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(OK) Reports from OS X users of eSATA PCIe cards with Port Multipler cases
Posted: April 4, 2011
(Reports later updated w/April 5th and April 6th mails)


(Copy of a request in the April 4th news page - replies below)
Posting a request for feedback (from readers w/o problems) - long story short, another eSATA user that later noticed data corruption.
If you're using a PCIe eSATA card with Port Multiplier external case with OS X that's proven reliable for months (no issues, no data corruption, etc) let me know the details including card and case model/drives and OS X version/any driver version used. Thanks. (I've used/reviewed a couple eSATA cards in the past but currently using a 6G card w/o PM support.)

BTW - if you haven't already done so (from past notes/reports here), I'd recommend running a data integrity test on any eSATA setup. If you don't have a utility to test this, you can use a large DMG file as mentioned here in the past. (For example copy a large OS X Combo Updater dmg file to the eSATA drive and run it from the eSATA drive. Checksum is run before mounting. I'd repeat the test (delete dmg, recopy, etc) at least 10 times or more. I've seen some card/drive mixes that failed almost every time and some only 1/3 the time, some even less. Even one failure is too many.)
A lot of owners have thought all was ok until months later. eSATA card/bridge board problems don't always result in BBOD, hangs, freezes, failures to complete a copy, etc. (Depending on level of corruption you may not even notice it in an image file, movie, etc - this is why I run (repeated) integrity tests first before even using an eSATA card/drive combo. Of course down the road anything can go south, but at least I want some level of confidence at the start.)
OK, enough of that (which you've probably already read here years ago) - below are replies to the above request recd today.

Reader Replies regarding eSATA PCIe cards w/PM cases (w/no issues seen to date)
(If anyone that replied later runs data integrity tests and finds a problem - send a follow-up.
Also most didn't include info on actual HDs used - if possible let me know what they were.
)

[Reports from April 4, 2011 follow]

" I've been using a PM eSATA array for our Mac OS X Server for the past 9 months without a single hiccup. The array has been running 24/7 since put into service in July of last year as a Time Machine backup for over 100 users at a school.

We're running a HighPoint RocketRaid 2314 to a pair of OWC Mercury Rack Pro 8 TB rack-mount arrays in RAID 5. Total disk space is currently 14 TB of which about 8 TB is used.

I'll probably be buying 4 more arrays with 3 TB drives to expand storage next summer. The 2314 can do 4 arrays per card, so I can add one more card and still have space for a couple more arrays if necessary.
smiles, Jamie"


"Hi Mike, I am a TV editor with a home studio, so I need reliability and really work the drives hard. Port Multiplier enclosures aren't the fastest, but they are incredibly cost-effective, so I use them pretty heavily for RAID-5 longer term storage.

I use the RocketRaid 2314 and 2302 (it's a hybrid card -- a 2-port PCI bracket to convert the internal SATA ports to eSATA).

I have had no problems with these cards from 10.5.0 through 10.6.6, always on a Mac Pro (2006 Mac Pro Quad 2.66 and Quad 3.0).

I always update to the latest RocketRAID drivers, but these cards have been rock solid.

For enclosures, I have used the Sans Digital TR5M (5 drives, hot-swap), and the TR4M-BNC (only 4 drives, not hot-swap, but much smaller than other alternatives and about half the price).

I have ordered 6 of each of these enclosures for myself and a client, and they were used heavily for an entire season of a TV show with no hiccups. Note than in this case they were actually used for HD editing. I should mention that cooling has always been fine, and the noise level is adequate (the TR4M are much quieter than any 5-bay enclosures I have tried from Sans Digital or Sonnet).

Speaking of Sonnet -- I ordered two of their port multiplier enclosures for a client -- they are larger, louder, and 3 times more expensive than the TR5M -- and one of the two was DOA.

So -- RocketRAID (7 Port Multiplier cards between myself and clients) and Sans Digital (12 enclosures and counting) have been rock solid in production use.
Hope this helps, Gray J."


"I use 2x NewerTech MAXPower 6G PCIe eSATA RAID Controller card (MXPCIE6GRS). I have only used the driver that came on the CD with the card. (Filename "Newer_Controller-mac_1004009.dmg")

1x uses two ports
Sans Digital TowerRAID TR8MB - 8 Bay (Port Multiplier) eSATA Enclosure Kit.

