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Going Deep Inside Xserve Apple Drive Modules

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the stop-thinking-like-a-user dept.

Data Storage 243

adamengst writes "If you've had an Xserve drive fail, you may have considered saving some money by putting a replacement drive inside its Apple Drive Module. That may be a false economy, though. TidBITS explains why, while pinning Apple down on exactly what goes into Apple Drive Modules and why they cost so much more than bare retail drives."

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Here we go again (1, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357309)

Is this like how SCSI drives have special pixie dust on the platters that ATA drives don't, and that makes them more "enterprise-y"?

Re:Here we go again (5, Informative)

sjf (3790) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357445)

The pixie dust is in the controller, not the platter.

Re:Here we go again (2, Interesting)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357481)

Yeah, this is real "pixie dust." A lot of it is speculative stuff that assumes that somehow NAS drives are magically different from normal HDDs. Also contains references to the "Bathtub Graph" which has been pretty much shown to be a load of bunk: http://www.neowin.net/index.php?act=view&id=38693 [neowin.net]

Re:Here we go again (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358169)

From the article you linked to:

The study also found that the number one cause of drive failures was age. Drives tended to start showing signs of failure after roughly five to seven years of service, after which there was a significant increase in average failure rates (AFR). The failure rates of drives that were in their first year of service or shorter was just as high as those after the seven year mark.

That's a description of a bathtub curve. How about actually reading your link before posting it next time?

Re:Here we go again (0)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358599)

Yes. I did read it and use it in multiple presentations. The "Bathtub Chart" specifically says that most hard drive failures occur in the first year, or after 5-7 years of use. Their testing showed that the hard drives start failing regularly after 3 years and go up over time, and that first year failures are rare. Those are not the same thing.

Re:Here we go again (1, Informative)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358629)

Here is the original study: http://www.usenix.org/events/fast07/tech/schroeder/schroeder_html/index.html [usenix.org] I can see why the DailyTech link I sent you might have been confusing.

Re:Here we go again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27359349)

So there are two studies with conflicting results, and for some reason you decided to link to a story describing the study that you disagree with?

Re:Here we go again (2, Informative)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359925)

No, the first link is a DailyTech article about the study in the second link. Apparently they just misunderstood the text of the original study. So it's my fault for linking the damn DailyTech thing, and DailyTech's fault for not reading the whole study. The only similar competing study was by google, and their results were roughly the same.

Re:Here we go again (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357951)

Don't master him, he's trying to convince everyone how awesome he is :/

Though, it's still interesting why they cost so much more.

Re:Here we go again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357483)

So what, you're telling me that for the longest time SCSI drives had better warranties and lifetimes than the cheapo consumer IDE drives just because of the "scsi name" that we were paying for?

Re:Here we go again (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357633)

Yes.

But it sort of makes sense to pay a little more for a 5 year warrantee. If something happens 3-4 years down the road, you can get a replacement drive. Even if that drive is outdated when compared with what is currently selling. We are paying for a longer warrantee and paying for the manufacture to keep on making that model drive.

As to why Apple/HP/who ever charges so much more for their branded WD, Seagate, Fujitsu, etc. hard drive, I have no clue.

Re:Here we go again (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358371)

But it sort of makes sense to pay a little more for a 5 year warrantee. If something happens 3-4 years down the road, you can get a replacement drive. Even if that drive is outdated when compared with what is currently selling. We are paying for a longer warrantee and paying for the manufacture to keep on making that model drive.

In 2006 I bought five 320 GB drives for $100 each. Today, a 320 GB drive costs $50. Assume I could have paid $25 extra for a 5 year warranty instead of a 3 year warranty (this is the difference in price between WD "Green" 3 year warranty drives and WD "Black" 5 year warranty drives).

For paying for a longer warranty to be a sound decision, three of the drives have to fail during the last two years.

Will that happen? Maybe. Is it likely that three or more drives will fail during those last two years of the warranty? If it is, perhaps I'm better of replacing them anyway - between spending time dealing with failures, waiting for the replacements, and paying to handle the RMA, buying brand new drives that are less likely to fail sounds cheaper - especially if additional capacity is needed.
(Last I checked, WD doesn't pay for return shipping anymore and Seagate actually charges extra for advance replacement.)

Re:Here we go again (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359667)

I think you have some concerns about warranty service. If you are doing RAID you need a matching hard drive, buying the latest off the shelf could actually hurt thing if somebody doesn't make sure drive controllers are compatible with the other bits. You can't exactly take down a raid array because you need to update firmware to replace a bad drive. There's a little extra work on the Branded OEM's part to ensure "new" parts match "old" parts in those situations.

Worth the near 100% markup? that's questionable.

Re:Here we go again (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358395)

If you read the warranties, you will see that enterprise scsi/fibre channel drives are warranted for 24x7 operation. Consumer ATA/SATA drives are not. The myth that they are really the same thing with a different interface is silly.

http://www.seagate.com/ww/v/index.jsp?locale=en-US&name=performance_considerations&vgnextoid=eecf5b1142aec010VgnVCM100000dd04090aRCRD [seagate.com]

Re:Here we go again (1)

b96miata (620163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357513)

no, it's more like how 'audio' blank CDs have special pixie dust in the jewel case that makes them more 'audio-y' than regular blank CDs

Re:Here we go again (1)

alta (1263) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358023)

Actually, the audio ones are usually more compatible with the lasers in consumer audio equipment. I had an aftermarket kenwood deck in my car, back when the cheapest CD player you could get was $200. Some burned CD's worked, others did not. ALL of the ones marked AUDIO did. From what I read, it has to do with the substrate used. What I eventually learned, is that all of the ones with the gold substrate worked, the blue/green ones did not. (Or vice versa) And that all of the audio ones were of the gold variety.

And when I say they didn't work, at best they skipped every 5 seconds, at worst they got kicked out.

And, btw, I forgot which colors were good and which weren't. Examples are used for the sake of argument.

I also notice that most of my recent CD's are much closer to silver, like a pressed CD.

