What would be faster?? USB - FW 400 - Gigabit Ethernet - eSATA ???

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by discosoap, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. discosoap macrumors regular

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    #1
    Hi there,

    thanks for reading this post, I am looking for some help :confused:.
    I bought a 1.66 gen 2 Mac Mini (late 2006, OS10.5.6 fully updated) to use as a home/file/ftp/itunes/etc server. It is connected with cat 6 to my gigabit switch. On the other side of that switch is my macbook 1.83 gen 1 (early 2006, OS10.5.6 fully updated), which will be a (gigabit) client waiting for all those GB's to be sent back and forth to my Mini (the main function is a fileserver, so swapping GB's should be fast!!!) :D
    Now I am at the stage of buying new storage for my server (was thinking about 1 or 2 TB). My current USB drives give me some 20MB/s of tranfer speed (from Mini to Macbook) which is acceptable, but frankly, just too slow.
    Here is my question; what would be the fastest solution ? I could buy a cheap USB solution, connect it to the Mini. I could also connect a more expensive FW400 drive. And I have the option to plug-in a NAS drive in the gigabit switch directly. Is there any way to say anything about prospect speed performance ?? Or is it the hard drive (i.e. cache memmory, rotation speed, etc) itself (or my macbooks 5400K internal hard drive) which will be limiting the speed (and thus rendering my question irrelevant)??

    Any insight would be helpfull. I know the maximum speed rates (480mbps, 400 mbps and 1000mbps) for the aforementioned connection standards, but I have no idea what would be the limiting factors (i.e. will it ever be remotely reach these speeds). I know eSata might be possible as well with a Mac Mini hack, but for now I am not too happy with modding it (only considering this if this would be a real performance gain). Anyway, help !!! :)
     
  2. Beerfloat macrumors regular

    Beerfloat

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    #2
    In theory, the NAS and ESATA have the highest bandwidth, but only if you let the clients talk to the NAS directly (instead of using the Mini to pull data off the NAS and share it). ESATA can be just about as fast - considering that it has a theoretical bandwidth of 3Gb/s, the actual bottleneck would be the 1Gb/s network uplink on your Mini.

    Those 2 solutions are the only ones that have more bandwidth than the fastest single drives of today, or of any striped RAID array.

    Any USB solution will provide 40MB/s at best, and FW400 can do almost 50MB/s. That's a decent improvement over your current setup, but they're not gonna provide a day/night difference.
     
  3. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #3
    I've tried most of these combinations. I've got a load of USB, FW400 and FW800 drives, I've got Gigabit ethernet, and I've tried using an Infrant NAS server, a mini as a NAS server, and my own homebuilt Linux box (a pretty powerful one) as a NAS server. I then gave up on networked access for speed, bought a Mac Pro and threw a load of disks in that.

    Modern SATA disks can easily reach 80 to 100MB/s + bandwidth themselves
    Internal SATA or eSATA are both theoretically 300MB/s and by far the fastest interface option
    USB2, I've never seen reaching faster than 25MB/s for disk use
    FW400, I've never seen faster than 37MB/s
    FW800 seems to top out at around 67MB/s
    Gigabit ethernet places a lot of demands on the server and its CPU speed. I never went for jumbo packets, but with normal packet size and my hefty Linux box I was seeing 45MB/s maximum. Most small NAS boxes have fairly weak CPUs and will max out at 25MB/s or lower. The mini will be somewhere in between these two.

    Personally, I think your easiest option will be to put a large drive in a FW400 box and have the Mini serve it over gigabit. You could do the SATA hack, but if you're using gigabit to connect to the mini from the laptop, I think the gigabit will be the bottleneck and I doubt you'll see any benefit (or if you do, the minimal benefit won't be worth the hassle).

    Edit: I just wanted to add that 5400rpm laptop drives are slow. If your Macbook is your main computer, you won't get data into it faster than 40MB/s whether you use gigabit, FW or USB2. Your very best option for fast data access on the MB is to upgrade that internal drive - and you should be able to get a nice fast 7200rpm drive for not much money. This would be the first thing I would do if I were you - and luckily it's easy to change drives on the MB.

    Make sure you design a backup strategy into all this. I recommend SuperDuper backups.
     
