Optimising new Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by macinfojunkie, Sep 22, 2009.

  1. macinfojunkie macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    #1
    I got bored posting negative comments about the lack of Mac Pro updates and on a little bit of a whim just picked up a refurb 8-core 2.66 (standard spec) from the Apple web-store. Hopefully it should arrive in the next couple of days so I'm starting to plan how I am going to set it up the internal storage and what I might be able to do in terms of upgrade a little down the line. I decided not to go for the hardware raid card from the outset - keeping that off the spec sheet allowed me to jump up from the 4 core to the 8 core so I figure in the long term I'll have a better system as I can always add a bit more memory or a raid card later on if I feel the system lacking in any area. Likewise upgrade the GPU - but I'm sure that even the current stock version will be an improvement of the the performance from my 128GB ATI card my old G5!

    My day to day usage will be around the following apps in order of priority and level of usage.

    • Aperture (and some light Photomatix/Photoshop)
    • Autocad (via Windows XP Parallels) & Google Sketchup/IDX Renditioner
    • iMovie - To be upgraded to FCP when SL optimised version is released.
    • Logic Studio - hobby use only.
    • Handbrake - main reason I wanted 8 cores :p
    I'm hoping to avoid using BootCamp and just run everything Windows wise off a Virtual machine. I know it won't be the fastest, but it is usable just about on my MPB so I figure it should be markedly quicker on the MP. I don't bother with games so don't much need the raw GPU performance of native Windows.

    Anyhow, here is my plan:

    Storage:I intend to bin the 640Gb drive that comes with it and install 4 * 1.5Tb drives. I have 4 * 1.5 Tb Seagate HDs waiting to be installed. These are the same ones that had all the issues when they came out and required a firmware to fix. They have been sitting in a spare Drobo waiting to have the firmware flashed - but as I had no SATA PC or Intel Mac Pro could not do it until now!...(How do they perform after the firmware update are the stable once updated?) Will software raid 10 be "enough" or is is there a way to mix and match the Raid sets e.g. Raid 10 for OS/Apps partition and Raid 0 for data? I'm thinking Raid 10 which should give me about 2.7TB usable or Raid 0 which would be a bit faster and give me almost twice the capacity. I already have a Lacie 4Big 6TB and 3 Drobo Bays (6Tb, 4Tb and 2Tb) that I can also use for Backup - I backup to 2 CronoSync + Time Machine as it is so unless drive failures were a regular occurrence I could probably get away with the Raid 0 model if they could be mixed. I'm not a big fan of having multiple partitions as I hate a cluttered desktop :)....... strange reason I know, but there you go. So I need to decide how to RAID/Partition the drives for best usability/performance.
    GPU Upgrade: GTX 285 or ATI 4870 - Which is best for the apps below? Either more stable than the other?
    Memory: I'll have 6*1GB stock. My plan was to upgrade this with 2*2Gb in the short term to give me 10GB. Then when funds allow replace the 1Gb modules with additional 4*4Gb modules to take it up to 20GB so as to keep the triple channel. Taking the marginal memory hit of dual channel performance seems to make more sense in the short term rather than go 6*2 as a stepping stone memory upgrade path.

    Anyway, after all that rambling, any advice on raid/partitions and possible tweaks/upgrades welcome.

    Cheers!
     
  2. pr33tz macrumors member

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    Nov 14, 2008
    Location:
    London, UK
    #2
    Congrats on your purchase. Just out of interest how much was the refurb 2.66?
     
  3. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #3
    hmm. RAID10 would be better for performance with the 4 drives. i wouldnt RAID10 two drives, not fast enough.

    it is not possible to RAID certain partitions, so that rules that out.

    maybe RAID0 two drives for bootup/user data, then RAID0 the other two for data?
     
  4. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

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    #4
    I calculated it as just under 15% off new price of a new base system. Not as much of a saving as I thought it might be, but I got excited seeing a 8*2.66 so got carried away after waiting a good while for 8 core refurb to pop up on the Apple store. It was purchased within 2 mins of appearing o the site last night :p

    CPU wise a Quad 2.66 would have been enough for my needs just now, but as I intend this system to last me 4 to 5 years I figures the memory expandability and the benefit of 8 cores would be realised in a year or two when software catches up with SL and * core hardware potential. It should also allow me to run more apps side by side I hope.
     
