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Thread: Server drives

  1. #1
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    Default Server drives

    Wanted to start a little discussion. Seems to me we need to be very careful recommending server drives for use inside desktop computers. Feature sets on server drives often give us fits with supporting them. Two things cause huge support problems today: Enterprise Class Drives and OEM drives. OEM drives because their firmware is completely uncontrollable and often specific to a given server. Enterprise drives because the features in them are intended to improve server capabilities and cause no end of compatibility issues in systems not designed to use those features.

    New WD RE2's look fast and may very well work perfectly, but they are after all, NEW. Far as I am concerned they are totally beta. Until the Raptor came out Western Digital never made an Enterprise drive. And look how often we saw bugs and incompatibilities. We are asking for trouble assuming RE2 Server drives won't have as many bugs or more.

    I just have my doubts about recommending things that are not yet proven. Too early to tell and track records so far have been horrible with SATA and new feature compatibility.

    Rick
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    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

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    Lightbulb

    Read what TR has to say about the new WD RE2 750.

    I don't of anyone compalining or having issues with their RE/RE2. Or SE16s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TZ View Post
    Read what TR has to say about the new WD RE2 750.

    I don't of anyone compalining or having issues with their RE/RE2. Or SE16s.
    Well, you aren't sitting here answering support phone calls all day.
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
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    No but they are the most common and popular drive out there in Mac Pros. All those RAID controllers add a lot of unknowns but I would be surprised it was the WD RE2 that is really a problem.

    You know that I think the RE2 500 and 750GB are winners, as has the 10K Raptor line.

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    Problem is we don't know that yet. We are advising people to be beta testers, as we did with early Raptors. Way too many SATA controllers have bugs with Raptors. And we never found that out until we had a lot of users out there beta testing the drives on Macs. And all the help they got from Western Digital support was to be told their drives weren't supported on the Mac.

    Seems like every time a newer faster drive comes out - that as soon as Storage Review calls them the fastest, that week, they are now the recommended drive. The only one to have. Too fast. Too few tests of cross compatibility. Too many features and component specifications for any one to really know what will happen.


    The fastest drive of its time was the IBM DeskStar 60 GXP, and we all know how reliable that drive was. No one really knows today whether WD has its ducks in a row with enterprise class drives. They never made enterprise class drives before.

    I have gotten MUCH more conservative when it comes to customer's data. I like some tried and true. Newest and fastest is tre' cool, but that doesn't cut it if there is any risks unaccounted for yet.

    Right now we have a full set of 8 customer owned RE2 drives in the shop getting figured out. They have connecting problems, won't stay mounted. Don't know yet what the reason will be, but it won't be the first time we see issues related to server features not working with given chipsets. Might be a physical issue with the hotswap bay configuration. Might be that dimensionally something is different. So many different chipsets and rules out there that I hate to toss in more untested factors.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  6. #6
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    Default

    As always...
    New = maybe bugs = maybe glitches = not approved = New


    Well, there are always 2 kind of users out there:
    1. Te ones wanting to have the newest and fastest.
    2. the ones wanting approved stuff, known to work perfect and painless.



    I guess Mac users are mostly the 2nd kind of users and also self-employed users are those.

    I think MacGurus, as always, should only recommend stuff that was tested by MacGurus so the customer is on a "safe track" with MGs gear and stuff.
    If a user wants gear which is not approved at all costs and does not even take notice, than the user is on its own if lightning strikes.

    So it's plain simple no one knows about new hardware, if it will work with this and that kind of hardware it is always a "it should work".

    Regards

    Nicolas
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    I was telling people Hitachi was no longer the deathstar company when they fixed their DSP chip.

    I didn't like the way Seagate misstated their performance numbers.

    You can always pull the "all the support phone calls" which is a black hole of sorts.

    You loved Firmtek until you turned against.
    you pushed other companies until you turned your back.
    you wanted me to buy a Powerlogix G3 once.
    'Gurus use to endorse SoftRAID then stopped.

    But MacGurus is a company and do what you need to.

    I use to be able to go to ATTO and Adaptec and even Acard and see "this product is qualified to work with these drives and models" along with OS and platform.