  4. discosoap thread starter macrumors regular

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    #4
    Beerfloat, thanks for your quick response.

    I have 2 follow up questions;

    1 - you say addressing the NAS from the client directly will be faster than having it served by the Mini (this means we're trusting the computing power of the NAS over the power of the mini, or doesn't it work like this) ??
    What would be a reasonable/realistic speed for a NAS (probably consumer level Lacie Network Space 1TB (would a cheap consumer NAS like this make a big difference in speeds compared to expensive ones??)) connected to gigabit ethernet ?

    ps. (maybe a stupid question, but anyway -> ) how do I connect NAS & ethernet to the one ethernet port on a Mac Mini (wouldn't I be needing 2 ports)?

    2 - I somehow feel that my 5400K internal hard drive in my Macbook would be more "bottlenecky" than my gigabit network, or am I missing something here ?

    Anyway, thanks a bunch for any response ;)
     
  5. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #5
    The LaCie will be terrible. It's all about the speed of the CPU in the NAS box, and none of these consumer NAS units will approach the speed of your Mini. Your Mini will be faster - although your ability to hook external drives to your mini is limited.

    You use a gigabit switch. They're cheap and efficient.

    Yes. Gigabit ethernet will max out at around 45MB/s, you should see 70MB/s+ if you upgrade that drive.
     
  6. discosoap thread starter macrumors regular

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    #6
    Dear Firestarter, thanks for you quick response!!

    So the first thing to do would be to change the 5400rpm drive to 7200rpm (indeed my macbook is my main computer, and my mini is just waiting for work, as it is never used as a desktop). Any idea what the performance gain of 7200rpm could be (40MB/s write speed for my macbook drive seems accurate)??
    You say FW 400 would be best probably. This means together with a new internal Macbook drive and a new FW400 drive we would be somewhere around 50MB/s, correct ??
    You mention that gigabit ethernet may become the bottleneck with eSATA. I don't see this as a problem because this would mean a theoretical 125 MB/s (ok not eSATA max speeds, but hey) which would be a nice performance upgrade over my current 20 MB/s. (or am I missing something here ??

    Seems like real nice hardware you're using, kuddos ;-)

    Thanks for the tip about a backup strategy, I start feeling the need indeed with my filebase growing beyond the 1 TB marker.

    Thanks for your replies !!! ;)

     
  7. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #7
    No problem :)
    I think you could be up to 70MB/s+ with a good 7200rpm drive. The laptop drives aren't quite as fast as desktop ones, but they're OK.

    When you transfer data, it goes at the speed of the slowest device. I don't think you'll ever reach more than 37MB/s over FW400, so if you're transferring from an external FW to internal, that will be the limitation.

    These theoretical speeds are mostly unattainable in the real world.

    Yes, you're missing something!

    Gigabit ethernet would have a theoretical maximum of 80MB/s but even with nice hardware I wasn't seeing anything in excess of 45MB/s. From your mini I don't think you'd even see this - and I therefore don't think that eSATA on your mini will give you much performance increase over FW400 on your mini.

    Where did you get the figure of 125MB/s from?
     
  8. Beerfloat macrumors regular

    Beerfloat

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    #8
    Well no, because your Mini will still be limited by the NAS. So if you have a slow consumer NAS serving data slowly to your Mini, it will still not be able to serve it up any faster to the other clients.

    Yes, there are HUGE differences in performance between various NAS solutions.


    Yes, which is not possible except with a second USB Ethernet (slow!) or by using a switch. But the problem is that your single Gigabit port will then handle both incoming traffic from the NAS and outgoing traffic to the clients. Which is why having the clients talk directly to the NAS is much preferable. All of that is moot if the NAS is not able to saturate more than half of your Gigabit link of course.

    Absolutely. The 5400k drive will max out at about 60-70MB/s tops, while a well tuned Gbit network can do 10 times that and more.
     
  9. discosoap thread starter macrumors regular

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    #9
    Dear Firestarter,

    you say it should be possible to hook up a NAS & Ethernet to my Mini using a switch. Does this mean we could use the Mini's processing power to serve up a NAS drive connected to it by a switch?? This way we wouldn't be using the inferior processor of the Lacie Network disk to do the processing but the Mini's processor, which should be faster. (I hope you follow what I am trying to say). I have no idea if this is possible/faster, any advice ??