Re:Here we go again (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358311)

Well, the "Audio CD-R"s are more expensive, maybe due to better materials, but also they pay a royalty to the music companies, a compulsory license, basically. That's why they cost more - the licensing fees were paid on them.

SCSI disks may have been manufactured at better factories, but they also tend to work on the assumption that they're in a RAID array, while consumer level drives are often used singly. Thus, if there's a read failure, a SCSI disk will want to "fail fast" so the RAID controller can flag it, recover using the other disks, activate a spare drive (and begin rebuild), and slert a sysadmin of a possibly dying drive. Consumer drives will try their mightiest to get at the data, hence the click-click-click as they retract heads (trying to clean them), flinging the heads around trying to get lucky, etc.

Of course, they're different yes, but whether or not the price difference justifies it, I don't know.

Re:Here we go again (1)

TJamieson (218336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359737)

Back in the early days of CD-Rs, people always said "Get the gold-bottom discs! Those are the best!" (It never helps that they're called Gold Masters... yes, we all know the difference but some do not). It also used to be true that TDK produced some of the "best" CD-Rs, which were that blue-green color.

However, for the past 7-8 years, afaik, there is little to no difference in CD-Rs... they're all made as cheaply as possible. In some cases you may find that the thickness of the disc is causing problems -- original CDs and CD-Rs were a bit thicker than they are now. Again, this is a cost-cutting measure.

Personally, I don't trust modern CD-Rs for longer than 6 months.

Re:Here we go again (1)

Fweeky (41046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357529)

No, it's like how vendor drives have actually been tested and packaged up nicely.

Personally I think I'd rather get 3 cold spares with my replacement; no matter what Apple do, they're still going to fail at about 1% per year.

Re:Here we go again (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357537)

why they cost so much more than bare retail drives

It has the name "Apple" on it.

Re:Here we go again (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358069)

Or rather because some idiots actually buy accessories from Apple.

Or well, I guess I could claim buying anything at all in the first place was a misstake, but I won't go there now.

But then it's probably stupid to add various optionals from say Dell to.

Re:Here we go again (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357615)

Ya they just pull that order of magnitude higher mean time between failure out of their ass to take your money. There is a difference between the requirements for an 'enterprise' drive and the disk you put in grandma's desktop.

Re:Here we go again (2, Funny)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358135)

and the disk you put in grandma's desktop.

Yeah, the later is of vinyl.

Having worked in the disk mines... (4, Insightful)

bashibazouk (582054) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357829)

Having worked in the disk mines of IBM many years ago, the SCSI disk controller is somewhat your pixie dust but the real reason is the disks, heads and other parts for the SCSI drives came from IBM's best manufacturing facilities. The deathstar ATA drive's parts came from the lesser manufacturing facilities. In theory a SCSI disk should not be much better than ATA but the reality is the best made, more reliable parts go to the high end more profitable products.

Re:Having worked in the disk mines... (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358641)

Having worked in the disk mines of IBM many years ago, the SCSI disk controller is somewhat your pixie dust

Nope, that'd be on the platters [ibm.com] .

I didn't do it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357315)

Slashdotted already!

Re:I didn't do it! (1)

yanyan (302849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358015)

They killed the Xserve! You bastards!

indeed. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357319)

I found a peanut!

Niche article but site brought down already? (3, Funny)

SirLoadALot (991302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357325)

I was going to complain that this is not a very interesting story for 98% of Slashdot, who has never seen an XServe and is happier for it, but since the link is already slashdotted, I guess I should complain about that instead.

Re:Niche article but site brought down already? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357423)

Perhaps there is some logic in all this - TidBITs probably uses Xserves.

Serves them right.

Re:Niche article but site brought down already? (2, Funny)

IsThisNickTaken (555227) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357905)

Perhaps there is some logic in all this - TidBITs probably uses Xserves. Serves them right.

Actually, the problem is that is not serving them at all at the moment...

Re:Niche article but site brought down already? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357545)

What is different about drives in a piece of networking equipment is interesting to me.

And I may never see an Xserve in my life.

Hm... (-1, Troll)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357369)

Not reading the FA, I'd guess they are more expensive because they're fancier and... they're from Apple!

Thinking for a while, I don't know why even this article exists... If it's from Apple, it just works, you know. I can't imagine something from Apple 'failing'. That's probably MS bs.

Re:Hm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357465)

What a long winded justification for why apple can charge over twice as much for some "enterprise level" equipment.

I'd rather just double up on equipment for the same money.

Re:Hm... (4, Funny)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357521)

Sarcasm fail :(

Re:Hm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358741)

By propagating the '... fail' meme, you show how stupid you really are.

Go back to fark.

Four comments in (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357405)

Four comments in, and the server is pooched. Now, to keep this somewhat relevent, I had a hell of a time with hard drives when I tried to get Yellow Dog Linux running on an Apple Network Server, oh, eight years ago. Let alone the BIOS and stuff; oh, the hoops you had to jump through to get that to go!

Re:Four comments in (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357849)

Macs does not use BIOS.

Re:Four comments in (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358237)

No, to be strictly accurate, it used Open Firmware. Still you have to jump through a lot of hoops to load Linux onto it. I still remember the Battery Ritual....

Article text (5, Informative)

kriss (4837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357433)

While I hate to copy it, the server being pummeled and reporting errors for 9/10 requests doesn't lead to ad revenue either, so here goes:

About a year ago, we bought an Intel-based Xserve with a pair of 80 GB SATA drives to act as our primary Web server. When the boot drive went flaky on us in October 2008, we were able to recover from the backup on the second drive and off-site backups, if a little shakily (see "TidBITS Outage Causes Editors Outrage", 2008-10-07). But although we were able to bring the machine back online, we didn't trust the drive that had failed. Since the Xserve has three drive bays, the obvious solution was to purchase another drive. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Not so much.

