View Full Version : ExpressRaid Vs Softraid

09-29-2001, 05:08 PM
I am building a 4 drive 2 channel array with X15 cheetahs and Atto UL3D controller. I have both Softraid and ExpressRaid. Which one is preferred??

Thanks ... Taffy.C

09-29-2001, 06:29 PM
Not that I have used IT on anything that big, fast or expensive, but I like SoftRAID. Of course I am sure Mag and Co have used it on things more expensive http://macgurus.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

System 10 could throw a kink in all this. It looks like it supports some kinds of RAIDs and as far as I know SoftRAID is on certified with X (but I have heard of some success). Not sure about ExpressRAID- is that made by ATTO?

One Nation, under God; with liberty and justice for all.

09-29-2001, 11:15 PM
Before you start dumping files and apps on the striped RAID, try them both and see which you prefer. k

09-30-2001, 10:41 AM
just upgraded to X 10.1 It does have RAID support. I have four old Seagate Ultra Barracuda drives. In 9.x i used two of them in a mirrored config for short term b/u and two of them stripped for AV editing. The support in 10.1 supports 1 and 0 raid. Setting it up is as easy as could be and seems to work fine. Using an initio card with beta drivers. free, slick and supported in the OS. drjoe

09-30-2001, 11:05 AM
There seems to be an update to ExpressRAID coming for OS X and SoftRAID isn't yet. The RAID built in OS X 10.1 can't be used in 9.2 if you wanted to repair with other tools or needed them to be available in both. Nor could I install OS X onto mirror raid. SoftRAID driver isn't recommended even if you can/do install (single volume w/o partitions some feel works, at least did, with 10.04 but not totally reliable).

10.1 doesn't allow splitting a drive into volumes. It is either mirror or stripped and uses the entire drive (driverless no less). ExpressRAID allows drives of unequal sizes to be used and more. I'd expect SoftRAID (3.0?) to do everything it does now plus more.

No one could be sure what Apple would do or what the final support in 10.1 would be... until 10.1 is a fait accompli and shipped. Last minute changes have destroyed weeks and months of work in the past all too often. And 10.0 had so much undocumented, incomplete, and with bugs in the IOKits as well.

Also, ATTO confirmed a bug or needed firmware update for UL3D/S on (some? most?) systems running 9.2.1 may be affected, (or needs a patch to work around bug or changes Apple made in 9.2.1 at least) to deal with booting on internal drives. System hangs just before the menu bar is completed and before any volume appears on desktop.

Performance is one factor, cost another, features though might be more decisive.

Funnily, after a year of waiting and planning and upgrading, having spent a fortune, I'm happily using 9.2.1, SoftRAID, DSL, and Mozilla even though I have the full retail 10.1 package installed etc. Maybe if I had AGP video or dual G4. Eye candy. It isn't faster or make working more efficient or easier. Maybe in six months?

I just bought the "card-only" ATTO and now I wish that I had bought the RAID kit. Decent cables, and another RAID option. Seriously. I like having choices. And it isn't that much more - $150-200.

If you get the latest ATTO RAID package, I'd like to see what your benchmarks look like.


09-30-2001, 08:15 PM
I heard that Apple is using code from Atto in Mac OS X for RAID support. Atto is the maker of ExpressRaid. This of course is no gaurentee that you will not have any compatibility problems with ExpressRaid, but it is a clear indication of Atto's commitment to OS X. I do not have any expierence with softraid yet. I am about to configure 6 stations with x15 cheetahs, that is if the drives ever come in. My plan is to try both, speed is my primary objective. I figure its worth doing a little research first before commiting one way or the other. I am not planning on migrating to OS X until Photoshop is out and stable. I really wish Adobe would get it in gear.

If you test both pleaase share your results and or any other obsevations.

10-01-2001, 12:59 AM
The source code for AppleRAID is available as part of Darwin.If you look at it has the answers to certain things in this thread. First, ATTO had nothing to do with it. Second, if you really want to do have multiple partitions on the same drive as a RAID set you can, but you have to manipulate the partition table manually. I should note that doing so would cause a big performance loss in most cases.



10-01-2001, 07:45 AM
I thought 'AppleRaid' was and OEM version of SoftRAID?

In softRAID you can setup multiple partitions with stripped volumes - I usually setup a small (2 to 4GB) boot volume and leave the rest for data. The first - boot/app partition is usually a little faster than the data partition, but they are both fairly fast. I do not think any speed is lost in this case.

It would be nice to hear a word from the SoftRAID about Apple, X and relivant stuff. Its been nearly a year.

