Replacing external striped array with striped SSDs

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Cmd-the-World, May 23, 2011.

  1. Cmd-the-World macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    #1
    Current set up I would like to replace

    I currently have an eSata RAID enclosure (CalDigit S2VR HD http://www.CalDigit.com/S2VRHD.asp) set up for performance. It does it's job well (except for some inconveniences with my previous computer). However I am thinking of replacing it due to the following factors:

    1) It is 4 years old and I am worried that the hard drives would start to fail.
    2) Currently I am using it under Windows 7 and there is no software controller for it.
    3) Next to my Mac Pro it sounds like a jet engine.

    I use the drives to edit HD video and long down time is costly. If a hard drive fails I currently do not have a back up system (the data is backed up) in order for me to continue. I am worried (not sure about this) that if a drive fails I would need it's driver software in order to rebuild the stripped array which is not compatible with Windows 7.

    Proposed System and questions

    I have decided to get 3 SSDs and place them in the Mac Pro's Hard disk bay. I was thinking of using Windows disk manager to stripe the drives. Is this possible or do I need a RAID card? I am thinking of buying the Corsair Force 120GB SSDs; if I stripe them would I get the theoretical 750MB/s Sequential Read and Write speeds or do I end up with the speed of 1 drive?

    Another thing when I boot to Mac OS X would Mac OS X annoy me every time to initialise them? If it is the case is there a method to disable the pop ups?

    Capacity isn't a huge problem as these act as my working drives once the project is finished it would be dumped onto the CalDigit which in turn is backed up. Normal project size is about +/- 60GB.

    Sorry for the long post. Any input is appreciated.
     
  2. keantan macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2008
    Location:
    Penang, Malaysia
    #2
    If your looking into Raid and want to boot multiple OS's I would have thought Hardware raid would be more suitable since it takes the OS out of the equation to handle the RAID array.

    Cards like Areca I have heard are pretty decent although I couldn't suggest a model. (I don't even have a MP but have been lurking around here as a potential soon-to-be).

    Using a hardware RAID card SHOULD mean that OSX wouldn't force you to initialise them each time as they appear as a single Volume to the OS (regardless of formatting).

    I have heard of reliability and Tech Support Issues with Caldigit on the forums. If someone can prove me wrong I would consider using one in the future though.
     
  3. Cmd-the-World, May 23, 2011
    Last edited: May 23, 2011

    Cmd-the-World thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    #3
    That is another reason why I want to replace it. It used to give me a few inconveniences nothing major. Never required their tech support.

    Maybe I wasn't clear I don't need the SSDs to be functional under Mac OS X as I use them under Windows 7. Currently I am editing under Windows 7 using Premier CS5; that is when I need the drives. I use Mac OS X for anything else, surfing, burning blu ray discs, assignments... (Not Mission Critical) I am keeping an eye out for FCP X maybe it would suite my needs and switch totally to Mac OS X then all I need is to reformat the drives.

    I am steering clear of RAID cards as I am on a tight budget and they can offer more complexity to my needs. Even though I live in the EU few outlets ship to my country thus making it very hard to find the cards I want (Even more expensive)
     
  4. philipma1957 macrumors 603

    philipma1957

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2010
    Location:
    Howell, New Jersey
    #4
    if you use the internal bays you will max at 550 not 750 this is due to the limit of the internal controller of the mac pro. on the good side a pair of intel series 320 160gb ssds will do the job . they should give you 550 and 440 speeds. be killer reliable. and cost about 300 for 1 or 600 for 2. I am not sure what will happen when you boot with osx but even if they come up and ask to initalize when you osx boot you don't have to do it. this method will give you an extra bay and be pretty stable. the seller of the intel is buy.com on ebay as item number 380333583897
     
  5. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #5
    Instead of a RAID card you can get a PCI-E SSD. These are more likely to hit close the the 750 MB/s limit. Which I doubt you would hit with three SSD's in RAID 0 without a RAID card as software RAID is not as effective.

    The OCZ RevoDrive x2 line boasts 740MB/s read and 720MB/s write (600MB/s sustained). OCZ also makes the Z-Drive that boasts 1.3GB/s read 1.0GB/s write but sounds as if it is way out of your budget. OCZ also still has the original Revodrive at 540/450MB/s. I did not bother listing them as they did not seem worth it for the small savings.

    480GB
    240GB
    160GB
    100GB

    512GB Z-Drive

    Note: Tigerdirect lists in their FAQ that they ship internationally but you must phone the orders in, link. Newegg does not ship internationally I just linked that drive their for you to have a model number reference as Tiger wants more for the 160GB than the 240GB.
     