    No one ever lost a job in IT for recommending IBM. Or in recommending IBM stock for your mutual fund portfolio (and has been a $100 company for years and decades).

    We had the same discussion, more about Seagate and Maxtor (and they merged!).

    WD was the first with 8MB cache but they did odd things in Beige G3 and on ATA controllers and never liked 'em.

    WD had trouble with their RE series firmware in 2006.

    Seagate drives were NOT compatible inside a Mac Pro until around Apr/May 2007 when Apple and Intel updated the SATA chipset and maybe some input from Seagate. Even one Hitachi model line was an issue as well.

    The more you know, the more you realize there is a lack of guidance, testing.

    Don't blame the customer or consumer. Except the thin profit margins and whether the testing is happening.

    FBDIMMs in Mac Pro also improved around March 2007 - Crucial and everyone else had cooler and better engineered parts.

    Maybe it is just a Mac-Apple issue?

    Vista was out with their FC versions a year ago, and 64-bit drivers for video are finally getting there. Takes a lot of time and effort -- and expense. And not just one person working on a driver.

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    MacGurus has a reputation for being on the bleeding edge. I would hate to see MG take a step back from that and lose that reputation.

    'The upgrader's geek boutique!'

    'Speed is its OWN justification'

    'Hardware Heaven' and more importantly The Basement at Hardware Heaven.... Remember "Beast" ? That 9600 that had its own set of pages, built up to a screaming Mac that could have run the entire eastern seaboard.

    Having the biggest, baddest, strongest, fastest stuff is what MG is all about. That and a lot of flair. I think MG should stay on that edge.

    Lose the next great thing and you lose the customer who wants it. Then you know who you are? You're OWC. That would be bad.

    Maybe a warning label on certain products ... 'This product is very new and not fully tested. It is not recommended for mission critical environments'
    Damien,

  9. #9
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    Today, every one of our customers is mission critical with their data. Close to nine out of every ten customer is either a photographer or a videographer. If it doesn't work perfectly every time, then we, MacGurus, are the problem.

    Heresy, I know, but speed has become less an issue - i suppose part of the reason for that is we use RAID a lot more. And we know how to have our customers configure to get the most out of their components. We just about never get speed complaints about storage we set up. Reliability has been the critical issue. Videographers cannot tell the difference in a big RAID, it is either fast enough or it isn't. And photographers are buying gobs of drives and moving from one to the next as they fill them. Only time we hear the need for the fastest possible is for internal system drives where a little bit of added speed is noticeable.

    In days past you waited an agonizingly long time to open any page as it loaded in from a multitasked hard drive and you only had one or two drives for everything. Today it is either blazingly fast on little things or it always takes a long time since you are working on 1/2 GB or larger photos. And we all have lots of cheap drives tasked to different purposes.

    The difference between MacGurus and OWC or Firmtek = SUPPORT. We answer our phones and always work our tails off to get the customer back up and running. Biggest problem with that support is when things out of our control cause problem after problem. Today, OEM drives are the biggest issue. Every one of the discount retailers is running huge cheap sales on boatloads of OEM drives. And those drives can really suck. No telling what you get when you buy an OEM drive. The worst part is that most casual buyers have no idea what an OEM drive is. Ignorance is bliss until it bites your ass. OEM drives are not nearly cheap enough.

    Server drives in general have caused a great deal of grief when it comes to todays desktop HBAs, Port Multiplier technologies and RAID. In Enterprise implementations they may be the only way to go, but I will bet most all enterprise developers insist you use their qualified drives only because of the wide variance in feature set implementation by drive manufacturers. Server drive performance in software RAID has been all over the place, really bad for videographers with unpredictable outcomes. And really tough for us to support since we don't try and test Enterprise drives in the lab. They aren't the optimal solution, why test them? We defined 'optimal' as 'designed for this usage'. Maybe wrongly? Server drives were not designed with desktop in mind, IMHO.

