As I mentioned in a previous post, the second part of the VEoE installation at Wink Inc was to add a mobile server to the mix. We tested a Dual 2.7GHz G5 and based on those tests, we decided to use a Quad 2.5GHz G5 as the mobile server. The computer has 2 basic modes: Mobile Server and Edit 4.
Like the Mac Pro Server, this G5 contains a 6 port Ethernet card from Small Tree Communications and a CalDigit RAID card. Unlike the Mac Pro, G5s can only support 2 internal drives. So we added a G5 Jive which holds 3 hard drives and is mounted in front of the intake fans. The CalDigit RAID card is connected to these 3 drives along with a 4th drive in the “B” hard drive bay. These 4 1.5TB drives are in a RAID-5 configuration for a total of 4TB of protected storage. Theres a fifth drive in the regular built-in “A” hard drive bay that’s used as the boot drive. So in the end its very similar to the Mac Pro setup, but the drives in the G5 Jive cannot be field swapped as easily if a RAID drive should fail. And this thing is HEAVY.
The mobile editing systems, which are a mix of G5s, iMacs and Laptops, are connected via Gigabit Ethernet directly to the 6 port card. A switch is not necessary (since there won’t be more than 6 editing systems attached). The connections can be auto-negotiated by the standard AFP protocol, which makes adding non-Wink Inc owned computers a breeze. Just set your location for Automatic and go! This ease of use makes this system almost fool-proof. Which is nice when you’re working with near-live video.
Not only is this computer a server, it is also a capture system using AJA’s Kona 3 card. The Kona Breakout Box is gaff taped to the G5’s top handles, making for a very portable setup that even fits in the original G5 shipping box with all the necessary cables. My only beef with this server and the Mac Pro server is that theres no more PCI slots available (6 port Ethernet card, CalDigit RAID card and a video capture card). This computer used to have an eSATA card for hot swapping bare and external hard drives that contain archived footage. Not having this ability anymore is a pain. The Mac Pro contains extra SATA ports on the logic board, but these don’t support hot-swap, which is necessary for a server that’s never supposed to turn off. My hope is that future Mac Pros will have more PCI slots.
When back in the office, this system is the fourth editing computer and the second capture computer. Like the Mac Pro server, we ran multiple ethernet connections to Edit 4 to create a link aggregated connection on the switch. Switching from Mobile Server mode to Edit 4 mode is as easy as changing Locations in Network Preferences. Then all the edit systems in the office can connect to Edit 4 the same way they connect to the Mac Pro server. There’s no need to transfer footage and files from the Mobile Server to the Mac Pro server once back in the office, since the edit systems can just connect directly to the Mobile Server and start editing.
The cool thing about this setup is that Wink Inc already owned Edit 4. We just added a few components to make it into a server – CalDigit RAID card, 5 1.5TB hard drives, G5 Jive and a 6 port Ethernet card – less than $2500 in additional parts. There’s no Xsan equivalent to the Mobile Server (Xsan systems usually have more storage and use Fibre Channel switches instead of connecting directly), but an Xsan system similar to Wink Inc’s Mac Pro Server installation would start at $28,000…
If you or your business is interested in doing something similar, don’t hesitate to contact me.