Anybody use the OWC ThunderBay?

Okay…finally making a decision on larger RAID-enabled external hard drive stuff. I’m looking at the ThunderBay because OWC is theoretically a reliable company, and it looks like a good, expandable solution.

Main criteria:

(a) DAS instead of NAS, as our network is primarily wifi-based and I prefer a wired connection for data stuff. Plus DAS can be backed up with Backblaze.
(b) Some manner of RAID / redundancy built in. I know, RAID is not a backup - but mirroring and drive health software reduces the likelihood of a catastrophic failure
(c) Theoretically, I’d love to be able to pull the drives out of whatever they’re in and get the data off if the enclosure fails.

I’m trying to figure out exactly how this all works though. It seems that ThunderBay is just a fancy multi-drive dock, and all the RAID stuff is handled by software (hence their SoftRAID software).

So theoretically if I grab a ThunderBay 4, populate it with 4x8TB drives, and install SoftRAID in “mirroring” mode, I should have a chassis with 16GB capacity that’s tolerant of any one drive failing. Just add a new drive and let it rebuild.

But as long as I’m only doing mirroring, will the data from any pair of mirrored drives be recoverable using any other drive enclosure, as long as one drive from the pair is available? Or is that asking too much?

I’ve got a ThunderBay 6. As you said, it’s basically a multi-drive connector; all of the “smarts” are in the SoftRAID software.

As long as you have a computer with SoftRAID installed, you should be able to access the data on the drives regardless of what sort of enclosure you’re using. As I understand it you could even run a RAID 5 array on a bunch of individual USB hard drives (albeit with lesser performance).

Thanks for the confirmation!

I’m doing a little more digging, and it looks like the version of SoftRAID that comes with ThunderBay is a hobbled version that only supports OWC hardware. So I’d need to upgrade to “Pro” if I wanted to have failover capability for using non-OWC enclosures.

Do you use the SoftRAID software? Do you like it?

In terms of UI it’s not all that pretty or intuitive, but it does the job. However, once you get the array set up you basically never have to look at it again. The driver runs in the background and that’s been rock solid for me.

A couple of things come to mind:

  • does Backblaze back up raid drives? I thought they didn’t, but couldn’t find anything on it.
  • someone previously reported a noisy ThunderBay.

Backblaze will back up a direct attached RAID.

My ThunderBay is on a MacMini in a spare bedroom so I don’t have to worry about noise. :wink:

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If you’re concerned about software RAID, QNAP have the TR-002 and TR-004 units which can be run as DAS units using hardware RAID. However, you’re losing out on speed, as it’s only USB Gen 1 speeds, not Thunderbolt.

Might not be an issue, depending on the usage considering it’s all spinning hard drives you’re using.

I’m currently running at USB 2.0 speeds on a 2012 Mac Mini, so anything at least that fast is as good as what I have. :slight_smile:

I was hoping for a unit with 8 drive capacity, but I suppose I could always just do multiple QNAP units once I get to that point. And the QNAP looks to be available in a rack form factor, which is cool because I’m actually contemplating starting to move to rackmount stuff. Mac Minis can go 2 to a slot, this could take another, and UPS / switches / power conditioning stuff is all available in rack form factor.

Do you use the QNAP? Do you find it pretty reliable (or would you say it compares favorably to OWC)? I know I’ve heard of the company before - I just have no personal experience. :slight_smile:

Yes, I’ve used the two bay. I wrote about it on my blog.

TL:DR - Worked without the software, as the software didn’t work on the M1 when I first bought it, but I believe they have it running now, I’ve not tried it as I’m running two single drives (SSD and spinning rust).