    Sometimes just getting Enterprise class drives to work has been impossible - Seagate and Hitachi Enterprise drives are both tough to get to work on many desktop solutions. Especially in Apple software RAID their performance sucks. Maxtor server drives have the same features and issues as their desktop line so they share the same traits, good or bad. Western Digital was never on our plate at all for their server drives since they never made one until the RE line. The Caviar line was not as good as Hitachi or Seagate so they didn't get us excited. But they did work fine, no issues with compatibility, Caviars tended to work with everything you installed them in.

    MacGurus is one of the few RAID and enclosure manufacturers that sell storage without drives - so our customers can use their own choice of drives from whatever cost advantage they can get. Most multi-drive storage manufacturers today, aimed at the same market, will only sell their product lines with the drives already installed. The obvious reason being that feature sets from drive model to drive model are different and support is nearly impossible if you toss in every last drive that users can buy and try to use.

    TZ, fast new drives are the one place where you get excited. I'll give you that - you like newer, faster, bigger. It also is the one place where you seem to leave caution behind. In everything else you will advise never be the first to buy a new computer, to wait for the second or third update before you go with a new OS. Don't buy it until it is out of customer beta. We all are beta testers, and we all know it! All the big manufacturers find out how well they did by selling a gazzillion of something and seeing how many break.

    MacGurus can sell WD RE2s. Before we go doing that we have to make sure it is a smart allocation of testing resources and that field reliability doesn't bite us later. I also hesitate because they are a server drive with features not intended to improve desktop performance. Might be I am biased incorrectly, and hence a public discussion about server drives for desktop usage.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  10. #10
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    I don't have too much to add, except that from my work point of view - which is SMB/Enterprise - reliable always trumps speed. Broken machines, drives not mounting, corrupt data because of a bad raid controller, etc, etc. has beaten me down tremendously.

    As nice as speed is, 99% of my users don't know or don't care. Older slower machines with not enough RAM are fine, but fast, unreliable machines are a resume generating event.

    Speaking of IBM, we are looking at an IBM SAN to go with our IBM blade center. Pricey. How much? About 4 TB, redundant everything...with SAS drives: about $76,000. With FC drives: about $105,000.

    Too much? Perhaps. Other enterprise solutions may be as *little* as 50 grand. But if there is even the slightest chance of failure, of any downtime, or any problems....then it could be 50 grand down a hole. Not willing to take that risk, as I really need this job.

    All that to say that I (we) won't be trying to get consumer/soho stuff to do the job on a shoe string budget any more. Budget is always an issue, and speed is important, but neither trump reliable.

    I hate the state of drives today. SATA was supposed to be easier for cosumers than IDE/PATA, but now it is almost worst than SCSI. In fact I think it is worse. SCIS used to be hard to learn for a user, but you could learn it, and it made sense. Very little sense in SATA today.

    I agree with Rick, generally, but I also understand the need for new and fast in consumer soho markets. If I were in your shoes Rick, I would seriously consider selling populated drive enclosures with enhanced support, and bare enclosures with warnings, guidelines, known limitations and limited support.

    Though less than ideal, it may be possible to turn this into a sales tool: MacGurus personally tests and supports X drives in X enclosures with X controllers.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

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    IBM Storage. Cost twice what Control Data Corp charges, and often CDC drivers used technology to get double the capacity out of same equipment.

    I'm not saying speed is king, even if it was. Or that WD is the fastest, though right now its 750GB appears to be.

    The only Seagate drive I even liked though was the 15K.2/.3, then Seagate started messing around with firmware and trying to be gamer-desktop AND server in same units.

    Rick said he got the best support from Seagate and that matters, hard to get if you aren't pushing 10,000 units.

    Every time there was Maxtor issue, or a very very few models of Hitachi that briefly had an issue with SSC (and then were dropped but still out in the channel unfortunately).

    Hardware changes fast. Customers that jump on Leopard may be safe, or not. Attitude. I'm slow to realize it isn't worth being on cutting edge of software all the time. SP1 for Leopard is going to be 10.5.x next September for me.

    I still have Hitachi drives (ATA) humming along. I still have a boat load of Atlas 10K and 15K drives. And I went with WD last year and have stayed with them, and the only time I deviated I made the mistake of going with low cost MaxLine Pro (runs hot).

    I was almost pushed into buying Miles2, which I would have regretted. And didn't know enough at every step of the way what I would face.

