The new Mac Pro's expandability advantages

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by ZnU, Dec 21, 2013.

  1. ZnU, Dec 21, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013

    ZnU macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #1
    Quite a lot has been made of this machine's supposed lack of expandability relative to its predecessor — which seems to mostly mean a lack of PCIe slots. It's worth noting that there are use cases for which the new Mac Pro is far more usefully expandable than the old one.

    Folks have pointed out that the old Mac Pro can be loaded with with a couple of modern GPUs, and will perform decently. Some has asked why, if that's true, people are so excited about the new Mac Pro. Here's why. If you're building out a machine for, say, DaVinci Resolve, and you start with two double-height GPUs... congratulations, you now get to decide whether you want a video I/O interface or a RAID controller... because you've only got one slot left. When you opt for the video I/O interface (because Resolve is unusable for professional grading without real video monitoring), you're left with a machine that has no external storage interface faster than FW800 (~80 MB/s).

    The only real way around this problem on the old Mac Pro was to buy a PCIe expansion chassis, but those make Thunderbolt to PCIe enclosures look cheap, they're bulky, they have awkward cabling, etc.

    None of this is an issue with the new Mac Pro. You've got two fast GPUs on board. Video I/O is trivially provided by a Thunderbolt device, and you're still left with lots of Thunderbolt ports (each ~25x as fast as FireWire 800) to connect to a RAID, a Fibre Channel or 10 GbE interface, or practically anything else. The new Mac Pro accommodates this expansion-heavy use case much better than any Mac Apple has ever made.

    For added bonus points the machine itself is tiny (which can matter for some video customers, who might want a high-powered system they can take on location), and because your high-priced peripherals are external, they're not locked up in a single workstation — a facility can very easily move them between systems (including laptops!) based on where they're most useful. So, for instance, with a RedRocket card in an external Thunderbolt enclosure, you can use it in a color grading suite with a new Mac Pro while grading R3D footage one day, and then the next day, if the suite is being used to grade Alexa footage, use the RedRocket with a MacBook Pro to crank through some transcoding work. Given the price of some of this pro video gear (a RedRocket card is $4750), this is a very useful capability.
     
  2. Neodym macrumors 65816

    Neodym

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2002
    #2
    I think people who point out the option to upgrade the graphic cards usually take a used MacPro as substitute for the xMac that Apple simply refuses to offer. They don't benefit from the improvements you mention as they don't face such scenarios.

    Car maker Porsche once referred to used Porsches as affordable entry offerings. I think the same has been true for used Mac Pro boxes.

    With the new Mac Pro following a completely different concept, that might not work anymore in the future. Thus the pressure on Apple to release a feasible solution for those customers will grow - if the desktop market is still economically interesting enough, that is.
     
  3. Macsonic macrumors 65816

    Macsonic

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Location:
    Earth
    #3
    For external expansion on the new Mac Pro, other companies or video design studios take into consideration the expenses for expansion. My friend who works in a TV production firm, they have about 15 classic Mac Pros, and doing some accounting on finances, if they would shift their system to the new MPro, that would sum up to expenses multiplied 15 times unlike a single user. Entails careful evaluation long term from a business standpoint.
     
  4. Bear macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2002
    Location:
    Sol III - Terra
    #4
    Would they actually upgrade all 15 at the same time? Or would they do one or two at a time?

    Yes they must still consider the cost, however it isn't one giant lump sum.
     
  5. Macsonic macrumors 65816

    Macsonic

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Location:
    Earth
    #5
    They were considering on a staggered basis, I guess it's their call whether to push thru or not. My former boss used to crack a joke, "Better to manage a smaller company, you'll have lesser headaches along the way and you can sleep better " :D
     
  6. slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #6
    I don't understand why people keep comparing the old Mac Pro (basically a 3-4 year old motherboard) to the new one.

    Yes, under certain circumstances the New Mac Pro is going to have a lot of advantages in expandability and speed. The old Mac Pro was using merely 4 slots of the now-antiquated PCIe 2.0 technology, in addition to SATA II and USB 2.0. It's also using an older processor.

    Of course, under a great many use-cases, the new one actually falls short of even the old Mac Pro:
    1) CUDA.
    2) PCIe throughput (for >3000MBps storage, 2-4 port miniSAS, Etc.)
    3) Internal storage
    4) GPU upgradability/configurability
    5) RAM expandability

    IMO it seems like the old Mac Pro has incredible longevity, but when you look at it in terms of the rest of the workstation/PC market, it's really just that the new Mac Pro is just compromise after compromise.