  6. Cmd-the-World, May 23, 2011
    Last edited: May 23, 2011

    Cmd-the-World thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    #6
    I knew in the back of my mind that there was some bottleneck but I could not find it. 550MB/s would be enough. The Intel SSDs are tempting but unfortunately I don't live in the US and the only retailer that is able to get it for me cost a fortune in shipments (more than half the price of the SSD). I wasn't able to find a reliable online seller to ship to country. At least the I found the Corsairs at Amazon uk (PS I don't live in the uk but at least ship to my country) and seem to be reliable at least with the V2 firmware.

    I had a look at them previously but as far as I know and understood the PCI-e SSDs would not work under Mac OS X as the required drivers were not made by OCZ. Since I don't know about the future if I would migrate permanently to Mac OS X or remain with Windows I would not like to buy something that would limit me in the future.
     
  7. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #7
    That card is essentially a RAID card with the SSD built-in. From what I have found the Revodrive X2 uses the Silicon Image SIL RAID controller, Funkyit and Andandtech. This is listed as compatible in Mac OS X 10.4 through 10.6.

    When looking at low cost RAID controllers for the Mac. The $300 Lacie 713113 is listed on Lacie's website as being Mac OS X compatible. I have also found several listings detailing it as using the Silicon Image 3124 RAID controller, Powermax.

    I don't know if either is bootable. They should work in RAID as non-boot drives though. From what I have read on the subject it's been possible to get the Revo to work in Leopard with the old silicon image drivers (1.5.16.0) but it was unstable in Snow Leopard. Now Silicon Image has updated drivers (2.0.5.0) for the 3124 that are Snow Leopard RAID compatible.

    I could not guarantee compatibility. The available evidence does indicate the card would work with OS X. Just not officially. It would be great if a member with a Mac Pro running Snow Leopard and happens to own one of these cards could test the driver out.

    As for making either card OS X bootable as long as the OS has the drivers it should work. So you would have to boot off a normal drive install the drivers then use a program like carbon copy cloner to clone the drive to the array. Unless the cards firmware cannot communicate with the Mac's firmware.
     
  8. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #8
    Why not use Premiere CS5 on OSX and rid yourself of Windows?

    At any rate, just keep it simple and stripe them using software RAID0 in Win 7 or OSX. The max throughput for me with three striped drives is actually 625MB/s (the theoretical limit on the ICH is actually 660MB/s)... http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=841556

    Dont make a mountain out of a mole hill :)
     
  9. Cmd-the-World thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    #9
    I am currently using the Matrox Axio LE which is Windows only and I had to modify the pro by adding another PSU in order to have a molex connector to use their proprietary power cable. Besides it flys through encodings and have a large number of real time effects ;).

    Sorry if I bored you to death :eek: I don't want to make a mistake with the purchase.
    When I did my searching I failed to come across your thread. MR should upgrade the search function give options which thread to search and not give search results from all threads.

    The only annoyance is going to be Mac OS X asking to initialize the drives since they are going to be formatted as Windows LDM (due to striping). If I could find a script or something to block the pop up that would the problem. (I don't know if it could be done)

    P.S. initializing under Mac OS X means format the drives.
     
  10. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #10
    This would be a good idea IMO, as it's completely software based (not sure how you have it configured. Software is fine for 0/1/10 and JBOD, but it's not really suited to other levels, particularly parity based arrays.

    If you can't handle down time, then a stripe set isn't the best way to go. Even though SSD's don't have moving parts, not all of them are created equal (some brands have a bad reputation in terms of reliability, such as OCZ; not sure on Corsair, but it wouldn't surprise me, as these sorts of companies don't actually manufacture the products they sell).

    If you do go this route, I'd recommend going with Intel (they have a good reputation in terms of manufacturing quality for their SSD's, which translates into longevity). SSD cells will wear on you, but probably not die out before you plan to ditch the drives anyway (presuming ~3 - 5 years, which is typical).

    But you might want to consider RAID 5 via a proper hardware controller (can actually exceed the throughputs of the SSD's with enough members in the set, and it's redundant). Thus if a disk dies, you don't loose the data on the array (second disk dies, and you will). But the point of this particular level is a balance of high performance, max capacity with redundancy, and cost.

    This will offer you redundancy, more capacity, possibly faster performance (will with enough disks in the set), and possibly even longer life (depending on how you thrash the SSD's, and the specific models; i.e. cheap version that uses MLC rated less than 10k writes by the NAND Flash manufacturer).