  5. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    #5
    What I was hoping to do was create maybe two partitions. One for OS files/apps/home drive etc Which would be a RAID10 for slight perf improvement and some redundency. Maybe have 25% of the capacity set aside like this so giving (1*6)*(.25/2), or about 700 (rounded down) Tb of usable space.

    Then stripe the remaining space at Raid0 to get one larger (about 2Tb I think) and fast volume for doing work and keeping the multiple versions/data for work in progress - this would be backed up regularly:

    • Nightly full drive ChronoSync (with archival) to external FW RAID on another system
    • Incremental changes via TM in between full backups
    • Every weekend the full backup from the external raid would be cloned to a pair of Drobos which are rotated off site.
    • Critical data is also backed up on DVD as and when the need arises.

    I'm not sure though whether that is possible using the software RAID and even if it is, whether the two different types of raid would work against each other since they were using the same spindles.

    Please keep in mind this system is not used commercially. Just hobby.
     
  6. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #6
    sounds like an idea. im having difficulty understand the configuration though (forgive my n00bness). so two drives will be in RAID10, and the other two in RAID0??

    after thinking it through it is possible, you wont be able to implement a bootcamp solution if you need it - you would have to have another dedicated drive for that.

    have you thought about the position of the partitions on the drives? do you want the speed on the boot drive of on the RAID0 drive?
     
  7. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

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    #7
    4 drives / Two partitions.

    Partition 1 made of up of a RAID10 carved across all for drives to 2 drive stripe set, mirrored.

    Partition 2 Raid 0 across all 4 drives (the same drives, since the system can only hold 4 without messing about). This is the volume that I'd copy to the External RAID each night - so if it failed I just take the external RAID and recovered from TM for anything I lost that day. Since most of the data is going to come from SD cards (photos) and HD-DV tapes (video) worst case is that I have to go back to the originals. I never wipe the SD cards until I have all the photos backed up in at least Aperture vault and all DV tapes are just kept indefinitely. My camera also backs up SD/CF when I take the photos too!

    I've set this type of thing up on severs in the past before (Albeit Windows land) mainly to facilitate the quick recovery of a system whilst maximising performance.

    I realise it is not optimal to have two competing RAID setups using the same physical spindles, but since the RAID10 set will only be used for reading the OS and App files and minimal write duty (temp files I suppose, although I'd move any major scratch files over to the RAID 0 partition) I don't think it should be an issue.

    Problem is I've never used the Apple RAID software before so not sure if it can handle it. I know I could do this on other systems, but you know how Apple is for closing off stuff that the rest of the industry takes for granted

    So if someone who knows software raid well can advise that this is possible then this is what I'll probably go with unless someone can come up with a better performing setup (without hardware raid, at least of the time being).

    I'm not fussed about Bootcamp to be honest, so won't bother with that on the Mac Pro. I've never had a need for it on my Macbook Pro for the last 3 years. Parallels seems to work fine for what i need. I suppose if I must resort to it I could set it up booting from an external HD -I have plenty of single platter HDs laying around idle at the moment since I moved over to Drobo/Lacie 4Big to consolidate my storage setup.

    How do I dictate the position of the partitions on the raid/spindle? Is that based on the order in which they are created. Disk Utility does not seem to have that control. but I could be missing something as I'm limited to what I can test until I get the system!

    Thanks.
     
  8. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #8
    makes sense. however a quick look into Disk Utility shows that it is only possible to do Mirrored, Concatenated and Striped RAID sets, so i am not sure about the RAID10 configuration. is an external RAID card an option?

    you will, of course, suffer some performance hits whilst launching apps and number crunching at the same time, but provided that your swap files are not being excessively used and whatnot i think the different wont be THAT much.

    EDIT: what do you know, you can RAID10 drives. im not sure how its done but you sure can do it, so that doesnt matter.

    as for the performance thing, two seperate partitions would certainly slow it down. you might want to consider a seperate setup if you are that concerned with performance.
     