    If you're just going to compare the new Mac Pro to another product whose only similarities are that 1) they're both computers 2) they have a similar names, Why not go even further? Compare the current Mac Mini to the new Mac Pro. Heck, compare it to the iPad. The new Mac Pro is a totally different product from the old one.

    Especially for expandability, I think it's a far more helpful comparison to look at what else is available. I can build a 12 Core Xeon PC with dual 7970, 16GB RAM, a similar Hard drive solution (dual SSD in RAID0), 8 PCIe slots, and room/SATA ports for 8 more drives for ~$5000. Meanwhile the cheapest nMP with a 12 core is $6500. You can quibble over tech support/warranty differences, but in terms of expandability, the nMP is a joke compared to such a machine. Sure, you can get a TB --> PCIe expansion chassis, just add another PSU as a point of failure and subtract from your anemic 6GBps of total thunderbolt bandwidth, in addition to the cost. You can also add external TB storage to the new Mac Pro with similar downfalls. This kind of "expandability" doesn't impress me. The nMP user will pay a huge premium to externalize their PCIe and storage solutions, some or most of which could have been cheaply internalized in a standard PC case.

    Want 24 cores? I can build A PC with one for <$8000 with otherwise similar specs to the nMP. This option is not even available for the nMP. Take any standard PC and you can replace the motherboard to add another processor ($350-500 for the motherboard). That's not to mention GPU upgradability and options which is some sort of weird reality distortion black hole for a lot of nMP advocates--having 2 non-CF FirePro cards is a very specific range of use-cases (No CUDA, mid-range for games, totally unnecessary for CPU-centric workflows).

    TL: DR; Not everyone fits into the little box where the nMP has any advantages over other products in the marketplace especially in terms of desired expandability or upgradability. Comparing it to 4 year old options from a single manufacturer notorious for neglecting its product lines is not a very convincing argument.
     
  7. wildmac macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    #7
    Of course, about 75% of the folks here raging about the lack of expandability have probably changed one PCI card or less in the past years, but it makes them feel better about themselves since they can't afford the nMP anyway.

    Another 10% are the "pros" with big investments in older hardware who will have to buy all new if they are going to move up.

    Another 10% are pros who aren't looking forward to paying for whatever Blackmagic releases at NAB in April.

    The last 5% are the guys who are trying to figure out how their SyQuest 44 drives are going to hooked up to the nMP. :D

    I do see a lot of folks buying USB3 enclosures since TB enclosures are still too expensive for storage that isn't accessed frequently.
     
  8. ZnU thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #8
    We've generally found that staggered upgrades make more sense, because at any given time you'll have access to systems with a range of capabilities. You'll always have one or more of the latest boxes for tasks that require that, and older boxes can be moved to less demanding roles.
     
  9. wildmac macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    #9
    The other discussion that would be interesting is what apps and processes need the speed of the TB enclosures for storage devices, given their expense? Once you get beyond the video apps, and some of the rendering apps, does anything else need TB speed?
     
  10. slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #10
    Well that sounded very elitist. Clearly we're all just poor people who are butt-hurt that we can't afford it. Well I for one can afford the new Mac Pro and am happily enjoying my GTX670 and my eSATA card in addition to my Bluray Burner and multiple-terabytes of internal storage. I don't need to upgrade because I'm doing fine with my PCIe slots.

    Yet another expense and another PSU as a point of failure.
     
  11. ZnU thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #11
    It's hard to think of many other use cases (were anyone has historically used Macs anyway) that require that sort of bandwidth, but I imagine the extremely low latency is useful for some audio use cases.
     
  12. wildmac macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    #12
    Tired of the whining and tears...

    Sounds like you have built up a rig that will last you for a while, so... what's the issue? If you needed a new rig, you would buy one.

    So a USB3 device is doomed to failure any going to melt through my desk when it does? Imagine that.. Well, had 2 internal drives fail in my MacPro at work this past month, so maybe... any drive can fail?
     
  13. ZnU thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #13
    That's absolutely the case. Apple is an opinionated company that makes opinionated products.

    But I'm not even sure we can say in the general case that the new Mac Pro is appealing to a smaller slice of the market than the old Mac Pro. It certainly makes different tradeoffs, and consequently may not appeal to some specific customers that the previous model appealed to. But it likely appeals to new customers that the old model didn't appeal to.
     
