|A CreativeCOW Hardware Review|
|David Roth Weiss|
Los Angeles, California USA
Â©2009 David Roth Weiss and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.
When I first made the move to non-linear digital editing back in the 1980's, 2-gigabyte SCSI hard drives were considered "massive storage." Those drives cost a whopping $1000 per gigabyte and were never quite as reliable as I would have liked. Drive failures and colossal recaptures were simply inevitable: it wasn't a question of if it would happen, but when. Plus, the cost was so prohibitive and the computers so slow in those days that editors were forced to capture video at offline resolutions, vastly inferior to VHS quality. That turned even the most stunning footage into complete slop, which we then had to work with for the duration of the offline edit.
But, that's all changed now, and we're all very fortunate today, because, as you've probably noticed, there's been a precipitous drop in the cost of hard drives. In just the last two years prices have been slashed by nearly one thousand percent, and now excellent 1-terrabyte SATA drives are available all over for only about $100.
This incredible drop in the cost of storage is finally trickling down into the prices hardware of raids, and so the competition to put a RAID-5 or RAID-6 in every edit suite has become quite fierce. BTW, for those who don't know, RAID-5 and RAID-6 refer to RAID systems that are engineered for both speed and protection. The systems are designed so that you can keep working, with no loss of data, even if a drive fails. In fact, RAID-6 systems keep working even if two drives fail.
In case you haven't noticed, a lot of RAID manufacturers are vying for your attention, and so today many well-built and well-implemented hardware raid storage systems are finally becoming affordable, even for the average indie shop. So, it's now getting harder to justify not having one.
I researched building a "roll my own" RAID-5/6 solution for some time, however I was never satisfied that I was going to achieve the bulletproof RAID I was hoping for. It's just not easy to put together a perfectly functioning RAID-5 or RAID-6 on your own; assembling parts from different manufacturers is often a hit or miss proposition that simply makes no sense when the whole purpose is to create a setup that is essentially foolproof, with mission-critical reliability. So, in the case of RAID-5 and RAID-6, a turnkey solution may prove to be the best answer for most, even for those who are mighty handy doing their own hardware configurations.
The benefits of turnkey RAID solutions do come at a premium over and above the cost of "off the shelf" hardware, but for your money you get a promise of quality assurance and peace of mind that just can't be had if you piece it together yourself. It was a long time coming, but now I think we've finally reached that point in the evolution of hard drive storage at which few professionals can afford not have protected storage running at least at RAID-5.
Thankfully, there are a multitude of excellent hardware solutions available today that are both affordable and dependable. In my opinion, one of the best in the business is a small company just an hour down the road from me in Orange County California, called CalDigit Inc.
I particularly like what CalDigit offers because it's so obvious they've taken the time to think everything through, down to the tiniest details. Everything CalDigit does has a fit and polish that exudes confidence. Their packaging, their marketing materials, their website, their competent and willing support, the striking exterior finish and the modular inner-workings of their equipment, are all beautifully designed with a single purpose; to take all of the headaches out of video storage. Their RAID storage systems promise ease of use and substantial levels of security, without sacrificing too much storage space, too much speed, or too much hard earned cash.
HDOne: WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
I needed a RAID to hook up to my older G5, and CalDigit had just what I needed. Fedex delivered a 4Tb HDOne, with the PCIx card option, right to my door. It came in CalDigit's hi-gloss and distinctive yellow, black, and white box. The box is very attractively printed, complete with great photos that show you exactly what you're getting. And, one of the first things you'll notice when you open it up is quality everywhere: from the precision cut high-density foam that protects everything, to the gleaming polish on the HDOne nameplate, it's obvious that CalDigit wants its customers to know that it really cares.
The eight matching Hitachi hard drives are meticulously packed, each in its own anti-static pouch, and each safely shock-protected in its own secure foam slot. The drives are already pre-formatted, pre-striped, configured, tested, and ready to go in a RAID-5 configuration, and each is pre-numbered to correspond with its proper position in the HDOne enclosure.
