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Mac Pro 5,1 as a Shared Project NAS

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Joe Wood
Mac Pro 5,1 as a Shared Project NAS
on Aug 20, 2018 at 6:26:59 pm

I saw some other threads on here similar to this one but didn't find an answer.

We currently have a small NAS system that our entire office uses and our video department experimented with using it for some of our shared Adobe Premiere projects. While it works, it is very slow to use (which makes sense seeing how the NAS is more built just for file storage usage). But the collaboration end of it was perfect for our team.

We currently have 4 editing suites & gigabit speeds throughout the office.

I'm on a bit of a budget but still would like to expand to have a shared file server for us to collaborate, but with more reasonable speeds. I am also inexperienced in networking and NAS/RAID systems but would like opinions of the information I've gathered so far.

I was thinking of taking a Mac Pro 5,1 adding an M.2 card for the OS, 4x HDD RAID array(Not sure of the size yet, but thinking 4TB drives for the cost), and USB 3.0 (for better dropoff speeds).

Is this crazy? Would it work? Or am I just crazy?

Any advice is appreciated...


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Bob Zelin
Re: Mac Pro 5,1 as a Shared Project NAS
on Aug 20, 2018 at 10:20:58 pm

Hi Joe -
I did nothing but build Mac Servers from 2008 on. But in December 2017, Apple came out with macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and the server software, and normal file sharing - which worked great until this release, no longer worked.
You don't need an M.2 card for the boot drive in the 5,1. You need any crappy Toshiba 1TB SATA drive for 60 bucks. A fast card is not doing to do anything for you. On this drive you load any macOS except for 10.13.x (anything thru Sierra 10.12.6 Server) and everything will work.

Four SATA drives is NOT fast enough for a shared storage system for 4 client computers. You need a minimum of eight 7200 RPM drives (even 4TB SATA drives) all in a RAID configuration. But the parts add up quickly.

To build a Mac Server with your 5,1 Mac Pro, you need the boot drive running macOS 10.12.6 server or earlier. You need a disk drive host adaptor card (like an Areca ARC-1883x) to run the RAID. You need an 8 bay RAID enclosure with a 12G miniSAS port on it, that connects to the disk drive host adaptor. Inside the 8 bay RAID enclosure you put your eight 4TB 7200 RPM SATA drives. You create the RAID.

But we are not done. The secret to any of these systems (which applies to modern NAS systems) is the 10G card.
So in your 5,1 Mac Pro, in addition to your RAID host adaptor (from Areca, ATTO, or Highpoint - because they are the only ones that make RAID hosts with Mac drivers) - you need a 10G card. This 10G card can be from companies like ATTO (the NT11) or Sonnet (the Presto 10G). This card connects with a Cat 6 cable to a 10G switch - like a QNAP QSW-1208-8C or Netgear XS708T. Each of your four workstations connect to this switch. You will now have enough bandwidth to have all four client computers edit with Adobe Premiere, FCP X or Davinci Resolve. (not AVID - for AVID, you still need to purchase Indiestor Mimiq).

Now with a single 1G connection from each computer, you will get up to 100 MB/sec - enough for 720p and 1080i HD editing. But if you want to edit 4K and above, you need to purchase 10G cards or thunderbolt to 10G adaptors for each of your computers. That will increase your bandwidth to over 600 MB/sec per client, so you can easily edit 4K and above.

Of course, all of these parts are expensive, and you are on a tiny budget. If you have NO money, you should get a cheap QNAP TVS-873e (about $1250), load it up with 8 4TB SATA drives (just like you would do for the Mac server system), install a QNAP QXG-10G1T 10G card in the QNAP (under $100) and add a QNAP switch - the QXG-1208-8C which is under $600. This is the cheapest way to get shared storage that will actually work for the 4 users.
Remember, if you want to do 4K and above editing, you still need the 10G cards, or thunderbolt to 10G adaptors from each computer to the switch.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com


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Joe Wood
Re: Mac Pro 5,1 as a Shared Project NAS
on Aug 21, 2018 at 1:38:44 pm

WOW! Thanks for your response, Bob!

I guess to clarify, the reasoning I had for keeping this so cheap was to have it more of a proof of concept for our department, to get the go-ahead for future investment in hopefully the next quarter. I tried to have this done back at the beginning of the year with a professional company who came in to look at our network and suites and gave an estimate of $30-40K starting rate for their system, which the people upstairs wouldn't even hear, mainly cause they saw a huge price tag and didn't understand the reasoning for why we needed it.

My original thoughts with using the 5,1 MacPro, is because it already has 2x 2.4 Xeon processors, & ECC Ram, which from what I was told in the past is similar to what you would find in a server system. And to have 4x 4TB drives with RAID 0 (striped) for the speed and the fact that this system would be temporary and does not require any redundancy, seeing how everything we have is constantly backed up externally. I have no idea about RAID cards, but the Mac Pro has a RAID assistant internally that allows setup for RAID 0.