  14. wildmac macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    #14
    Quite true. And really, a core segment of the MacPro market are folks for whom all these arguments are really periphery noise. They buy a nMP, buy an external HD, install Adobe CC, and they move on and just see the shiny new hardware.

    Looking at the 60ish MPs at my work, only 3-4 are going to have any issues with a nMP other than the fact that they'll need an external HD now. Those 3-4 are in the video dept, and they have some old hardware, and we don't have a big budget to replace stuff.
     
  15. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #15
    What cabling is awkward? I prefer mini-SAS over Thunderbolt, myself. It locks into place, and carries data faster.

    One has to question why nMP fans feel the need to convince non-fans of the benefits of a device they determined to be unfit for their needs. Are they just trying to save them from doom, or what? If it's so much better, they should be keeping it a secret to stay ahead of the competition, rather than tell everyone how much better it is.

    I think the reality is that they question the benefits themselves, and worry that their purchase is wasteful lust for new gear, and also worry that if everyone else doesn't join the party, it will take longer for Thunderbolt to really take off, if it ever does.

    Don't worry, you brilliant geniuses... more and more TB devices are being offered, and I'm sure your purchases will be justified. Insulting non-fans probably has the opposite effect that you're going for, so try giving it a rest and enjoy your clairvoyant wisdom?
     
  16. Macsonic macrumors 65816

    Macsonic

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Location:
    Earth
    #16
    Good observation. I reacted in a similar way on my current setup and apps I am using in relation to finances.
     
  17. wildmac macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    #17
    The ranting about the "limitations" started before the fanboydom kicked in, and the argument has raged since.. :rolleyes:
     
  18. ZnU thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #18
    I was referring to the cabling used by e.g. Magma boxes to add PCIe slots to an old Mac Pro. Stuff like this:

    [​IMG]

    And people think Thunderbolt cables are expensive? That cable is $299.

    A Magma ExpressBox 4? $2399 (to be fair, it does include the cable). The old Mac Pro was somewhat cheaper to expand right up until the point where you needed more than four PCIe slots (or more than three if two of your cards were double-height GPUs). After that prices skyrocketed with the move to external PCIe. Meanwhile, some Thunderbolt peripherals are no more expensive than equivalent PCIe devices, and even if you do have to resort to putting a PCIe card in a Thunderbolt enclosure, there are options now from $199.

    Of course, one could argue that Apple should have shipped a machine with both four PCIe slots and a bunch of Thunderbolt 2 ports, but without jumping through some crazy hoops they couldn't have offered single processor options, as there otherwise wouldn't have been enough PCIe lanes to go around. So the starting price point would have been a fair bit higher.

    This machine solves very concrete day to day problems for me that I detailed at some length at the start of the thread.
     
  19. Cubemmal macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    #19
    Agreed. I've bought a few PCIe cards for oMP and it was basically a waste. Flaky drivers and limited selection. The only worthwhile was GPU upgrades, but I don't mind getting dual D700 now, they should last me for many years.

    I'm fine with pitching PCIe since it was never really a good Mac choice anyhow IMO.
     
  20. chfilm macrumors 65816

    chfilm

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2012
    Location:
    Germany
    #20
    Please stop it with the "i can build a cheaper one..." posts :apple:
     
  21. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #21
    I've yet to buy an 8088-8088 cable, since they've always been included in the box with my device purchases. An entire 8-disk RAID box and two 8088 cables cost only $399. I *did* buy two 1m 8087-8088 (internal-to-external mini-SAS) that were $54 before I found these 2m ones for a lot less. I only wanted 1m max length, though. They're all much less than $299, but they can be as much as your average TB cable.

    I'm trying to avoid Thunderbolt completely in its current state. When Thunderbolt or some other new cable system advances to about double the speed of TB2, I will be happy. My reason for this is the use of an x8 lane PCIe card. I recognize that I'm wasting half of the x16 lane (PCIe slot 2) that the card uses, but with the nMP, I'd only be able to use half the speed of the card in an external TB enclosure.

