New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

Summary: Xmas in July: brand new quadcore I7 Sandy Bridge 3.4 GHz 27.5" iMac with Thunderbolt and new Thunderbolt storage array. Woo-hoo! How great is it? Here's a hint: I'm writing this on a Core Duo 2.

TOPICS: Hardware, Storage

Xmas in July: brand new quadcore I7 Sandy Bridge 3.4 GHz 27.5" iMac with dual Thunderbolt ports and new Thunderbolt storage array. Woo-hoo! How great is it? Here's a hint: I'm writing this on a Core Duo 2.

Out of the box The new iMac has a fine unboxing experience. The wireless keyboard and Magic trackpad are neatly packaged.

After plugging in the power cable, MS Natural Elite keyboard, Logitech Trackman Wheel (never had much luck with wireless kit), LaCie Rugged FW800 drive (a clone of my former system disk) Promise Pegasus R4 RAID, Apple 23" Cinema Display and a Viewsonic 20" display, I hit the power button. The gorgeous 27" display came up, but I couldn't see my new array.

Turns out that the iMac needed an update to 10.6.8, the only version of OS X that supports the Promise array, along with a another 500 MB of other updates. Must have been in the warehouse for a while.

Once the update completed it still needed another update to support the Thunderbolt array. The updates went pretty fast, but needing them took some shine off the "factory fresh" iMac.

In the meantime Migration Assistant moved my old accounts, apps, documents and settings to the new system disk - although it lost my Final Cut Studio serial number. Reinstalling FCS is no fun.

Pegasus OOTB Once the updates were in the iMac could see the Pegasus RAID. Ready to rock?

Nope. The box needs to initialize and synchronize the 4 TB of raw Raid 5 capacity. A "Very Important Please Read!!" message warns this can take up to 10 hours. Based on the 7 hours/72% complete so far, I'd say it will take almost exactly 10 hours - with the Pegasus doing nothing else all day!

Why I'm not writing this on the iMac My old box was a 2006 Mac Pro with 12 GB of RAM, a sweet 10k Velociraptor, a Radeon 5770 video card and a 2 drive RAID 0 for video files. Swap files rarely exceeded a few hundred megabytes, even after 2 weeks of heavy use.

The stock 4 GB iMac is a different story. With just a dozen Safari browser tabs, Mail, the RAID utility and the Mac activity monitor open, I saw frequent slowdowns and almost 8 GB of swap files.

Safari was hogging RAM. Quitting it restored system performance, but I need to have a browser open for research while I write. The 4 GB MacBook Air/128 GB SSD combo easily handles that - even with over a GB of swap files - so here I am.

The Storage Bits take Despite these hiccups I expect the iMac/Thunderbolt/Promise RAID will meet my requirements and give me better performance than the 5 year old Mac Pro. 16 GB of RAM is going in later today and that should help.

But it's clear that the RAID OOTB experience isn't up to Apple standards. NAS boxes - such as the Iomega Ix4 200d - give a much smoother user experience using the defaults.

To be fair to Promise, all RAID boxes are a pain to stand up. That's why the Drobo arrays are so popular with civilians.

I'll be back with more on the new kit soon, including RAID performance and RAM recommendations.

Comments and questions welcome, of course. Sold the old Mac Pro for $2k - not bad for a unit I bought in 2007 - and paid for the iMac and Pegasus RAID myself.

Topics: Hardware, Storage

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  • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

    youtube "frustrated Mac user" "You idiot, you own a Mac". Do you now feel that 3x pricetag worth it?
    • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

      Don't hate cuz you can't afford one LOL
      • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

        @Hasam1991 ...I'd rather spend the extra money on other sweet stuff...
        Feldwebel Wolfenstool
    • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

      @Nate_K I'll let you know tomorrow.
      Robin Harris
    • Hey Nate

      When was the last time you sold a 4 year old PC for 2K, Doh!
      They don't cost 3 x as much, but when you sell a used one you get 4 or 5 times what you'd get for an old PC, Doh!
      • And occasionally you'll make money on the system...

        Back when the laptops were called iBooks and PowerBooks, I'd generally be able to flip units with bad hard drives for a $100-$300 profit, depending on the processor speed. Pismos were particularly popular, since some chick on HBO named Carrie had one and that's what the ladies wanted for some reason.
      • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

        @GoPower I agree with you Go Power! A PC could not hold its value for it life. This is even with high end parts and watercooling. lol. Some people don't get it.
        covert IT
    • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

      @Nate_K Price tag? You mean your throw away 1 year dell that you think you are getting a deal on? lol. Have you ever built a PC? Try building spec for spec a comparable PC. You will pay double. A MAC pro will run circles around your Dell, HP, or anyother big box store. That is common sense to those who wish to test. Also, a Mac Pro uses Xeons. Ever heard of those? You cannot buy those for yours unless you build or go through a business outlet. Thanks.
      covert IT
    • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

      @Nate_K Forgot to ask you to take an english class too.
      covert IT
  • I bought a Buffalo NAS RAID that was similar.