10-01-2001, 12:58 PM
I'll see if I can coax Mark James into making an appearance here and updating us all (we are, after all, his biggest fans).

I must say that I personally still prefer SoftRAID over ExpressRAID, and it's not just a matter of cost. I have encountered far more problems using (or trying to use) ExpressRAID, and ATTO's support for it completely blows. When you consider the timely (and FREE) updates issued for SoftRAID, its rock-solid compatibility, robust stability and raw speed, and then throw in the nearly instantaneous replies you get from Mark whenever you have a problem, it remains the hands-down winner in the RAID software wars on the MacOS.

ExpressRAID, on the other hand, is endorsed only by Digi (which is why we carry it in the form of the ATTO RAID kit bundles). RAID 1 is often not usable on late hardware, and when you encounter a problem, you have to waste your time trying to get past ATTO's sincere but stupid tier one tech support weenies. (Harsh, I know, and I apologize for being such a dick, but I really hate it when someone wastes my time--besides, I really am an asshole sometimes. Give me a sign: I'll wear it.) http://macgurus.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

And now, ATTO has just posted a press release explaining their new software update policies. It all amounts to more hoops to jump through, IMO. More time wasting, in short. (If there is interest, I will be pleased to post the complete press release here). And ExpressRAID costs more than SoftRAID, depending on how you buy it. On the plus side, ATTO has done something which enables drives or RAID 0 using their driver to deliver faster thruput in some benchmarks. I wonder, though, how much of this is really smoke and mirrors? I've run raw benchmark tests confirming that it can be slightly faster than SoftRAID. I haven't been able to use ExpressRAID exclusively for longer than a couple of days, though, to really confirm that this is more than just tricksterism. Once it freezes during a long transfer, it's outahere.

Like others, I have been impatiently awaiting an update for OSX, not to mention support for other forms of RAID. I must say that SoftRAID's approach, however, releasing only really good software when it is ready, working closely with a nice network of beta sites, is deeply reassuring: I trust Mark, I trust his company, and I trust his product so much, that it is running on virtually every Mac in Hardware Heaven, workstations and servers alike. I am writing this on a Mac which boots from a SoftRAID RAID 1, in fact, with apps and work space on a SoftRAID RAID 0, all running off an ATTO UL3D.

what can I say? I like what I like.

I do think it is absolutely a cool thing that Apple has done, however, including RAID 0 and RAID 1 in OS 10.1. Supporting both ATA and LVD SCSI, I don't even mind that Apple doesn't want us to boot from such volumes. No problem. We'll see how fast it is, and how stable.

My fingers are crossed.


10-01-2001, 04:05 PM
AppleRAID is definately not OEMed from someone else. I work for Apple and did a bunch of testing on it, and I know the primary author.

If you really want to setup seperate partitions like that you can, its just tricky. You need to write a small program to stamp down correct RAID headers. You have to basicly stamp down a data structure that is defined in this (http://homepage.mac.com/lgerbarg/AppleRAID/AppleRAIDHeader.h). If you want to checkout all of the source get a Darwin account (http://www.opensource.apple.com), the entire AppleRAID source is only about 65k.


[This message has been edited by lgerbarg (edited 01 October 2001).]

10-01-2001, 08:47 PM
If you really want to setup seperate partitions like that you can, its just tricky. You need to write a small program to stamp down correct RAID headers.
That is INSANE and very definately highly unApple like. I might as well attempt to learn LINUX http://www.macgurus.com/ubb/eek.gif

I have real work to be done.

10-02-2001, 02:23 AM
Your right its not easy to do, because it is not supported. It is not supported for a number of reason, which is really not the point I suppose. If you really want it there is a way to do what you are interested in, and hopefully someone will use all the info that we now make publicly available to make a tool to do it for you. Its been out 3 days, I was suggesting if you really needed the functionality this instant you could do it. I am sure someone will write something to setup arbitrary sets of partitions into RAIDs at some point. I was just making the information available, I apologize if I have offended you.


10-03-2001, 03:32 PM
Louis, I deeply appreciate your participation here. Thank you very much for contributing! If we can do anything to assist you, please let me know.

I'm sure you are correct: this functionality has been available for a very few days. Additional features are just a matter of time.



10-04-2001, 01:17 AM
Not to get off topic, but RAID 0 startup on G4's, I guess it'll never happen on OS 9, what about X?

10-04-2001, 12:07 PM
I apologize if I gave false information. I will reconfirm what I heard regarding ATTO and OS X.

It is very possible that I misunderstood what I was told regarding ATTO and OS X raid drivers.

I'll be back when I know more.

