Thunderbolt Alternatives

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Rmafive, Oct 27, 2012.

  1. Rmafive macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2008
    Richmond, Virginia
    Hey guys,

    I have been waiting for a thunderbolt upgrade to the mac pro for almost a year now and I think I am ready to look into alternatives, as my machine is still pretty fast. I currently have a 16 TB Drobo Pro connected via FW 800 for streaming video to the Pro and multiple Apple Tv's throughout the house. The Drobo is really starting to get slow and I am just about out of space so I need to start looking into alternatives.

    I read an article about SAS Raid Cards and how that could possibly be my solution, but I know very little about this kind of setup. ( I don't know how practical an option like this (http:// would be for me. Would running a setup like the ProAvio be as simple as the Drobo Pro? I also like the dual disk redundancy of the Drobo Pro. My real question is: Should I get another Drobo (which would be pretty slow), a SAS Raid setup, or wait for thunderbolt and go with something like the Promise Pegasus?
  2. Rmafive thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2008
    Richmond, Virginia
    I hate to bump, but somebody must have some experience with raid cards!
  3. martinm0 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    Sorry, I don't have any experience with RAID cards. I did want to chime in regarding Thunderbolt vs FW800 RAID enclosures.

    I picked up a refurbished LaCie 6TB (2x3TB) Thunderbolt external hard drive about a month ago and have been pretty happy with it's overall speed. I've never really used many RAID enclosures with my iMac before as I had been using an HP mediasmart server for all my media storage so I was used to slower transfer speeds over the gigabit network.

    I had picked up two OWC Qx2 RAID enclosures off eBay a while back and recently sold them. I decided I'd test each out and make sure they worked before sending them off and found that when I setup two old 320GB HDDs in RAID 0. When I tested some file transfers I got around 100MB/s. When I tested the LaCie Thunderbolt array I got pretty much the same speed.

    While I didn't do any extensive testing, the short file transfers (25GB files) seemed to show that the transfer speeds really were not increased by moving to Thunderbolt. Granted, I did get the LaCie drive for $350 and not $700+ MSRP, so its something I'm happy with, but I wouldn't worry about jumping from firewire unless you have a large RAID array (6+ HDDs) or you're moving to SSD. Sure, Thunderbolt is fun and all, but just not blazingly awesome as one might expect with out a pile of SSDs.
  4. DJenkins macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2012
    Sydney, Australia
    SAS Raid is definitely THE already tried and tested way to get speed out of your HDDs.

    Even when thunderbolt makes it to the mac pro, SAS will still be just as capable a system for raid storage.

    But even with thunderbolt, your speed is going to be limited to the amount of HDDs in the raid. The more HDDs the faster it will be.

    You can set up a SAS Raid to have 1 drive redundancy (RAID 5 - minimum 3 drives) or two drive redundancy (RAID 6 - minimum 4 drives).

    What sort of speeds do you require? And what's your budget?
    Although you can make a RAID inside your mac pro, it's pretty difficult on the 2009 or newer models. You might be better getting an external enclosure as it sounds like you're looking at.

    A 4 bay raid 5 enclosure will get you at least 400MB/s
    An 8 bay will get you minimum 800MB/s+

    I know a lot of people advertise higher speeds, but I'm playing it safe here with real-world speeds I've gotten myself. Of course these speeds will vary dependent on what drives and raid card you're using.

    You can get premade boxes from proavio or Caldigit etc. or get an empty box and fill it with drives. Make sure you use enterprise drives.

    Now a lot of those premade boxes have the hardware raid controller built into the external box. In which case just a cheaper SAS card will work fine in your mac pro.

    These are cheap raid cards that aren't TRUE hardware raid cards. They are around the $250 range and will likely only do raid 0, 1, or 10. But as it's just the SAS interface, it's not doing any of the work.

    Anything $500 (Areca) and up and does raid 0, 1, 10, 5, 6 etc. will be a better card. and you will need one of these to control the raid if you are building your own enclosure.

    The standout brand in the raid game is ATTO, but it comes with a price. They have a quality product and brilliant tech support. Areca follow behind with good products but ok support. I haven't used Highpoint but I see people using them in their mac pros as well.

    So it all comes down to your required speed, space and budget.


    I also forgot that I've also found drobos to degrade with time.

    They tick all the boxes on paper, but it must be the controllers or something inside there that just become unreliable.
  5. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    FYI Drobo's are slow regardless of interface. A regular FW800 drive may offer more unless you are already saturating the measly 65-80MB/s you can net. I had a 4 drive Drobo that did like 40MB/s and a single laptop external that did 65MB/s. Maybe the "Pro" is better. Either way FW800 is not as great of a storage link as it used to be thanks to stream demands. As per others suggestions get an Areca or Atto 8x lane RAID PCI SAS card and build something killer. I personally do not need that kind of storage so I will differ to the data kings sure to lend you an idea or 2:cool:
  6. Rmafive thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2008
    Richmond, Virginia
    Thank you for your informative response. This is extremely helpful. I think I will try to wait and see what Apple does with the Mac Pro in 2013 before I commit to anything. I am definitely starting to lean towards SAS now though!

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