  9. Abidubi macrumors 6502

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    Montreal
    #9
    Just remember you have to partition the drives BEFORE creating the RAID with software RAID.
     
  10. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

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    Jun 4, 2005
    #10
    Thanks. That's the kind of info I was after really. Good thing to know.

    So I presume I partition each drive lets say:


    USE ..........................Drive 1............Drive 2............ Drive 3............Drive 4...............................RAID
    System/OS..................25%--------------25%-------------25%--------------25%......................10 - Mirror A>B
    ...................................I.................... I.....................I.....................I
    .........................................--Stripe Set A-------\\\///-------Stripe Set B--

    Data/Workbench.............75%--------------75%-------------75%--------------75%.................................. Zero
    ....................................I.................... I.....................I.....................I
    ....................................---------------Stripe Set C--------------------------


    So I would effectively create 8 partitions on 25/75 split, identically across each of the 4 drives. Then use the Raid setup to 'join' the various partitions as shown above to create the raid sets. Is this right?
     
  11. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

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  12. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #12
    If you want to go with 10, you must use a min of 4 drives.

    No, you can't mix and match per se. You could pull the optical drive and go external with it, and use the SATA ports for the optical bays for a 2 disk RAID0, assuming you use the 4 HDD bays for 10.

    If you need the capacity, then use RAID0 for the system. It's also faster. Just be aware of the time involved of rebuilding the system when a failure occurs. Only you can determine this. But as a rule of thumb, if you're earning with the machine, then RAID0 is likely not the best choice, as you can miss deadlines if you have to spend that time meant for a job on rebuilding the array. If you have another machine that you can switch to to complete the job first, then that may be negated.

    If you only want a single logical volume, then you build the array without an partitions. Keep the capacity at 50%, and you'll stay off the inner tracks that will progressively slow you down (the fuller it gets, the slower it gets).

    ATI has good drivers for Core Image, and tends to do well with it. nVidia's drivers, not so wonderful (under utilizes the card's hardware in OS X so far). The OpenCL is hard to test yet, but it seems that the nVidia may have the advantage here. But without the software to utilize it, it's a waste to even plan in this regard IMO.

    Search the forum, as the information's been posted before.
     
  13. Abidubi macrumors 6502

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    #13
    Yes. Format and partition each drive the way it will be for the raid, then drag and drop the matching partitions to form a raid of the type you choose.

    25% seems a bit much especially for 4 drives. I am only using 2 640s for my RAID 0 and just took 10% for the system/applications and that gave me 138GB, 120GB is still free. I have 1 TB of free space for my data/user folder. Then again, I don't know how raid 10 works if you are using that. I split my system like that so that the OS files always remain at the top of the drive even in 10 years, so it wont get noticeably slower over time. In any case, 2 drives in raid 0 at 100% capacity is still faster than 1 drive at 10%.
     
  14. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #14
    wiki states that you can RAID10 with a min of two drives :confused:
     
  15. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

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    #15
    No it is quite clear that Raid 10 (or 1+) will by definition require a minimum of 4 disks since it is a stripe of two or more mirrors. You need a pair to make a mirror, and you can't stripe a single pair, then there are in effect a pair or pairs. I.e. 4 drives.

    I'm still not convinced about mix/match the raids. I can't see anything in the Disk utility help that says it can't be done, it evens says that partitions can be put into a raid set. Physical disks can have more than one partition. Is it an undocumented feature that multiple partitions from the same drive can not be placed in different raid sets?

    It would not surprise me! Apple sure could do with actually writing a technical document for a change instead of the noddy 10 mile high view they give in their support website and help files. Say what you like about Microsoft, but they provide ample documentation about all their key technologies. I've seen more complex instructions come with Fisher Price toys than most apple manuals!
     
  16. Abidubi macrumors 6502

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    #16
    Now how the hell could you do that? Stripe and mirror on the same 2 drives... isn't that even slower than just mirroring them? You're splitting the data in half and then copying the other half back over... what the heck is the point of that?
     
