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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

REACHING FOR 3000MB/s:
Eight Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs
and the RocketRAID 2744 Adapter

Originally posted Thursday, June 9th, 2011, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Back in April we posted results for single 6Gb/s SSDs and for RAID sets with up to four 6Gb/s SSDs. We get even more extreme in this article. Using eight Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs from Other World Computing and the HighPoint RocketRAID 2744 SAS RAID adapter, we not only burst through the 2000MB/s but came within a hair of 3000MB/s..

The first two graphs show the results for the DiglloydTools DiskTester Sequential test (2G test size, 5 iterations). It's a great simulator for large sustained transfers like those performed by professional video and audio creators. Graph shows the average for 5 iterations. Longest bar (RED) means FASTEST.

GRAPH LEGEND
EIght R0 = Eight Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs in RAID 0 (striped) mode connected to the RocketRAID 2744
EIght R5 = Eight Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs in RAID 5 (striping with parity) mode connected to the RocketRAID 2744
Six R0 = Six Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs in RAID 0 (striped) mode connected to the RocketRAID 2744
Four R0 (2) = Four Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs in RAID 0 (striped) mode connected to the RocketRAID 2744 (two drives on each port/channel)
Four R0 (1) = Four Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs in RAID 0 (striped) mode connected to the RocketRAID 2744 (four drives on one port/channel)

The test "mule" was the 2010 Mac Pro "Westmere" 6-core. See "HARDWARE DETAILS" below for info on host adapters, enclosures, etc.

The next two graphs show the results from AJA's Kona System Test. We used the Disk Read/Write test with 4GB file size, 2048x1556 10-bit RGB Video Frame Size, and File System Cache Disabled. Graph shows the average for 516 frames. Longest bar (RED) means FASTEST.

Blackmagic Design's Disk Speed Test uses long sustained block transfers of up to 5GB just like capturing and playing video. It not only displays megabytes per second but it includes frames per second ratings for various video formats. (We used the version 7.9.5 that comes with the DeckLink HD Extreme card we are testing, but you can get the App Store version 1.0 for FREE). Longest bar (RED) means FASTEST.

Finally we ran QuickBench from the Speed Tools Test Suite using the Custom Sequential Test (1GB test size). The graph shows the average of 5 cycles. Longest bar (RED) means FASTEST.

INSIGHTS
According to one bitrate calculator, an uncompressed RGBA 4096x3112 non-interlaced 12 bit video requires 1840MB/s storage to avoid dropping frames when capturing or during playback. Using that as the target, the eight
Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs in a RAID 0 set easily exceeds that requirement.

Notice the speed gain when we split the four drive array into two data channels. With that setup, we were able to approach the 1840MB/s READ target speed. However, with at least six 6G SSDs, we exceeded 1840MB/s on both READ and WRITE. However, if you are only dealing RGB 4:4:4 (4096x3112), 24fps, non-interlaced, 10 bits, your target speed drops to 1200MB/s and the four 6Gb/s SSDs in a RAID 0 set will exceed that requirement.

My point is that "extreme" video creators dealing with ultra high definition video may want to consider a 6Gb/s SSD RAID storage solution for working storage.

HARDWARE DETAILS
RAID Host Adapter
You might recall in our last round of testing we used the 8 lane RocketRAID 2721. This time, we borrowed a
RocketRAID 2744 6Gb/s SAS RAID adapter (PCIe x16 with four external mini-SAS ports supporting up to 16 external SAS or SATA drives). This adapter was installed in the number 2 PCIe slot (x16) of the Mac Pro. It then was connected to the external enclosure housing the SandForce based 6Gb/s SSDs.

In our next round of testing, we will use the ATTO ExpressSAS R680 to see what speeds it attains.

Enclosures
We installed the eight Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs in the Stardom/Raidon ST8-U5. The best way to install an SSD in the ST8-U5 is to convert it to 3.5 inch form factor using a special adapter with correct mounting holes. We used the NewerTech AdaptaDrive. The black plastic Icy Dock also works in the ST8-U5. (The silver metal Icy Dock does not fit.)

We measured the same speeds using two FirmTek SeriTek/2eEN4 enclosures. In that case, we mounted the SSDs using the silver metal Icy Dock.

OTHER HARDWARE OPTIONS
If you want 6Gb/s SSDs mounted
internally to the Mac Pro, they must be connected to the third party 6Gb/s host adapter with internal ports to attain full speed potential. We were impressed with the ATTO R644 which supports up to 4 internal drives and 4 external drives. It can be used to boot OS X.

The mounting of internal 6Gb/s SSDs is a bit tricky. Placing the SSD inside an Icy Dock or AdaptaDrive makes it easy to attach to any drive bay sled, but you'll need a custom sled that bypasses the data connector on the Mac Pro's backplane. We have successfully used two options. MaxUpgrades offers a "Backplane Attachment" kit which enables the SSD to pull power off the Mac Pro's motherboard while facing the data port down at a 90 degree angle to enable connection with the host adapter.

Another custom sled comes with the Trans International "Pro Cable - 1 Kit" which turns the SSD 180 degrees so the data and power connectors face outward. Again, the idea is to bypass the built-in data connection and connect to the 6Gg/s PCIe host adapter. This kit also provides power cables.

If you have comments or questions, email . You can also follow him on Twitter @barefeats.

WHERE TO BUY 6Gb/s SSDs

Other World Computing has the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD in 120G, 240G, and 480G capacities.

Trans International has various sizes of the OCZ Vertex 3. Ask them about their newest SSDs.

MaxUpgrades has the OCZ Vertex 3 (240G and 120G) which you can order with their optical bay kit.

Amazon has the OCZ Vertex 3 in various capacities.

Newegg.com has the OCZ Vertex 3 in various capacities.

WHERE TO BUY 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 HOST ADAPTERS
OWC, Amazon and the ATTO Store.

WHERE TO BUY A MAC PRO or other Apple products
Click on our Apple Store USA text links or display ads when you order. It is a great way to support Bare Feats since we earn a commission on each click-through that results in a sale.

DON'T LIVE in the USA? Here are some Apple Stores to click:
Apple Store - Canada
Apple Store - France
Apple Store - Germany
Apple Store - Italy
Apple Store - UK

WHERE TO BUY ADOBE CREATIVE SUITE (or portions of it like Photoshop)
Order directly from Adobe USA.
Live outside the US? Use these links to Adobe France, Adobe Germany, Adobe Sweden, or Adobe UK. (Clicking our links helps us earn a commission.)

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copyright 2011 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster