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Re: The Cheese Grater is back

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Joe Marler
Re: The Cheese Grater is back
on Jun 14, 2019 at 12:05:58 pm

[Oliver Peters] "I would presume that if you wanted to add your own raw drive(s), you would have to purchase the MPX chassis from Apple. Potentially there will be third-party MPX modules available. And, would you even be able to add a 3.5" spinning hard drive or will you be limited to 2.5" SSDs or only NVMe drives?

The Pegasus J2i appears to be a simple sled for two 3.5" SATA HDDs. The announcement said it will use a "custom cable assembly", getting data from the Mac Pro's SATA header. While not mentioned, there are 6-pin PCIe power headers on the motherboard. It might get power from a PCIe 6-pin to SATA female cable, maybe something like this:

The J2i appears to be just a piece of sheet metal, so that would be the "old school" way of doing it - power and data via cables. It would also occupy the vertical space of an MPX module while holding only two 3.5" drives.

The R4i MPX module is apparently "cable free", getting all power and data from the PCIe slot and MPX extension slot. It appears to use 4 x 8TB SATA 3.5" HDDs. The MPX extension slot also has Thunderbolt access, so I don't know if Promise is using a PCIe host controller (more likely) or Thunderbolt. Also unknown is how many internal Thunderbolt busses the new Mac Pro has.

In theory you could swap out the R4i's 8TB SATA hard drives with 4TB SATA SSDs in 2.5" adapters. There are even 8TB SATA SSDs now available but they are expensive. Or if not compatible, some other mfg. could make an MPX module designed for higher density 2.5" SATA SSDs. However SATA isn't the best interface for SSDs, just saying it's theoretically possible. But conceptually two MPX modules each with 4 x 8TB SATA SSDs would give 64TB SSD internal capacity, plus the 4TB on the motherboard.

PCIe-based NVMe cards are also available. The ASUS Hyper M.2 x16 Card V2 supports up to four PCIe NVMe daughter cards, for 8TB -- per board. I don't know if it's compatible with the new Mac Pro but it illustrates the form factor and capacity exist for substantial PCIe-based SSD storage:

Beyond this, Samsung has 8TB PCIe SSDs in a M.2-size but new NF1 form factor. If a compatible PCIe card with 4 x NF1 sockets were made, each PCIe slot could hold 32 TB SSD:

A maxed-out Mac Pro with 1.5TB RAM and stuffed full of 8TB PCIe SSD cards would be expensive. However the NF1 form factor SSDs will be widely used in data centers:

If an MPX module was designed to accept the above 8TB NF1 cards for perpendicular insertion (see above photo), at 5mm width per card each MPX module might hold 30 8TB cards for a total of about 240TB. This of course assumes adequate cooling, power and bus bandwidth.

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