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SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?

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Graham Jones
SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 6, 2011 at 8:24:08 pm

Hi all,

I don't want to go into a debate about controllers -- I have great experience with RocketRAID and a number of arrays that I need to be able to swap back and forth, so I am committed to staying with Highpoint.

My question:

I am setting up a new Mac Pro system (well, used Mac Pro 2006, quad 3.0GHz, MacOS 10.6.6). I need access to a LOT of fast storage, and I'm on a budget.

To fit the "fast" part of the equation, I'm getting a RocketRAID 4322, which has two mini-SAS (SFF-8088) ports, compatible with SAS expanders. I had been planning on hooking up a 12-bay Habey DS-1280 SAS expander case:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816321013&cm_re=habey...

12 hard drives, attached by a single SFF-8088 cable -- looks attractive! I've seen user reports on the web that say this combo works amazingly well.

With the other SFF-8088 port on the 4322, I was going to attach a 4-bay Sans Digital TR4X SAS enclosure:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816111091&cm_re=tr4x-...

But then -- I'm all out of ports, and the cheapest SAS expander enclosures with extra ports are around $1500, and SAS switches run about $2100.

I came across a really interesting development -- 1 x SFF-8088 to 4 x SFF-8088 fanout cable:
http://www.pc-pitstop.com/sas_cables_adapters/F8888X4-2M.asp

Here's another version:
http://www.backupworks.com/hp-an975a-external-sas-fanoutcable.aspx

It seems too good to be true -- I would think that people would be jumping on a solution like this, but I can find almost no information on the web about using such a fanout cable with hard drive enclosures.

Does anyone here know if I would be able to attach such a fanout cable to my RocketRAID 4322, and then attach multiple 4-bay enclosures like the Sans Digital TR4X?

Thanks,
Graham.


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Bob Zelin
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 6, 2011 at 11:37:11 pm

Graham,
you have done good research. I have NEVER seen or heard of a fanout cable, and was shocked to see the HP 1x4 fanout miniSAS cable. HP uses LSI Logic SAS ports in their workstations, and every LSI Logic SAS product I have ever seen requires a SAS expander - which is an external box that gets mounted inside a drive chassis - to allow you to daisy chain SAS boxes together. These are active boxes, and these boxes from different manufacturers are not compatible, so I am shocked to see this fanout cable, and that it is begin sold under the HP name !

I don't know if it works, but I am sure curious.

Just remember, just because something has the right connector on it (miniSAS) doesn't mean that it's just going to plug in and work. I have seen plenty of host controller cards that are incompatible with lots of drive chassis - and I am talking about "name brand" boxes and cards, not the "no names" that you have posted.


Bob Zelin



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Graham Jones
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 7, 2011 at 12:26:34 am

Hi Bob,

thanks for your quick reply! Yes, you're right, I'm doing a ton of research -- trying to cover all my bases because I know I'm stuck with whatever I buy.

Just to add a little detail on my process, for the sake of other people who might be looking at similar solutions...

The need:

I edit and do colour corrections for major broadcast series. Most of them are 1080i60 ProRes HQ -- each show may take up as much as 14-16 terabytes, and I often have two or three shows overlapping each other.

The options:

RocketRAID 2744 ( http://hptmac.com/US/product.php?_index=69 ) is a really interesting card -- 4 x SFF-8088 ports, would let me hook up 16 drives, and has pretty decent benchmarks. However, it doesn't appear to support SAS expanders, so I would be stuck with 16. Also, though it has impressive new switching architecture, it's not a hardware RAID. After using many different RAID cards, I do notice the CPU hit on non-hardware RAID cards.

RocketRAID 3560 ( http://www.highpoint-tech.com/USA_new/series_rr3500.htm ) is actually supported on Mac, though the hptmac site doesn't mention it. 800MHz hardwareRAID, 1GB RAM, 1 x SFF-8088 and
6 x SFF-8087 ports. I would need to add internal to external brackets, but these are cheap. I could hook up 24 hard drives without going through the expense of SAS expanders... as much as I'm a power user, more than 24 hard drives on a single system is a little decadent ;-)

But... Ned Soltz posted a really interesting blog about his comparison of the 3500 series and 4300 series RocketRAID -- http://www.nedreviews.com/2009/03/rocketraid-4322.html -- main salient point is that the exact same RAID5 array clocked 50% faster with the 1.2GHz hardware RAID on the 4322.

So... RocketRAID 4322 it is -- http://www.highpoint-tech.com/USA_new/series_rr4300.htm -- 1.2GHz hardware RAID, 512MB RAM, only two SFF-8088 ports, but the card supports SAS expanders. It also supports on-card battery backups, and I happen to have a spare from another RocketRAID card,

The Habey DS-1280 SAS expander case economically provides 12 drives for each one of the ports, and is confirmed to work well with the RocketRAID 4322. I could just get two Habey cases and be done with it (24 drives total), but there may be an occasion where a client needs to give me footage on an SAS RAID, so if the fanout cables did work it would be REEAALLLY nice. Of course I could always disconnect one of my Habey enclosures while I connect the other one, but that could be inconvenient if I have to span any arrays between the two enclosures.

