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Cons And Conclusion

Hi-Rely RAIDFrame: External Disk-To-Disk Backup Via eSATA
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Unlike the seven bay High-Rely eSATA solution we tested two years ago, the RAIDPacs lack the environmental alerts and displays that the former’s disk cartridges have. True, the RAIDPacs do have basic indicator lights and sounds, but there are no extra readings beyond that. Given its current design, knowing whether you have a problem or are just operating normally is not that obvious to someone who hasn’t read the manual.

The overall construction, as I mentioned above, is sturdy. As such, I would like a tool-less construction on the RAIDFrame chassis and the RAIDPacs. Removing twelve screws to access the hard drives is a little excessive, and streamlining the process would be appreciated.

One drawback to using a non-proprietary power supply is the number of available connections. Molex adapters hot-glued to SATA power leads just don't seem right.One drawback to using a non-proprietary power supply is the number of available connections. Molex adapters hot-glued to SATA power leads just don't seem right.

In terms of performance, the RAIDFrame wasn’t designed to be a top performer. It’s not as fast as an internal SATA drive due to the fact that you're sharing the bandwidth of a single 3 Gb/s connection between as many as 15 drives, but it does work faster than USB. With that said, consider this: if the RAIDFrame were built for top-tier speed and performance, customers would have to pay a lot more for it. Instead, Highly Reliable provides a supportable, easy to use backup device with basic functionality that does what it’s supposed to do.

When looking at the price of a single RAIDPac, you’ll spend over $1,200 for 4.5TB in RAID 5, and that isn't including the $3,600 price tag of the chassis itself. If you go online, you can probably build your own eSATA solution for less than $700. However, I’m not completely convinced that the RAIDFrame should be called overpriced just yet. Take into consideration the quality of work that been put into the design of the RAIDFrame chassis, the portability of the RAIDPacs, and Highly Reliable’s effort in creating a simple backup system that has some pretty flexible options. For an IT admin in a medium-sized business to part out and validate a storage system like this, the time spent and question mark on reliability are almost compelling enough reasons to default to a built-up configuration like this.

Conclusion

When looking at the RAIDFrame’s overall design and feature set, there may not be too many competitors. As hard disks get bigger, cheaper, and more reliable, the number of those folks who are apprehensive about disk to disk backups will decrease. For someone new to backups and restores, the RAIDFrame is a relatively easy tool to set up and use. For IT types who're more experienced with storage servers and JBODs, Highly Reliable’s backup solution provides a tool that can be tinkered with and right-sized into any everyday operation. 

In my perfect world, I see the RAIDFrame as a great intermediary backup device. The idea of a reasonably quick recovery from disaster is something you can get from the RAIDFrame, especially with files that are constantly being brought back from backups. For long-term archiving, even if you currently go with tape as your end-point back up solution, I’m sure the advantages we get from hard drive based backups will only get better and better.

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  • 3 Hide
    paxiam , January 16, 2010 6:28 AM
    A good solid well written article. Keep up the good work.
  • -1 Hide
    yyrkoon , January 16, 2010 6:33 AM
    Perhaps I missed something, But I am curious as to how they got 3 drives per port on the port multiplier. I am familiar with port multipliers, but not the technology they use here apparently.

    Also, on a side note, I think this device would be more useful if it allowed you to run RAID 10, but with two out ports. Perhaps even multilane would be in order in this case ?
  • 0 Hide
    yyrkoon , January 16, 2010 6:38 AM
    Let me clarify what I said above. I feel the device would be "better" if they allowed it to be configured to run RAID 10 using two RAIDPacks.
  • 0 Hide
    jeffunit , January 16, 2010 11:30 AM
    Nice hardware, but a bit spendy. My software based raid 5 array has higher performance over gigabit ethernet, uses commodity parts, and is much cheaper. I am sure my array costs well under $1000 with 8 750gb drives. Since I am using supermicro hot swap sata drive cages, all I have to do is press a button and the drive comes out. 4 screws, and the drive is removed. Takes well under 5 minutes to remove a drive and put in a new one, and it just takes a philips screwdriver.

    And why are there two 450w power supplies? Even if the box is full, that is 30 watts per drive, which is a crazy amount of power. If they stagger the drive spin up, they would never need more than 225w tops.
  • -1 Hide
    climber , January 16, 2010 7:38 PM
    This should be a 6Gb/s SATA 3.0 design with port multipliers. If you wanted to back up serious amounts of data to this thing you'd never finish, it would always be in backup mode.
  • 0 Hide
    micky_lund , January 17, 2010 1:33 AM
    wow...this is really cheap stuff
  • 0 Hide
    ZakTheEvil , January 17, 2010 10:35 AM
    Highly Reliable Systems? The company name is Highly Reliable Systems???