    Unfortunately, No.

    The ICH (I/O Controller Hub, which is what contains the SATA ports and a few other things), has a throughput limit of ~660MB/s (not 550MB/s). But there is information in MR that SSD's don't scale well when run on it under a stripe set created by OS X.

    Faster is possible, but it will involve a PCIe card (6.0Gb/s would be the right spec to be sure you're not throttling on the card). Unfortunately, there's not any inexpensive internal cards of this type for the MP (only one I know of, and it's $400 USD). The RAID versions aren't much more for the features you get, so you'd be better off getting one IMO.

    A hardware RAID card won't do this. The system sees the array as a single volume (there is spin up, but that occurs when you boot the system). By the time the OS is loaded, they're up to speed.

    Areca is a good brand to use, as is ATTO. Now as the OP wants to run it under Windows, driver support is all that will work (no attempts at booting Windows off of a RAID card in a MP has ever worked). So you'd need to use a separate OS/applications drive, and an SSD would be perfect for this (fastest tech for random access performance, which is what this sort of usage requires).

    They're horrible (don't design their own products = don't know how they work). They drop support too fast, and I've also had an instance from hell with the CalDigit RAID card they offered back in 2008, as they shipped them before the bugs were worked out (unstable from the word go, and they used consumer grade disks = beyond stupid, as they're notorious for instability on RAID cards). It was eventually returned after weeks of testing, and got an Areca as the replacement. Things went smoothly after that (their support staff do know what they're doing, as they actually design their own products).

    And I'm not the only one with bad experiences from them (it's here in MR somewhere if you want to do a search - look under the RAID threads).

    Stripe sets will be kinder on your budget (though SSD's are the most expensive disks in terms of cost/GB). But you won't get any redundancy this way.

    So I'd suggest examining downtime as flexible or not (if it's not, you need to run a redundant level of some sort, and use smaller mechanical disks to save on funds - RAID cards require enterprise grade HDD's in order to be stable).

    This is another possibility, but there's a couple of things to keep in mind:
    1. Will not boot in a MP.
    2. Expensive.
    And as you mention, this will likely be out of budget.

    I'd stay away from these if RAID 5 is intended to be used, as they're software based cards.

    The reason, is the Silicon Image 3124 is not a RAID controller. It's just a SATA controller that supports Port Multipliers (LaCie likely uses Silicon Image's PM chips as well, and when paired with a Silicon Image SATA controller, the PM functions properly - mixing chip brands for this application can cause issues).
     
  11. Cmd-the-World thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    #11
    Thanks all for your input much appreciated. Sorry for the delay but I was tied up with work.

    Downtime is slightly flexible I can afford a few hours max. With the CalDigit I am calculating that it might take about 2 days downtime which I can not afford. (if I am able to get it back online).

    My reasoning is with the SSDs if 1 fails I can quickly reformat the remaining 2 drives and continue working. The data is continuously being backed up on the Drobo FS and CalDigit. Worst case scenario is that the drive fails during encoding which could set me back max of ~ 4hrs (depending on the project). Even with 2 failed I could force the system to continue at an extremely sluggish pace but enough to finish the day until the replacement units arrive.

    I am trying maybe I would be able to get my hands on Intel SSDs but it is hard to find for the same price as the Corsair drive. This is due to the fact that I managed to find the Corsair on Amazon UK (Amazon UK as the seller) whilst I did not manage to find the Intel SSDs on Amazon UK (where Amazon is the seller) thus relying on my local store. Since it would became a special order there are higher charges due to shipping and insurance... It would end up costing me the same cost as buying 4 Corsair SSDs. And arriving in about 4 weeks after I would have placed my order.


    I don't feel that I need the redundancy of RAID 5 and the other draw back is costs. As stated in the previous paragraph it would cost me a fortune just to ship the enterprise drives and the RAID controller.
     
  12. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #12
    This will depend on how it's configured, as would anything else (single disk vs. stripe set, or RAID 10 on the ICH for example). Not sure how fast the CalDigit is with RAID 3, but it's an older product, and they're not known for blazing speed either.

    Keep in mind, that even if you reconfigure the remaining drives in the stripe set, you still have to restore the data off of the backups, and that speed is going to be dependent on the speed of the backup system as well as the amount of data to be restored (backup source's throughput will be the bottleneck in this process).

    Then there may of course be the need to re-perform work that was lost between the last backup and the drive failure.

