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Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt

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CreativeCOW presents Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt -- Art of the Edit Editorial


Los Angeles California USA
Article and all images copyright Shane Ross. All rights reserved.



(EDIT DESK BEFORE)

It's time. It's time I took my 2008 MacPro out of regular use and start using my newer computer, a 2012 non-retina MacBook Pro. Why now? Well, I was onlining a series for MSNBC using Avid Symphony (in 64 bit mode) and working with some effects took longer than with my laptop. Rendering the show took longer on the tower than on the laptop. Some tasks were lagging on the tower, but not on the laptop. By the end of the series, I was finishing everything on the laptop.

Now, I do happen to have some things on the laptop that helped. The MacPro has a Kona 3 card, and I happen to have an AJA IoXT (and BMD Ultrastudio Mini Monitor) that connect to the laptop via Thunderbolt. So that part is covered. The IoXT has Thunderbolt loop through, so I am able to then connect a Thunderbolt to DVI adapter and have a second monitor. That leaves me with a Firewire 800 port and a USB 3 port for connecting hard drives (I use one USB port for a keyboard and mouse).

I do happen to have an eSATA to USB drive adapter, so I can still connect drives via eSATA, but the speeds aren't quite the same. Things have been going smoothly thus far with USB 3 and Firewire 800 drives. The onlines I just wrapped up all were on small 1TB USB3 bus powered drives.

But if I want to edit larger projects with lots of media, I'm going to have to be able to connect larger arrays to my system. My 4-bay eSATA bay…my CalDigit HDOne 8TB Tower (next to my tower in the above pic). And if I want RESOLVE to really crank out the renders, I'll need to get a compatible graphics card. Unlike a MacPro that has extra slots to install such cards…eSATA, MiniSAS (HDOne) or secondary graphics card…my laptop can't do that. Nor can you do that with the Apple iMac, MacMini…or new MacPro Tower. Apple is betting everything on Thunderbolt…as you can see with the six Thunderbolt connectors on that new MacPro. So what are we to do now?

PCIe Thunderbolt bridges.

Because this transition happened slowly, there have been several companies that have come out with these bridges. There's the Magma ExpressBox 3T, mLogic mLink R, a couple options from Sonnet Tech and more. (Sonnet just announced the first Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis, with three slots. Perfect for the new MacPro, that is shipping with Thunderbolt 2 connectors) It turns out that a friend of mine happened to have a chassis that he was trying to offload. It was to be used in a DIT station he was going to build for a client, but never happened. So he sold it to me for half price.

The one I bought is the Sonnet Echo Express Pro II…which is currently discontinued. But Sonnet makes an updated version of the Echo Express, and a few others (full list of supported PCIe cards found here).

What's great about this, and the other options, is that they all have two Thunderbolt connectors. This means that you can connect your computer to the bridges, then possibly to a Thunderbolt RAID, an IO Device, a second computer monitor (if it's Thunderbolt compatible) and so on.

I have one IO device that only has one Thunderbolt connector, so I can't use it and an external monitor…unless I add a graphics card to the bridge. But the IoXT has loop through, the Sonnet has loop through, and then I connect to the DVI adapter…done.

I unpacked the Echo Express and read the instructions. Pretty simple…take off the cover, add the cards, put the cover back, add power, connect via Thunderbolt to my laptop. No drivers needed…at least not for the bridge. You still need to install the drivers for the cards you install…just like you would need to if you installed them into an older MacPro tower.

Now, when I installed the cards, I had an issue arise. The CalDigit FASTA4 card I installed…it's a 4 port eSATA card…worked fine. My drive connected to it via eSATA showed up on my desktop. But the HDOne did not. It lit up like it should, but nothing appeared on the desktop, nor in the Disk Utility software.

I emailed both CalDigit tech support and Sonnet Tech support, explaining the situation. CalDigit was the first to respond asking for more details, and providing a different driver for me to install. This driver was for their HD PRO 2 tower. This one is called THUNDER EXPRESS…and makes their SAS cards compatible with Thunderbolt bridges.

