upgrade to TB3?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by cuestakid, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. cuestakid macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Location:
    San Fran
    #1
    I am looking at options to upgrade my storage solutions. I have started reading about putting a iTunes library on a NAS like device and since I have a mix of personal and iTunes Store content, I am not sure that it will work, as most NAS solutions seem to create their own folders for media and it could become a pain to set-up. I currently have a late 2012 Mini with 16GB RAM and a 4TB Thunderbolt drive. The Thunderbolt drive is what I am looking to upgrade. The mini's sole purpose is serve up the content and occasionally do some encoding for iTunes. Assuming Apple does something with the Mini it will have USB-C. Other than to have the newest and coolest, is there any reason to wait for A) more Thunderbolt 3 gear and get a future proof storage solution or B) get a large Thunderbolt 2 RAID now.
     
  2. HDFan, Apr 20, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017

    HDFan macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2007
    #2
    Why are you so fixed on getting Thunderbolt devices? USB3 has a higher data capacity (640 Mbps theoretical) than your single 4 TB thunderbolt drive can deliver. Streaming 1080p Blu-Rays takes under 40 MB/s per stream which means you could run 3 simultaneous 1080p streams on a hard disk that delivers 120 MB/s (only theoretical, of course). There are a number of reasons for getting the fastest disk read/write performance that you can, but unless you're running a lot of multiple media streams there is no reason for the extra expense of thunderbolt, even less for RAID or SSD.

    I have both NAS, USB-3, and Thunderbolt devices. The Gigabit NAS is just fine for media delivery. The USB-3 is fine for my 5 drive JBOD which is used for Time Machine and other simultaneous backups. My Thunderbolt RAID is my primary disk which gets pounded with multiple simultaneously running apps including Premiere Pro renders. In other words, figure out how you are going to be using a device, and don't throw away money on capacity you don't need.

    I run Plex on a Western Digital PR4100 and don't find it a problem. The WD has a Public Folder, which has Shared Videos, Shared Pictures, and Shared Music.

    My master data is on my Mac's disks. When there is new content I simply run a Carbon Copy Cloner job to update the pr4100, then turn off my Mac and run everything from Plex on the pr4100. This also gives me a backup of my data.

    Haven't tried pointing my iTunes library to there. Am going to try it out, but it's going to take a few hours to do the copy. [The initial copy is what takes so long. Once that's done incremental copies via CCC take just seconds or minutes, depending upon how much new data has to be copied]. But I really want to turn off my mac and it's associated hard disks when I just want media sharing in order to keep energy costs down. iTunes isn't a viable media management option if you have video and audio types that iTunes doesn't support.

    The QNAP TVS-471-i3 NAS offers better performance, but since it costs 2x+ the WD I left it out of the discussion.
     
  3. cuestakid thread starter macrumors 68000

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    Jun 14, 2006
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    San Fran
    #3
    Thank you for your detailed thoughts. My primary reason for raid is expansion. I prefer not to have a whole bunch of drives connected to my machine. The only purpose of the drive would be media storage and other data that I don't want on my internal drive. I agree on not paying for more storage than I need, hence why I want RAID so I can expand as I need. I'm not married to thunderbolt. I will look take a second pass at USB3 and NAS.

    For reference my media library is around 3.5TB.
     
  4. HDFan, Apr 20, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017

    HDFan macrumors 6502

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    Jun 30, 2007
    #4
    I assume you mean that you want to connect just one enclosure, which may have multiple drives.

    A single disk enclosure which allows you to change disks might meet your needs. if you have 4 TB of data, you could purchase a 10 TB disk which would give you more than 2x as much storage capacity as you have now. This could be the cheapest and easiest way to go, although you would need a second enclosure (ideally from a different vendor and with a different vendor's drive) for your backups and for repopulating the main disk if you upgrade to a higher capacity drive. You would, of course, be limited to the read/write rates of the single drive.

    In many hardware based RAID solutions an upgrade is not a simple thing. When you purchase a populated RAID it will likely have identical disks with the same capacity. If you have 4 TB disks and add a 6 TB disk to a RAID 5 the extra 2 TB won't be added to the RAID volume.

    The Drobo series of disks is software based, so it does allow you to add disks of different capacities which can be used, but again there are limitations. See

    http://www.drobo.com/storage-products/capacity-calculator/

    If you populate with 4 TB drives (14.52 TB in the RAID 5 volume) and then add a 6 TB drive there will be no increase in capacity. You just get more "reserved for expansion", whatever that means. If you add a second 6 TB drive you get full use of the extra capacity of both drives, giving you 16.34 TB for 2x6TB and 3x4TB.

    The process for upgrading a hardware RAID 5 is very painful. I just upgraded the drives in my primary RAID 5 device from 2 to 6 TB. The first pain was the purchase cost of buying 6 x 6 TB drives. Then you have to back everything up. You replace the drives in the unit. This can be as simple as ejecting and inserting the drives, or you many have to remove the old drive from a carrier and then put the larger drive in the carrier. Then you have to format the drive for RAID. This took almost 24 hours. Then you have to restore from your backup which could take another day.