1x Sans Digital TowerRAID TR5MB - 5 Bay (PM) eSATA Enclosure Kit

4x (I just swap these out and only use 1 or 2 at time.)
FW800/400, USB2, eSATA RAID Dual-Drive 7200RPM Mercury Elite-AL Pro

I have been using this setup for over a year. If there is data corruption, I do not know it. They run reliable, well with the only caveat being that after ejecting and inserting drives multiple times, the systems gets little unstable/hangs and needs a reboot.
Mac Pro. OS X 10.6.4
(asked why he never updated past 10.6.4, unless the old "if it ain't broke..." rule)
Well let me be clear, I got a frankenstein computer. A Hackintosh running efi-x dongle (I know... I know). About this Mac, with no kext hacks, labeled as MacPro 3,1. 12 gigs of memory. Boot Drive OWC SSD of 64 gigs and all my user settings on a 1TB 2nd Drive. I update slowly just to be sure I don't create a nightmare.

PS. I am not proud I am running this machine (although it runs well). I needed 3 things over my old white iMac:
1) more rendering power for HD ProRes in FCP
2) tons of external HD solutions that could copy TB's of data quickly
3) Blu-ray burner for making a professional authored Blu-ray disc.
So the new iMacs last year couldn't work, MacPros were just so expensive at the time and didn't offer any better render times in FCP than the hackintosh. So I cheaped out and built the hackintosh. Now that Apple has introduced Thunderbolt and I am am assuming that FCP 8.0 will finally figure out a way to use the processing power of the new MacPro's or iMac, I hopefully will switch back. Thunderbolt is the future, and if you can hold out till then, that is the way to go.
18 months ago, I had to go the PM esata route.
-Doug W."


" Hello, 2009 Mac Pro, sil3132 card (SATA 2) with appropriate drivers, using a Rosewill RSV-S4-X 4 bay enclosure.
Not a single problem, been using it for the past 8 months in OS X 10.6.x
-Loa"


"I've been using a Highpoint RocketRaid 2314 for several years now on 10.6 (currently 10.6.7) in my 2.8GHz 2008 Mac Pro. No drivers needed. (Drivers included in Snow Leopard. Highpoint has an OS X drivers page also for OS X 10.5 that also has 10.6 drivers and WebGUI.)
Am currently driving an 8-bay SATA PM enclosure with the card.
(I asked for info on the PM Enclosure.-Mike)
Enclosure is the discontinued "Enhance Technology E8 PM Compact Desktop 8 Drive SATA-to-Port Multiplier Enclosure" model E8 PM.

The overall combination (PCIe card, Enclosure, Drives) isn't quite as fast as I'd like (about 200 MB/s read/write on a 4-drive striped RAID), but it's been adequate for my uses.

(he later wrote)
As to the question about a driver under 10.6, RR's big push back when SL came out was that their devices (or at least the 2314) didn't need drivers under 10.6. There is a web GUI download that is installed and used for configuring connected drives and for setting prefs for the drives (setting up RAID, sleep preferences, notification preferences, etc), but I didn't need to install any new drivers under 10.6.
-Clay"


" Raidage 5 bay pm box
Sonnettech E4P pcie card
8 core mac pro
Also use firmtek enclosures

MacBook Pro has a Firmtek express/34 card as well
No problems after a number of years now.
-Scott S."


[Reports recd on April 5, 2011 follow]

" Hey Mike. Meant to get to you sooner about this but was busy all day.
I have a 2008 3.2Ghz MacPro, and use a Sonnet E4P card to drive a homebuilt pair of RAID 0's.
At work we had a old tower CD Duplicator that had a dead controller, so I snagged that case, stripped out the controller, and mounted 8 Hard drives using 5.25-3.5 adaptors. Then installed 2 Addonic's Port multipliers (www.addonics.com/products/host_controller/ad5sapm-e.asp) and built a basic striped Software RAID 0 on each Port multiplier.
4 WD 250GB (since upgraded to seagate single platter 500GB) drives on one (Rendering), and four 640GB WD Blue drives on the other. (Video Storage)

Has worked for 3.5 years with no problems. Performance is maxed out over the single cables coming off the port multipliers, but it works great for video editing.

