Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Storinator Storage Workstation ft unRAID

Why is 45 Drives talking about Workstations?

We build some pretty awesome storage servers or at least that’s what our customers and fans say about us! We like to think it’s because our Storinators solve their storage issues by holding huge amounts of data, they’re incredibly fast and …wait for it… they are affordable! So, after hearing some feedback from our fans it was only a matter of time before we teamed up with the storage operating system unRAID to create something unique--- the Storage Workstation.  

You may have heard of unRAID through our friend Linus Sebastian who has been a strong advocate for both our Storinator and unRAID - featuring both our products in many of his videos. But it was his loyalty to unRAID that helped us realize that not only is unRAID’s software amazing, but so is the company and people behind the software.

Workstation vs Storage Server

Before we get into that, let’s talk about data storage servers. People who know 45 Drives generally have huge storage needs and love our storage servers.  It’s actually kind of what we are famous for!

Likewise, most people reading this understand the word ‘workstation’.  If not, let me give you my version of it. I think of a workstation as something more powerful than an ordinary personal computer. This to me is a machine where work such as video editing, CAD, data analysis, rendering, etc. is done.

Normal architecture has large storage servers separate and distinct from workstations. But we ran into a number of use cases where this is less than optimal for example, video editing. In this blog, I’m going to focus on post-production by independent producers/YouTube personalities and tell you how we married large storage, a fast SSD tier, a storage OS called unRAID, and Virtual Machines to create a strange new beast we call the ‘Storinator Storage Workstation’.

Note: Yes, it can be used by other industries and we encourage it if it suits your storage needs and solves a problem you are having but we think our smaller independent video production companies will benefit most from this machine.

Improving the Life of a YouTuber /Independent Video editor

Normally, when someone begins their career as a video editor their first projects live on an internal hard drive. From there, what usually happens is they move onto external hard drives…lots of them. In fact, an office can easily become inundated by a huge mess of cables, drives, and confusion, until you realize you need to graduate to a network storage device.  This is when workflow consists of locating, downloading, editing, and then re-filing on another device.

Let’s talk about this kick-ass workstation!

Storinator Storage Workstation

The Storinator Storage Workstation uses our fifteen bay Storinator storage server and the specialized OS unRAID to create a fast, massive, and versatile desktop server solution. unRAIDS’s tiered storage, unreal VM support, GPU Passthrough, and scalability are some of the things I will touch on in the rest of this blog. I will also explain the reasons we chose this software for our workstation.

Let’s talk unRAID. Traditional approaches to personal computing placed limits on your hardware’s capabilities, forcing you to choose between a server, desktop, media player or possible gaming station. However, unRAID can deliver these capabilities at the same time - on the same system. So, what was once an operating system designed to give you ultimate control over your storage now extends that benefit to all your computing hardware and software. 

Obviously, we are big fans of unRAID but here are some quick points on why we chose unRAID as the recommend OS choice for our Storage Workstation:

  •          unRAID has complete VM support, and GPU Passthrough.
  •      Their SSD cache pool and automated distribution policies turn your old Array of spinners into a 10gbe capable.
  •      It offers more flexibility with data sharing (nfs,cifs,afp,FTP)
  •      It allows for disks to be used in a pool or individually without reformatting
  •      unRAID gives you the ability to add drives one-by-one when more space is needed
  •      It’s built off proven Linux MD driver for RAID protection


The Storinator Storage Workstation uses an extended Storinator AV15 chassis which is manufactured from heavy-gauge steel. The Storage Workstation is assembled with an i7-7700K Kaby Lake Quad-Core CPU, an extended Micro-ATX motherboard (X11-SSZ) that supports the full-size GPU, and a 12gb HBA. This machine also offers PCI 3.0X16 for GPU, onboard 10gbe and remote management with IPMI. It is equipped with an eight SSD bank and room for 11 HDDs. 

Pro tip:  If you require something more custom designed, the chassis is big enough for an extended motherboard.

Editing Speed

Network transfer speeds:

This machine will allow you and your team to edit from the network at speeds greater than an internal SSD. Using 10gbe networking you can expect up to 1.1GB/s!

Using unRAID’s automated caching feature you can take comfort knowing your work will live on your SSD tier until your done editing. After that, your work can be migrated to the HDD layer for long-term storage - the best part is unRAID does this for you!