Sonnet emailed next stating that the PCIe card makers need to write drivers that make them “Thunderbolt compliant.”

Makes sense…and is exactly what CalDigit did with their driver. I installed it, and sure enough the HDOne mounted fine. How did the eSATA one work right away? Well, I downloaded the latest driver from the site and apparently that one made the card Thunderbolt compliant.

This might be true for all the bridge options. I do know that the mLogic one was designed with the Red Rocket specifically in mind, so the driver might not be needed for that. But since I don't have either a Red Rocket or the mLogic…I can't say for sure.

All I can say is that if you plan on upgrading to a newer computer that has Thunderbolt ports, and you want to bring over some of your devices that connected via PCIe…make sure that the company makes drivers for them to make them Thunderbolt compliant. Don't get stuck, like I thought I did…when I bought the box, and the HDOne didn't mount…I was pretty frustrated. I didn't do my homework properly. Thank goodness for CalDigit being on top of things.


(yes yes, I still have that second monitor behind the laptop. I still need it on the tower, and it's the best place to keep it for now)





Thanks to Shane for letting us reprint his article from his blog, Little Frog in High Def.


Comments

Re: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Shane Ross
They pointed me to the driver, which I then linked to in my blog.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def
@Shane Ro
by Tito da Costa
Shane,

Just for the sake of it, I downloaded the driver from the link in your blog, installed it again, but still no luck… :(

Not sure what else to try… I even took out a firewire card I had in the Echo Express Pro, just to make sure the was no conflict, but nothing changed…
I'll e-mail Caldigit again…

Thank's again for your feedback! ; )~

@Shane Ro
by Tito da Costa
Hi Shane,

Caldigit finally got back to me and sent me the "ThunderExpress-HDPro2 Dirver"!
Everything is working fine now!!!
The driver you have linked in your blog seems to be the regular driver you can download from their support page, but it looks like you really need the ThunderExpress one.
I did a little digging and seems like they were developing a product called Thunder Express to connect their RAIDs via Thunderbolt: http://www.caldigit.com/thunderbolt/thunderexpress.html
I think that's where this driver comes from…

Thanks again for all, your feedback! And thanks to your blog post I'm now also enjoying Thunderbolt Bridge wonders!!!


; )~

Re: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Tito da Costa
I have contacted them… Twice! Never got a reply...
My experience with their tech support could't be further opposite from yours…

Just wondering, did they send you a driver, or is it the same one on their support page?


Thank you so much for your help!!!

Re: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Tito da Costa
Hi,

I'm trying to connect an HDOne to an iMac, with a Sonnet Echo Express Pro. I have installed the suggested driver in this article (CalDigit 2.2.2) but just can't get it to work… The card keeps showing as not connected… Even tried swapping card from slots and still didn't work… Tested with a firewire card and works in both slots...

"This one is called THUNDER EXPRESS…and makes their SAS cards compatible with Thunderbolt bridges."

I can't find this driver anywhere on the web. Can anyone please, please point me in the right direction?

Thank you so much!!!

@Tito da Costa
by Shane Ross
What OS are you running? I'm still on Mountain Lion. The installer is for OS 10.7....just happens to work for 10.8. Wondering if 10.9 breaks it.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def
@Shane Ro
by Tito da Costa
I'm running 10.8.5

After running the installer a few more time, it now shows on the system report PCI Cards, but says no driver installed.
On Thunderbolt says no device connected.


You mention something about "Thunder Express" in your post, but I can't find that driver anywhere… Is that what I'm missing?

Thank you so much for replying!!! ; )~

@Tito da Costa
by Shane Ross
Thunder Express is the name of the 2.2.2 driver. Contact CalDigit support, see what they can do. That's how I got that driver.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def
Re: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Karel Voners
One another note,

I worked from a laptop with extra monitor for about 1 year and then it simply died from overheating.

Unless you don't plan on doing much rendering or transcoding (or you got money to spend), expect that thing to die...

Chips in laptops just can't handle to be that hot (80-110 °C is a typical macbook pro stress temp).