    It adds up, so that's something you need to consider carefully before you make any decisions. I realize budget's an issue, but you may be better off going with RAID 10 on the ICH (at least if a disk dies, you just put a new one in, and it will rebuild automatically, so no wasted time via direct intervention - you can also still continue to work in a degraded state). This is slower than usual, but you won't have to stop what you're doing and take the necessary time to fix matters first, then continue.

    Just a thought (applies to any redundant array level, but as you mention RAID 5 is out of budget, 10 would be the only compromise that offers both redundancy as well as additional throughput). You could even attach them to a 4 port 6.0Gb/s SATA card at some point in the future to speed things up a bit (get it off of the ICH and get the SSD's full bandwidth - or near it, as PCIe 2.0 is good for 500MB/s per lane).

    Not sure on UK pricing. The best site I'm aware of, is span.co.uk, but they don't always carry what a user may be looking for (not sure of other really good sites located in the UK - assuming that's where you're at, given the mention of Amazon UK).

    Down the road (and I mean ASAP), it would be in your best interest to get the necessary hardware for a RAID 5 implementation for primary storage (use the SSD's in a stripe set for raw speed, including used as a scratch/cache location). Software RAID isn't the best way to go as it doesn't have the recovery robustness and features of a hardware RAID controller (you'll figure this out when you've experienced failures on both types of implementations :eek: ;)). Thus there is a compromise using software RAID, but given your budget, it's the only option ATM it seems...
     
  13. Cmd-the-World thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    #13
    It is set for performance with its own software which doesn't support Windows 7. So the down time is going to be to connect it under Mac OS X as the software I think is still compatible. I asked the person that sold me the CalDigit and previous editing system told me that it is very buggy to set up I keeps crashing a lot.

    The time to re-transfer the entire working project is about 15mins (~60GB) at least currently that is how long it takes to transfer from the CalDigit to the Drobo FS. Transfer time is not to long. Every ~ hour or so I create a new Premiere file (same project with multiple files like Versions). I do this because once I learnt it the hard way were at the very end of a project Windows XP decided to do a cold shut down and the file became corrupt thus losing the entire project. When I create a new file I back up the old file. So if the SSDs fail I will only lose about an hours work plus another half an hour to reformat and retransfer of data.

    I am not sure what Windows can do as I am primary going to use it under Windows then in the future MacOS X. Windows have the bad habit of hiding the RAID names. I have no idea about RAID 10 I need to do some research on how it is implemented.

    You mean Scan UK ;). No i don't live in the UK but I could buy from Scan UK as we have the franchise in my country. We are able to get whatever Scan UK has to offer but anything that isn't available (IE everything that is costly and doesn't work well with the mass market, like SSDs) there is a shipment and insurance penalty. Amazon UK (as a seller) Ships to Europe not just UK.

    When the finances are better I would add a RAID 5.
     
  14. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #14
    Definitely skip the CalDigit under Windows then (presumed the existing Windows drivers worked under Win7 well enough to get the thing setup properly).

    Assuming 60GB is the entire project, it won't be that bad (assuming you use the ICH for a RAID 10, it's performance is ~ that of a 2 disk stripe set, so figure on ~200MB/s <based on ~100MB/s per disk>).

    You could reduce the backups to every 30 minutes as a means of reducing the amount of work that needs to be re-performed.

    Windows is capable of 0/1/10 and JBOD as well.

    I can't recall for certain if there's issues with it running or not under the MP (via separate disks on the ICH). IF there's a problem, the system's firmware would be the issue, as the hardware used in the MP is based on the same ICH10 and ICH10R (R just adds a simple hardware RAID controller that also offers RAID 5) as used in any other Intel based board running the LGA1366 CPU's. A search here in MR would be a good idea as well (could save you some effort).

    If you can manage it, I'd recommend trying out a pair of drives in the MP in a stripe set for Windows (using the ICH).

    Oops. :eek:

    I know of companies here in the US that will ship internationally, but not sure what the shipping charges or how the VAT is handled (whether it's added to the bill and the carrier will remit this for you, or if you'll have to take care of it yourself).

    Might be worth a look as a means of getting what you want though, assuming you don't get gouged when you add the shipping costs. Better yet, if you've friends or family here in the US, they could act as an agent of sorts, and re-ship it to you (under the impression it's possible to claim it as a gift to reduce costs).

    Definitely the way to go in the long run IMO, especially if you'll need/want more capacity, as mechanical, even enterprise disks, are cheaper in terms of cost/GB than SSD's.
     

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