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16 bay thunderbolt storage with PCIe card expander + mini as cheap SAN?

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Fredric Alm
16 bay thunderbolt storage with PCIe card expander + mini as cheap SAN?
on Oct 8, 2012 at 9:51:55 pm


I´m new here but has been following the treads for the last 4 months or so when I realized that shared storage is probably what i need.

I have been looking around for storage for a while but most solutions has been out of reach. We are a small company (2 persons) working mainly with still photography, but the video side of business is growing quite fast. My first reason for getting a shared storage solution was actually to get a better work environment. The office gets noisy and warm from all the disks and MacPro´s and also to hopefully speed up our workflow by better simultaneous access. I need the speed about of normal hard drive.

I found Bob Zelins excellent guide: Build your own affordable SAN -- that works!
It inspired me to continue the search for a solution. It´s a couple of years old now so if Bob reads this, do you still think this is the best cheap solution?

I was just about to build this with my old Mac Pro 1,1 + quad port GbE and a Sonnet Sonnet Fusion DX800RAID, a switch and MetaLAN software. I believe I could add more storage through another DX800 box and in the next step go for a bigger solution and use the Sonnets for backup. But the Mac Pro is already out of date, it wont support mountain lion, and I think it´s a waste of money to put a new Mac pro there or have as a backup. The thunderbolt PCie boxes are almost priced as a mac mini, but that´s the possible way to move forward in the future from this setup.

But now when I was about to order the Sonnet drive I made a last search on google for something I did see a couple of months ago, but no price or availability was mentioned then.

The Netstor NA333TB, a 16 bay thunderbolt storage with PCIe card expander.
It should be quite future proof if it works the way I think? I´m not having a lot of experience in this, so thats why I´m writing here for some advice.

So, if I buy a mac mini server, this Netstor storage array, and put in a raid card + 4 port GbE card and connect the whole thing trough thunderbolt and to a switch, it should work? Or do I misunderstand something? Later on if i want more speed I could expand with a 10GbE card.

The price of the Netstor is about 2300$.
An Areca SAS raid controller (arc-1882ix-16) 1060$
Mac mini server 999$
Small-tree quad port GbE card 728$
+ disks and cables.
MetaLAN Server / Client software.
I have a netgear GSM 7224 L2 switch that i hope works for this.

Does anyone advice against this? I think this is a cheap way to go from scratch, if no one here see a problem with this setup?

Do anyone have experience with the Areca card that seems to be recommended? Or is Atto better?
I´m not sure how these work, I know that Atto has mac software to set it up, but I´m uncertain of the Areca card.

My biggest concern in my workflow is that i have trouble searching with MetaSAN. I need to find photos, usually by the metadata in them. Is it possible with some third party search instead of spotlight? And maybe that the system will be slow with a lot of smaller files (35mb) 500-1500 per folder.

Well, any input is highly appreciated.

I hope you understand although english is not my main language.

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Bob Zelin
Re: 16 bay thunderbolt storage with PCIe card expander + mini as cheap SAN?
on Oct 9, 2012 at 6:32:25 pm

that article was written in 2008. None of this applies in 2012.
There are many many ways to use Thunderbolt to accomplish what you want. You do not need ANY
SAN software for a simple shared connection - standard Apple file sharing will work just fine.
There are a lot of wonderful thunderbolt expansion boxes on the market today, from Sonnet and Magma, that will allow you to do what you want. Don't reference the article too much - much of that no longer applies today - things change in the electronics world.

Feel free to contact me at, if you have more detailed questions. It's very easy to do.

Bob Zelin

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Frank Reiche
Re: 16 bay thunderbolt storage with PCIe card expander + mini as cheap SAN?
on Oct 19, 2012 at 6:40:33 pm

We have successfully deployed a number of very fast cost-effective storage solutions using Thunderbolt & SAS, 10GBe or Fibre. There have been some great all inclusive solutions like Bob mentioned. Feel free to contact me and I will happily discuss some options our customers have been satisfied with.

- Frank Reiche

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