I have sent an email to Highpoint asking them about the fanout cables. I've also sent an email to PC-pitstop.com, which I've found to be an amazing source of hard-to-find RAID gear -- also, I know they sell both the RR4322 and the fanout cables, so I'm sure they've hit this question before.

I'll report back on what they say. I admit, as you, I'm skeptical... If it's not compatible, as I expect it won't be, I'll just stick with the two Habey enclosures and look for a deal on an SAS expander or switch. I'm not in a rush for the latter, but if I can find a good deal I'll buy it so I'm prepared for eventualities.

Hope this helps,
Graham.


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Graham Jones
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 7, 2011 at 5:33:42 pm

Hi,

I got a confirmation from PC Pitstop -- those SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 fanout cables do NOT work with hard drive enclosures.

They also confirmed that their Areca ARC-8026-24 24-bay SAS expanders work with the RocketRAID 4322... so... being an avid do-it-your-selfer I decided I'm going to build an SAS expander 4U rackmount 24-bay enclosure myself. There are plenty of instructions on the web (even videos) of how to do such a thing, most based on the Norco RPC-4224 server case.

I wouldn't recommend this for everyone -- I've built over a dozen computers and hard drive towers, so I'm pretty handy with this stuff. Buying it retail would cost about $3000 -- I'm building it for less than $1500.

The result will be a 24-bay SAS expander enclosure that only uses one cable, and provides two additional expansion ports. I could've gotten slightly better performance by using two 12-port SAS expanders, and hooking up to both ports of my RocketRAID 4322, but I didn't think it was worth the extra $400.

If you're interested, I'll post benchmarks and details about the actual build once I get it put together.

Hope this helps,
Graham.


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John Davidson
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 7, 2011 at 8:19:37 pm

Graham, would you mind posting an Aja system test of the highpoint raid? I'm specifically interested in the graph part. The Aja numbers are misleading, but the graph shows just how erratic the hp card is, in my experience. Switching to atto saved me lots of stress.

I used to brag on my rr4322, too.


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Graham Jones
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 7, 2011 at 9:50:46 pm

Hi,

sure, can do, once I get it up and running (probably this weekend).

Just curious specifically what your headaches were with the RR 4322? I've had great experience with RocketRAID in the past (except perhaps with port multiplier performance, though that probably has a lot to do with port multipliers in general).

I should clarify that I'm actually using a 4320 with an internal to external adapter until I can get my hands on a 4322. It's identical to the 4322 except for having 256MB RAM instead of 512MB.

Thanks,
G.


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Graham Jones
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 8, 2011 at 9:22:01 am

Hi,

one more development... confirmed that both the 4300 series RocketRAID cards and the ARC-8026 SAS expander support hooking both ports of the RocketRAID up to 2 ports on the SAS expander, to double the possible bandwidth. In AMUG's testing with 16 drive arrays, they found this to increase RAID 5/6 speeds by about 21%.

- G


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John Davidson
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 8, 2011 at 8:24:18 pm

I'm curious to see if your RR performs with the same erratic speed as mine. The numbers will kick out 700mps and make it look amazing, but then I see the graph and the HP speeds drop down to almost nothing for a second here or there. Kind of impossible to expect a tape to lay back correctly when your speeds get dropped like that. The new ATTO in our edit 1 system is much more stable, albeit the numbers returned are often slower. I'll take slow and steady vs erratic. I'd like to see if it's just my card or a universal thing.


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Graham Jones
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Feb 8, 2011 at 8:32:46 pm

Hi John,

I'll certainly report back. My understanding is that such a drop can have something to do with what drives you're using -- do you recall what model of drive was installed when you had those problems?

Incidentally, further information from PC Pitstop -- on the ARC-8026, you can indeed get greater bandwidth by connecting 2 ports to the RAID controller rather than one. However, the greatest speed gains will be see with SAS/SATA 6.0 drives, and an SAS/SATA 6.0-compatible controller (which the 4300 series are not).

Thanks,
G.


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Sam Crutsinger
Re: SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 mini-SAS fanout with RocketRAID 4322?
on Aug 16, 2011 at 11:04:54 am

I'm curious about those benchmarks. I'm bidding out a 24x3TB Norco DS-24E chassis (with SAS expander) running off of a RR4322. It's a 66TB RAID 6 for under $7,000. It's going to be for backing up a much faster $50K Terrablock server, so speed isn't actually mission critical, but I am very curious about how fast it will be.

Oh, and the cables you were talking about originally are breakout cables. A single 8808 cable has channels of data in the single cable. That's why in most boxes, you can hook up one SAS cable and control 4 drives, or 2 cables to control 8 drives. The cable just separates out the 4x into 4 separate single channel cables. Kinda like an old 2 line phone cable getting split into line 1 and line 2.

Sam Crutsinger
Media Kingpin/CTO
Confidence Bay


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