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RAIDPacs

Hi-Rely RAIDFrame: External Disk-To-Disk Backup Via eSATA
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A RAIDPac is the small enclosure that channels power, cooling, and I/O to three encapsulated SATA drives. Each RAIDPac can be configured for either RAID 0 or RAID 5. For the demo, we were sent six 1.5TB and nine 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 disk drives.

The arrangement of the RAIDPacs sent by the vendor were:

  • RAIDPac 1: 3 x 1.5TB (RAID 0)
  • RAIDPac 2: 3 x 1TB (RAID 5)
  • RAIDPac 3: 3 x 1.5TB (RAID 5)
  • RAIDPac 4: 3 x 1TB (RAID 0)
  • RAIDPac 5: 3 x 1TB (RAID 5)


Each RAIDPac comes with its own set of status lights and a piezo siren. At startup, the lights on each RAIDPac will flash blue for a moment and then go green if everything is alright. If there is a problem, then you’ll either get a red status or no light at all. The RAIDPacs’ piezos will also give a few short quick beeps whenever you start up the RAIDFrame or insert a RAIDPac into one of the five slots.

Status lights on each RAIDPac help indicate drive startup, activity, and failure.Status lights on each RAIDPac help indicate drive startup, activity, and failure.

In order to physically access the drives in the RAIDPac, you need to unscrew twelve machine screws to remove the external plate. With the plate off, a needle shaped “key” is inserted into a slot on the faceplate in order to release the individual drive’s spring loaded locking arm. Once disengaged, the drive can then be removed from the drive bay. 

If you’re the type of person that likes to take stuff apart, the RAIDPac’s construction may be up your alley. Just be ready to remove the twelve screws holding the enclosure together. This extra work is minimal, but it does make me wonder if a tool-less architecture could be added to future generations of the product. Still, twelve tiny screws should not be a deal breaker if you’re considering the RAIDFrame, especially with the great quality in construction and sturdiness that Highly Reliable designed into its product. 

A disassembled RAIDPac.  Even though you have twelve screws to remove, the overall design of the RAIDPac seems to be very sturdy.A disassembled RAIDPac. Even though you have twelve screws to remove, the overall design of the RAIDPac seems to be very sturdy.

Feature wise, the first of two stand-outs is the DIP switch-based RAID operation. On the back of each RAIDPac, you have two small dip switches that, depending on how you position them, will configure the drives in either RAID0 or RAID5.  Once configured, the RAID volume can be initialized by inserting the RAIDPac back into the chassis.  Once inserted, you’ll see the LED light flickering until the process is done.  It’s pretty easy, but remember that you are working with a large volume which can take several hours to finish prepping.

Access port on the back of the RAIDPac.  From left to right: eSATA port, switch for RAID settings and maintenance pins (for re-initializing and drive setup).Access port on the back of the RAIDPac. From left to right: eSATA port, switch for RAID settings and maintenance pins (for re-initializing and drive setup).

The second likeable feature about the RAIDPacs is called Field Service Access. The disks inside the RAIDPac are accessible by removing the plate on the back of the RAIDPac and then plugging in a SATA data connection and Molex power connector from a working computer. Once powered on, the drives spin up and the RAID volume is accessible. This is especially handy if you have a problem with your RAIDFrame or need to work on a project outside of the chassis. Also, for those who use off-site disaster recovery services, you would be able to retrieve your data from an exported RAIDPac and recover in the scenario where the RAIDFrame unit has been damaged by a disaster. 

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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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