSAS R380 RADI controller card (came as part of a package), connected to an old SONNET R800 (8 SATA Disk slots). That setup is not the fastest there is, but for our intends and purposes (Transcoding/Media-/Streamingserver mainly within our home) it suffices. The components cost me 290€, which is a bargain, afaik.

    The RAID will be populated with (in the first step) 4x 3 TB Seagate.EC (ST3000NM0033), which sport 6Gb/s (although the SONNET/ATTO combo delivers only 3Gb/s), so they will probably make it to the next generation RAID, once either the xserve or the sonnet dies. Or, as Pete suggested, it will transition to archiving/mirroring purposes via external thunderbolt-box, if everything holds together up to the point where we laugh about 3TB of hdd space. ;)

    All in all it seems reasonable in terms of value4money. 290€ the RAID infrastructure, 120€ per hdd. And all components can work without the xserve, if needed.

    Now as for this ubuntu-stuff... *crawls into the next forum*....

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10 October 10, 2015