EZQuest Studio V storage array
With the universal acceptance of solid-state workflows, even individual editors who up to this point have been either daisy-chaining FireWire drives or relying upon JBOD RAIDS, now see the need to move to the capacity, speed and redundancy that more powerful RAID arrrays offer.
This segment of the market is also the most price-sensitive. Many content creators just moving to RAID might also be shooting lower data-rate formats such as DVCPRO HD, AVCHD or Sony XDCAM. They may be editing in formats up to ProRes HQ or somewhat higher DNxHD rates. Thus, they would have no need for units with dedicated I/O cards and expandable drive capacities.
This is just the market niche that EZQuest is targeting with their Studio V series.
The Studio V interfaces to Macs or PCs via a single eSATA or USB 2.0 cable. For SATA operation, all that would be required is a PCIe SATA card (two-port cards cost less than $200) or a computer with an internal SATA port. A little known fact is that the MacPro's have one unused SATA port on the logic board. EZQuest bundles an internal jumper cable with connectors and slot interface along with this unit. Of course, they include instructions. The array housing has five drive bays.
The Studio V is controlled totally by the front panel. You simply follow the simple menu commands and the unit will create a RAID 0, 1, 5, or 10 configuration. For video purposes, RAID 5 is the preferred configuration, as it stripes parity across all of the drives, allowing for failure of one drive without loss of data.
After creating the RAID configuration via the control panel, it's then partitioned and mounted using the host computer's disk management software. The manual thoroughly explains both PC and Mac setup.
My test unit came populated with five 2 TB Hitachi drives. Configuration was a snap. You just pop in the drives (they're not shipped in the enclosure), turn on the unit, follow the setup menus to create a RAID 5 array, create one RAID partition in Apple Disk Utility and—voila, it mounts as a RAID array with a formatted capacity of 8 TB.
As this drive is both eSata and USB 2.0 compatible, it is the perfect RAID array for notebook computer users—provided, of course, that the notebook has either an eSATA port or includes an Express34 slot in which one can install an Express34 SATA card.
I was able to test this unit successfully both on a MacPro with internal CalDigit SATA card as well as on a MacBook Pro with a Sonnet Express34 SATA adapter.
The greatest compliment that anyone can pay to his or her own RAID array is that they basically don't know that it's there. I ran this one for more than a month without turning it off, copying and deleting data, editing from the drive, and using it as medium-term archive. It was quiet in operation, did not fail, and was cool running. I only knew it was there when I looked at the enclosure next to my computer and saw the flashing drive lights and front panel LCD activity.
While the drive can work perfectly well formatted internally and partitioned by your OS, users would definitely want to install EZQuest's GUI software. This RAID management software sets parameters for rebuilds, has some ability to tweak settings—and most importantly—to send notification if your computer has an Internet connection.
A major difference between what I would call an "entry level" RAID, such as the EZQuest, and more costly solutions is the interface to the host computer. The EZQuest does its magic with an internal port-multiplying bridge board and RAID configuration options encoded into ROM. Larger devices, such as the iStorage Pro, rely upon dedicated raid controller cards with on-board processors. Those processors handle all I/O, error correction and sequential data functions. In the case of devices such as the Studio V, a "dumb" SATA card is merely an interface and all I/O operations are handled by the host processor.
The resulting read/write speeds are slower on the Studio V, when compared to a device with a dedicated card. However, we really need to address the question of how much speed is needed, relative to the cost of that speed. If you're not editing ProRes 4444 or 2K frame sizes, then a larger system is overkill.
Yes, read and write speeds are slower with the EZQuest system.
When connected to the slower bus of the MacBook Pro via the Sonnet card, I found that I could achieve about 168 Mbps writing speed and a 264 Mbps reading speed. Write speeds, when connected via the CalDigit SATA card to the MacPro, rose to 230 Mbps. Note, though, that these speeds are more than adequate for ProRes 422 or even ProRes 422 HQ. Likewise DNxHD 145 should not present any problem.
The Studio V storage system is available in both 5 TB and 10 TB configurations. I found it to be a really solid performer and one which can provide a wide range of users the speed, security and capacity that is increasingly essential in this solid-state storage world.
Ned Soltz is an independent producer, trainer, technology consultant and writer, with more than 25 years of industry involvement. He writes a monthly column for DV Magazine and his articles also appear in numerous other publications, Websites and blogs.