Cheers!
Karel.
Re: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Mike Cohen
does anyone have experience with Thunderbolt on Windows? You can find some PCI cards, and newer motherboards supposedly will have it built in. The prices on Thuderbolt RAIDS seem too good to be true.

Mike Cohen
@Mike Cohen
by Tim Wilson
I'm sure Bob Zelin will jump in to disagree, but the fact is that it's a dumb IT connection. It's no different than USB and FireWire that way. Windows PCs have had it for very nearly as long as it has been available on Mac -- for example, HP has it on all their Z workstations (both desktop and mobile) -- and virtually every product from every vendor has Windows drivers.

There had been one AJA device introduced at NAB 2013 whose Windows drivers weren't released until IBC 2013, but a 6-month gap on one product is hardly a "statement" about Tbolt on Windows, at AJA or anywhere else.

In the usual stampede of the press to cover Mac as the only platform to ever have anything, it's easy enough for this to be missed. As recently as last January, Infoworld posted an article headlined, "Not just for Macs, Thunderbolt rumbles into PCs" -- while acknowledging that Tbolt has in fact been working on Windows for years.

You will of course find some articles from 2012 that talk through some trouble almost ONLY in regard to hot-swapping, but almost all the trouble was related to running Windows on Macs....although hey, there had originally been issues with CD-ROM drives (hey! Remember those?) on Macs running Windows.

So again acknowledging that folks' mileage will vary, they're just monitors and storage and other stuff that, in practice, really doesn't care about your OS.
@Mike Cohen
by Gary Alan
Mike, or anyone else for that matter,

I have a brand new MSI high end PC motherboard that has a built in Thunderbolt port that I ended up not using and it sits on my closet shelf waiting for a new home. I also have a high end Intel motherboard sitting there with it. Long story, but I ended up using my small Asus motherboard and NewEgg would not let me get a refund one day after the 30 day return policy. So, I got stuck with two extra motherboards.

I am willing to sell the MSI board, or/and the Intel board, for a very low price since they just sit there.

Gary
garyalan24@yahoo.com
Re: Article: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Bill Ravens
Thought you'd like to see my setup...
http://images.creativecow.net/58887/presentation1.jpg

+1
Re: Article: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Shane Ross
Nice...I need to make a chart like that.

Actually I've improved it since. I've added a USB3>DVI monitor card...so now I can have THREE monitors, or close the laptop completely and use my two big ones. This works fine with Avid, but FCP 7 refuses to even launch, as the USB card has 0 VRAM. PPro says that many plugins won't work with this device attached. So it's good for Avid, but not much else.

But it does give me a place to put the HUGE mixer Avid has.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def
Re: Article: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Bill Ravens
FWIW...
FCPX works great with my setup.

Re: Article: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Shane Ross
FCP 7 works fine on my setup as I laid out too. Just saying that I THEN added a USB to DVI adapter, and with that connected, FCP won't work...not even boot. I wonder if FCX would....

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def
Re: Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt
by Tim Jones
A note about the "Thunderbolt Enabled" drivers. Sonnet is correct that the vendors need to make their drivers Thunderbolt compatible and Shane is definitely correct in the point that CalDigit's newer driver had this flag set. The physical cards are all simply PCIe cards, so they'll work as long as the driver (kext) is set to pass-through the PCIe signals via the Thunderbolt link.

This applies to ALL Thunderbolt to PCIe bridge solutions, not just Sonnet.

A special note for users of ATTO ExpressSAS or Celerity HBAs - Mavericks will downgrade your ATTO driver and leave you with a system that probably won't recognized your ATTO attached devices. The downgrade occurs even if you had the Thunderbolt compatible drivers installed under 10.8 previously. This is related to that "Thunderbolt Enabled" status and it seems to be missing in the ATTO drivers that Mavericks installs. To fix it - as you probably guessed - simply download the updated drivers from http://www.attotech.com.

Tim
--
Tim Jones
CTO - TOLIS Group, Inc.
http://www.productionbackup.com
BRU ... because it's the RESTORE that matters!


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