Internal VM Speeds:

The workstation part of the Storinator Storage Workstation is a VM that lives on your SSD tier. You may be asking what does this mean to the end user. Well, it means you get a workstation that "feels" faster than any standalone workstation could ever be.

Below is a test run on the boot drive of a bare metal Windows install. It’s quick - what you'd expect out of an SSD. Most video editors are quite happy with how this feels but some are aware of how much sharper a computer feels when running on an SSD opposed to HDD.

This shows how much quicker the OS can commute with its system drive and not only that, it’s FASTER than an expensive NVMe drive! All while being able to serve data to you and your team at 10gbe speeds.

To sum up how great these speeds are:
  • The Network transfer speeds allow you and your team to access all your data at speeds up to 1.1GB/s. Across the Network!
  • The internal speeds mean you have an OS that feels faster than single SSD! 
  • People think SSDs are fast. Using this system you have PS drive that blows a single SSD out of the water.

Tiered Storage

As mentioned above, an awesome feature of the Storage Workstation is that it’s an all in one tier machine that can write to discs or SSD’s, providing full control of where data lives on the server. What does that mean? It means this workstation offers fully hot and cold storage - all in one box. It also allows a mix match of different sized drives to live on your server.

VM Support

Another benefit of unRAID is its ability to take the guesswork out of troubleshooting via GUI, allowing for a user-friendly system. For example, if you run into an issue with your Workstation, unRAID’s GUI will send a detailed message taking the guesswork out of troubleshooting. If the problem is still unclear, you can contact 45 Drives’ Support and we’ll help you get straightened out.

GPU Passthrough/Workstation

unRAID gave us the ability to create multiple VM’s and now we can add a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to create your own server desktop. Those of you who have been brave enough to venture into the wonderful world of Linux GPU Passthrough, you have come across the Reddit and Google posts of never-ending pages of text and commands, well so have the people at unRAID and they wrapped it up into an intuitive GUI. So now, instead of troubleshooting why your NVIDIA GPU is causing problems within your windows VM, you can just pick it from a drop-down list on unRAID’s GUI, select create and viola – you’re done!

Side note:

For those of you wondering if running VM’s causes your machine to perform at a slower capacity, here are some test results from our lab (inspired by unRAID’s test results from their 

We ran 5 tests:

Test 1 - Bare Metal (physical machine; no UnRAID)
Test2 - VM with 8 virtual CPUs assigned & 4GB of RAM
Test 3 - VM with 6 virtual CPUs assigned & 4GB of RAM
Test 4 - VM with 4 virtual CPUs assigned & 4GB of RAM
Test 5 - VM with 2 virtual CPUs assigned & 4GB of RAM


Test 1 - Bare Metal = Overall score:  10170
Test2 – VM w/ 8 vCPU = Overall score:  10115;  99.46% of Bare metal
Test 3 – VM w/ 6 vCPU = Overall score:  9811;   96.47% of Bare metal
Test 4 – VM w/ 4 vCPU = Overall score:  9449;   92.11% of Bare metal
Test 5 – VM w/ 2 vCPU = Overall score:  7365;   72.42 % of Bare metal


What if my storage needs outgrow my Storage Workstation? 

Simply just add a storage server! If you are independent video editor/YouTuber, you’ll probably use a 1 Gigabit network.  This might be a speed bottleneck for editing directly from the storage server, so just move all your archival projects to the storage server and keep current work on your storage workstation.  Or take the leap and buy 10 Gigabit networking.  You’ll remove any bottlenecks and have an immense amount of flexibility.

What if I get another person working with me?

Let’s say you need another Windows install, there is no need to buy another physical server because unRAID allows you to simply spin up another virtual machine (VM) to resolve the issue. If you have no CPU resources left you can just upgrade it, unRAID gives you that freedom. So it’s like you can have multiple windows computers running off one machine.

What differentiates unRAID from traditional solutions is their ability to scale in capability with that of your system. Meaning for those on the go, it makes your data more portable, if you need to remove a drive and mount it on another system, you can.

In conclusion, we’ve created a Storage workstation that can replace your computer tower and offer you one solution that does it all for you. This is a system so complete and consumer-minded that the fear of virtual machines should no longer exist, and instead, know that we got your back. Your issues are our issues, and with this set up you can have it all!

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