    Oh, and how fast could a Mini be equiped with a 7200rpm, 32mb cache, 500GB internal 2.5" Sata drive ? (Or is this not the recommended way to go??)

    Thanks, for your replies !!!

     
  10. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #10
    Why would you have the mini sit between a NAS and other clients? You would always have them go to the NAS directly!
    Beerfloat - I find all of your figures to be unrealistically high. Do you really have experience of tuning a home gigabit network to >700MB/s throughput?

    There's no way that a 5400k 2.5inch drive will max out at 70MB/s.
     
  11. discosoap thread starter macrumors regular

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    #11
    @Firestarter,

    I understand your first two points about the internal 7200rpm drive speed and about the theoretical vs daily practice speed difference.

    About your 3rd point; I alwas thought the following was the case;

    Gigabit Ethernet = 1Gbit per second devided by 8 = 125 MB/s max. You mention 80 MB/s, where do I go wrong ??

     
  12. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #12
    A NAS acts as its own server (NAS = Network Addressed Storage)
    The only connection to a NAS is usually ethernet, and the only way to the data is through the NAS server's CPU.
    So no, if you connect to the LaCie through ethernet then you're already limited by its slow CPU and the Mini can't help.
    That should be quite fast. Seagate estimate 80MB/s for their 7200.3 laptop drives.

    BUT REMEMBER that you'll never get that data rate out of your mini and over the network, 'cos I doubt you'll get your gigabit connection to go over 45MB/s!

    You can never just get bytes of data transmitted by themselves, so it's never as simple as dividing by 8.
    Each ip packet has address data (since it could be sent to any computer on the internet) and there's extra signalling and acknowledgement that goes on.
    80MB/s is a reasonable absolute maximum, taking into account this overhead.
    On consumer kit you won't reach even that.
     
  13. Beerfloat macrumors regular

    Beerfloat

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    #13
    Read back, and that is exactly what I told the OP he should do.

    Yes, both my Cisco 3750 and my HP ProCurve 1800-8G (and that's a cheap switch) can maintain those speeds with PCIE NICs, but I never claimed to have a storage solution that actually does that. I'm talking about the theoretical maximums of the various interfaces.

    That's just a order of magnitude number, really. I've benched the Hitachi 5400k in my Mini at between 60 and 70 on the outer tracks though.
     
  14. discosoap thread starter macrumors regular

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    #14
    Beerfloat,

    I understand the first 3 points of your reply. But next you mention that a well managed gigabit network would be able to handle up to 10 times 70MB/s = 700 MB/s ??? Is this correct, as there are other things mentioned in this post about maximum Gigabit Ethernet speeds of around 45 MB/s ?? What is correct ??


     
  15. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #15
    That's great, but I seriously doubt that the OP is looking at managed switches and packet tweaking.

    I just think that the OP needs to understand the reality of the different options, and theoretical maximums / outside track speeds etc. aren't a good measure of that.
     
  16. Beerfloat macrumors regular

    Beerfloat

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    #16
    Sorry, you guys are absolutely right. I confuzzled my megabytes and bits there. I meant to say a well tuned Gbit network can get close to the theoretical maximum of a Gbit at around 700-800 Mbit (Gbit minus TCP and SMB overhead).
     
  17. discosoap thread starter macrumors regular

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    #17
    If I am the OP you're talking about, correct, I have no managed switches and packet tweaking is out of my scope of knowledge. I am starting to understand the theoretical/reality speeds issue, but I am really having a problem with understanding which component will be the first bottleneck. If I understand correctly it would be in this order:

    1st bottleneck = internal drive of my Macbook (5400rpm)
    2nd bottleneck = FW400 or USB external drive
    3rd bottleneck = Gigabit ethernet.


    correct ??


     
  18. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #18
    Yes. (sorry, OP = Original Poster)
     
  19. discosoap thread starter macrumors regular

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    #19
    You guys are the bomb-shizznit :D

    Thanks for parts of your Sunday afternoon !!!


     
  20. Airforcekid macrumors 65816

    Airforcekid

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    #20
    When USB 3.0 comes out that but for now ethernet.
     

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