10-04-2001, 07:13 PM
Ok My turn to rant.

Atto UL3dual channel is advertized as working in both macs, and pcs. I purchased one, and used it as magician does, with Softraid. Works great.

I decided to switch it over to a pc because of the limited chipset, or bus, speed on a beige(75 MB sec).

I pulled it out, and installed it in a pc. First: with my current mobo, Asus A7M, no drivers works for windows 98. Works fine in 2000.
Advertized as working in PC's, yet, the pc market is a moving target. Component compatibility is a major problem, and I now have an os, 98, and a mobo, and scsi card, ATTO u3dc that don't work together.
Since Asus is one of the biggest mobo makers in the world, and MSFT is MSFT, not having a card that works in one of their mobos under a particular os is new.

Keep in mind it does work under 2000=NT5.

Frankly, my general opinion with ATTO is they are under researched, to keep up with the current rapid changes in both the PC market, and the Mac side. Magician put it another way, their support pretty much sucks.

To be honest, given the quality of tech support, I'm really happy it works at all.

It will work with 98, if you don't install any drivers. It gives really weird test results, but, it works, and it's faster then a single drive.

So, whatever.

Their older cards work flawlessly, their uw cards in particular.

In short, I think I would not buy a cutting edge product from them, at anytime in the future.

I would make sure that someone else has used the product for which I intended to use it, and I would make sure that someone else had used the card in the way they describe in their advertizing.
For example, if it says works in a pc, I would not assume it would work, in a particular configuration, unless someone with that configuration had used a card
and it worked.

I think this is in part the nature of pcs, since certain companies play fast and loose with specs, and certain components don't work with other components.

This should not affect a mac purchase. I would still make sure someone else had the product up and running in the machine I intended to use it in, and that it works as advertized.

In defense of ATTO, after much phone stuff, they took back my raid card which did not work initially in my pc, reflashed or fixed it, and returned a working card.

I was told part of the problem would be because I wasn't using the current
version of ATTO Raid powertools, and I should spend 50 bucks to upgrade it.

Since I paid 700 dollars for the card and raid package, this isn't the kind of stuff I want to hear.

Also, the raid software was NOT user friendly, and defining, and deleting drives and arrays was a major pain in the ass. Not at all the easy stuff I'm used to with softraid.

I spent the better part of a week getting the card to work in the pc.
In a mac, it took about 15 minutes to hook up the drives, define the array, under softraid, copy my os from another startup drive, and boot from the array.

From my experience, I think I'll stay with softraid on the mac, and wish they wrote scsi raid bios for ATTO on the pc side.


SF Crunch
10-05-2001, 02:10 PM
atto software is hard to use? Hmm...I agree SoftRaid is easy, but I had some problems with my card and digiprotools (those darned dae errors) and an adaptec card saying my bus was too slow. I couldn't adjust any of settings I needed to at all. With my ULD3, and atto's protools utility, I adjust settings, and i'm good now.

what is this power tools you (santelli) speak off? does it have a different interface than their express protools?


10-05-2001, 05:44 PM
Hi There,
I finally got to installing Softraid and can now give a benchmark performance comparison of Softraid vs. Expressraid for my array. All results were measured with the Expressraid benchmark test. test was run on my 2 channel 4-drive X15 array connected to a G4/733 running OS9.1 with Atto UL3D SCSI card.

PR 198MB SR 194MB PW 204MB SW 194MB

PR 209MB SR 196MB PW 205MB SW 196MB

So, it looks slightly faster with Softraid based on these benchmarks. I don't know how this will relate to actual performance. One of the things I liked about expressraid was that it lets you optimize for digital video.

I like the simplicity of Softraid though - not that many things to bug around with!

..... taffy.c

10-05-2001, 06:28 PM
HOLY COW!!!!!!!


What was your test transfer size.

[This message has been edited by ricks (edited 05 October 2001).]

10-05-2001, 09:46 PM

10-06-2001, 09:59 AM
I love it and I agree, "HOLY COW!!!!!!!". Details, is your ATTO UL3D running firmware 1.64? k

10-06-2001, 11:26 AM
Yep - its 1.64.

... taffy

10-09-2001, 12:32 PM
Way back in the day when AppleRaid was discontinued it was told to me that it AppleRaid was sold off and that The ppl who bought it renamed it SoftRaid and is the company we know today. I have no proof of any kind. Is this true?

Also is the old AppleRaid in any way related to the Raid support in OS X?

10-09-2001, 08:51 PM
I have heard that too. On their website SoftRAID does mention Apple RAID here and there, for instance http://www.softraid.com/updates.lasso

I also find no proof. k