You cannot buy a bare hard drive and insert it into an Xserve, as you can with a Mac Pro (and having just added a drive to my new Mac Pro, I can say that Apple did a stunningly nice job in making it easy to add drives, especially in comparison to the awful approach they used in the Power Mac G5). Instead, Xserves require Apple Drive Modules, which are custom carriers containing drives.

For users accustomed to buying inexpensive hard drives, Apple's pricing on the Apple Drive Modules comes as a bit of a shock. An 80 GB SATA ADM costs $200 from Apple, and a 1 TB SATA ADM costs $450. In comparison, a bare 80 GB SATA drive can be purchased for a measly $35, and a 1 TB drive is only about $100. That would seem to point toward buying a new SATA drive and swapping it into the bad drive's ADM. However, when I started down that path, a number of problems arose, such that I bailed on a quick solution and simply purchased a new 80 GB SATA ADM to replace the bad one.

First, I wasn't sure whether my Xserve had SATA drives, as I thought, because System Profiler on the Xserve shows nothing on the SATA bus, instead including all drives on the SAS bus. (SAS stands for Serial Attached SCSI, and is a high-performance data transfer technology that supports fast SCSI drives and is downward compatible with SATA drives.) After some discussion with knowledgeable folks on the MacEnterprise list and careful reading of the drive details in the SAS section of System Profiler, it became clear that both SAS and SATA drives are shown in the SAS section, with SATA drives having "ATA" as the Manufacturer, and showing "Yes" in the SATA Device line.

Second, once I knew that I had SATA drives in my ADMs, I started investigating if there were any gotchas involved in replacing the drives. There turned out to be surprisingly little hard information about this, with some people having replaced an ADM's drive with no trouble and others experiencing performance or reliability issues. I did find a few discussions about how replacing drives isn't recommended, but giving no solid sources.

Confused, I contacted Apple to discuss why ADMs are so expensive in comparison to bare drives, exactly what an ADM does, what Apple recommends users do with failing ADMs, and whether or not replacing a drive in one is a good idea. That conversation revealed a great deal of interesting information about the ADM and shed some light on what people with flaky ADM drives should do.

Drive Selection -- The most important fact to know about ADMs is that Apple doesn't use just any drives. We've all benefited from the amazingly low cost of storage. But whenever manufacturers compete on price, they cut corners every way they can to reduce costs. Although drive reliability is generally good, everyone who buys bare drives regularly has a drive vendor they refuse to patronize due to bad experiences in the past. (As is often the case, these people all hate different vendors, depending on which one was having a bad run at any given time.)

Since the Xserve is designed to be in constant use - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for years at a time - Apple doesn't use the least expensive drives available, since those drives are designed for more normal duty cycles in desktop computers - 8 to 10 hours per day, with variable use during that time. Instead, Apple works closely with drive manufacturers to select drives with more durable components, going so far as to pick specific head and media combinations. This is commonplace in the industry - other sources told me that drives sourced by manufacturers like Apple, Dell, and HP have generally better reliability than off-the-shelf retail drives.

Apple calls these beefier models "server-class" drives; you may also see terms like "RAID edition" used to differentiate them from low-margin retail hard drives. Apple generally considers server-class drives to be high-end SATA drives, in comparison with "enterprise-class" drives, which are the highest performance drives (Fibre Channel and high-end SCSI in the recent past, now 15,000 RPM SAS) with the highest mean time between failure ratings.

So the first reason not to slap an off-the-shelf SATA drive into an ADM is that the drive may simply not be able to handle the constant use.

Custom Firmware -- Another reason to avoid off-the-shelf SATA drives for ADMs in constant-use servers is that Apple works closely with drive manufacturers to customize the firmware in drives destined for the Xserve. Details vary by drive, but the bulk of the firmware changes involve tuning the drive for performance and thermal behavior.

According to Apple, most drive firmware is, not surprisingly, tuned for optimal performance with Windows, which reportedly reads and writes relatively small data blocks. In contrast, Mac OS X works with larger blocks. Tuning the firmware's caching algorithms to match with the size of Mac OS X's desired blocks can improve performance. This is a non-trivial task, since there are a number of different caches involved, between the drive and the operating system, and tuning them all for optimal performance is an art.

The main other area where firmware tuning helps is with thermal behavior. Today's large drives use a technology called "perpendicular recording" and I was told that these drives go into a "read-after-write" mode at certain temperatures to ensure data reliability. Having to read every bit written reduces performance, so Apple tweaks the firmware of drives used in the Xserve's ADMs to reduce the likelihood that the drive will go into this mode. Apple can do this because the ranges of the Xserve's normal operating temperatures are known, whereas retail drives have to assume a worst-possible thermal environment. Thus, it's much more likely that an off-the-shelf drive will drop into read-after-write mode more quickly than a drive in an Xserve.

Other industry sources confirmed that it's common for computer manufacturers to work with drive vendors to tune drive firmware for performance, but several went further, noting that computer manufacturers put drives under consideration through serious testing, which can reveal problems in how drive firmware handles error conditions. Some firmware changes are designed to reduce the likelihood of data corruption.

It's difficult to learn much about hard drive firmware online, since drive manufacturers guard their firmware closely to reduce the likelihood that the firmware will be hacked. That can be counterproductive, since additional public scrutiny could reduce the likelihood of bugs like the one that generated the recent debacle surrounding Seagate drives. A firmware bug could cause a number of Seagate drive models to become inoperable after being powered off. If that wasn't bad enough, the updated firmware reportedly caused additional problems for some of the affected drives.

A final fact to realize about the custom firmware in ADM drives is that the Xserve's Server Monitor software is designed to monitor about a dozen variables reported by the drive's firmware and report pre-failure warnings if those variables stray outside acceptable limits. Using an unsupported drive may prevent Server Monitor from being able to report on the drive's health.

Smart Carrier -- Part of the explanation for why an ADM costs significantly more than a bare retail drive revolves around the ADM carrier itself. It's not just a physical sled, but also includes a controller board, temperature sensor, and a pair of LEDs that report on both drive activity and drive status. The ADM's temperature sensor integrates with the Xserve's cooling system to increase airflow to drives that are getting too hot.