    I don't get the impression anywhere that new = best or that anyone is free of defects. They ALL are. And it can be worse on the PC side judging by what people on StorageReview have to say to 'get a rig up and running.'

    But it is easier to know one product really really well.

    I think AMUG does a great service to the Mac community for their reviews and testing. They almost fill the role of an "independent testing laboratory" I suppose. I don't see that they have or push any one set of products (though I could be totally off base and wrong).

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    I am one of the 99% that probably would never know the difference between 50/55 MB/sec vs, 55/60 reads/writes.

    I must admit that nearly two years ago I bought the 74 GB Raptor and could see/feel the difference. It was very expensive around $200 bucks for 74 GB. I also bought a new ATA Maxtor at the same time and could feel little or no real difference between it, my stock drives or Seagate SATA Drive.

    I like the Raptor (glad I tested it) but would have gone with a larger drive looking back. I have my System/Applications on it but have been wondering if my data might be better there (after reading other comments in another thread) or would I notice?

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    It sounds like you have a pretty killer setup Randy. I would most likely leave it that way and enjoy the speed!

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

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    I am happier than poop with my drive setup and backup via SuperDuper. I like the way things are setup and it's been stable. The 2 bay external Burlienstien works great icing on the cake. I do see/feel (without testing) the 500GB Seagate even on FW400 does seem faster than my older SATA and Maxtor. It's my f-ing processor.

    To think I stumbled onto this site in 2001 with a crippled 7200 and a 1.1 GB Hard drive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rwm View Post
    To think I stumbled onto this site in 2001 with a crippled 7200 and a 1.1 GB Hard drive.
    I spend $2k for my first 2GB drive too
    Custom Configurations! Rad Hacks and Mods!

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    I remember paying $300 for a 18GB 50-pin Barracuda. I still have it, and it still works.

    I'm one of those that values compatibility, reliability, and quiet over raw speed. With audio work as long as the sustained throughput will support the track count, there is no advantage to going faster. I rarely see progress bars in ProTools, and the ones I do see have more to do with CPU/bus speeds than disk I/O.

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    Looks like most of the smoke has cleared

    For business reliability is number one, it must work. However time is money and so speed can't be discounted. I think this is all more about the maturing of the computer and it's hardwar over all. If you look over the last 20 years who would have predicted back then that Macs would run windows, oh was there windows back then? What about Macs change from SCSI to ATA. Now it's Intel and SATA. There is always some bump in the road. Without the desire for speed there wouldn't be any increase, without the need for stability there would be chaos. To proceed with development we need both, where and how much depends on the situation.

    And then it will all change again.

  18. #18
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    What isn't new?

    Perpendicular isn't old and proven.

    Firmware has (to me) been an issue - with Seagate.

    Gurus sold Cheetahs for speed and scratch.

    Gurus haven was all about "who has the best sustained numbers."

    _____________________

    I don't know of a single written word or thread here or elsewhere to suggest the 10K Raptors are problematic.

    Boots may use a boot RAID because it helps working with large files in Photoshop. Doesn't mean it is right or wrong. it is a tool. And you use the best tool.

    If Seagate is easier to support, or they support MacGurus, but don't twist facts to fit a personal preference. Maybe hang a sign, "Seagate VAR" out front?

    When a chef leaves one restaurant to go to another, sometimes customers follow the chef.

    Disk drives are made in China mostly? and distinguished by... firmware?

    I don't have any opinion about SATA controllers outside the one I have or what I read in reviews and testing.

    I think customers should have choices.

  19. #19
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    AFAIK, the WD RE2 series is NOT optimized for servers it is optimized for RAID.

    So there "should" be no issue running those drives in desktops or workstations as long as the user is using them in a RAID array.

    But, for users who do not want using those drives in a RAID I would not recommend the RE2 series drives, they should take a SE16 series drive.

    I would test the RE2 and the SE16 in a Mac Pro also in a G5 just to be sure there is no issue.


    Regards

    Nicolas
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    Sorry but even WD is now publicly saying that RE2 can be used in non-RAID. I think I said early on I've used SE16 in Mac Pro, and in RAID. I've had some RE drives as both for over a year too.

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