    It would be great if Thunderbolt got twice as fast as today. If so, I could use it with my hardware on both a desktop and a laptop. It would be great if Pegasus offered an empty 8-disk TB box rather than just the empty R4, and I'm not really interested in buying another eight disks at their high prices. The WD2003FYYS currently go for $150 (at least that's how much I paid) and the newer WD4000FYYZ are only about $350 each, so it makes a lot more sense to buy empty boxes and populate them with my preferred disks. I get the disks I want at a better price, which of course the Thunderbolt device makers probably don't like, explaining why they don't offer an empty R8.

    I will want a new Mac Pro someday, but for now, it is a step backwards for me. I'm hoping the 7,1 or maybe 8,1 will fit me nicely. I guess I've been lucky, or made good choices, since none of my PCIe cards have had any issues.
     
  22. slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #22
    You were attempting to say that most people (you said 75% of people) lamenting the loss of PCIe slots not only don't really use them but are really only upset because they "can't afford" a new mac pro and are therefore justifying their decision not to get one. I was pointing out this juvenile argument makes you look like a snob.

    List this forum by most popular threads and tell me how many people don't upgrade their GPU/use their PCIe slots. Literally millions of page-views on discussions on video card, other PCIe upgrades, internal storage, and CPU replacement.

    The PSU of an average PC or workstation is going to be much more reliable than that of the average external drive enclosure. I don't think anyone would deny this.

    It's also wasteful, noisy, and unnecessary to have a separate PSU just so your main PC can look a little smaller. Enjoy your 80mm fans on your cheapo USB enclosure, or enjoy your high-priced multi-drive array trying to get back the internal storage of the previous model Mac Pro :X
     
  23. ZnU thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #23
    Again, the cable illustrated above is not an 8088-8088 SAS cable. It's a cable for the external PCIe expansion chassis you'd have to resort to after running out of PCIe slots on an old Mac Pro before getting around to actually installing a RAID controller.

    What are you actually doing that requires 4000 MB/s of bandwidth? Uncompressed 8K video? Four or more simultaneous streams of 4K uncompressed? What storage system are you using to supply this? 8+ RAIDed SSDs? 36+ RAIDed HDDs?

    Maybe you'll be the first exception I've run across (no sarcasm intended here, honestly), but I've seen a lot of this kind of hand wringing over the new Mac Pro over the last few months from people who didn't actually own equipment capable of utilizing, and often didn't have use cases that could actually benefit from, the bandwidth they were morning the loss of with the shift away from PCIe.

    Also, it's worth noting, between the GPUs and the Thunderbolt ports, Apple is using every PCIe lane the CPU supplies — there is no bandwidth locked up in this machine that you can't get to because it doesn't have slots.

    Areca makes an empty 8-bay Thunderbolt RAID system. I imagine it will be updated with Thunderbolt 2 support before too long. Alternatively, just take your favorite PCIe SAS RAID controller and toss it in a Thunderbolt 2 PCIe enclosure. (None are presently shipping, but Sonnet is offering free Thunderbolt 2 upgrades on their current models and those could very well land before the new Mac Pro.) That gives you the same options for cheap enclosures you have with SAS, except you can easily move your SAS controller between systems and use it with laptops. This is the solution we've decided on. (Although I'm investigating just biting the bullet on iSCSI/10GbE or FC SAN.)
     
  24. slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #24
    I am not very lucky with hardware, I just read a few reviews of products before I bought them and I've done just fine. I've been using my RocketRaid 2314 eSATA card for ~5 years now with zero problems. My Gigabyte Windforce GTX670 is quieter, more reliable, and faster than anything that ever shipped with a cheese-grater Mac Pro (apart from maybe the Quadro?).

    I've done some window-shopping online (may upgrade to SATAIII) and I have to say that PCIe on Mac has never been better in terms of quality products and reviews.

    I'll be sad when that market goes away and we're relegated to a handful of lame Thunderbolt product manufacturers. Here's to $900 for an under-powered Thunderbolt -> MiniSAS controller! Weee
     
  25. ZnU thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #25
    Internal storage becomes irrelevant past a certain point because even on the most (internally) expandable systems it is, ultimately, pretty limited. When individual projects can run to multiple terabytes, and you might need access to old projects at any time (i.e. you can't just archive them off and never look at them again), external storage, typically either external RAID or some sort of SAN solution, becomes the only sensible option. All of our machines have had no job-specifc data (except perhaps tiny project files) stored on internal storage for years — including on old Mac Pro and on Wintel systems where there's plenty of room for such storage. The new Mac Pro just reflects what we've been doing anyway.
     

Share This Page