Upgrading RAID for video editing - which card?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by wonderspark, Oct 11, 2010.

  1. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #1
    I've been editing a feature film for the last nine months using the Apple RAID card and four internal drives, then backing up nightly to an external drive via eSATA 1TB drive. 640GB OS, 3x1TB RAID 0 internal, 1TB external.

    I've decided to switch to an Atto or Areca card to replace Apple RAID Pro card, and get an external 4-drive box to build RAID 3, and use my four internals for OS, scratch, renders and original media files.

    Which RAID card would be best suited for an '09 Mac Pro with external raid? I don't need Windows or bootable external, as far as I'm concerned. I'd just use the internals for everything but RAID. I saw an Areca 1110ML for about $300 or so. Good choice, or is there newer and better for me?
     
  2. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #2
    Forgot to ask, when I pull the Apple RAID card out, will the data in the 640GB OS disc in slot #1 remain intact, or will it need to be reformatted for some reason?

    If so, it's not that big a problem. A clean install would be nice.
     
  3. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #3
    The ARC-110ML will not work (it's a PCI-X based card, not PCIe, which is what you'll need for your MP).

    The bare minimum is the ARC-1212X (specs). They're getting harder to find, but pc-pitstop still has them listed.

    ATTO's cards are more expensive, which is why I've not listed any.

    BTW, when changing to a different card, and using the same drives, you'd need to do a full backup first, create the new array, and restore. You'll lose the data already on the disks, as arrays from one card maker usually won't work on anothers (generally, you can do it if you stick with the same maker).

    The Highpoint RR4311 could work, as they do have drivers (don't actually offer EFI firmware to allow it to boot OS X), but the support royally sucks, so you'd basically be on your own if you have a problem.

    Assuming the 640GB disk is the OS, you'd only need to remove the existing card, and load the drivers for the Areca. You'd be good to go, but I'd still go for a clean installation (avoids problems due to conflicts if there's an old file that remains).
     
  4. cutterman macrumors regular

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    #4
    I would suggest the Areca 1880x here. It is a dual external port 6G SAS/SATA card. It will give you future expandability and compatibility with newer 6G drives, and the brand is well-thought of on this forum. It is a bit more than $300, but given your task at hand I wouldn't settle for the cheapest options.
     
  5. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #5
    I actually erased this one from the post, as I'm unsure of budget (nearly $700 for it, but it's well worth it IMO).

    But the ARC-1212X is still a faster card than what's being used now (more stable and better recovery features if they're needed - there's some hidden recovery commands used via the CLI that can recover sets that would be lost on other controllers), and it's not expensive. :)
     
  6. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #6
    Oooh, thanks guys!

    Yeah, I'm not all that concerned with cost - - under $1000 won't break the bank. I admit that I know more about the RAID levels and how they function, while knowing next to nothing about which cards do what and how they are compatible. :)

    I'd like to be able to expand some, as I'm hoping for future movies to be shot on RED... 4K and up video files. I try not to be wasteful and just go top shelf unless it's needed, yet getting a card that can keep me in good shape when I need to expand my capacity would be ideal. 3TB (3x1TB) was fine for this movie, but the next one will probably be two or three times as large, due to the much larger file sizes. I only used 1.3TB on this movie, and I was being a pack-rat and saving everything, even when I was done with it.

    A little history: I bought this Mac for the sole purpose of editing this film, and it has served me well. I knew even less about RAID cards at the time, and decided it would be fine to just get the 'turnkey' Apple RAID card and go. After reading these forums for the last nine months, all I've ever read about this Apple card is that it sucks. I've seen mention of some battery issue, and I'm not sure what that is. I have noticed that exactly every three months, the battery "reconditions" itself, which takes about seven hours. During this time, I've dared not edit the movie, for fear of whatever might happen during that period.

    Anyway, I've been "living on the edge" by working in RAID 0 and just backing up regularly, and on the heels of my success with this movie, I feel it's time to stop relying on luck so much, hahaha!

    Thank you for the help and suggestions!
     
  7. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #7
    Ok, another question:

    On the pc-pitstop site, I was looking at their enclosures. I had a 4-bay in mind, and when I selected the hot-swappable one here, it listed the 1212x card, but did not give a choice for the 1880x card. Is the 1880x not compatible with that enclosure? Which enclosure would you suggest if I want the 1880x?

    I don't think I'm ready for the 15-bay enclosure they suggest with the 1880x, shown here.
     
  8. cutterman macrumors regular

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    #8
    Yes the 1880x card is compatible with that ( and virtually any sas or sata enclosure for that matter). Basically each external port can connect to 4 drives, so you could support 2 x 4 drive enclosures or 1 x 8. There are also sas port multiplier enclosures that can extend that even further. You would also need a SF8088 to SF8088 external cable to connect the enclosure to the card.
     
