G-Tech G-RACK 12: Fast, Easy, Expandable, A Winner
COW Library : Storage & Archiving : Bob Zelin : G-Tech G-RACK 12: Fast, Easy, Expandable, A Winner
At NAB 2016, G-Tech released their first shared storage product, the G-RACK 12.
In the past, G-Tech has made large drive arrays that used ATTO or Highpoint RAID controllers, but over the years, seemed to have phased these out, concentrating on smaller drive arrays, that were more affordable. This changed in 2015, when G-Tech released the G-Tech Studio XL, which was a full 8 bay RAID array for Thunderbolt 2 systems, that could support up to 8 TB SATA hard drives, for up to 64 TB of RAID protected storage. This product became wildly successful for them.
The G-Tech Studio XL was (and still is) great, an excellent choice not only for standalone large RAID arrays, but also for the type of shared storage system that I have been building for years.
G-Tech has gained a reputation over the years of making very reliable products. They have relative recently been acquired by giant drive manufacturer HGST, which in turn has been purchased by the largest drive company in the planet -- Western Digital (who just purchased SanDisk for 16 billion dollars), so when they announced that they were making a shared storage product, I knew that this was going to be a serious product.
Unlike the new craze of ZFS based shared storage systems from Small Tree, LumaForge and Other World Computing, G-Tech has decided to use Btrfs. Pronounce it any way you want. Butter FS, Better FS, or just spell it out. This is a Linux-based system that's designed for maximum speed, reliability, and flexibility, including things like reconfiguring workspace allocations on the fly. Don't worry about not knowing Linux, though. You can find everything you need in a very easy to use web browser interface. (More details about that below.)
The actual chassis only takes up 2 rack units, and as you can guess from the name, the GS 12 holds 12 drives. Because G-Tech is owned by HGST, they are fortunate to be the first company to get access to the new 10 Terabyte HGST Enterprise series SATA drives. This means that you can have up to 120 TB (100 TB after RAID 6 configuration) in only 2 rack units.
And because this product supports SAS expansion, you can add an additional three chassis, which means that you can have 480 TB of total storage. Even if you are working in 4K or 6K, that is a LOT of storage capacity.
The expanders attach with a simple miniSAS 12G cable, so for those technically challenged, it's an easy process -- one single cable.
As for how much room does this take up? Almost nothing -- 4 chassis will take up 8 rack units, which is just 11" tall, for 480 TB of storage.
And no, it does NOT require a server computer. The server is built into the main unit itself, so you are not stuck with a large Mac or PC sitting there, acting as the server.
The G-Tech G-RACK 12 has four 10 Gig Ethernet ports that come standard with the system. Two are on the motherboard of the server computer, and two are on a dual port 10G PCIe card.
This card can be 10Gbase-T or SFP+ 10G. The standard card is 10Gbase-T, so you can use cheap Cat 6 cabling for up to 55 meters, and Cat 6A cabling for up to 100 meters. The G-RACK computer comes standard with 128 Gig of RAM. I usually use 16 gig of RAM, so WOW, that's a lot of RAM for a server!!!
When I build this type of system, I always go into a Netgear XS712T 12 port 10Gbase-T switch. It's cheap, and allows me to connect up to 11 client computers. If I need a bigger switch, I can always spend more money, and get the larger 24 port Netgear XS728T. This way, I can connect one (or two if I want to link aggregate the ports) from the G-Tech G-RACK12 to the switch, and simply plug in the client computers to the Netgear switch.
I always leave the first Ethernet port on the G-RACK configured to DHCP, so I can plug it into the facility's house internet network.
Ports on the back of the G-RACK 12
Why connect your shared storage to the internet? The G-RACK reports drive failure (and other system failures like a dead power supply) to your email, so if you are home on a Sunday, and a drive fails, you will know it instantly. This is why it's a good idea to leave the G-RACK plugged into the internet. This ain't Windows, and no one is looking at porn on your Linux based G-RACK, so there is no worry that you will pick up a virus.
The Netgear supports both 10G and 1G clients (like the native built in port of an iMac), so if I don't want to spend the money on a Thunderbolt to 10G adaptor, I can still simply plug in the iMac to the Netgear switch, and have enough bandwidth to do full HD-SDI 1080i editing, without spending another penny.
If I do want to have the extra bandwidth, I can add Thunderbolt to 10G adaptors on the client computers from Sonnet, Promise, ATTO, Akitio, or anyone else that is making a 10G card that I can stick into a Thunderbolt expansion chassis. Any of these will plug into the Netgear switch, and give me incredible bandwidth for not only HD editing, but 4K and 6K.
