Thunderbolt 2 Arrays From Nestor: The Biggest Game in Town
COW Library : Storage & Archiving : Bob Zelin : Thunderbolt 2 Arrays From Nestor: The Biggest Game in Town
Apple pulled the rug out from under their users with FCPX, and they've done it again with the new Mac Pro. They've said, "Surprise! Buy everything all over again, because there are no more PCIe slots for your stupid cards."
And here we go again. Remember the G5 transition to the Mac Pro – everyone was waiting for a PCI-X to PCIe bridge – and it NEVER came. "You bought new. You don't like it? GET OUT OF THE BUSINESS." That's Apple talking, not me.
This time, though, companies like Sonnet and Magma responded quickly to the new Mac Pro with their expansion chassis. And Promise and Areca released Thunderbolt 2 drive arrays, and in smaller capacity, so did CalDigit, and G-Technology. But NO ONE said, "Let's go all the way, and make the BIG products."
If you need something bigger than 8 bays, it's hard to believe, but at this moment, there is only ONE choice – a company from Taiwan named Netstor.
The Netstor NA333TB is a 16 bay drive array that takes conventional 6gig SATA drives up to 4 TB capacity, allowing for up to 64 TB of storage. I prefer HGST Ultrastar drives, so all testing was done with these drives. Because the Netstor does NOT come with a RAID host adaptor card, we tested it with the same trusty Areca ARC-1882ix-16 card that we often use in conventional miniSAS drive setups.
The Netstor NA333TB 16 bay drive array. Click images to expand.
The Netstor has three integrated PCIe slots inside the chassis, eliminating the need for an external Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis. This saves lots of money while also answering the question, "What about all the cards that I bought? Do I have to throw them out?" The answer is NO! PCIe slots are built in!!!
PCIe slots are built in!
Even with the Areca RAID card installed inside the Netstor chassis, it's great to have additional slots available, so that other cards like eSATA or USB3 cards can be installed as well, for quick data transfer and backups.
With 16 drives stripped at RAID 0, using AJA System Test as a benchmark for speed, we were able to get about 1300 MB/sec. But in real life, RAID 0 is foolish – with no protection against a failed drive – so we switched to a more realistic RAID 6 configuration. We choose RAID 6 in recent times, because of the higher failure rates of SATA drives than in the past. All too often, I have seen a second drive fail in a RAID 5 configuration when a rebuild of the array is being done, ultimately losing all of the customer's valuable data. We prefer and recommend sticking with RAID 6 configurations these days, particularly with 16 bay drive arrays.
With RAID 6, I was able to consistently get between 1100 and 1200 MB/sec, which in my opinion, is excellent, considering that RAID 0 only brought up the speed about 100 MB/sec.
While 1200 MB/sec might be slower performance than I am used to seeing with the equivalent 16 bay miniSAS array on an old Mac Pro using a x16 lane slot for the Areca card, I must face the reality that the "old" Mac Pro is discontinued, and all I have available to me now is the new 2013 Mac Pro with Thunderbolt 2.
The fact is that 1200 MB/sec is plenty of bandwidth, considering that most clients are still using some form or Apple ProRes, or Sony XDCAM, or AVCHD, all which are low bandwidth. Even RED .R3D files are low bandwidth, making the 1200 MB/sec from the Netstor array at RAID 6 plenty fast for virtually any application. Anyone can readily see, using the wonderful (and free) AJA Data Calc application, that there is no HD or 4K codec that requires more than 1200 MB/sec.
Because Thunderbolt 2 has a fixed maximum bandwidth of 1375 MB/sec., even the addition of SSD drives instead of conventional SATA drives would not increase the speed of this array (or any other RAID array that relies on Thunderbolt 2).
It seems that Netstor is currently the only manufacturer of 16 bay Thunderbolt 2 drive arrays, and has a 24 bay configuration as well, called the NA381TB – which I have not yet seen. Between this, and the fact that the RAID chassis has the built in PCIe expander with 3 PCIe slots for assorted card (that most of us already own), it seems like a "no brainer" that this is a "best value" purchase.
It should be noted that the larger 24 bay Netstor NA381TB has an additional "slot" to place a Mac Mini INSIDE the RAID array, so the entire system can be easily rack mounted. While the current Mac Mini uses only Thunderbolt 1 technology, with rumors that a Thunderbolt 2 Mac Mini being released sometime in 2014, this is very exciting information.
Maxx Digital has tested the Netstor NA333TB with its new 10GbE Final Share system that incorporates the new 2013 Mac Pro, and it works wonderfully. In fact, this is what is going to be displayed at NAB2014 at the show. We are seeing performance of over 600 MB/sec from the client Mac computers to the Mac Pro server, so we are very impressed with its performance.
Not only does Netstor have a winner as a new drive array, but coming into April 2014, they simply have no competition. No one else is manufacturing a 16 or 24 bay Thunderbolt 2 drive array at this time.
Netstor Thunderbolt Storage and PCIe Expansion NA381TB
NA333TB -- Netstor Thunderbolt Storage & PCIe Expansion Product Introduction