It's very simple to install them. Using a small supplied key, you just pop open the, hinged locking arm cover plate that's pre-mounted on all eight drives, and slide each into its proper slot in the enclosure using the side rails, that are also pre-mounted. The drives click and lock into place. It's duck soup, anyone can do it.Â
HDOne FOR ALL or A CARD FOR ALL SEASONS
Next, it's time to install the CalDigit bridge card that's right for your MAC. Notice, I didn't say controller card; that's because the CalDigit controller is built right into the enclosure itself. The card is simply part of the pipeline that, along with the supplied cable, connects the HDOne to the computer. Meanwhile, the CalDigit controller onboard the HDOne does the heavy lifting; it uses an on-board Intel XScale Core Processor to optimize performance, processing, power consumption, and data protection.
One terrific thing about the HDOne is that, no matter what, CalDigit has you covered. Whether you've got an older PowerMac G5 machine, with PCIx slots; one of the newer G5s or MacPros, with PCIe slots; or a even MacBook Pro laptop, with a slot for an Express card, there is a solution for you that works with the HDOne. Thankfully, CalDigit understands that many of us have sizeable investments in older machines and/or laptops, or that we may want to move the HDOne between machines, so they've decided to cover all bases.Â In fact, even if you have a Power Mac G4 or a pre-XW8000 Avid HP workstation, you can still take advantage of the HDOne's performance. In addition, CalDigit also has two-lane cards that make it possible to run two 8-bay HDOne towers from a single card.
The CalDigit PCIx eLane-1x was the right card for my G5. It was simple to install, though very snug-fitting, so it did require quite a firm push to get it in place, in slot #3 as advised in the manual. The only problem was, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention it, the card I received just happened to be D.O.A. (dead on arrival). And, that cost me lots of time, not due to any fault of the folks at CalDigit, but because I refused to believe it was dead. So, I kept trying different slots and configurations until I was pretty much completely fried.
However, once I realized the card was truly a hopeless cause, I've got to give them credit, one quick call to the folks at CalDigit was all it took to get the wheels of progress spinning. After a boat-load of apologies, CalDigit overnighted a new card to me right away, and as soon as I installed the new one, plugged it into the HDOne enclosure, and turned on the power, it showed-up on my desktop right away. And, it has worked perfectly like a charm ever since.
BTW, the single cable connection between the HDOne and the bridge card is, like everything else in the box, a thing of beauty and function. The hefty 2-meter cable is built to last and has a very positive feeling latch mechanism that's designed to stay securely in place. It too exudes a feeling of real confidence.
IT SIMPLY WORKS
You know, I could go on and on talking about CalDigit and the HDOne, but the fact is, once it's powered-up, it's easy to forget the HDOne is even there. It simply works, and for a case holding eight hard drives, the HDOne has an amazingly compact footprint and it's remarkably silent as well. And, there's no doubt about it, it's a very comforting feeling just knowing that all your media is stored on a protected RAID-5 (or Raid-6) and that it's been configured by CalDigit's team of experts. Plus, the components of the HDOne are modular and easily replaceable, including the power supply and the two huge whisper-quiet cooling fans. So, over time, if there's ever an issue with a part, replacement is easy and downtime is minimal.
Below is a snapshot of the AJA Disk Read/Write test that shows the throughput speed I'm getting with CalDigit's pre-configured RAID-5 on my older PCIx-based G5, with the RAID about 50% full. 329.4 MB/s write and 391.8 MB/s read speeds are pretty darn good, and you can expect slightly higher throughput if you have a newer PCIe Mac. With this kind of throughput you can expect to play one, and possibly two streams of 10-bit uncompressed HD at 1080i; eight streams of ProRes 422 (HQ) at 1080i; and 17 streams of HDV at 1080i. All things considered, including price, that's excellent performance.
The HDOne is available in various configurations from 2TB to 12TB, and up to 16TB in February with the release of Hitachi 2TB Drives. They can be purchased direct from CalDigit at (714) 572-6668, or from the network of approved resellers listed on the CalDigit website at http://www.caldigit.com/purchase.asp.
The CalDigit HDOne rates an easy 5-Cows. Take it from me, you really can't go wrong with an HDOne -- if you're looking for peace of mind in a box, CalDigit has just the ticket for you. You can find out more information directly from CalDigit at:http://www.CalDigit.com/HDOne/ 1941 Miraloma Ave. #B Placentia, CA 92870 Phone: 1-714-572-6668