Apple also told me that the rubber grommets that hold the drive to the ADM carrier are chosen specifically to match each drive's vibrational characteristics. Different drives use different types of rubber in an attempt to reduce vibration as much as possible. I gather this is a bit more important with the 15,000 RPM SAS drives, given their very high rotational speed.

Extensive Testing -- Most electronics, and especially hard drives with their moving parts, exhibit what's called a "bathtub curve" of failures. That means that the likelihood of failure is rather high early in the lifetime of a drive, then drops and levels out for its useful lifespan, and then rises back up as the hardware simply wears out. From a user perspective, you want to avoid drives that will die early on. (There's no way to avoid the eventual death of a drive, but given the speed with which data and disk capacity grows, the hope is you'll want to replace a drive with a larger one before it fails on its own out of old age.)

To reduce the likelihood of drive infant mortality and other early-life problems, Apple subjects every drive shipped in an Xserve or ADM to 48 to 60 hours of non-stop testing. That's usually enough to weed out drives that will fail immediately.

Apple also rejects any drives that show any hard or soft errors during the testing. Even though drives automatically map out such errors, statistically speaking, if a drive experiences any hard or soft errors during the initial burn-in testing, it's more likely to fail. One source told me that a number of the hardware RAID chipsets will refuse to work with drives whose firmware has mapped out bad blocks. He found that drives rejected by a RAID worked fine in a Drobo, which apparently is happy to accept a drive with mapped-out blocks.

Obviously, this sort of testing benefits both customers, who are less likely to suffer drive failures, and Apple, in reducing warranty repairs, but there's no question that it has associated costs that Apple will pass on to the customer in the form of higher ADM prices.

The Practical Upshot -- After researching this topic, I'm convinced that although replacing a dead drive in an ADM is possible - Apple explicitly does not prevent it - it's not a good idea if the Xserve in question is a production server. If you do decide to go this route, I strongly recommend that you get a drive that's designed for RAID or server use. Also, note that Apple makes both SAS and SATA ADMs, and drives are not interchangeable between the two. So if you have a SAS ADM, you must put a SAS drive in it.

As I thought about my initial reactions to my drive's flakiness, I realized that the problem is that Apple is essentially selling enterprise-level hardware to Mac users accustomed to mass-market products. I'm certainly familiar with running server software, but before the Xserve was released, I used standard Macs as servers - heck, for a long time, one of our servers was a Performa 6400. There's nothing wrong with repurposing a Mac designed for everyday use as a server, as long as you realize that it's not designed with server tasks in mind, and could suffer from performance or reliability problems when put into that role.

In other words, the belief that replacing a drive in an ADM is a no-brainer is thinking like a Mac user, not like a system administrator managing a production server. A sysadmin would prefer to avoid cheap hardware that's likely to cause future problems in such a situation because it's a false economy. But since moving from a hand-me-down desktop Mac to an Xserve is an easy jump to make, Apple has essentially attracted a class of customers who don't yet think like sysadmins when it comes to production servers. And since Apple's focus is so strongly on the consumer market, the company doesn't make a significant effort to educate Xserve customers about what they're getting into.

(There is one instances where bare drives are required for ADMs: Apple's now-discontinued Xserve RAID. It takes older ATA-based ADMs, which aren't readily available new, forcing those who own Xserve RAIDs to replace bare drives with whatever they can find to maintain RAID integrity in the face of failed drives. This is non-trivial, since all the RAID drives must be the same size, but the investment in an Xserve RAID is high enough that owners are justifiably going to great lengths to keep them active.)

With that in mind, I went looking to see how much comparable drive modules for HP and Dell servers would cost. Ignoring the fact that it took ages to sort out what servers might be comparable to the Xserve, when I finally found rack-mounted servers with hot-swappable drive modules, the prices from HP and Dell turned out to be even higher than Apple's. Admittedly, Apple offers only four options - 80 GB and 1 TB SATA ADMs for $200 and $450, and 73 GB and 300 GB SAS ADMs for $300 and $650 - whereas HP and Dell offer a full range of sizes and won't even go as low as 80 GB for SATA drives. But HP's and Dell's prices are either comparable (for the 73 GB SAS drive) or $200 to $250 higher (for the 1 TB SATA and 300 GB SAS drives).

To sum up, there are multiple good reasons why ADMs cost more than bare retail drives of the same size, it's possible but not recommended to replace the drive in one, and Apple is in no way charging an unusual premium for ADMs.

Re:Article text (5, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357647)

That ain't no 3rd-party article, it's an Apple sales brochure.

Disgusting.

Re:Article text (4, Insightful)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358045)

And it also doesn't do a good job of explaining why the drive modules are so expensive. "Server-class" SATA drives? Big deal, if you want that, pay $30 more for a Seagate NS drive instead of the consumer-level AS model. Custom firmware? Again, big deal - every server mfr does that (my Seagate NS drives have HP firmware on them), and the article offer no numbers to indicate a qualitative improvement. Extra hardware in the carrier? Again, show me a net benefit for the extra money. Custom rubber grommets? Puh-lease. The quote I found most amusing was this: "A final fact to realize about the custom firmware in ADM drives is that the Xserve's Server Monitor software is designed to monitor about a dozen variables reported by the drive's firmware and report pre-failure warnings if those variables stray outside acceptable limits." Has this person never heard of SMART, and is he not aware that practically every drive made today implements it? It's hardly rocket science to write a SMART monitor.

The reason Apple (and every other server vendor) charges that much for drives is because that's what they want to do, and it's disingenuous for this guy to be spinning it as if Apple has something special in that regard.

Re:Article text (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358471)

The reason Apple (and every other server vendor) charges that much for drives is because that's what they want to do, and it's disingenuous for this guy to be spinning it as if Apple has something special in that regard.

Is it disingenuousness (disingenuity?) or simple stupidity -- e.g. the opening of the mouth without the removal of the foot, i.e. speaking from a position of ignorance as if it were a position of experience? Certain segments of the Apple userbase seem to have drank several cups of the Apple kool-aid.

