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Bob Zelin Looks at Dulce Systems Pro EX PCI-Express expander

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CreativeCOW presents Bob Zelin Looks at Dulce Systems Pro EX PCI-Express expander -- Apple Final Cut Pro Review


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There are a lot of exciting products on the market, but it is rare that you get to see a product that is so useful, and such a "no brainer", that it's worth jumping up and down upon it's release.

In the recent past, one of these products was the AJA GEN10 tri level sync generator. It was "just another black generator" that could also do NTSC, PAL and Tri Level Sync, and by the way, it cost TEN TIMES LESS than anything else on the market. But I already jumped up and down about this product, and already wrote a review.

WELL, it happened again. Today, I installed the new Dulce Systems Pro EX PCI-Express expander. This product is amazing, and this review will be very short, as it's such a simple product, that has been LONG OVERDUE.

My client had the Dulce Systems Duo Quad RAID 5 SAS SATA RAID array in their MAC Pro computer, where they did Final Cut Pro HD editing, and used the Duo Quad for storage. They started off with a 6 Terabyte Array, and soon ran out of room. (Hard to believe that 6 TB is nothing these days). So they purchased another 8 TB chassis, but they could not use both RAID 5 chassis at the same time. I already had an AJA Kona 3 HD capture card in the computer. AND I had a Cal Digit Fasta 4e in slot 2 (which I should not have done, but I did it anyway, and it worked). AND NOW I NEEDED MORE STORAGE. I needed to be able to use the 6 TB and the 8TB Dulce disk drive chassis at the SAME time. You can't "daisy chain" SAS SATA drive products -- so what was I to do ? I just waited for the promised release of the Dulce Pro EX expander switch.

I initially thought that this was a SAS port expander for more RAID 5 chassis from Dulce, but I was wrong (and I was right). This product allows me to not only add more SATA host cards, but it EXPANDS THE ENTIRE PCI-EXPRESS BUSS OF THE MAC PRO COMPUTER. This means that I can add up to SEVEN additional PCI-E cards into a conventional MAC Pro Computer, without sacrifice. This seems almost too good to be true. Now, if I wanted to add "other stuff" -- like Firewire 800 cards, etc., all of a sudden, I had the room to do this !!!

This is how it works, and its REALLY EASY -- as there is are no software drivers, or utilities to load (it just works). You yank out your existing storage card (I pulled out the Dulce Systems SAS SATA host card from slot 4 of my MAC Pro). I stuck in their "port expander" card into slot 4 (Dulce calls it the Pro EX x8 Uplink Host Adaptor), and I closed the computer. I stuck my Dulce SAS SATA host card into the Dulce ProEX port expander, plugged in the ONE METER CABLE (that's nice and long -- 3 feet for a disk drive cable is pretty damn good these days) between the MAC Pro and the Dulce ProEX, and plugged in the Dulce Duo Quad chassis to the Dulce SAS SATA host card that was now in the Dulce ProEX chassis. I turned on the MAC Pro (there is no power switch on the Pro EX), and everything fired up. Without me doing anything (no dip switches, no menus, no software, no drivers, no nothing), my drives showed up. And played back HD footage. No relinking, no nothing, it just worked.

But I bought this thing to get more than one chassis working (and I was nervous). So I powered down, unplugged everything, and installed the SECOND Dulce SAS SATA host adaptor in the Dulce ProEX expander chassis. I am now using 2 slots (and there are 5 left !).

I plugged in my second 8 TB Dulce Duo Quad Chassis, turned on the MAC, and incredibly, BOTH DRIVE VOLUMES were now mounted on the MAC Desktop. I have two SAS SATA RAID 5 chassis running on a single MAC Pro computer, with the AJA Kona 3 card installed, and everything is working, and everything is playing back HD material. AND I HAVE ROOM FOR 5 MORE RAID 5 BOXES.

This means that I can have SEVEN 8 Terabyte RAID 5 Dulce boxes on this system. This means that a SINGLE MAC PRO running Final Cut Pro can have 56 Terabytes of storage on it. AM I DREAMING ????

Of course, the Dulce ProEX doesn't have to be used exclusively for Disk Drive chassis -- it's more PCI-Express slots, and you can stick ANYTHING into these slots, like Firewire 400 or Firewire 800 cards. I see no reason not to be able to use this with Digidesign Pro Tools systems that require more slots.

Of course, it kills me that Apple simply can't make a computer like a HP PC that has lots of slots in it. But -- well -- that's Apple.

The Dulce Pro EX gives you THREE x8 slots and FOUR x4 slots.

The Dulce Pro EX is SMALL -- in the picture on the Dulce site, it looks like it's the same size as a MAC Pro -- but it's not -- it's really small, so it would easily fit on a rack shelf right next to a MAC Pro, along with a drive chassis. And it's QUIET. The cooling fan is really silent. In my first installation, there was a hole in the wall behind the edit room, so we wound up running the 3' long cable thru this hole, and kept the ProEX and the 2 drive chassis on the other side of the wall. But even if we had to keep all of this stuff in the edit room, it would still be really quiet (but not silent -- this ain't no miracle).

Because this product can be used for ANY expansion that you need to do with a MAC Pro computer for the PCI-Express buss (and not just Dulce drives), I find this product to be absolutely amazing, and useful. Let me be specific here -- if you own the Sonnet RAID 5 product, which uses the super fast ATTO R380 SATA host card, and you want to have a second unit on your system, I see no reason why you can't get the Dulce ProEX and DOUBLE YOUR STORAGE.

Dulce has a winner, with wide applications for multiple products on the market today.

Comments

Bob Zelin Looks at Dulce Systems Pro EX PCI-Express expander
by Morten Stjernholm
UPS - forgot to mention that the 8 lanes are shared over the 7 slots. All cards will run at full speed until you are running out of bandwith. With 8 lanes - it might be hard, as long as you are not trying to run Graphics cards in there!
Bob Zelin Looks at Dulce Systems Pro EX PCI-Express expander
by Morten Stjernholm
Bob, you are forgetting one thing. To expand a protools system, you would need a box with room for Full Length PCIe cards... The EX can not accommodate full length cards. To answer the other comment: The EX is connected to the host computer with a 8 lane connection. The 3 first slots inside are 8x and the following four are 4x. I have tested it with almost anything, including a decklink video I/O card ( filled it up completely with Fibre, ePCIe, firewire, ethernet and SAS cards ) and everything worked. This was on the 2008 Mac Pro with the EX expander connection in the 16x slot.
Bob Zelin Looks at Dulce Systems Pro EX PCI-Express expander
by szumlins
Am I missing something, or are you insinuating that you can split a 4x lane PCIe slot into 7x new cards and have them all work properly at less than 1x each?


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