Non-Apple RAID card for Mac Pro 1,1

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by fieryhail, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. fieryhail macrumors newbie

    Nov 11, 2011
    Hello all,

    I'm looking to add RAID-5 in my Mac Pro. I know it's not possible from software. Running OS X 10.6.8, 17GB RAM. I want to use 4x Hitachi Ultrastar 1TB drives in a RAID-5 config (tradeoff with capacity and redundancy). I am thinking of installing an adapter for the second optical bay to use 2x 2.5" SATA drives and booting from there using the 2 unused SATA ports on the mainboard. Most likely SSD, one for OS X Boot, the other for Windows 7 x64 dual boot. I don't need much capacity for my Windows use anyway, only a couple of games that are not OS X native, Battlefield 3 and Metro 2033 currently. I have experience with hardware RAID in the non-OS X world, Linux, WIndows, etc. but RAID support in OS X is more limited from what I gather. My normal "go to" manufacturer is LSI and second, Adaptec. I understand LSI has recently made inroads in OS X RAID, and Adaptec still not although I could be wrong on this.

    Seems like 3 companies are the primary choices for OS X hardware RAID, ATTO, Areca, and HighPoint. I'd prefer to stay away from HighPoint as from what I understand they don't actually manufacture the RAID chips, they merely put them on their PCB. Unless someone has a better idea I'm trying to decide between ATTO and Areca. I have seen the ATTO ExpressSAS R348 which can be configured in either 4/4 or 0/8. I'd be interested in the 4/4 config (obviously). I'm leaning towards the 8 port model so that I can in the future (whether in this Mac or a newer Mac Pro) add an external SAS enclosure and continue to expand my storage without replacing the RAID card or adding another one. Any ideas, suggestions? Has anyone had experience with the R348 or similar? As I've stated, I have RAID experience in the non-OS X world, but thus far only software RAID for OS X. While I have had no issues with the RAID-0 stripe in OS X, I don't wish to trust 4x1TB drives to RAID-O, nor do I want to lose half the capacity. I already understand the cons of RAID-5, mainly slower write speeds, but I believe that spread across 4x drives, the write speeds will still be more than sufficient for my uses.

    My primary usage is heavy virtualization (and when time permits, gaming). I do not do video editing, capture, etc. I DO however run in excess of 8 VMs at once though. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
  2. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    You won't be able to boot into Windows off the two spare SATA ports, there are numerous threads about this.

    I don't have any experience with hardware raid in OSX, but again, there are a number of threads about this topic.

    Good luck.
  3. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    I'm not the biggest fan of Hitachi's since they moved their manufacturing facilities to China, as their defect rates have gotten crazy.

    The reason this matters for the Ultrastar's (or any SATA based enterprise HDD), is that they share most of their mechanical parts, and even the controllers are very similar (enterprise versions have different firmware and add some sensors to the controller board; most upgrade the platters for a higher unrecoverable bit error rate - WD is the exception, as they use the better platters in their consumer models <i.e. Caviar Blacks have the same platters as the RE variant of the same capacity>).

    Another thing to do before buying disks, is check the RAID card manufacturer's site for HDD's they've tested as compatible (you'll go through hell if you don't). So pick a model off of the list, as it will save you endless aggravation.

    This would work for OS X, but not Windows. You'll need to use one of the primary SATA ports to do that, but it's possible (possible to physically locate the Windows disk in the empty ODD bay, but it requires a cable; either a standard internal breakout + tap into the Molex 4 pin for power, or Apple's cable if you want it to carry power as well).

    Another alternative is to get a bootable SATA controller and use that instead for the Windows drive (external is possible as well, though I presume you'd rather not ;)).

    I'm not a big fan of either these days.

    Supposedly LSI has developed drivers for OS X, but I seem to recall it's a hack (i.e. trying to use Apple's drivers as LSI makes the Apple RAID Pro for them). Adaptec will not work.

    Of the brands that do work with OSX, I'd stay away from Highpoint (they manufacture NOTHING). Instead, they buy products from others and develop their own crappy drivers. Support is abysmal at best, so if there's a problem, you're libel to be screwed (happened to others that have tried their products in MP's).

    So stick with either ATTO or Areca. Between them, they're both very good cards. ATTO has a leg up on support (located in the US), but you pay for it. Areca has good support, but since they're based in Taiwan, there can be a delay if you're using email, and English isn't their native tongue (emails can take a few reads to try and interpret). They do have phone support, but you'll have to deal with the time zone issues and be able to call at unusual hours.

    Performance wise, they're very close, but Areca has a bit of an edge. Especially if you're after a large cache or more ports than ATTO offers (some models use a DIMM slot rather than solder the RAM to the controller board).

    But where Areca really wins, is on value for money. It's cheaper than an ATTO, and they also include internal cables, which sweetens the deal even further.

    So if you're comfortable working with RAID cards, I'd recommend going for an Areca.

    I generally recommend getting 4 ports more than is initially needed, as it's less expensive in the long run (planned life-cycle) to upgrade capacity (and/or change levels if needed).

    By doing this, you get into a flip-flop scenario where you add disks, then replace them rather than replacing them each and every time additional capacity is needed (and other levels may not be possible, depending on the ports available, such as a nested parity based implementation on a 4 port card).

    As per SAS enclosures, I'd recommend taking a look at Sans Digital's offerings (TR4X or TR8X). They've been proven to work well, and offer the best value out there (they include external cables, which typically go for ~$60 per for 1 meter lengths, which is the max distance with SATA).

    Hope all of this helps. :)
  4. codymac macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2009
    Let us know what you do and how it works out!

    I've got an LSI 1068 (doesn't do what you're looking for) in my desktop and couldn't be happier so far.

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