I had a HighPoint RocketRAID before this, but it was overkill for my needs so I sold it.
In addition to the homebuilt pair of Port Multiplier RAIDs on the E4P card, the other 2 ports on the card have normal eSATA drives hooked up (Cold storage, rarely accessed) and they work fine as well. So all 4 ports on the card are used for a total of 10 drives.
Never had a issue with data corruption, the whole setup runs 24/7. The drives have lasted longer then the power supply in the old CD duplicator case, which I have now had to hack in replacements twice...
Of course since I have now written this to you, I expect tomorrow to come into work and see a pair of failed RAID's... 8-) Great site!
-Kevin"


" Hey Mike, I've been running a highpoint for over two years, perfect...
One 1 HPTRR2314, $195.99 each. HighPoint RocketRaid 2314 PCI-Express eSATA 4 Port RAID Controller Card. Supports 4 drives direct, or 20 drives via port multiplication, RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD. 3 Year Warranty.
The case is from NewEgg - Sans Digital TR8M-B.
8 drives @ 1TB each into a Raid 5 array, works great.
-Jim"


" Card - SeriTek 2SE2-4 v. 5.4.1 - 2 installed (also used with a number of none PM cases)
PM case FirmTek 5PM - used Sans Digital 2 drive PM cases before but had mechanical issues with those.
Drives - mostly Hitachi 500GB (HDP725050GLA360), 1TB Hitachi (model # not handy as not currently installed) & 2TB Seagate (ST32000542AS) - but have used others as well.
Mac Pro (1.1) 2.66 GHz OS X 10.5.8

This setup has been used as a Retrospect backup device for 8-9 months - all backups done in verified mode and restores have been done. No issues that I can pin on this setup. Multiple backup scripts run every day and 8-10 clients plus server.

This machine is also my work desktop and has a number of drives off of internal bus (Seagate, Hitachi and WD Raptor currently installed). Last several months been using SoftRAID as well. Has general software installed FM Pro, Office, Photoshop etc.
-Leonard C."


"I'm running two different setups:
Sonnet PCIe Tempo E4P with Fantec mr-35us2 and a lot of different docks for testing purposes at home. And two of the above enclosures with a no-name PCIe sata card (sil3132) with sonnet driver at work.
Sometimes something funny happens: the drive icons disappear from Finder but copy operations continue.
This happens under heavy load (video-editing) but no data corruption ever.
The sonnet card seems to be the better one but is expensive so the cheap solution is fine for me.
regards, Franz"


" Hi Mike, I have a NewerTech MAXPower 6G PCIe eSATA RAID Controller card with port multiplier support in my first gen 2006 MacPro 3.0 GHz. I have it hooked up to a Startech SATA3540U2E 4 bay enclosure.
I tested a 425MB dmg I had lying around on my boot drive by dragging it over to a 2TB Western Digital WD20EADS drive in that enclosure. The test was performed over 15x's and each time the dmg verified no problem. This is under 10.6.7.

I've been using that card and enclosure combo daily since I got the card this past November so it has been trouble free for 6 months or so.

I had a Firmtek card before but decided to get this new Newertech to play with the browser based RAID software this new card includes with on another enclosure I have. That said I really am looking forward to something like Thunderbolt in a MacPro because eSATA has never felt like it was refined enough for mainstream use.
-Jerry C."


" Mike, I installed an Areca 1210 PCIe eSATA single port multiplier card to a single port DAT Optic 4 drive RAID case for a client over 3 years now and not a single issue. It's OS 10.4.11 and is used all day and everyday. It's checked monthly with DiskWarrior and no red.
-Mark
Sonic Systems DAW "


" Mike, I've got a Sonnet Tempo E4P eSata interface (4 ports, 2 to a eSata dock and 1 to generic 5-drive PM chassis).
Mac OS X 10.6.7,
Mac Pro 1,1 3GHZ Dual Cores (upgraded 5130's to 5160's) with 12 GB RAM
5- 1TB drives on Channel 3,
Port 1 WDC WD1001FALS 1TB
Port 2 Seagate ST31000340NS 1TB
Port 3 Seagate ST31000340NS 1TB
Port 4 WDC WDC WD10EADS 1TB
Port 5 WDC WDC WD10EADS 1TB
Sonnet SATA Driver version 2.2.5

I was having issues two months ago with Kernel Panics regarding IOKIT... found that Sonnet updated the Tempo driver to 2.2.5 (I was on 2.2.1).
No more issues, even with 10.6.7 Combo update installed.
Sincerely, Ed S."


" I have a MacPro 1,1 quad 2.66 Ghz. I'm using an ICY DOCK MB561US-4S (up to 4 drives through a single eSATA) with a generic eSATA PCI card that came with it. If it helps, Apple Profiler calls the card "pci1095,3132" - which evidently is the same thing as the SeriTek/2SE2 = Silicon Image 3132 (?). (Firmtek has some cards based on the 3132 but they also did their own drivers (and firmware in some cases IIRC) - their drivers do not work with generic 3132 cards (based on past posts here, I suspect card ID/check.)
Never had any driver issues, although I'm running OS 10.5.8 right now.