I hadn't even thought about the bottleneck of the gigabit network, but will definitely keep that in mind now for the future as well. I am most definitely aiming for us to have a full-fledged system to add to the rack with a proper RAID and redundancy, but as I said just need something to show the people upstairs the purpose of having a server to begin with (I don't understand why they don't get it, we get a big client and the boss gets a new car, but we're still fighting to get off our crappy file management system and get something real a reliable).

(Mainly right now, which mainly still are working in 1080p, and if we are ever working with for 4K footage we are using proxies.)

Taking all of this into consideration would a NAS system like the QNAP TVS-873e you mentioned be really much faster in comparison to doing my crappy band-aid MacPro System? The cost difference would be the difference of under $1k (Which they would approve very easily) VS $2-3k which they might hold issue with.

Sorry if I'm being a pain, I'm just trying to get my team upgraded to the 21st century here.


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Blaise Douros
Re: Mac Pro 5,1 as a Shared Project NAS
on Aug 21, 2018 at 5:29:53 pm
Last Edited By Blaise Douros on Aug 21, 2018 at 5:32:54 pm

As a very happy customer of Bob's, let me jump in. You've said that you're inexperienced in networking. How much is your time worth in your "real" role with the company? How much will it cost your company, in your lost time, mistakes, hardware problems, and downtime for the whole team, for you to build a half-baked solution? Especially since you'll end up having to buy a fully-baked system soon, since the half-baked one will not last you long. How much time will you then have to spend troubleshooting that system, and moving media around to support it?

You have one advantage; you've already established a price in the heads of your higher-ups. They think this kind of system costs $30-40K for the functionality you need.

So here's the thing--now that they think that, you can be the hero. You can tell your bosses that you've found a system that fulfills your needs for 1/4 the price of that crazy systems integrator who was OBVIOUSLY just trying to gouge you.

I have a team of three right now working on a QNAP 871T that Bob set up for us. Our total hardware cost, including 10g adaptors for the two machines that needed 10g connections and a couple of spare drives, was $6200. Bob's fee is reasonable, and he got me up and running almost instantly, and has been available for support ever since. For a small team, this system has been all but flawless, and I could add quite a few more seats if and when I needed to.

I highly, highly recommend going this route. Let Bob help you, so you can just get back to work. If your bosses need to know why shared storage is key for your production team, you can give them my number--like, seriously, PM me and I'll give it to you. I will be happy to tell them that there is probably nothing that could increase your team's ability to productively cooperate more than a fast shared storage solution. Sneakernet? Gone. Reconnecting media? Never again. Backups? You can centralize them now instead of piecemealing your media drives. Handoffs between team members for different production roles like audio mix and color? As simple as saying "okay, I closed the project, you can go ahead and open it now."

Here's the other way to lay it out: I'd estimate that in a team of four, you could probably reclaim a full man-hour per day, maybe more, when you don't have your team dealing with that stuff--fifteen minutes per person per day seems like it's not out of the question when it comes to project handoffs, reconnecting media, etc. If you reclaim one man-hour per day, and your editors are making $50/hour, you recoup the cost of the QNAP system in 144 working days. At $25/hr, it's 288 days. After that, the increased productivity starts paying for itself. If your bosses can't see the benefit of that, they're nuts.


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Bob Zelin
Re: Mac Pro 5,1 as a Shared Project NAS
on Aug 21, 2018 at 5:43:09 pm

feel free to contact me. I will help you with all of this. I probably have done a system in your town, and you can use them as part of your "proof of concept".

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com


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Melvin Chong
Re: Mac Pro 5,1 as a Shared Project NAS
on Oct 23, 2018 at 6:24:18 am

The MacPro 5,1 is almost 10 years old and the m.2 will probably not take full advantage of the older PCI-e specs. You're better off using it as a dedicated transcoder using Apple Compressor or Adobe Media Encoder by installing a 10-Gbe adapter and 4 x SSD.



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Bob Zelin
Re: Mac Pro 5,1 as a Shared Project NAS
on Oct 23, 2018 at 2:26:24 pm

just to take this one step further (because I like to yap) -

I recently put an ATTO thunderbolt 3 to 40G Ethernet adaptor and plugged it into a QNAP with a 40G Mellanox ethernet card. The Mac was a Mac Pro 6,1. and I had to use a thunderbolt 2 to thunderbolt 3 adaptor (at the time, I did not have access to a thunderbolt 3 computer). So because of the limitation of the 10Gb/sec Thunderbolt 2 port - I only got 1000 MB/sec read and write.

So as Melvin states - if you don't have the correct buss structure on your computer, you can have all these other fancy parts, and it's still not going to make your old junk work correctly.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com


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