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August 2014
Issue: February 1, 2007

REVIEW: SONNET TECHNOLOGY'S 500P RAID

By: Steve Hafner
PRODUCT: Sonnet Technology's 500P RAID
WEBSITE: www.sonnettech.com
PRICE: $499
- up to 3.75TB via five 750GB drives
- 300MB/sec. performance
- one eSATA cable connection

The Sonnet 500P is a SATA RAID solution that seems ideal for any post production house that needs inexpensive, larger storage solutions. The enclosure's sleek styling is a perfect complement to the Mac G5. The actual size of the enclosure is relatively small and can easily fit into most editing or graphics suites without looking cumbersome.

The LED lights are a useful addition, since they blink as data is being written to them, letting you know when certain drive stripes are active — most storage solutions I have seen at a higher price-point have this feature.
The disk drive bays are easily managed and able to be swapped out with larger drives if the need should arise. The unit uses standard SATA drives, which are inexpensive to upgrade. Some of the more expensive units use the same drives but make it difficult for the user to change without added cost. To me this is a future cost savings.

UP AND RUNNING

Upon opening the box and setting the 500P next to our Dual 2GHz Power Mac G5, it looked as if they were made to work together, but you cannot put the unit on top of the G5 and open the door to the enclosure easily. Sonnet recommends using it side by side. The set-up process was relatively easy.

You have to pay attention to which slot you install the Sonnet Tempo SATA E4P card into. Most users will typically just put it in whichever slot is open, but this card must be in a specific slot in order to function properly, thus RTFM. Setting up the unit itself was simple once I installed the PCI card and two cables — one power and one SATA cable.

After the initial setup the user needs to run the disk utility to set up the initial RAID configuration. I decided to make it a mirrored RAID set (RAID-1). One caveat is that this unit does not allow for RAID with parity. This means that if a disk fails you lose all data on all disks, whereas if a disk fails in a RAID with a parity drive your data is safe even in a drive failure situation. 
I had no problem integrating this unit into our Apple Final Cut set-up.

Digitizing 10-bit SD uncompressed was easy, but the use of an independent video capture card is required. Using the Sonnet RAID as media storage for Final Cut, and the fifth drive, as graphics storage for Apple DVD Studio Pro, and Adobe After Effects, was a nice touch for this system. This allows the user to replace the fifth drive with a different drive containing elements prepared on other workstations and have it readily available and mounted on the desktop. Individual drives seem to be interchangeable without powering down the enclosure. Stripped or RAID-ed drives are supposed to be able to do the same, though after trying the RAID-ed drives rarely came up without cycling the power. The drive screws are not that easy to remove as one needs a standard size screwdriver, not a computer size one.

Transfer speed to and from the RAID felt fast, and overall stability is solid. During initial use I noticed a noise coming from the enclosure. It sounded like a very soft beeping. After a few restarts, it stopped, and the only noise I hear now, aside from the fan, is when reading and writing to and from the drives. One small negative I noticed was that the product's power switch is on the back of the unit, making it necessary to have access behind the enclosure.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The relatively low price-point of the enclosure and PCI-E card, to me, are a big selling point. SATA drives are really inexpensive today, and as of this writing, a 500GB drive costs just $130, which means you can have a relatively large RAID solution for a reasonable price. [Editor's note: Sonnet's Website says up to five 750GB drives can be used for a total of 3.75TB]

The fact that you can use the sleds with various drives allows you to keep media from another project on one set of drives and just plug them back in to use that project at a later date, which is very much like an Avid stripped drive set, at a fraction of the price.

Overall, I like this product enough that we plan on keeping one here at the studio. It suits our needs perfectly.

Steve Hafner is an editor/designer/animator at Stitch Motion Graphics in New York City. He can be reached at: steve@stitch.net.