I like the 'custom firmware' argument: I can make my own custom firmware and change the strings on the device to say I made the thing, but it won't change performance.

Re:Article text (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358697)

several cups? people like this guy clearly bath in the stuff.

Re:Article text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27360057)

Certain segments of the Apple userbase seem to have drank several cups of the Apple kool-aid.

Truth.

I'll admit that the Apple Kool-Aid has a very good flavor, but some of us are wise enough to pay by the drink, instead of handing up our check cards and opening a tab.

Re:Article text (2, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358473)

Apple also told me that the rubber grommets that hold the drive to the ADM carrier are chosen specifically to match each drive's vibrational characteristics. Different drives use different types of rubber in an attempt to reduce vibration as much as possible.

Think maybe these guys [pearcable.com] can whip up some special cables for the Xserves? It might have helped TidBITS stay up.

Re:Article text (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358827)

Extra hardware in the carrier? Again, show me a net benefit for the extra money.

Dude... he is telling you an ADM integrates with XServe using SMART, skipping read-after-write, requesting more airflow if needed, and adapting to OSX block size. That costs extra on a XServe and in other high end machines, thats all.

And yes, try 15k RPM 24/7 without custom rubbers, see what happens.

Re:Article text (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359833)

Doesn't change the fact that none of that costs anything substantial to implement (certainly not a $275 premium over the cost of the drive itself), and you're an idiot if you really believe you need custom grommets for mounting drives. There are plenty of cheap off-the-shelf rubber parts that will isolate the drives just as well.

Re:Article text (2, Funny)

rcw-home (122017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358557)

No kidding. For the prices Apple is charging, you could just about get a decent SSD (maybe not an X25-M, but an OCZ Vertex at least) + a 2.5"-to-3.5" adapter tray that would still let you hotswap it. You'd never even notice the differences between a stock drive and a drive with Apple's supposed tweaks, but once you go SSD you will never go back.

Re:Article text (1)

denttford (579202) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358813)

Yeah, no shit.

For users accustomed to buying inexpensive hard drives, Apple's pricing on the Apple Drive Modules comes as a bit of a shock. An 80 GB SATA ADM costs $200 from Apple, and a 1 TB SATA ADM costs $450. In comparison, a bare 80 GB SATA drive can be purchased for a measly $35, and a 1 TB drive is only about $100. That would seem to point toward buying a new SATA drive and swapping it into the bad drive's ADM. However, when I started down that path, a number of problems arose, such that I bailed on a quick solution and simply purchased a new 80 GB SATA ADM to replace the bad one.

Start down that path of buying a drive? Who the hell (in IT, with server support as part of his job) doesn't have spare SATA drives lying around? Swap a a spare drive, if it works, use it or buy a fresh commodity drive.... if it doesn't, then buy from your vendor. Srsly, you are going to ask iMarkup whether buying cheap is compatible?

Oh, and SATA vs SAS? HTH [incorrige.us] .

Re:Article text (2, Interesting)

Logic Bomb (122875) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359461)

Actually, it's incredibly informative for people who run Apple systems but never get hard information from Apple about these drive modules. Since Apple started selling rack-mount servers, they insisted that only Apple-supplied drive modules could be used. Server admins have always wanted to know exactly why. Is it mostly because Apple's trying to make money, or are there a good technical reasons why one must pay 4x the consumer-market rate for disks?

AFAIK, this is the first time anyone has managed to pry this level of detail out of Apple on the subject.

Re:Article text (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359937)

Server admins have always wanted to know exactly why. Is it mostly because Apple's trying to make money, or are there a good technical reasons why one must pay 4x the consumer-market rate for disks? AFAIK, this is the first time anyone has managed to pry this level of detail out of Apple on the subject.

And the answer is, astoundingly, "Apple is trying to make money".

Seriously. "Because it has SMART, which we describe as 'hardware that monitors the drive'", "because we use rubber grummets for vibrations. Not boring rubber grommets that come with Seagate drives, but /special/ rubber grommets for our /special/ Seagate drives", etc, et al.

Re:Article text (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359817)

Err, I don't see how you could read it that way. Every good point in the article towards Apple is "other manufacturers do this, too." The prices are compared to the most common vendors that come in higher, but doesn't say that Apple's prices are in any way exceptionally low. It seems pretty balanced to me.

But regardless of how balanced it is, it's very informative: Mere mortals do not get this kind of information out of Apple. You certainly won't find it in any brochure.

Re:Article text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358271)

But although we were able to bring the machine back online, we didn't trust the drive that had failed.

I would not trust a drive that "had failed" either. :)

Presumably the FA meant to say "had not failed".

Re:Article text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27359331)

I love the part about Apple using better SATA drives than normal SATA drives. I bet if you pull the drive it is just a standard OEM drive. That is just FUD, if there special 'tuning' makes the drives so much more expensive and better why bother. A smart person would just use SAS drives instead.

This looks like a ad to justify buying over-priced Apple parts.

Or I should say thanks for the explanation, I'll be sure to never buy a server made by Apple.

Nothing to see here (5, Insightful)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357451)

Apple dude discovers that servers use, well, server class HDs and they cost more than normal ones.
Oh, and the 'sleds' that hold the HDs have some LEDs (cool!) and a controller board to work with the cooling system.
Like pretty much every other half decent server then.

Re:Nothing to see here (3, Informative)

samriel (1456543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357589)

Yeah, but since they're decent, and have an apple on them, everybody rages at the 'fanboys' who don't hate about the 'overpriced' stuff, when stuff that's a) not from Apple and b) NOT CRAP would cost just about the same.

Re:Nothing to see here (4, Insightful)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357683)

Except that in this case, every other manufacturer does the same. A port of the higher price also goes in refinancing the warranty that's port of the server.

Oh, and don't think other vendor-lock in platforms don't do the same. IBM prices System x hard drives and POWER hard drives vastly different, even if they may contain the same harddrive but with a different firmware and hotplug case.