I booted it once in OS 10.6 and the card was not recognized so I reverted back. (As mentioned here back in aug 2009 when snow leopard (10.6.0) was first released - the installer removes any SI3132 drivers (although some of us just reinstalled the current drivers and it worked back then anyway) - But there's been several SI3132 driver updates since then that work with snow leopard. And the last few driver releases have 64bit Snow Leopard support. Links posted in the news and also on past articles on the Storage topics page/SATA page/Controllers section (i.e. the "cheap SATA cards and snow leopard page and the expresscard reports page - same driver for PCIe/expresscards.)-Mike)
I have no idea what I'll do when I upgrade to 10.7 in a few months, hopefully I can find the correct Silicon Image driver. (Here's the Silicon Image 3132 drivers page link.-Mike)

I have 2 drives in it right now: 1.5 TB Western Digital Green 5400 rpm and 2.0 TB Hitachi HDS72202 running at 7200 rpm. I've had the setup for about a year with no problems. I run large (up to 13 gb) files through these drives and I haven't noticed any corruption issues.
I use the system as a server so I rarely shut down and I never sleep it. It is rock steady and I've run Disk Warrior through it every few weeks with only the typical fragmentation issues.
Cheers, David"


" Howdy, responding to the call for reports about PM enclosures. (after another report of someone finding out months later they had data corruption was looking for reliable card/PM case combo experiences)
I've been using an older SANS digital 8 drive PM/RAID case for almost two years now with no data loss issues. I do not use the internal raid functions (all drives are being used as single drives in port multiplier mode). If my memory serves the two boards in the unit have earlier generation silicon image steelvine controllers. I connect the case via a Tempo Sata Pro Expresscard/34 (which has a marvell chipset. 11AB, 7042)
I get roughly 100-110 mb / sec off of individual drives (the individual mechanisms max throughput) on this case/card combo, those numbers go slightly higher when adding up throughput from both PM boards and/or multiple drives being accessed simultaneously.

I use the drive chassis w/ a macbook pro and a whitebox hackintosh via a PCIe to ExpressCard adapter from Startech.com (~20$)

There are some issues with drives unmounting if you add/insert a drive when one of the PM boards already has 2-3 drives attached; once in a while it will 'disconnect' the other drives on the PM board; thankfully I don't hotswap the drives frequently. I can't recommend combining the sonnet card with some port replicator combos though for folks who need functional hotswap. But it does work and has been reliable.
-Nicholas S."


[Reports recd on April 6, 2011 follow]

"I have a similar story as Mike. (Do you mean Gray J.? (a TV editor with a home studio - April 4th report above)-Mike)
I produce promotional films for independent missionaries (lampstandfilms.org) and i have a 7.5 TB setup with my MacPro and Final Cut Studio.

The original SansDigital TR5M i got in 2009 had a faulty power supply and power button and died after less than a year of use. They replaced it with the new version, which i have been running nonstop for 2 months. This unit seems much better built and is working perfectly.

It is attached to a RocketRaid 2314 with 4 external eSATA ports. I run 5 Samsung 1.5TB drives in a RAID 5 configuration using the built-in software for the RocketRaid, and i get approximately 185MBps read and 150MBps write with 3.3TB free in a 6.0TB volume.

It has even survived a MacPro (quad 3.0) that had a motherboard that died, and all of the data check out so far on that RAID.

It is important to check all of the disk settings (not volume settings) in the RocketRaid web-based configuration. I took a few hours to check all the possible settings and used BlackMagic Design's disk speed tester to work thru all the possible combinations to determine the fastest speeds. I don't have them on me here, but I know it was NOT the most obvious combination.

Luckily, you can run the tests while the configurator page is up, change a setting, then run the test, change another setting.

I would definitely consider this for individual video workstations, but for long-term storage of video assets and project files, I know I will need something that is more robust. While this works, I just have the nagging feeling that something could go wrong. I am currently using a startech eSATA/USB dock to backup individual projects onto independent drives hooked up to the RocketRaid card as well, but this is not ideal.
Thanks for the great site!
-Don"


" Setup 1:
MacPro '08 8 core OSX 10.6.7
HPRR 2314 with 2 x Firmtek 5 bay PM enclosures (10 x WD 500GB HD's)
With 2 x enclosures and fans on low noise is more than I would like it, but tolerable.
No problems with temperature tough.

Setup 2:
MacBook Pro '07 2.2Ghz OSX 10.6.7
Seritek / 2SM2-E 3/4 express card with Seritek / 2EN2 2 bay enclosure (2 x WD 1TB HD's)

Everything absolutely rock solid.
Audio / Video editing
-Michael"





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