    One of the drives that I purchased failed and it took 2 weeks to get it replaced. Needing to use the drive I had to format with a lower capacity, and will have to do everything all over now that the replacement drive has arrived. And I stripped a screw in the carrier and can't remove the old drive from the carrier. So I have to get that fixed so I can use the replacement drive.

    I'm not that familiar with software raid and other vendors, so maybe others can comment.

    One solution you might want to consider is a RAID capable device but just set it up as a JBOD. You could start out with just two large JBOD disks (1 primary, 1 backup). If you need more capacity than a single disk you could use other slots for 2 RAID 0 volumes (1 for backup). Note, however, that there are risks in using RAID in one enclosure. If the hardware fails you can't just take the disks out and put them into another vendor's device since RAID formatting is normally specific to the hardware. If you have to purchase a new unit from the same vendor there is a risk that it might not recognize the disks if the hardware (and thus disk formatting) has changed. So it's probably best to have 2 drive enclosures once you move beyond JBOD to RAID.
     
  5. cuestakid thread starter macrumors 68000

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    Jun 14, 2006
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    San Fran
    #5
    I appreciate your thoughts and if i were to go through with this, Drobo is one of the options at the top of the list. I know all the drives must be the same for a RAID to work properly and that getting a RAID 5 means losing one drive's capacity. I know that an upgrade is not an easy thing but that part I have not fully gotten to yet until I find the path I want to take. The more I think the more I lean towards something like Drobo because base on their descriptions rebuilding and upgrading is relatively painless. But that will be further investigated and much more reviews read.
     
  6. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #6
    I would recommend you look into unRAID, which offers the flexibility of mixing drive sizes and adding additional drives as you need. unRAID itself runs off of a USB drive and can be run on a wide variety of hardware. unRAID itself is $60. There are other solutions as well (FreeNAS, OpenMediaVault, and more), but in my research I found the $60 spend well worth it.

    Relative to the hardware, you can run unRAID on even an old computer. But, as I would suggest, you can also get a true server such as a Lenovo TS140 or Dell T20. The servers generally run in the $250 range, but you can often find on sale for a bit less.

    Even at full cost, you are looking at roughly $300 for the "box", then you add the hard drives of your choice. In fact, you can start with 1, but you should start with at least 2. The way unRAID works is that 1 of the drives acts as a parity drive that can be used to rebuild your array if any 1 of the data drives fails. Keep note that the parity drive must be equal to or larger than the largest data drive.

    You also can add a cache drive, which should be an SSD, that will improve performance. Basically, unRAID uses a cache drive to temporarily store data, and then moves it to the data drives overnight. So using an SSD as that "intermediary" allows for much faster writing of files.

    Lastly, by using a decent server, you can also run apps like Plex (and many many more) in a Docker. You then have 1 box, which offers relatively low power consumption and 24x7 availability, that stores your data and serves your media. It is an outstanding solution.

    I've used this setup for just under a year. I have a Lenovo TS140 with a 3.5ghz i3 processor, 3x6tb hard drives (1 is the parity, the other 2 are data, so 12gb of storage), and a 480gb SSD cache drive. It has been flawless.

    When looking into the NAS options, I started with the Synology and QNap boxes. They are fantastic for storage, but not nearly the processing power if the true server. And really, from a cost perspective, likely more than getting the server and unRAID OS.
     
  7. cuestakid thread starter macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Location:
    San Fran
    #7
    jdag thank you as well. I think right now I am torn between a true NAS device (QNAP synology, etc), and a high capacity device connected to the Mini.

    Let me ask another question which may be a bit rhetorical-if I am the only one connecting to the device, what actual benefits am I getting from a higher end NAS device or a simple higher capacity device like a Drobo or something from OWC? Is it the rebuild scenarios that I could see the benefits?

    I will add there is also the possibility that the device MIGHT store some VMs for a VMware environment I might set-up, though that may end up on its on SSD for obvious reasons.
     
  8. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #8
    The DAS options, directly connected, is certainly simpler that a NAS. You plug a DAS in and you are done. The main disadvantage is that the DAS requires the computer to be running. A DAS is "dumb". Otherwise, with the correct setup (sharing, VPN access, etc.) they ultimately serve the same purpose. I used to have an iMac+Drobo and went to the NAS. I prefer the NAS.

    You say "a true NAS device" like QNap or Synology, keep in mind that unless you get a higher-end model, the processing power is very very limited. They are smaller and more convenient than setting up unRAID, FreeNAS, etc. but you pay for that convenience. unRAID will take you a few hours of research/learning, but it is fun. The unRAID support community is outstanding (once you learn the language of the OS).

    I did so much research before buying, and I was set on a QNap or Synology. But every time I was about to hit the buy button I would read something about "Plex transcoding limitations" and get scared away. Meanwhile, my i3 TS140 has been stellar running multiple Plex streams simultaneously (both direct play and transcoded).
     

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