The ExpressSAS R680 RAID adapter

By David Hurd

To effectively edit high-end HD projects, you need a RAID, which is just a bunch of hard drives working together to handle the huge amounts of video data that are being manipulated. If you are editing DV at 25 Mbits/sec you will have no worries as 25Mb divided by 8 bits per byte equals only a bit over 3MB/ sec which any hard drive can handle.

The problem comes up when you work with larger formats like the one recorded on Black Magic’s HyperDeck Shuttle. The full uncompressed 10 bit recording rate of 1264 Mb/sec or 158 MB/sec, is more than any regular hard drive is going to be able to deal with. An SSD can handle the speeds, but who can afford to own Terrabytes of SSDs?

What you are left with is SATA and SAS drive RAID arrays to process all of your data. A good word to learn at this point is “Enterprise Class”, which is the class of hard drives and computers that are made to run in servers 24/7, without breaking down.

This non-failure issue is important because a drive failure is always linked to increased stress, and sometimes to the loss of a client or job. The tighter the deadline, the faster this becomes evident. Granted, a RAID 5 configuration will allow the RAID to be rebuilt after replacing the guilty drive, but depending on the size of the RAID, this process can take hours, which is still bad when you are on a deadline.

I prefer the Seagate 15,000 RPM SAS drives. I have been using a set of 16 in CI Design cases for over 2 years now, and a case of 8 of them for the prior 3 years with no problems ever.

They need a controller card, and I have been using the same ATTO R380 card for about 5 years. It has seen me through two sets of drives, and 3 MacPro computers, so I can truthfully say that ATTO makes a great SAS controller.

Since the RAID information is stored on the drives, every time I switched computers, I just installed the ATTO card in the new computer, ran the software, and all of my RAID projects were ready to go.

This may not sound like a big deal, but the alternative is to off-load the 6TB of RAID data onto another RAID, then load it back after you have installed the RAID on the new computer. I actually have a GSpeed Q RAID, which is a great backup, but moving that much data takes a day or two, which is also bad if you are on a deadline.

The old standard for drives was 3Gb/sec, and the new standard is now 6Gb/sec, which is really nice. Since my 16 3Gb/sec drives still have a lot of life left in them, I decided to just upgrade my ATTO R380 to an ATTO R680.

This turned out to be a good idea. Even though my drives were 3Gb/sec, I saw a huge jump in speed with the 6Gb/sec ATTO R680. 1920×1080 10 bit uncompressed video writes data at 1043 MB/sec which is up from 750MB/sec, and reading increased from 1020 to 1380MB/sec. This allows me to edit over 12 layers of ProRes HQ at 220Mb/sec without dropping frames. Let’s take a look at why the ATTO R680 is worth owning.

The R680 RAID adapter provides 6Gb/s SAS/SATA connectivity to your Direct Attached Storage via 8 external ports via SAS 2.0, SAS, SATA II, or SATA connectivity.

With transfer rates of up to 1200MB/s per port, or a total of 9.6GB/s throughput in full-duplex mode, the R680 is well suited for high-bandwidth workflows, such as digital content creation, and streaming video and audio.

It supports RAID Levels 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 40, 50, 60 and DVRAID™, (an advanced RAID level for digital video environments), so it will handle any configuration that you could possibly want to create…at least up to 128 drives, but you will need the ATTO Express Power Center software for RAID 40, 50, or 60.

In this new paradigm of digital video content creation, with no tape back up available, the data is all that you have, and it needs to be protected…unless you like to do re-shoots.

The R680 combines advanced engineering and innovative features to ensure smooth data transfers and consistent performance, which helps you create, share and protect your data and digital assets more effectively.

The R680 has Windows®, Linux and Mac® OS X driver support, so it can go with you if you change computers.

It has 512MB memory, a 3-year standard product warranty, and really good tech support. Best of all, is their easy-to-use GUI-based configuration utility that is fast and easy to use, involving a very small learning curve.

 This card also uses Advanced Data Streaming (ADS™) Technology to controls the acceleration of data transfers to move large amounts of data faster and more efficiently. DriveAssure™ Technology that prevents premature drive failures to ensure uninterrupted access to data. CacheAssure™ Technology, which is an optional  protection module providing a maintenance-free solution that safeguards against the loss of cached data during a power or system failure. And my Favorite, the Data Recovery Mode that increases the probability of recovering data that is lost due to a disk failure and offline RAID group.

Overall, the ATTO R680 is a great choice for your SAS/SATA RAID controller.

MSRP: $1095