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OWC Thunderbay FLEX 8: Designing an OWC Thunderbay FLEX 8 Configuration for Still Photography or Videography
Related: backup, GPU, hard drive, Other World Computing, OWC Mercury Elite Pro, OWC Thunderbay, OWC ThunderBay FLEX 8, RAID, RAID-5, SSD, storage, Thunderbolt, video
MPG tested the OWC Thunderbay Flex 8 with four 2TB SSDs and four Toshiba 4TB MG04ACA hard drives. Configurations up to 128TB (8 X 16TB) possible.
The OWC ThunderBay FLEX 8 has many configuration possibilities. This page first discusses general configuration, then follows up with various usage scenarios and their possible corresponding configurations.
But first some background.
General ideas around configuring
Some users do not need all the capabilities of the OWC ThunderBay FLEX 8. It is, after all, a highly capable and large enclosure.
Alternative products that provide portions of the functionality (at the cost of more power and data cables) include:
- OWC Thunderblade SSD — up to 16TB SSD in a portable package.
- OWC Envoy Pro EX SSD — up to 4TB SSD (USB-C or Thunderbolt 3) in a portable bus-powered form factor.
- OWC Mercury Helios 3S or Akitio Node Titan enclosures for PCIe cards.
- OWC Thunderbay 8 and/or OWC Thunderbay 4 for hard drives.
The all-in-one solution makes a lot of sense for users who need most of the above and/or who anticipate wanting to add more capability over time (buy the DIY empty enclosure, and add hard drives or SSDs or PCIe cards as needed).
Ideal for any Mac with Thunderbolt 3
Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports
USB 3 • USB-C
5K and 4K display support plus Mini Display Port
Analog sound in/out and Optical sound out
Works on any Mac with Thunderbolt 3
Adding a PCIe card
The PCIe expansion slot in the OWC ThunderBay FLEX 8 affords a future opportunity for an up-to 16TB PCIe SSD such as the OWC Accelsior 4M2, or a high-performance GPU, or various other PCIe cards. Part of the price of the FLEX 8 involves this capability and convenience. But it might not make sense if future usage is unlikely to ever use that PCIe slot.
Interchanging hard drives with other storage units
Drives are mounted in drive carriers that are released without tools using a thumbscrew mechanism. Because OWC sells additional drive carriers, it is possible to quickly swap drives with other drives in additional carriers.
Thus, it could make sense for users with very high capacity storage needs to swap drives (in their carriers, quick and easy) for various projects to an from these other storage products.
For example, should a drive fail in a RAID-5, remove the bad drive, insert a replacement, and let SoftRAID incorporate the new drive into the RAID-5. Professionals on deadlines should keep a spare matching drive in hand already in its drive carrier so that there is no delay in replacing a failed drive. This drive can be used for backups or other duties until and unless needed.
Ultra-high performance across entire capacity, outperforms the competition.
Tiny, bus-powered, rugged, compact!
Many still photography users use Adobe Lightroom, which relies on a library/catalog which performs far better on a fast SSD volume. At the same time, digital camera raw files can eat up a lot of space, and can be stored on hard drives with nil impact on performance. Suggested configurations include:
- Dual or Quad SSDs as a RAID-0 stripe of 4TB or 8TB volume with remaining storage as hard drives.
- Hard drives used partly for storage and partly for clone backups and/or Time Machine backups.
- For time-driven professional workflows: RAID-5 fault tolerant setup of 3 or 4 hard drives.
- Optional GPU installed for computers with marginal built-in GPU speed.
- Optional up to 16TB PCIe SSD for additional high-performance storage.
Videography has many demands, including capacious storage, high-performance storage for real-time playback of up to 8K video, possibly an 8K display, and additional GPUs for fast processing of high-res video streams.
A solid configuration might include:
- 2 or 4 SSDs for fast working storage along with 4 or 6 hard drives in a RAID-5 for fault tolerance along with a high-performance GPU in the PCIe slot.
- Eight high-capacity hard drives along with a along with a high-performance GPU in the PCIe slot. In this configuration, users should also have a high performance SSD, like the OWC Accelsior 4M2 (in another enclosure or a Mac Pro), or an OWC Thunderblade.
- Storage-dominant: 16TB OWC Accelsior 4M2 PCIe card along with eight high-capacity hard drives. Add another FLEX 8 with more as needed.