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 18, 2010 7:50 AM
    so if one of the three drives should fail inside a RAIDpac, you have to eject the whole RAIDpac to replace that drive?
    That sets the RAID offline ... a RAID 5 should be allow hotswapping a failed disk.

    And two PSU but not redundant ? ... doens't seem very HIGH RELIABLE
  • 0 Hide
    thehighrelyguy , January 18, 2010 2:17 PM
    Although some of these points were mentioned in the article, not being on the front page, these important features may have been missed by a few readers and may answer some of your questions.

    1. Each RAID pack has an integrated RAID 5 / RAID 0 controller. This means the RAIDPACs can operate completely standalone without the addition of any special controllers or driver software. Thus, left with nothing but a RAIDPac, you could connect it via eSATA to your motherboard and restore the data.

    2. The RAIDpacs use standard SATA hard drives. At present, 2.0TB drives are available making the available capacities 4TB in RAID 5 and 6TB in RAID 0 per RAID pack.

    3. There is also a 1 bay RAIDFrame available which can use RAIDPacs interchangeably with the 5 Bay if necessary. The one bay has both ESATA and USB connections for portability and ease of connection. The one bay is substantially cheaper than the 5 bay.

    4. The dual ATX power supplies were chosen over specialty redundant power supplies because they are the most widely available power supply in the world making field service for this unit in the dead of the night, practical. The 1 bay has this same feature. By using two instead of one, if a power supply dies, you're not dead, the unit is still usable although some bays may not function.

  • 0 Hide
    thehighrelyguy , January 18, 2010 2:24 PM
    yyrkoonPerhaps I missed something, But I am curious as to how they got 3 drives per port on the port multiplier.
    The RAIDFrame is not a single RAID system. The RAIDFrame 5 bay is 5 RAID systems. Each hot swappable RAIDPac is a volume. Port multipliers allow up to 5 volumes (drives) to one SATA channel. Hence one SATA channel, 5 RAIDPacs.
  • 0 Hide
    thehighrelyguy , January 18, 2010 2:30 PM
    jeffunitNice hardware, but a bit spendy. My software based raid 5 array has higher performance over gigabit ethernet, uses commodity parts, and is much cheaper. I am sure my array costs well under $1000 with 8 750gb drives. Since I am using supermicro hot swap sata drive cages, all I have to do is press a button and the drive comes out. 4 screws, and the drive is removed.


    The RAIDFrame 5 Bay is not a single RAID system. It is 5 RAID systems. Each RAIDPac is self contained and needs no hardware or software to connect to another computer system's SATA port in emergency situations. Stand alone drive's from a RAID system like yours are not this way. They still require your RAID's system hardware and software in order to be accepted by a host.
  • 0 Hide
    sublifer , January 18, 2010 8:20 PM
    Tiny pictures strike again!

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/20945-9-viewing-images
  • 0 Hide
    jeffunit , January 19, 2010 11:40 AM
    thehighrelyguyStand alone drive's from a RAID system like yours are not this way. They still require your RAID's system hardware and software in order to be accepted by a host.


    Perhaps you misunderstand.
    I was referring to my published article on tomshardware http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/build-file-server,2358.html
    In it, I build a *software* raid system.
    If the computer takes a dive, you can put the drives in another box,
    install linux & raid software, and you have all of your data.
    Takes about an hour.

    And my software solution, does 204 mbytes/sec write and 320 mbytes/second read, on the local disks, which is roughly 3 times faster than this $4000+ system. Also, I can saturate gigabit ethernet with reads or writes on remote systems, which is faster than the RAIDFrame, and can be hooked up to many computers, vs one with the RAIDFrame esata port. All for well under $1000.

    Doing raid-5 on 3 disks is really silly, as your overhead is 1/3. Also my system can serve files to linux, windows, or mac, all at the same time, unlike this system.
  • 0 Hide
    thehighrelyguy , January 19, 2010 2:21 PM
    jeffunitI build a *software* raid system.If the computer takes a dive, you can put the drives in another box,install linux & raid software, and you have all of your data.Takes about an hour.


    Jeff, I do understand. However, I'm not sure you understand what I'm saying. As you point out, you put your drives in another box, that box I would assume is a computer, and you install LINUX on it, consuming that machine. This takes over a whole computer in order to read your disks. Our RAIDPacs simply plug into any computer motherboard with SATA ports like any other SATA hard drive. There is no software to install whatsoever nor any other hardware required. In other words, a RAIDPac is... just another physical a hard drive as far as a computer is concerned. Our system is DAS (Direct Attached Storage). Your solution is a NAS (Network Attached Storage). You're comparing apples (not the computers) and oranges. BTW, I do believe your solution is fine if someone requires a NAS. I've been a big LINUX fan since 1992, see my early LINUX promo products ().
  • 0 Hide
    thehighrelyguy , January 19, 2010 2:23 PM
    thehighrelyguy I've been a big LINUX fan since 1992, see my early LINUX promo products ().

    http://linux.techass.com/products/
  • 0 Hide
    sublifer , January 19, 2010 6:55 PM
    thehighrelyguyhttp://linux.techass.com/products/

    Revive phoenix! Now is a really good time for it :)  You've got a lot more to work with these days.
  • 0 Hide
    jeffunit , January 19, 2010 11:55 PM
    thehighrelyguyJeff, I do understand. However, I'm not sure you understand what I'm saying.


