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Wednesday, 04 July 2012 23:38

The ATTO ExpressSAS R680 RAID Adapter

Written by  David Hurd
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To effectively edit high-end HD projects you’ll need a RAID, which is just a bunch of hard drives working together to deal with the huge amounts of video data that are being manipulated. And if you’re editing DV at 25Mbits/sec, you’ll have no worries as 25Mb divided by 8 bits per byte equals only a bit over 3MB/sec, which any hard drive can handle. But there’s a problem when you work with larger formats, like the one recorded on Blackmagic Design’s HyperDeck Shuttle. The full, uncompressed 10-bit recording rate of 1264Mb/sec or 158MB/sec is more than any regular hard drive is going to be able to handle. An SSD can deal with the speeds, but who can afford to own terabytes of SSDs? What you are left with is SATA and SAS drive RAID arrays to process all of your data.

A good term to know at this point is “Enterprise Class,” which is the class of hard drives and computers that are made to run in servers 24/7 without breaking down. This is important because a drive failure is always linked to increased stress, which can sometimes lead to the loss of a client or job — and the tighter the deadline, the faster this can become evident. Granted, a RAID 5 configuration will allow the RAID to be rebuilt after replacing the guilty drive. But depending on the size of the RAID, this process can take hours, which is still bad when you’re on a deadline. I prefer Seagate 15000 RPM SAS drives. I’ve been using a set of 16 in Ci Design cases for over two years now and a case of eight of them for the prior three years with no problems ever. These all need a controller card, and I’ve been using the same ATTO Technology ExpressSAS R380 card for about five years. It has seen me through two sets of drives and three Apple Mac Pro computers, so I can truthfully say that ATTO makes a great SAS controller.

Since the RAID information is stored on the drives, every time I switched computers, I just installed the ATTO card in the new computer, ran the software, and all of my RAID projects were ready to go. This may not sound like a big deal, but the alternative is to off-load the 6TB of RAID data onto another RAID, and then load it back after you have installed the RAID on the new computer. I actually have a G-Technology G-SPEED Q RAID that is a great backup, but moving that much data takes a day or two, which is also bad if you’re on a tight deadline.

While the old standard for drives was 3Gb/sec, the new standard is now 6Gb/sec, which is really nice. Since my 16 3Gb/sec drives still have a lot of life left in them, I just decided to upgrade my ATTO R380 to an ATTO R680. This turned out to be a good idea. Even though my drives were 3Gb/sec, I saw a huge jump in speed with the 6Gb/sec ATTO R680. The 1920x1080 10-bit uncompressed video writes data at 1043MB/sec, which is up from 750MB/sec, and reading increased from 1020 to 1380MB/sec. This allows me to edit over 12 layers of ProRes HQ at 220Mb/sec without dropping frames. Now let’s take a look at why the ATTO R680 is worth owning.

The ATTO ExpressSAS R680 RAID adapter provides 6Gb/sec SAS/SATA connectivity to your Direct Attached Storage via eight external ports via SAS 2.0, SAS, SATA II or SATA connectivity. With transfer rates of up to 1200MB/sec per port, or a total of 9.6GB/sec throughput in full-duplex mode, the R680 is well suited for high-bandwidth workflows, such as digital content creation and streaming video and audio. It supports RAID Levels 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 40, 50, 60 and DVRAID (an advanced RAID level for digital video environments), so it will handle any configuration that you could possibly want to create (this is at least up to 128 drives, but you’ll need the ATTO Express Power Center software for RAID 40, 50 or 60).

In this new paradigm of digital-video content creation, with no tape backup available, the data is all that you have and it needs to be protected (unless you like to do reshoots). The R680 combines advanced engineering and innovative features to ensure smooth data transfers and consistent performance to help you create, share and protect your data and digital assets more effectively.

The R680 has Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS X driver support, so it can go with you if you change computers. It has 512MB memory, a three-year standard product warranty and really good tech support. Best of all is its GUI-based configuration utility that’s fast and easy to use, involving a very small learning curve. This card also uses Advanced Data Streaming (ADS) technology to control the acceleration of data transfers to move large amounts of data faster and more efficiently. It has DriveAssure technology to prevent premature drive failures and ensure uninterrupted access to data, and its CacheAssure technology is an optional protection module that provides a maintenance-free solution to safeguard against the loss of cached data during a power or system failure. And my favorite feature is the Data Recovery Mode, which increases the probability of recovering data that’s lost due to a disk failure and offline RAID group.
All in all, for your SAS/SATA RAID controller needs, the ATTO ExpressSAS R680 is a great choice.

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