  9. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #9
    Sweet, thanks! I appreciate that confirmation. At least I know I can go huge or go home later down the road! :D
     
  10. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #10
    I'd go with an Areca 1880 series, but the question is, which one?

    So think hard on the port count, as they can go up to 24 ports (24x disks without the need for a SAS Expander). Using SAS Expanders, they can actually run up to 128 disks. :eek:

    The ARC-1880X has 8x external ports (2x connectors on the back).

    Past that, you're dealing with primarily internal ports (there is 1x external port, but it tends to share one of the internal ports, so you have to pay attention so you're not throttling). But you can get special cables that take internal ports to external enclosures (here), and there's a kit that allows you to use the HDD bays with the card (here).

    So you could go with an ARC-1880ix12, use one port with the internal bays via the kit, and one of the internal to external cables per 4x disks.

    I realize this stuff may be looking like top shelf, and in a sense, it is (excellent manufacturers). But step back a bit, and you'll realize it's not. To see what top shelf really is, take a look at High Availability Clusters and SAN (wiki has information on both; this is where it starts to get crazy). ;) Multiple servers, SAN's,... strung together to make sure there's no single point of failure that will prevent access.

    4 bay unit
    8 bay unit

    BTW, not only are they good on price, they include external to external cables. And their appearance better suits your MP vs. the "el cheapo black plastic front" units pc-pitstop sells (they do work though).

    The Sans Digital enclosures linked have the external to external cables @ 1.0 meters.

    BTW, do not exceed 1.0 meters of total cable length with SATA disks (you can go up to 10 meters with SAS disks, as they run at a much higher signal voltage). And stay away from the adapters, as SATA sets won't be stable (frequent dropouts which aren't a good thing).
     
  11. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #11
    Wow, excellent!

    Ok, so another verification:
    The Areca card says it supports RAID 3, which I want, but the shiny silver Sans Digital enclosures linked don't list RAID 3 as supported. I would assume the card determines which RAID levels are supported. Would I be correct?
     
  12. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #12
    Yes.

    The box is "dumb", which means it's nothing more than an enclosure, PSU, cabling, and a small PCB that controls the disk status LED's.

    They're as simple as it gets. :)
     
  13. rdru macrumors newbie

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    Sep 16, 2009
    #13
    Best Prices for Areca and SansDigital

    I am also buying those items. The best prices for SansDigital TR4x and TR8X is at Amazon (free shipping with Amazon Prime) and Provantage for the Areca Controllers. They come with the internal Mini-SAS cables. The SansDigital TR4X and the TR8X comes with the external Mini-SAS cables.
     
  14. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #14
    Well, it's been close to a year since I started this process, and now I've finally reached the point where I need to expand my video editing rig.

    System: 2009 Nehalem Mac Pro 3.33GHz quad core, 16GB RAM.

    I have five 2TB RE4 WD2003FYYS drives right now, and I'm going to order the Sans Digital TR8X 8-bay tower. I'll buy three more of these drives so I can fill it up with six drives, leaving two for swapping in during failure.

    My question now is which card best suits my expansion: 1880ix-12, or the slightly cheaper 1880X with two external SAS ports?

    My thinking is that I'd like to have the external 8-bay RAID (level 30) using the 2TB disks, and also have an internal three disk RAID 0 using the 1TB disks along with the single original OS disk (640GB) that came with the Mac Pro. (Eventually, I'd clone my OS to a 600GB Intel 320 series SSD, and switch it with the original which would become the backup.) I have a Voyager Q and two LaCie externals that I use for backups with all my drives that don't fit into the Mac Pro right now.

    On hand:
    5x 2TB RE4 WD2003FYYS (three are in Mac Pro in RAID, other two unused)
    3x 1TB Hitachi HDE721010SLA330 (BTO from Apple, currently used for backups and OSX clone)
    1x 640GB Hitachi (BTO from Apple)
    1x 1TB LaCie d2 Quadra external (currently use for OSX clone)
    1x 2TB LaCie d2 Quadra external (currently use for project backups)


    So I want to remove the Apple RAID card, put in the appropriate Areca RAID card, and run the two different RAID sets. Which card will be better at doing this? Can I run the internal RAID 0 in software RAID and not mess with the Areca RAID 30, or is it better to run both RAID sets via the Areca, using the MaxConnect kit to connect the internal RAID?
     
  15. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #15
    You can do this, or go ahead and stuff the extra pair of disks in the enclosure, and create them as Hot Spares. This means if you've ever a failed disk, one of them will automatically be assigned as the replacement, and the system automatically rebuild (unless you Disable the Auto Rebuild feature).

    This will depend on whether or not you only need 8 ports for say the next 3 - 5 years (takes capacity growth into account during this period). If not, then figure out the capacity growth, and go from there.