Re:Nothing to see here (2)

samriel (1456543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358499)

Isn't that grand /. moderation? In a Mac-bashing thread, any pro-Mac sentiments get you modded either a) troll, if you are pro-Mac, or b) off-topic, if you support pro-Mac people with FRICKING EVIDENCE AND EXAMPLES.

This is why I browse /. at -5 (or however low the fricking thing goes). /. mods are (generally) internet tough guys who mod down people with different viewpoints.

Re:Nothing to see here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27359283)

This word "port", I don't think it means what you think it means...

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359455)

Should be part. No idea why i wrote "port".

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359059)

Right. When you buy SATA hard drives for your server's SAS RAID, they tend to be more expensive than the Western Digital SATA drive you buy off the shelf from Best Buy. Whether this is some kind of a marketing rip-off is a question you could ask, but it's certainly not something that's limited to Apple.

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359481)

Unless you use SuperMicro or low-end Dell 'servers'. I have seen slides in both brands that are little less than a handle with 2 metal prongs on. The data and power connector have to be directly plugged into the backplane. Lately more and more manufacturers seem to go that way though (since SATA and SAS connectors are so simple yet so fragile) which is a shame.

Of course if some dimwit replaces those hard drive and misaligns the drive only slightly and then proceeds to 'bang' it in you could end up very easily with a broken backplane.

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

guardiangod (880192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359957)

You haven't seen anything until you personally witness someone who try to jam a brand new SAS HD into a brand new FC HD shelf and broke the HD connector.

Since they are slashdotted already . . . (1, Funny)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357469)

They are gonna need more drives then. I think this was part of Apple's plan all along.

  1. Charge a lot of money for drives
  2. Let someone post an article on slashdot to complain
  3. Server hosed
  4. ?????
  5. Profit!!

Re:Since they are slashdotted already . . . (1, Insightful)

onefriedrice (1171917) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357987)

Except that other "enterprise" manufacturers also charge plenty for their drives. The only difference, of course, is that it's popular here to complain about how expensive Apple hardware is, and they can usually be modded up for doing so.

Re:Since they are slashdotted already . . . (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358137)

Damnit. I forgot include the :P

Cheap compred to EMC (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357593)

Wow, those Apple Disk Modules are cheap! A 1TB SATAII 7.2K RPM disk module for an EMC CX3 SAN runs about $1500. But I think they get to high grade the drive makers' inventory since they suggest only 1 hot spare per 30 disks.

Actually... (0, Flamebait)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357603)

The extra money is for the blessings of Jobs that make your hard drives last longer as they are and also run soooooo cool

Re:Actually... (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357779)

Kosher hard drives. Oy vey!

Because Apple says so? (3, Insightful)

JorDan Clock (664877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357621)

The gist of the article is "We asked Apple why they're more expensive, and took their word for it." It's just regurgitated marketspeak about how Apple tweaks the firmware for the optimal performance, has special rubber on the grommets of the ADM that is specific to each drive to reduce vibrations, and how off-the-shelf drives are unreliable, slow, noisy, and hot.

They don't make an effort to verify this information at all. Because Xserves won't run with commodity drives, they can't do a proper comparison to determine how much is truth and how much is smoke-up-the-ass from Apple. This is such an astroturf article, it doesn't even pretend to be anything otherwise.

Re:Because Apple says so? (2, Informative)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358019)

Because Xserves won't run with commodity drives...

Except that the article clearly says that an XServe will work with them.

Re:Because Apple says so? (2, Informative)

michael_george (548380) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358235)

Actually, Xserves will run with commodity drives. As the server drives filled up to capacity, I always tried to find an replacement match against the list of drives that Apple used in the Xserves but failing that I'd match a newer version. Some were enterprise and some were regular off-the-shelf units. A pair of 400 GB Seagate ST3400832AS that I installed into an Xserve almost 3 years ago are still running without a hitch.

As far as tweaking firmware goes, a lot of that can be done with the drive manufactures disk utilities. The only issues I ever had was that I had to slow down some of the newer drives from 3.0 Gb SATA to 1.5 GB SATA to use in the older Xserves. The "drive specific" rubber grommets did make me laugh - if vibration is a concern at that scale, then just use 'Sorbothane' for all of the grommets.

All that being said, I regularly replace clients drives around the 3 year mark - mainly, because I don't have a lot of faith in the longevity of any drives that are currently manufactured.

First paragraph sums it all up... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357693)

... nicely. Quoting TFA - "About a year ago, we bought an Intel-based Xserve with a pair of 80 GB SATA drives to act as our primary Web server. When the boot drive went flaky on us in October 2008, ... "

Welcome to pragmatism and reality - Drives fail all the times. So use cheaper drives in redundant mode, replace them with cheaper drives when they fail. You would have saved good amount of money even if the cheaper drives failed three time more than the costlier ones. (450$ for 1TB vs $100 for 1TB - from the same article.)

Re:First paragraph sums it all up... (3, Insightful)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358117)

Not to mention that all of the supposedly special sauce that goes into Apple's drive modules apparently didn't keep this one from dying after only six months of use. I'm sorry, I was thinking "reliability" was part of what I was paying extra for.

Re:First paragraph sums it all up... (1)

sogoodsofarsowhat (662830) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359453)

Quote all you want...your ignoring that what you buy from Tiger Direct/Best Buy/New Egg for $35 for 80GB or $100 for 1TB IS NOT THE SAME ANIMAL as a server drive. Sure you can stick the desktop drive in and it will work but it is not reliable as the server specific models. LOOK AT THE GD MTBF MFER. Look at the FARKIN duty cycle. Hello MC-STUPID AC you are not insightful..your are grossly ignorant! HP/Dell heck everybody including Seagate charge a lot more for Server grade equipment because it is held to a higher standard. Sorta like you can go to Harbor Freight and but socket wrenches and they work but they are not high quality. You go to Snap-on and get the same functional wrnech its just a whole lot more substantial and made to tighter tolerances. It simply a better product that works a whole lot better at its job. Both will get the same job done but after doing it many many many time the Snapon will still work and your Harbor Freight will be all rusted and junk. /stupid AC

Summary fails (4, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357735)

The summary makes it seems that there's no rhyme or reason why Apple charges more for their HDs and why can't the consumer simply replace it with a standard SATA HD. If you RTFA, it goes into a long list of reasons why. Whether you accept Apple's reasoning is another matter.