(I have not tried 8k yet, nor do I have the specs for this yet.)
With shared storage, once the shared storage system stops, no one is working at your facility. The G-Tech G-RACK 12 comes with dual power supplies (two power cords), in case one fails. If you are using shared storage, and one of the power supplies fail, you can continue to work.
G-RACK 12 CONFIGURATION
To access the G-RACK, be it for setting it up for the first time, or day to day operations, you do not need a keyboard, mouse and monitor attached to it. You can simply enter its IP address from any web browser like Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, and it will instantly appear on your local computer.
Web-based set-up and management software is designed for video editors, rather than sysadmins
And the setup process is easy. No need for multiple networks, metadata managers, special software installation, etc. This product is designed to plug in and work.
The second 10G port on the motherboard (they call it en1) is already preset to an IP address at the factory, which you can change. Because I am lazy, I left this alone for my demo (the IP is 172.16.12.12). If this was a real facility, I would have probably used the additional two 10G ports on the PCIe card, and set the IP addresses of those to match the facility I was working at, and left the G-Tech defaults alone, in case of disaster where I needed to call them.
The entire process of setting this up is pretty easy. Once you set an IP address for the 10G port that you want to use for all the editors, you add users, create a workspace (which in Apple land is called a share point), assign the users to that workspace and you are done.
So let's get into specifics here, as many people say "Easy? How easy?"
To create a new user, you click on Access Control, click the + icon to add in the new user, enter the name and password you want to use and click SAVE. That's it.
To create a new workspace (or share point) that you want to share on the RAID array (this can simply be the entire 100 TB of space) -- you click on Workspace, click on the + icon, give it a name, select the Device (the G-RACK if you only have the one RAID chassis), and click SAVE. That's it.
To assign your users to this shared workspace, you click on Workspace, click on the "Crown" Icon (they could have just put a word there called permissions) - and you see all the user names that you entered. You simply slide the "switch" icon for each user -- whether you want Read/Write Accesss, Read Only Access or No Access.
Come on -- this is easy. In a third of a page of text, you are trained and ready to go.
G-RACK 12 PROTOCOLS
The G-RACK12 supports Apple's legacy AFP network protocol, the new SMB network protocol (which is what all Windows computers use, and what Apple is now making their default network connection protocol), and the "dreaded" NFS.
NFS, an antique Unix/Linux network protocol is what is required to get FCP-X to work.
NFS is typically slow on Mac systems, but G-Tech has SMART guys working for them, and wrote a custom Nfs.conf tuning file (free) that when you load into your Mac computer (in the /etc folder), gives you the SAME network speed with NFS that you get with SMB or AFP.
G-Tech also supports and includes iSCSI, and the G-RACK12 has an iSCSI Target, but you need to purchase additional iSCSI initiators to get this to work.
G-Tech G-RACK 12 expansion chassis
G-RACK 12 SPEED
With a 1G connection, you get over 100 MB/sec, and with a 10G connection, you get over 700 MB/sec -- both read and write.
Remember, RED Epic Dragon 6K at 5:1 compression requires 143 MB/sec, so working at any of these network protocols with a 10G connection - even with NFS -- will give you multiple times the bandwidth you need to edit in 6K!!!!!
G-Tech supplied this graphic to illustrate the number of streams for 3 Mac Pro systems running Apple Final Cut Pro X
G-RACK 12 IN CONCLUSION
So does this product work? YUP -- it sure does!
It's a server chassis, so the fans are loud - you don't want this under your desk -- but it's small, and it gives you an incredible amount of storage space.
And it's super-fast -- fast enough for anything that we need to edit with today. And it's pretty darn easy to setup. And it's expandable if you need more clients, or more storage space.
And to answer the usual question "Well, what if they go out of business?" -- it's my opinion that G-Tech will go out of business around the same time that Apple and Microsoft go out of business, so I really would not worry about that.
It's always amazing for me to see where we came from in the earliest days of insanely expensive, small, and slow shared storage products. Today, you get super-fast performance, at a fraction of the cost, with tons more storage space.
Not to ruin the party, but no Avid bin locking, so solutions from Avid, Facilis, EditShare, and others will be better solutions for Avid Media Composer.
For people using Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Pro X, Autodesk products, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and others -- G-Tech has a winner product here with the G-RACK 12.