    As a general rule, I recommend figuring what you need now and adding another 4x ports if you don't know (single user DAS configuration). The reason for this, is it's cheaper to just add disks than to replace all of them each time you out-grow your capacity.

    An important note: You can connect an external enclosure to an internal port via a particular cable (SFF-8087 to SFF-8088). As your planning to use SATA disks, do not go over 1.0 meters or you'll run into instability problems.

    Looks like a good start in terms of gear to work with (and not have to buy everything at once, particularly enterprise grade HDD's). :D

    But I have to ask... Why RAID 30?

    You'd be better of running RAID 5 than 30 for n = 1 disk for redundancy (each have parity, but the parity is distributed across all members in 5 rather than a single dedicated parity disk as is the case in 3 = performance issues). This is why 3/4/30/40 aren't really used much in practice. You get better performance out of 5/6/50/60.

    You can run a stripe set off of the ICH (built-in SATA ports in the MP, and the striping operations handled by OS X - creation is via Disk Utility). It's not going to present much of a load to the system (typically ~ 1 - 2% of a single core).

    Then run the RAID 5 or 6 (if you're after an n = 2 fail-over) off of the Areca.
     
  16. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #16
    I read an article about RAID levels for video editing, and it basically said the single parity disk of RAID 3 gave better performance than RAID 5 in case of a disk failure during the rebuild, and slightly better performance if using larger blocks. It's always been something that confused me, because the single parity disk argument makes sense to me, yet more people seem to use RAID 5.

    I forgot to ask: is the Areca battery backup module a no-brainer must-have? I have two APC SUA1500s, but that does nothing for the RAID controller. The Apple RAID card has that battery conditioning function that warns me that the write cache is temporarily disabled every three months on the dot for 7.25 hours. Does the Areca BBU do an auto-reconditioning as well, or do you have to manually watch/care for it?
     
  17. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #17
    It's slower under normal operation though, due to a single parity disk (parity disk becomes the bottleneck for the set). So it's a matter of where users are willing to make sacrifices that best fit their needs. Most sacrifice rebuild speeds rather than under Normal conditions if they must make a compromise.

    As per other levels on a hardware RAID card (5/6/50/60), the rebuild times can be improved by changing a firmware setting in the card (Background Operation Priority or similar heading; push it up, and the rebuilds go faster - performance of data operations during the rebuild slow down).

    Ideally, you run both the BBU as well as a good UPS.

    Of the pair, the UPS does more for you, as it covers ongoing operations that can't fit all of the data within the cache (this is where the BBU falls short, is when the data from incomplete write operations can't be stored on the cache during a power loss).

    Now the UPS won't last as long, so there's a limited amount of time the system can run before it's done. So if your storage operations aren't yet complete, your last hope is the BBU if the remaining data to be written fits within the cache.

    If not, you may end up re-performing work to reconstruct missing/corrupted files (some software keeps a log/batch file of completed operations, and picks up where it left off after a reboot automatically <quite nice>; but it's not always the case).

    So if you're tight on funds once you get the card, disks, ... needed to create the storage system, then the BBU can wait (since you already have a couple of good UPS's on hand). Then pick up the BBU at a later date when funds are available.

    As per the card + BBU, it's all automatic (essentially useless if it wasn't).
     
  18. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #18
    That makes sense, too. I guess I was just put off by how bad RAID5 did on my system using only three disks. I'm sure it will be awesome using six. :cool:
    I might dig into that once I get set up, but more than likely I'll just leave it alone if the performance is as great as I'm hoping. I love how it runs as a three disk RAID 0, of course, so if a six disk RAID 5 (or RAID 50, more likely) can match or better that, I'll be very happy.

    I have one of the UPS units running just the Mac Pro and external drives. The second runs the two monitors (30" ACD and 22" Dell) and printer. Speakers and such are just plugged into the wall.

    Thanks for the help again, and as always! I'll order the 1880ix-12 and the BBU. :)
     
  19. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #19
    Do the disks wear out as hot spares, though? I may have one hot spare and one in storage, and swap every now and then just to keep their lives extended. Maybe I'm slightly paranoid. :p

    Yeah, that sounds nice. I want the RAID 0 for scratch, renders and exports that I don't care if I lose right away, but need fast disks for. The external RAID 50 will be for the project files and such that also need to be fast, which I'll be backing up nightly on other single drives.
     
  20. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #20
    Put the hardware together, create different levels, and test them. Seeing it first hand will teach you a lot IMO. ;)

    As per your experience with RAID 5, keep in mind 2 issues with the configuration you tried:
    1. Performance depends on parallelism of disks, so 3 is a bare minimum (gets a lot better as you add members (test this by creating 3, add a 4th, ... testing each set, until you've added all the disks you have). You'll see what I mean.
    2. The Apple RAID Pro is slow. Not only is it limited to 4x disks, it's not as fast as other cards for the same configuration.
    Test, and you'll be able to make sense of what you read on things like RAID Wiki.