To begin, XServes use a HD module called ADM rather than simple HDs. On the new MacPros, they also use a module but those modules are designed to replace the HDs inside. For the XServe you apparently can't get a bare drive alone, you have to replace the whole module. The author begins to list the reasons:

So the first reason not to slap an off-the-shelf SATA drive into an ADM is that the drive may simply not be able to handle the constant use.

As I thought about my initial reactions to my drive's flakiness, I realized that the problem is that Apple is essentially selling enterprise-level hardware to Mac users accustomed to mass-market products.

And then the author concludes:

But HP's and Dell's prices are either comparable (for the 73 GB SAS drive) or $200 to $250 higher (for the 1 TB SATA and 300 GB SAS drives).. . . To sum up, there are multiple good reasons why ADMs cost more than bare retail drives of the same size, it's possible but not recommended to replace the drive in one, and Apple is in no way charging an unusual premium for ADMs.

Ok, some good info. (2, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357813)

There are some parts to the article that make sense.

If your OS could benefit from custom firmware...for example if you file system writes in certain sized blocks. I can see that being a case for specialized hard drives. But does that really account for the cost? If the drive's firmware is flashable, let the customer flash it to perform better with their OS choice.

The rubber grommet thing? Now that's some excellent bullshit. You are really telling me that someone spins up the drive, records the vibrating frequency, then selects the appropriate rubber grommets from the bin, then assembles the harddrive caddy? The bullshit flag is on the field, 10 yard penalty - roughing the truth. Again, even if that DID happen, does that justify the increased cost? I doubt it.

In the end, you still run a sluggish GUI on a server. fail. I bet if you ran your website on a stripped down *nix server, on a $1000 machine, your ass wouldn't be slashdotted right now.

Re:Ok, some good info. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358381)

The windowserver doesn't take any CPU cycles when it's not in use.

Many people run headless Mac OS X systems and they're OK.

Lots of people don't know how to tune apache+whatever database in order to handle slashdot-type loads (hint: the defaults don't work).

Re:Ok, some good info. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358765)

I think they mostly meant selected for a given model.

Re:Ok, some good info. (1)

tius (455341) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359861)

With regards to the grommet thing...

There's lots of reasons to ENGINEER these parts: e.g. vibrational dampening may well impact the reliability of the drive over it's life time.

I would assume that if you're paying a good dollar for a RELIABLE drive, then you would want the manufacturer to consider everything possible to meet that goal.

Grommets (2, Interesting)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357883)

"Apple also told me that the rubber grommets that hold the drive to the ADM carrier are chosen specifically to match each drive's vibrational characteristics."

"Yes, sir. In order to reduce vibration we use the finest of synthetic compounds to minimize noise so that your cold room droogies won't have to suffer a higher level of acoustic trauma."
Get real.
Every major manufacturer re-labels drives for inventory and warranty purposes. They also use custom firmware to identify the drives for the same reasons. Special grommets? If you have worked with ADMs you know those grommets are extremely thin, shred to bits if you try to reuse them -more likely you lose them taking the thing apart, and are there more to keep the screws from coming loose than anything else. I have replaced drives in ADM modules before with RE drives -because the drives were mirrored- and haven't had a problem. If you are going to replace the drive in a server -a piece of mission-critical equipment- with the cheapest bulk OEM drive you can find, you will have problems.

Custom Firmware (2, Informative)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357917)

Been happening for years.

Back in the late 80's, in addition to my dev job, I admin'ed a Motorola Delta 3600 box. We were looking for a little more space, manual said that it would take a Seagate ST-251N 40MB SCSI drive. So we bought on off-the-shelf.

It wouldn't work. It turns out that Motorola had custom firmware for those 251Ns.

So it's been going on for at least 20 years.

The special ingredient is... (3, Funny)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357965)

The special ingredient in XServe disk drives is... love. :-/

Re:The special ingredient is... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358999)

The special ingredient in XServe disk drives is... love. :-/

I thought it was a little bit of Steve Jobs in every drive.

Re:The special ingredient is... (0)

Chas (5144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359249)

The special ingredient in XServe disk drives is... love. :-/

Spelled B U L L S H I T.

name brand stuff has better support (2, Interesting)

alen (225700) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358083)

HP and EMC does the same thing. HP will charge you $500 for a 1TB SATA today and we just paid EMC $800 or so per 500GB drive for a bunch of drives.

one nice benefit is the support. HP has a proactive failure warranty. if it flashes and alert that it thinks the drive will fail you call them and you have a new drive arrive by UPS the next day. EMC will come out within 4 hours to replace it.

and they are guaranteed to work with the brand name RAID controller that is the same brand as your server. you're paying for the testing and special drivers knowing that everything you buy will work together and you don't waste time calling support and playing musical telephone

Well, that was a waste of 5 minutes. (2, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358131)

Go to any server manufacturer's website (or a retailer if they sell through the retail channel). Dell, HP, IBM, I don't care. Any of them.

Price up equipment sold specifically for servers. Note particularly the price they charge for a larger/faster hard disk.

Go on, I'll wait.

Right, now go onto your favourite cheap & cheerful parts supplier and look at how much they charge for a hard disk.

Is it really the exact same disk with that much price discrepancy? Well, I (along with a lot of sysadmins) would dearly love to believe that it isn't. Whether or not that's true I honestly couldn't say.

What I can say is that if you do go out and buy the cheapest disks you can to populate the server, warranty support from the OEM is going to suddenly become "Oh, you plugged some random disk in? Go away and come back when all the disks are from us". Which starts to look rather expensive rather quickly when the RAID's knackered and you need to resurrect the system as quickly as possible. If your job is on the line, it's soon looking even more expensive, and nobody wants to say "I was sacked from my last job because I cut one too many corners on a system that was critical to the business" in an interview.