    I understand just fine.I know you have a DAS system. However, when my NAS system is faster, cheaper, and more versatile, the DAS system isn't so desirable. You can get a motherboard, cpu, memory, case, and power supply for $200-$300. Just add the hard drives or cages, and you are good to go.

    I can use raid-5 or raid-6. I can use raid-10. I can support multiple operating systems. I can add as many drives as I want. I can build multiple arrays. If I wanted to I could team my gigabit network or I could use a 10gb/sec card. I can hot swap my drives.

    If your system were faster or cheaper then it would offer something significant. Why is your DAS so slow? It should be able to saturate a SATA connector. For so much money you should have sata-III and be able to saturate that too. Can you hot swap? For $4k for a starter configuration, I expect hot swap power supplies and a whole lot more flexibility and performance.
  • 0 Hide
    thehighrelyguy , January 20, 2010 1:15 AM
    jeffunitI understand just fine.I know you have a DAS system. However, when my NAS system is faster, cheaper, and more versatile, the DAS system isn't so desirable....


    Jeff,

    Highly Reliable Systems (http://www.high-rely.com) makes a NAS also (http://www.high-rely.com/HR3/includes/BNAS/BNAS-HRS201.php). I'm quite aware of the benefits and drawbacks of NAS's. In fact, here is our own whitepaper explaining some of the benefits and drawbacks. (6th article down, http://www.high-rely.com/HR3/includes/whitepapers.php) And yes, each RAIDPac is hot pluggable. I guess your NAS is also. Although I wouldn't consider plugging and unplugging the AC cord and network connector in the same thing league.

    And that's my point. Yes, your NAS is faster and so is our NAS but, again, you're trying to compare two totally different things. Comparing your NAS to the RAIDFrame is like comparing a sports car to a truck.

    Also, our system is FIVE independent RAID 5 systems. Yours is one. You would have to build four more then add up the costs. Yes, still less expensive but again, not the same thing.

    Our RAIDPacs are designed to be swapped by office workers, not IT people. Thus a lot of design effort went into making RAIDPacs simple to change. RAIDpacs have a special water resistant transport case that has been certified by Iron Mountain. RAIDPacs are used by film crews to move films from field to studio.

    Does your NAS attach directly to someone's $12,000 Windows 2008 server and fall under the security provisions of that server's operating system and configuration without any administration changes or added security risks? Not likely, it has to have a network connection and be configured as a SAMBA network share or maybe iSCSI if possible. Does your NAS store 6TB of DATA complete with access hardware and no software drivers required in a rugged, portable, hot pluggable, interchangeable package slightly larger than the size of three 3.5" drives? Not likely. If it does, I can almost guarantee you the performance will not be what you're experiencing currently and the cost will definitely be more.

    I do believe you understand the difference between DAS and NAS. But I don't believe you understand who our customers are. They are the US Military, Medical Centers, Universities, City Governments, large companies with large data centers, small companies with large backup requirements and heavy security needs.

    They also want a company that will warranty their system for up to 5 years. They want a technical support department that is responsive and available.

    The RAIDFrame has been shipping for almost two years. And, the hardware platform has remained stable. Try buying the exact same consumer grade motherboard just 6 months after you bought the last one. Good luck finding it. When companies invest heavily in their IT infrastructure they don't want their replacement parts to be unavailable in 6 months and have to upgrade or migrate.

    All of these things whether they be part of the hardware or not are costs and benefits that our customers need and buy with our systems. I'm sorry if the RAIDFrame doesn't meet your expectations but I think your priorities are different.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 20, 2010 4:00 PM
    “If it’s not off-site it’s not a backup”. I assume you don’t tuck your full blown linux box with RAID arrays under your arm and head out the door every night? Your NAS is a great storage system and provides a great local copy of your data, which protects against lots of types of failures. But it isn’t a backup unless the data is offsited regularly. RAIDPacs are intended for daily plug/unplug and transportable backup scenarios. They aren’t intended for general purpose storage (although they can be used for that). Hope this Helps visualize what we’re doing.
  • 0 Hide
    zeki , March 5, 2010 7:38 AM
    Is the price for reals??? Its so expensive. Like he stated this is for people who have no clue what they are doing (office people) and not for IT people. Its sad to see that our tax money goes and buys these for our universities and military when there are cheaper alternatives that have more features and more space for the price.
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