    6 TB. Took 20 hours to init.

  • Would adding extra RAM capacity help the Safari system resource issue?

    Robin, I have the previous generation "top of the line" 27 inch iMac BTO model with the Core i7 and the SSD drive option.

    I installed optional third party RAM to max out the system memory at 16 GB.

    When I open Safari (or any other program, quite frankly), I always have a little more than 14 GB of free RAM memory left.

    With the SSD primary drive and the 2 TB secondary drive plus the added RAM, everything runs "really fast". Grin.

    I do have a question which your expertise might help to clarify something for me.

    With the latest OS update, I have TRIM support enabled for my SSD. Why would I need a RAID setup like the one you are trying to install on your system?
    • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

      I also do video production and editing, which is why the high-bandwidth of Thunderbolt is attractive to me. If you don't do any large file size production, you probably have all you need.
      Robin Harris
  • You DO know there are other browsers out there...

    "Safari was hogging RAM. Quitting it restored system performance, but I need to have a browser open for research while I write."
    • If you are not looking only at one page, but actually *work* with the ...

      @TheWerewolf: ... browser, then *any* browser will easily eats up hundreds of megabytes, a gigabyte even, or more.
      • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

        that is just sad, I have a 8GB DDR3 Phenom 2x4 955 with an ATI Radeon 4890, in ubuntu 10.10 x64 I can have 89 Google Chrome browser windows open, Guayadeque media player with 38,000 songs loaded in the library, playing on random, VMWare workstation running a win XP machine converting a video into 2 different formats (for my wife's netbook and my HTC Evo), a second VM running Win 7 providing media sharing to my Xbox, google cloud print and running Nuance Dragon 10 pro to dictate and email. I have an external eSATA 4 drive Raid enclosure connected (Rosewill, works great paid $79 on newegg it was an eggbuster that day), I didn't have to do any updates or driver installs to get the array up and running, just turn it on. I also have a 4 drive array attached to my MB and a 2 drive mirrored set internal to my system case. I run two monitors (1x 4:3 19" and 1x 16:9.x 19") and occasionally swap one out to direct output to my TV via a 25' HDMI cable. Total cost for all of that was <$1k purchased over 2 years and 4 months (not counting the monitors, they have been around a good 4 and 8 years, most of the drives are from the last 12 months and the external raid caddy.

        I never have slow down or stuttering, and my system never pulls more swap file space. All drives are SATA 3GB/s not 6GB not SSD.

        You need to stop buying mac's unless they finally switch off intel chips to lower their prices (I know you lose performance, but the performance is not worth the cost unless someone else is buying!)

        and I am only using 7GB of my 8GB of ram, and 200MB of swap file space. leaving that system running 24 hours a day and only restarting it once every 3 months or so.
  • I don't understand: are you recommending for or against this product?

    You seem to spend most of your article talking about the problems with the setup and how you aren't using the setup yet at the same time, how impressive the setup is.

    Did I miss something?
    • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

      @toddybottom Tune in tomorrow for more data and opinion.
      Robin Harris
  • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

    I myself use a Mac Pro that is about 3 or maybe 4 years old. I have 10 gig of RAM and can easily handle image files of 5 or more gig with many layers and so forth. I do not see any issues whatsoever with Safari such as described. I suggest that what is happening is that the RAID is occupying the CPU for its initial install and that Safari is not the fault at all. One ought to wait till that background operation is complete ( like doing it at night) and then fairly report on the functionality of all software and hardware after that. Yesterday I was converting video formats in the background, working with Photoshop layers and mail and Safari all at the same time with 11 hard drives by the way and no problem at all with any of it. Case closed.
    • RE: New iMac with Thunderbolt RAID: 1st report

      @nfiertel If Safari wasn't the problem, why did the problem disappear when he closed Safari? LOL

      More seriously, though, he basically said it was the limited RAM size which made Safari slow down the system due to swap file size. You also have to realize researchers use Safari differently than most users. Even looking at my own browser right now, I have 14 tabs open for different tasks I'm working on. That uses a lot of RAM and can overflow to the swap file quickly on a 4GB machine.
  • Did you try disabling Adobe Flash with FlashBlock or SafariBlock? [nt]