    I'd get the printer off of the UPS, especially if it's a laser (warm-up/start-up draw is large = sucks down the batteries quickly when engaged and no longer warmed up).

    Once you have the RAID equipment, try different combinations of gear on each UPS (reason = balance the draw on each unit as closely as possible). The point is to keep both units to as close a run time on batteries as possible (base shutdown off of the unit connected to the computer of course).

    :cool: NP. :)

    You'll be happy with that card.

    Not as you're thinking. The spindle motors are running, but the heads aren't moving until engaged (assumes MAID = Disabled; MAID is a power management feature that shuts down the set if unused after a specified period of time). Generally speaking, it's left Disabled.

    But you can do what you're thinking of, or just keep both in their bags on a shelf as needed (make sure you replace the silica gel packs say monthly to keep moisture out of them, as you do want to open the bag and check to see if the drives work).

    You'd be better off using a small, inexpensive SSD for scratch IMO (i.e. 40GB unit from OWC, which sells for $90 USD). Just as quick, but cheaper (better for random access too, if you do actually work with such files on occasion). Easily considered "disposable" at that price when it does wear out (just as a cheap HDD is these days). ;)
     
  21. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #21
    Got all my parts today!

    Areca 1880ix-12
    Areca BBU
    Sans Digital TR8X 8-bay tower
    (5) more WD2003FYYS 2TB RE4 HDD, totaling eight now.
    SFF-8087 to SFF-8088 cable
    (3) SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 cables
    (2) SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 cables
    Some kind of phone/network cable to RS-232 (or something like that) cable
    RAID software CD: firmware / drivers / ArcHttp Proxy Server / CLI / Docs

    I'm backing up everything and cloning my OS drive, which is on the original 640GB HDD that came with the Mac Pro. The Apple RAID card was also built to order from Apple, so I've never removed it before. I'm excited and a bit nervous, but hopefully everything works in a couple hours or so!

    I'll be first building a RAID 0 to see if it all works ok, do some speed tests, etc. Then I'll build a RAID 3 out of six drives with two hot spares installed.

    :)
     
  22. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #22
    First test done for RAID0 using five disks. I did this to approximate what I might see in a six-disk RAID3. I used xbench 1.3, since I don't know what else to use for disk speed testing.
    Result:
    Disk Test = 1431.45

    Sequential = 907.07
    - Write 4K blocks = 808.51 MB/sec
    - Write 256K blocks = 1221.38 MB/sec
    - Read 4K = 106.30 MB/sec
    - Read 256K = 1158.14 MB/sec

    Random = 3392.92
    - Write 4K = 152.52 MB/sec
    - Write 256K = 1256.89 MB/sec
    - Read 4K = 101.80 MB/sec
    - Read 256K = 1155.77 MB/sec

    Seems pretty good to me. What do you all think? Should I use something else to test with?

    Next up, six-disk RAID3 tests!
     
  23. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #23
    AJA System Test (direct download - Mac version)

    There's a lot under Windows if you have a copy installed, so that's something to consider as well.
     
  24. wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #24
    Thanks, nanofrog! I don't have Windows installed right now, but I noticed the boot time is way faster without the Apple RAID card in. I'd say it's at least two or three times faster!

    I'll give it a run as soon as this RAID3 is done building... probably when the sun rises for me. :)
     
  25. wonderspark, Aug 6, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2011

    wonderspark thread starter macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #25
    Well, I wonder if something is wrong. I started initializing this RAID3 array 10.5 hours ago, and it's now 26% complete.

    I do have the BBU installed, and it was charging for part of that time. It now shows 100% charged.

    Also, I have the enclosure connected via the two different parts of the card... one via an internal port with the SFF-8087 to SFF-8088 cable, and the other via the external SFF-8088 port.

    I have the eight disks inside sharing the load of the RAID set such that three of the disks on each enclosure make up the set, and the fourth disk in each half are a hot spare. (Slots 1,2,3,5,6 and 7 make up the RAID3, and slots 4&8 make up global hot spares.) I thought that might best distribute the data across the two cables / enclosures / ports on Areca.

    All eight disks are WD2003FYYS RE4 2TB models, bought at three different times from Amazon and Provantage. The Areca has the standard 1GB memory. The rebuild time is set to low.

    What has me wondering is the 4K read times from my testing of the five disk RAID0 test above. I had set the block size to 128K, so that made me think it was due to the smaller blocks, but then why was the 4K write speed still so good?

    Thanks for your input!

    Edit: It's actually internal slots 1-4, and external slots 1-4. The slots 5-12 are empty.
     

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