The New CalDigit HDPro2 Product Review
COW Library : CalDigit : David Roth Weiss : The New CalDigit HDPro2 Product Review
CalDigit has just unleashed its new HDPro2, the latest generation of their most advanced hardware RAID product, and I was lucky enough to be among the first to give it a test drive.
The first generation HDPro is still a hot performer in its own right, but the new HDPro2 is truly a quantum leap forward. It delivers unprecedented performance for an eight drive RAID, absolutely blowing away everything that's come before, and opening a new world of endless editing possibilities.
SO, HOW FAST IS FAST?
Don't worry; I won't make you wade through this entire article to get to the results. The CalDigit HDPro2 is so fast that I'm simply going to cut to the chase and spill the beans now. So, brace yourself, here goes...
Right out of the box, the HDPro2 delivers read/write times approaching, and in some cases exceeding, 700 MB/s. Yes, that's right, "700 megabytes per second," running in a protected Raid 5 or RAID 6 configuration, and with only eight standard SATA hard drives. That's just downright unheard of speed.
SO, WHAT DOES ALL THAT SPEED REALLY DO FOR ME?
Well, if you're an editor who knows about RAIDs, your antennae are most likely fully extended by now, because throughput at the 700MB/s level will radically throttle-up the capabilities of your workstation, dramatically improving your day to day editing experience.
Increased overhead at this order of magnitude significantly increases real-time editing operations, minimizing many of those agonizing renders, and providing smooth playback of more video and audio streams than ever before from only eight drives.
Example: Perfectly smooth multiclip playback in FCP 16 channels* of DVCProHD 720p60 in realtime (*application maximum)
SO, WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
If you don't know very much about RAID technology, keep reading. This is very important information, and it will become increasingly important to your future, because a new threshold has been broken, and it will further level the playing field for nearly everyone in the industry, because it will put more power into more hands. Yes, you've heard that before, it's a recurring theme, but this time it's a little different.
While extremely powerful multi-core/multi-threaded processors have been available at a reasonable cost for quite some time, affordable ultra-high-speed data storage at the 700MB/s level is brand new.
From this point forward there are virtually no barriers to hold us back from any level of content creation on the desktop. Layers upon layers of compressed and uncompressed high definition video, 3D high definition, and even uncompressed 2K video are in your arsenal. Suddenly, nothing is impossible.
SEE IT AND BELIEVE IT
Just take a look at these most impressive numbers below from benchmarks I've run using the AJA Disk Read/Write test.
INTERPRETING THE TESTS
With the parameters set as you see above, the Disk Read/Write test first creates a 4GB file, then it times how long it takes to write the data from RAM to this file in "frame sized chunks" onto the raid, which in this case uses frames that are 2K (2048x1556 pixels), in 10-bit uncompressed RGB format. The test then reverses and measures the time necessary to read the same file from the raid back into RAM.
As you can see, the HDPro2 delivered an average write speed of 673.8 MB/s and an average read speed of 709.5 MB/s. Additionally, notice that the graph at bottom remains virtually flat; a clear indication that both reads and writes are extremely consistent throughout both operations. The exception is the green spike at the very beginning of the read, which is common with most storage units as they get up to speed.
The speed test above is again set to read and write another 4GB file, but using smaller frame sized chunks, this time at 720p 10-bit uncompressed (1280x720 pixels).
In this case you'll notice that the speeds using the 720p frame size are slightly lower than those of the 2K files in the earlier test. This is because the 512 megabytes of RAM cache onboard the HDPro2's built-in controller is optimized for performance, and able to sense when a larger or smaller file is coming.
The controller adjusts, instantly caching more data for larger files when it needs to, and throttling back for smaller files that don't need to cache as much data in order to keep up without dropping frames. As Jared Picune of CalDigit explains, "Similar to driving, you need more gas when going up a hill and less when going down."
Again, if you carefully examine the green and purple graph at the bottom of the previous test results, you'll notice that read and write speeds are still very consistent, with only minor deviations from the average speeds throughout the entire range of the operations. This continuously smooth transfer rate is due to CalDigit's advanced Active Sustained Transfer Technology (ASTT), which is unique to CalDigit RAIDs. And, ASTT isn't just a feature in their top of line HDPro2; it's one of the hallmarks of all CalDigit RAID products.
ASTT optimizes data transfer size and timing, and helps to maintain sustained data rates throughout the capacity of the entire RAID. It eliminates the inconsistencies in performance, referred to as "latency," insuring sustained data throughput and eliminating the risk of dropped frames during video playback.