  17. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

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    Jun 4, 2005
    #17
    Maybe a picture might help the slow people at the back of the class:

    [​IMG]

    There are four physical discs.
     
  18. UltraNEO* macrumors 601

    UltraNEO*

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    #18
    Huh? I think your missing something there.... like what's the point of striping a pair of drives, only to backup/mirror the contents to the same set of drives as the stripe???? The mirror is supposed to be a secure backup!!! True RAID10 is constructed from a RAID0 + RAID1 set.
     
  19. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

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    #19
    All due respect to DoFoT9 I think he's confused himself and the rest of us to boot. He's somehow thought I was suggesting Raid10 with only two disks. I never said that. He introduced that in his early response. And attempts to explain that misconception have thus failed.


    Anyway, based on the diagram above. If I were to partition 25% of each physical drive to allocate to the Raid 1+0 elements shown. What is to stop me using the remainder of the disks (as shown in gray) in a single Raid zero set?

    If is a technical limitation of disk utility? Again I'm ready to believe it is not possible, although I would wish it were, but I can't find anything categorically stating it is not doable from Apple.

    @Nanofrog, thanks for all the input btw. I'd appreciate if you could comment further to clarify the mixing of raid types though. Cheers.
     
  20. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #20
    ^^^macinfojunkie, Abidubi, UltraNEO*

    Thanks guys, you saved me some time explaining that one. :D
     
  21. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #21
    Technically, I think it should be possible. :) With a true hardware controller, it depends, as some may not allow it, but currently isn't an issue for you.

    However, that said, it's not a good practice. The reason is mainly due to simultaneous access, as it will slow you down. That is, if you're doing some thing that wants access to both arrays at the same time, as they share the same drives. It also increases the overhead on the system resources, if that's going to be an issue (depends on CPU load).

    If you were thinking of 10 for OS/apps/data and 0 for scratch, you don't need to do that anymore. Scratch was created during the days when physical memory was atrocious in cost. That's no longer the case, and you can place everything on a single array, and bump up the RAM.

    If you still want to have a separate scratch array, you'd need to get a pair of drives and use them in the empty optical bay. You'd have to either add a SATA card or pull the optical drive and go external to regain the use of that port to make a pair. This is something to consider, even if you have to get the SATA card, as the '09 no longer possesses the IDE ports on the earlier models.
     
  22. Aravintht macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    i haven't read through everyone's posts.

    but it looks like the only reason you need windows is for Autocad

    just to let you know, autocad 2010 is going to be able to run from the 'cloud' as well as native on the mac.

    i am part of a trial group at university.
     
  23. macinfojunkie thread starter macrumors regular

    macinfojunkie

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    #23
    Yes that correct, certainly the most demanding resources wise. I'd still need a VM for a few other apps, but nothing as demanding as Autocad, so being able to run a fully Native version on snow leopard would be fantastic. I'd heard that Autodesk were starting to port more apps to the mac platform, but had not heard about AutoCAD being available so soon. Any idea when it will be released? (sometime in 2010 I assume :D)

    Thanks.
     
  24. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #24
    fair enough.. maybe i am confused. but according to wiki..

    so it is possible to do it, but not very useful performance wise.

    yea RAID isnt very well documented, it surely is possible AFAIK though i cant see you trusting me anymore :cool:

    a lot of apple's documents are online, have you tried looking through them there?

    redundancy? ;) :D

    haha ouch. that explains it nicely but.


    haha yes RAID1+0 i know that, im just confused by what i read.

    sorry for confusing everybody, i will shutup now.



    if your going to believe for one thing, at least believe me on this! it is possible.

    sorry again :(
     
  25. Aravintht macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    The version that is running off the cloud is pretty much done - not sure why they're waiting....

    the mac version still has a way to go. They've been trying different layouts/settings etc to make it easy to switch between mac and windows versions, but also make the mac version fit in.

    With the new features that Snow leopard has brought, ie sharing the load across the cores - i guess they'll be trying to get that into the mac version.

    no idea on release dates - but i dont think it is anytime soon! - only the cloud version is in beta
     

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