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Scribe Media Reviews EB8MS Video Storage

Proavio EB8MS RAID Review (Installation and setup) by Brad Graham

 

As the sole IT admin of a small video production company, I have time for one thing: nothing. I have time for nothing because something (everything?) is always breaking/on-the-fritz/giving-me-errors.

And of course, everything is a top priority. This means I just need things to work. It’s why the company has moved to an all Macintosh network and how we are able to do so much with so few people. So when the video editors need a high-performance RAID to work with 1080 HD footage, they are on a time crunch and can’t be twiddling their thumbs waiting for me to get the hardware working. Therefore I am happy to say that there was no thumb-twiddling done in our experience with the fantastic ProAvio EB8MS.

 

My background with RAID is limited. I’ve set them up and maintained them in Windows before but I had never done it with a Mac. So when the ProAvio showed up on my desk, I was a little intimidated. It’s a serious professional looking and constructed aluminum box about half the size of our Mac Pro’s. I couldn’t wait to have it setup.

 

The first step was to install the included RocketRAID 3522 PCI card into the Mac Pro. Installation of the card was pretty straight forward with a minor hiccup/slight panic attack. You see, the card came apart. Physically. The problem is that the card has an ethernet port on it which is actually on it’s own pcb board and attached to the main PCI card by a 6 pin connector.

When trying to take the whole card out of the Mac to reseat it, I pulled on the back of the card and the front of it to evenly take the card out, as you should. But the front is the ethernet part, so when pulling on it, I actually almost pulled the ethernet PCB clean off the PCI card.

It wasn’t exactly easy to put back together either because the two parts are latched together, so it actually was rotating apart… and rotating it back together was tough because the 6-pin connector pins were so long. With some careful work I was able to get the card back together and reseated within the Mac.

The next step was making sure the PCI slot was running at the right speed. A quick trip to MyMac-System-Library-CoreServices-ExpansionSlotUtility, a reboot, and the card was good to go.

 

Next up: setting up the disks. The included mini-SAS cables had that brand new smell and were thick, with a nice sturdy rubber. Again, another quality piece of hardware. They slid easily into the ProAvio and the RocketRAID. So far, so good. Just one last thing- configuration.

The RocketRAID has a nice web interface to use for configuring attached storage. Although the ethernet port that I nearly ripped off the card was available, I did not plug it into the network and instead opted to use the address of http://localhost:7402 since I was running the configuration on the host where the card was installed. Had I needed to to configure it remotely, I could have used the ethernet port.

Before I changed any settings in the configuration, I noticed that the ProAvio was actually already mounted on my desktop. I clicked it open and found a folder full of HD video, presumably left over from the last people to test this box. It played flawlessly and I was only too impressed that I could have just handed the workstation over to the editor at that point.

 

But I also felt that it was almost too easy and that I really hadn’t learned anything about actually setting it up yet – so I decided to erase the disks and start from scratch. The manual states for Macs to use “Disk Utility” to set up partitions on the disks, but I only wanted clean disks so I erased them within the browser configuration. After just a few seconds they were erased and I created a new RAID-5, which is a stripe with parity, which basically means one of the drives could die and we would still have all our data but we would still have the speed of multiple disks working on the same file.

Then it automatically asked me to initialize it, which stated could take a long time. It wasn’t kidding. Four hours later while working a few desks away from the workstation, a very loud beep rang out. I went over and found an error message from the Mac OS saying the disks had been unmounted improperly. It was the Mac which was making the noise and nothing but a restart would quiet it. On startup again I was hoping that I could use the RAID, but no luck. So I tried to erase and initialize again and four hours later the same thing happened. I called it a day.

The next day I tried it again, but this time when I made the RAID I noticed a finder window had popped up behind my web browser saying that it had found disks that needed to be initialized. So I closed the web browser configuration and hit ‘Yes’ to the Finder to go ahead and initialize the disks, and five minutes later I saw the ProAvio mounted on my desktop. A few test copy and reads later, and the ProAvio was ready for some field use.

I could tell the drive was going to be great to work with, since during my test copies directly to the ProAvio a file which was about 100MB took just a few seconds, while copying to the internal primary SATA disk took a significant time longer.

I am still unclear why I was not able to use the built-in software and hardware of the RocketRAID to initialize the array. The amount of time it would have taken to initialize using the built-in function of the card makes me hope that it was all just part of the quirkiness since the Mac OS was able to do it so quickly.

Once it was all set up I gave the “go” to our editor to start capturing directly to the drive and working right off it. I didn’t set up the drive to be shared on our network but since the Mac OS saw it as just another internal drive it could have been quite easy to do.
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“Joe the Editor” Says:

As an Editor (as many I’m sure can relate) much of my time can be eaten up by file/footage transfers, renders, exports and compressions. The usual MO: I put on my headphones, crack open iTunes and check WashingtonPost.com to see if the world has indeed yet ended while I wait and wait and wait. And while this is sometimes symptomatic of low RAM/a slow processor, more often than not, it is a result of large heavy footage files crowding the USB/Firewire buses.

 

ProAvio_mini_SASBut sweet jumpin’ Johosephat the Pro Avio is SAS connected. (Not the brutal trained killers of the UK Special Forces) Dragging and dropping gigs upon gigs of HD footage… quick and painless. It’s bulk may be an issue for some, providing they don’t have the desk space but it’s SOOOOOOO worth it for so many terabytes of whisper-quiet storage.

I have zero complaints about the Pro Avio. Not a single crash or unintended undocking. The speed of workflow is un-matched. I would definitely hold onto to this bad boy.

 

 

 

 

 

Read the Original Review by Brad Graham here:

http://www.scribemedia.org/2009/01/05/proavio-eb8ms-raid-external-hard-drive/

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