It's not so much of a problem for the Googles of this world who write their own applications to live on huge clusters which have component systems being added and removed all the time. Most of us, however, don't have that luxury.

Re:Well, that was a waste of 5 minutes. (2, Informative)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359131)

Parent is bang on. Vendor-insists-can-only-support-it's-own-expensive-configuration-shocker.
It's not just the IT industry: go to Mercedes and ask them for warranty support after you've fitted third party replacement parts. I personally know several people who's Skoda warranties have been voided after they've remapped the ECU: understandable if they were expecting warranty support after engine damage caused by a remap (which is highly unlikely) but they've had warranties turned down for failed seat mounting rails.
Large companies like charging you as much as they can - no surprise there.

dell does the same thing (1)

t35t0r (751958) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358515)

Dell does the same thing with their poweredge drive modules and there are no electronics on the back, the sata connections go directly into the backplane . Prices are ridiculously out of whack. A 1TB drive is like $600 for a market priced $100 drive and a $10 piece of plastic and metal. This is why we always purchase the smallest 80 or 160GB drive module and put whatever SATA drive we need in. It's really stupid as are the idiots who purchase the larger storage modules.

Worthless Article by a Wannabe Admin. (5, Insightful)

Kaboom13 (235759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358541)

This retarded fluff piece aside, the reason people buy (and pay a premium) for oem "blessed" hard drive replacements is because they JUST FUCKING WORK. If I save $100 on a hard drive, but spend two hours dicking with the raid controller to get it to play nice, or find out that it is in fact 2 mb smaller then the other drives, and now the raid won't rebuild, or has some firmware issue that I now need to rig up something to update, etc. I've lost money.

There is value in having everything already tested, and all your equipment in a "supported" configuration. When you have problems it makes it that much easier.

The fact that this article was apparently written by someone who does not know the difference between SAS and SATA makes it completely worthless. Clearly they are not qualified to admin the server they do have, much less write articles about the technical benefits of apple drives over other replacements.

ADM (1)

MacColossus (932054) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358547)

My guess the custom firmware has more to do with Apple's monitoring and management tools for the Xserve. That being said, I have swapped out the ATA drives in a Xserve G4's drive modules with success. I went from the included 120GB drives to 250GB drives. I ran them for close to three years. I finally retired the server after purchasing a new Intel based Xserve to replace it. The reason the SATA drives are listed under SAS on the Intel Xserve is because they are connected to a SAS drive controller that is backwards compatible with SATA drives. I have two G5 xserves. I may try upgrading the SATA drives in the ADM's this summer since these are now out of warranty and are being moved to a less critical role.

Are they hot swappable? (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358565)

I've never seen an Xserve, but it seems to me that if it is truly a file server, the drives themselves are probably hot swappable and that explains that increase in cost over a standard drive. The summary mentions something about "drive carrier". I read that and I picture the drives on my Proliant servers (both SCSI and SAS). They have special carriers and can be hot swapped while the server is still up (when running on the RAID module).

Its simple. (2, Insightful)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358663)

Guys drives dies in Apple server hardware.
Guy looks into buying retail drive for replacement.
Guy asks forum members for advice and decides to call Apple
Guy calls Apple wanting to know why their drives ar 4x+ the cost of retail
Apple gives Guy song and dance about magical marketing BS
Guy falls for BS and tells everyone else to follow magical marketing BS

Honestly what did he expect to learn by calling Apple? Call any manufacturer, tell them you want to use cheaper 3rd part parts instead of their overpriced parts and be prepared for a load of horse shit to flow from the phone. I worked in the IT department of my college for an elective credit way back when. The head IT guy almost never bought OEM stuff if their was a cheaper retail part that would do the job. He insisted its just a 3rd party part with company logo stuck on it sold at a 3-5x mark up. He would rather used the money he saved for better things like new equipment or upgrades. Never had any problems.

Depends on your use (1)

Aram Fingal (576822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359017)

The article says that drives with mapped out blocks that don't work in a RAID work just fine in a Drobo. Actually, the Drobo is a RAID. It automatically configures itself to use either RAID 1 or RAID 5 depending on how many drives you put in it. These schemes have redundancy and therefore some robustness to them. Apple tends to use RAID 0 by default(which isn't really RAID and has no redundency) to improve performance and give the most possible space. When you do that, you really do need to be sure that you have good drives because the array will fail if either drive fails and you better have good backups.

How did this get on Slashdot? Wow. (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359267)

I can hardly believe this article got posted on Slashdot. It's a bit disconcerting. However, I would like to reference one paragraph.

We've all benefited from the amazingly low cost of storage. But whenever manufacturers compete on price, they cut corners every way they can to reduce costs. Although drive reliability is generally good, everyone who buys bare drives regularly has a drive vendor they refuse to patronize due to bad experiences in the past. (As is often the case, these people all hate different vendors, depending on which one was having a bad run at any given time.)

The bottom line is, you buy a cheap drive, you get a cheap drive. I have friends who refuse to buy Maxtor. I have friends who refuse to buy Seagate. News flash! Same company! Cheap drives everywhere! Probably all manufactured in the same place, getting stickers based on what you're willing to purchase.

Site back up (2, Informative)

eggboard (315140) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359563)

TidBITS system guy here. Sorry for the troubles. We had a glitch in our Apache min/max/spare/etc settings that was triggered for the first time by Slashdot traffic. (A combination of a new method to zoom images and AJAX produced a very high set of spawned children for each new visitor.)

What about Sales Volumes?? (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359597)

Some simple economics play into the pricing scheme.

Consumer Equipment:
Anyone that can sell 100,000 units to customers who demand *far* less in the way of service and generalized performance can sell a cheaper widget.

Production Equipment:
**Far** fewer customers (1000 units) who demand much higher levels of service, and generalized performance demands that the drives must be way, way more expensive than the consumer product.

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