MORE THAN SPEED ALONE
Another very important and often overlooked distinction to keep in mind when considering the HDPro2 or any of the CalDigit RAID products, is that every RAID they build is an advanced single vendor RAID solution.
Unlike the "roll your own" RAIDs on the market, with parts assembled from several different suppliers, CalDigit RAID products are complete, single-box solutions. All parts are designed, developed, configured, and tested by CalDigit engineers. There's just one number to call with questions or for technical support, and in this business that's simply priceless.
UNDERSTANDING RAID PROTECTED MODES
The HDPro2 comes preconfigured from CalDigit in RAID 5 protected mode. RAID 5 offers the most efficient combination of both performance and data protection for most users. In this mode, should any one of the eight internal hard drives fail, the array is not destroyed; it continues operations at a slower speed, but without any loss of data. When a new drive is added in place of the failed drive, the full array rebuilds across all eight drives, restoring full capacity, speed, and security.
The HDPro2 is also easily reconfigured to operate in RAID 6, or "double protected mode," which substantially increases fault tolerance protection, even in cases involving the failure of two hard drives.
To achieve this high level of data protection, the CalDigit RAID engine stores so-called parity, or redundant data blocks, on two dedicated drives in the array, separated from the original data. This utilizes significantly more drive capacity than RAID 5 and reduces write speeds marginally. However, RAID 6 is extremely reliable, calculated to lessen the chance of catastrophic failure by approximately 1500 to 2000 times.
As you can see below, with reads exceeding 700MB/s, the HDPro2 benchmarks are still phenomenal when operating in RAID 6 double protected mode.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Inside the HDPro2 is a sophisticated RAID controller with 512MB of RAM cache onboard, upgradeable to 2GB. The controller does all the heavy lifting utilizing a built-in Intel XScale Core Processor to accelerate and optimize RAID performance, processing, power consumption, and data protection.
The HDPro2 also features a direct connection to the PCI Express bus, linking the internal RAID controller directly to the computer's internal bridge chip and memory system. This direct connection eliminates the major data bottleneck of the earlier interfaces such as fibre channel and SCSI, generating bandwidth that's nearly five times faster than traditional fibre solutions.
Another great feature about the HDPro2 is its easy access and completely tool-free modular design that makes swapping out parts a breeze. The controller, power supply, and the two huge cooling fans are all user replaceable and very user friendly.
I was able to strip every major component out of the chassis and then reassemble it all in just seconds. So, if anything should ever go wrong, you can order replacement parts overnight and you'll be back up and running in no time.
The HDPro2's eight matching certified Hitachi hard drives come meticulously packed, each in its own anti-static pouch, and each safely shock-protected in its own secure foam slot. All drives come tested and ready to go right out of the box, preconfigured for RAID 5, with each drive numbered appropriately corresponding to its proper position in the HDPro2 enclosure.
The drives are simple to install. Using the small supplied key, you simply pop open the hinged locking arm on the cover plate that comes pre-mounted on each drive. Then, each drive slides into its proper slot in the enclosure. The drives lock into place precisely, seating directly into the backplane without a single cable involved. Anyone can do it.
REDUNDANT POWER JUST IN CASE
If your work requires true mission-critical protection, a cool feature of the HDPro2 is its ability to accommodate an optional redundant power supply. This isn't a necessity for every user, so you don't have to pay extra for it unless you really need it. If you change your mind at any time, for just $299 you can add it in a snap. Combine this feature with RAID 6 protection, and you'll have ultimate data security.
No doubt about it, the results speak for themselves; the HDPro2 faithfully delivers every ounce of performance, reliability, and uncompromising security that CalDigit promises.
Believe me, if you have a need for speed, and you crave the piece of mind that only advanced RAID 5 or RAID 6 protection can provide, the HDPro2 is one happening piece of hardware.
As you can see below, the front panel of the HDPRo2 enclosure is ported with hundreds of tiny perforations for improved ventilation and cooling of the eight hard drives inside. This does make the HDPro2 I tested is a bit noisier than the HDOne model I own, but that's a small price to pay for superior performance and greater data security.
Without question, the HDPro2 deserves a huge 5-Cow rating for its impressive combination of scorching speed and extreme reliability.
PRICING & AVAILABILITY
The HDPro2 is available immediately in 8TB, 12TB, and 16TB configurations, with 8TB systems starting at $5999. You can purchase online, directly from CalDigit, or through dealers from their worldwide network of certified resellers listed on the CalDigit website at: http://www.caldigit.com/purchase.asp. For more information call CalDigit at their headquarters in Placentia, California at: (714) 572-6668, or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.