It’s been a few weeks since I talked about storage solutions. Â I’m getting closer to purchasing a solution for my home/office, which willÂ undoubtedlyÂ be a raid hanging off of eSata. Â I’ve used a few different eSata towers and will eventually talk about each of these solutions. Â Today I’m going to cover one of the better ones – the G-SPEED eS from G-Technology.
The G-SPEED eS is aÂ mini-tower with 4 removable drive modules. With current drives it provides an unformatted capacity of 4 TB. Â It attaches to a Mac or PC via one eSata cable. The typical package comes with an PCIe eSata raid controller, which is the host adaptor and handles the raid management. Â This particular raid card has 4 eSata ports, meaning that it can handle 4 G-SPEED’s. Â It is therefore possible to raid 16 TB drives together providing a reported 600 MB/sec. Â (Although I have not invested the 6 grand to verify this speed – and you know how much I hate just repeating advertised bandwidth – so YMMV).
Once it’s set up as a RAID 5, your local system sees it as one volume and a single drive failure should not cause data loss. The bad drive module can be replaced and the RAID will rebuild itself. Â I’ve notÂ dissectedÂ this particular model, but generally a module is just a tray that the raw eSata drive screws onto, which makes for easy replacement and upgrade.
Now, let’s talk about the storage solution in practice. Â In my setup, I’ve raided the 4 x 1TB drives into a Raid 5. This means that 1/4th of the drive space is lost for parity (data loss protection). The formatted capacity is down to 2.73 TB. I do wish that G-Technology had made this tower 5 high instead of only 4 high. Then the RAID 5 would only lose 1/5th of the space for the raid.
Read/Write performance is impressive with a very consistent Write: 163.7 MB/s, Read: 174.9 MB/s. Â A read speed that rivals a wellÂ equippedÂ Xsan.
This storage solution also has some downsides. First is the setup time. Unlike a G-Raid drive that come ready to roll, the G-SPEED eS can be used in any number of configurations and therefore arrives unconfigured configureless raw. Â For me, the RAID 5 setup process took 18 hours – so DONT expect to take the tower out of the box and use it the same day. Â During this process the RAID is not usable and does not show up on your desktop. Â You just have to wait.
As seen on G-Tech’s website, setup is done via a control panel which is loaded using Safari. Â This confused me at first. Â Basically what’s happening here is that the RAID configuration happens on the PCIe controller card. Â It formats the drives, sets up the RAID and then presents it to the computer as one mountable volume. Â If a drive failure were to happen, you would log into this control panel to rebuild the raid. I don’t know what the process looks like or how long it takes because I’ve never had to do it. I welcome someone to talk about it in the comments.
Another problem is that the PCIeÂ controllerÂ card has a very loud alarm that goes off whenever it thinks there is a problem. One thing that set it off was detaching a stand-alone eSata device – the Vantex NexStar. Â The first time this happened I thought it was the UPS alarming. Eventually I figured out that it was coming from inside the computer. Once it starts the only way to make it stop is to reboot the computer. There is a setting inside the control panel to turn off the alarm – which I recommend.
The final consideration is that the RAID controller is on the PCIe card. For my taste an overall better solution is to have the raid controller inside the mini-tower. The advantage of having it inside the computer is that you can raid multiple towers together creating a mega-RAID. However, I prefer having it inside the tower to remove the RAID management process from the inside of the computer and have the solution as more of a stand alone device.
Overall the G-SPEED eS is a lot of bandwidth bang for your buck. A 4TB package is about $1600 which includes the PCIe controller card.