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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

REVIEW:
HighPoint RocketRAID 4320 --
8 channel SAS/SATA host adapter

Originally posted September 26th, 2008, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

"A muscular SAS/SATA RAID host adapter"
We are continuing probe the options for high end users for fast, reliable storage after our disappointment with the $800 Apple Pro RAID card with its 320MB/s limit no matter how many or how fast the drives. A new offering from HighPoint, the RocketRAID 4320, excited us since it uses the powerful 1.2GHz Intel IOP348 potentially offering mucho bandwidth with its 8 channels (3Gbit/s each).



We mated it to four of the fastest SAS drives available, the Seagate Cheetah 15K.6 450GB SAS. We wanted create an internal four drive RAID 0 set in our Mac Pro that would stress the bandwidth.

Using Disktester, we measured the transfer rate for an empty 4 drive RAID 0 set and a simulated "full" RAID set (90% capacity). As you can see, the transfer rate is fast enough for just about any project we can imagine.


THAT's MORE LIKE IT
We continue to be mystified by the stark contrast between the performance of Apple's $800 Pro RAID SATA/SATA card (which hits the wall at 320MB/s) and third party SAS/SATA host adapters which offer much greater bandwidth. In the case of the new RocketRAID 4320, four fast 15K SAS drives clocked 646MB/s sustained READ using our Disktester benchmark. We predict 1200+MB/s with 8 drives -- more on that later.

KEY FEATURES of the RR4320
1.
Boots OS X
We can confirm that you can boot OS X with the RocketRAID 4320. We cloned OS X Leopard using Carbon Copy Cloner from our normal boot drive (connected to a FireWire enclosure) to the four drive internal RAID 0 set (connected to the RR4320). Then we restarted after selecting it as the Startup Disk (in System Preferences). Voila! It worked as advertised.

NOTE: To boot from OS X, you need to install the latest EFI update for the RR4320 from HighPoint's Download Page. Use the browser based RAID Manager to install it.

Having done that, we caution against using your RAID set for booting. If you are working with HD Uncompressed video, we recommend booting from a separate volume and dedicating the RAID set for such dedicated actions such as capture and playback.

Some creative "spead freaks" are using dual Velociraptors as the boot volume and four fast SAS or SATA drives in a RAID set as their dedicated data volume. You can connect the Velociraptors to the two spare SATA ports on the Mac Pro motherboard and mount them in the spare optical bay or you can use a SAS to SATA cable to connect the boot pair to the RocketRAID 4320 since it supports multple RAID sets.


2.
More RAID Modes, More Power
RAID 0, 1, 3, 5, 6, 10, 50, and JBOD configs are supported using a browser based RAID manager. Plus the RocketRAID includes such bonuses as Bad Sector Reallocation/Remapping and Automatic Rebuild of Failed Drive. Add to that the use of the powerful Intel IOP348 and you have a SAS/SATA controller that "trumps" the factory SATA controller and "out guns" the Apple Pro RAID.

3.
Battery Back Up (BBU)
There's an option to add a battery pack to the RocketRAID 4320. That's good news for consumers who are concerned about data compromise in case of a power outage. Though you may use a UPS, what if someone trips over the power cable going between your Mac Pro and the UPS? What if you are out of the office having lunch during an extended transfer and the UPS battery runs its course?

The battery module preserves the data that is stored on the RAID controller memory. A log file is generated and stored in the NVRAM on the controller. This log file records the failed write activity to the hard drives. Once power is restored to the system the remaining data is written to the hard drives.

Since BBU is offered as standard equipment on the Apple Pro RAID card, it's good that HighPoint offers it on the RocketRAID as well.

COMPLETE SUMMARY OF FEATURES

SAS/SATA Support
3Gb/s (300MB/s) transfer rate per channel
NCQ (Native Command Queuing)
Staggered drive spin-up support
Hot swap and hot spare
Bad Sector Reallocation and Remapping
Write-through and write-back cache support
Quick and Background initialization for quick RAID configuration
Online array roaming
64bit LBA for over 2TB support
Automatic RAID rebuild of failed drive
S.M.A.R.T drive monitoring for status and reliability
Browser-based RAID management software
SMTP for email notification
Max OS X Bootability
Optional Battery Backup


SUPPORTING PRODUCTS
Seagate makes the SAS drives we used. It's the "killer" new Cheetah 15K.6 SAS drive. Single drives clock out at 160+MB/s. So the fact that we got 646MB/s from four shows that there's no bottleneck in getting the maximum speed out of the four drive RAID 0 set. (Our thanks to Seagate and to OWC for providing the test units.)

We also tested the 146GB version which we found to be 10% slower than the 450GB version.

Since the RocketRAID 4320 is not a full length card yet it needs to connect to the mini-SAS connector on the Mac Pro motherboard in order to work. Enter MaxUpgrades with a SAS cable extender.

COMING NEXT
We plan to follow-up next week with a report on an eight drive set running as RAID 0, 5, 6, and 10. To do that we need an external SAS enclosure which CRU-DataPort has graciously agreed to provide. What we hope to show is transfer speed potential with this single host adapter of over 1200MB/s. And even with a 90% full RAID set, the speed will be as over 800MB/s.

"LITTLE SISTER" PRODUCTS
If the $699 price of the RocketRAID 4320 is too steep for you and you only plan to connect with four drives, you might take a look at the RocketRAID 2644x4 and 2640x4 priced under $200.

March 16th, 2009 -- NewEgg is selling the HighPoint 4320 'half price' ($330 -- Suggested Retail is $680.)

Apple Online Store

WHERE TO BUY THE ROCKETRAID 4320
The RocketRAID 4320 is not sold directly by HighPoint. Currently the only reseller that has the RocketRAID 4320 listed on their site is Other World Computing.

There are other vendors that sell HighPoint RocketRAID host adapters, though you may have to ask them why they don't list the RocketRAID 4320 yet. They may have to special order it.

Check also with Small Dog Electronics. Again, ask them if they can special order the RR4320 since it's currently not listed.

March 16th, 2009 -- NewEgg is selling the HighPoint 4320 'half price' ($330 -- Suggested Retail is $680.)

WHERE TO BUY THE SAS Extender Cable
MaxUpgrades sells the MaxConnect SAS/SATA link (adapter/extender) that we used. They also sell the MaxConnect kit that enables you to mount up to two drives in the lower optical bay which you can use for boot or scratch drives if you wish to dedicate the four factory sleds of the Mac Pro to the RAID card for data only.

WHERE TO BUY THE SEAGATE CHEETAH 15K SAS DRIVE
The new Cheetah 15K.6 is in stock at
Other World Computing.

WHERE TO BUY 7K SATA DRIVES

MacGurus (host adapters, enclosures, drives, cables)

Other World Computing (host adapters, enclosures, drives)

Small Dog Electronics (host adapters, enclosures, drives)

TransIntl (host enclosures, drives, internal mounting kits, host adapters)

WHERE TO BUY A MAC PRO
When ordering products from Apple Store USA, please click THIS TEXT LINK or any Apple display ad as your "portal" to the online store. In so doing, you help to support Bare Feats.

(DON'T LIVE in the USA? See links for Apple online stores in other countries.)

Also check with Small Dog Electronics, Power Max, and Silverado Systems.

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2008 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster