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CiDesign iStoragePro iT8SAE Enclosure

Last updated 2010-11-07 - Send Feedback
Related: Mac Pro, noise, RAID, storage
iStoragePro iT8SAE

This report used the iStoragePro enclosure, and the Atto R380 RAID card.

The CiDesign iStoragePro iT8SAE Tower SAS Expander is an 8-bay SAS enclosure for JBOD or RAID use, especially good for high definition video or large photo collections, or other huge jobs.

The iStoragePro accepts up to eight (8) SATA hard drives. It can be used with fewer drives, but it makes the most sense to move to a storage device like this for its high performance and reliability features, so using few than six drives does not make a lot of sense, though four drives is not entirely unreasonable.

Additional iStoragePro units can be daisy-changed to it because it is an “expander” model (a similar model does not have the expansion capability).

The iStoragePro is appropriate only for the Mac Pro (or a PC), because it requires use of a SAS PCI Express card.

The iStoragePro would also make an excellent choice with a Mac Pro used as a file server for other Macs.

The iStoragePro used for testing was loaned to me for evaluation purposes, along with the eight Western Digital RE4 2TB hard drives.

Build quality

iStoragePro iT8SAE, business end

The iStoragePro arrived double-boxed and packed extremely well, a first-class job.

The iStoragePro looks like a miniature Mac Pro, with very similar materials and even the same style grab handles. The all-aluminum case is sturdy and of attractive fit and finish. It looks like it is high quality, but I did not tear it apart, nor am I qualified to assess the parts quality inside it.

The heavy-duty rubber feet minimize vibration. The power supply is internal, so there is no power brick to deal with, and there is a clip over the power cord to reduce the chance of inadvertent disconnect.

The status and display lights are well done and informative (but rather bright at night in a home!). A locking key can be used to deny access to the drives (leave the key inserted for convenience if opportunistic theft is not a risk).

The oversize fan is about as quiet as one can expect, the drives themselves generate more noise.

There is ample air space between the drives— important for drive health and longevity, and the front cover is fully perforated to allow airflow across all four drives evenly. Checking the unit after 30 hours of continuous use, the outer case was not even slightly warm.

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The noise level is relatively low. I did not measure the acoustics, but I found the iStoragePro with all eight drives to be a bit louder than the Mac Pro itself. Most of the noise seems to come from the drives themselves, not the fan in the iStoragePro, which is very quiet.

Power usage

With eight Western Digital RE4 2TB drives under continuous sequential read or write load, power draw was 101 watts for reads, and 102.5 watts for writes, according to my WattsUp power watt meter. Power draw dropped to 88 watts with drives idle. The RE4 is rated at 10.7 watts under read/write activity, and 8.1 watts at idle, so that means the iStoragePro enclosure itself would be consuming only about 15-20 watts, which is outstanding.

Anyone concerned with total power usage might want to choose the Hitachi A7K2000 instead [specs], which is rated at 5.6 watts at idle, and 11.1 watts under use. That would save about 20 watts at idle. The smaller 1TB models take even less power.

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Connecting the iStoragePro: SAS with one or two cables

I initially tested the iStoragePro with one SAS cable, but I learned from the CiDesign contact that by connecting two cables performance could be improved by 10-15%. All testing discussed here used dual cables, and indeed, two cables is faster than one.

In operation

With 8 drives installed, and the LEDs going. Green LEDs are online status, blue LEDs are access lights.

iStoragePro iT8SAE in use with eight drives
Green LEDs are status, blue LEDs are activity
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