Fast RAID-0 DAS Using Two Thunderbolt 3 Enclosures

Fast RAID-0 DAS Using Two Thunderbolt 3 Enclosures

In this post I’m demonstrating how to create a high-speed macos volume using quantity 2 Thunderbolt ports and NVMe enclosures. This solution uses RAID-0 (striping) so the failure threshold is more than twice that of a normal standalone disk. This example is for demonstration purposes and could be useful for video editing scratch space, rendering, large photo sessions or similar uses. Obviously, good backups (RAID is not a backup) or a more reliable storage tier is recommended for daily use.

Thunderbolt 3 Benchmark: 2.22 GBs write, 3.74 GBs read

With that out of the way, I’m using two aVolution Thunderbolt 3 NVMe disk enlosures, each with an active 2m Thunderbolt 4 cable. I typically use shorter cables for things like this, but part of what I’d like to demonstrate that using an active TB4 cable of decent length doesn’t degrade performance. These cables are more expensive but they come with Thunderbolt 4 comfort.

NOTE: This configuration likely will not work in an M1 Macbook Air or M1 Macbook Pro, unless a powered Thunderbolt Hub is used. The two disks and enclosures will draw more power than the M1 MBA or 13” M1 MBP can provide while on battery because there are only 2 Thunderbolt ports and those laptops get power over a USB-C Charging cable. On battery power with no charger plugged in you will likely get an error message: Not enough power for this accessory..

The aVolusion Enclosure

aVolution Thunderbolt3 NVMe Enclosure

Here’s what I found:

Pros

  • Performance
    Great performance. Due to the Thunderbolt 3 chipset it uses (ASRock) you can max out the bandwidth potential of the TB3 bus. The performance is a fast as an internal NVMe.
  • Construction
    Solid, heavy and great thermal sink properties. It’s an all aluminum housing that acts as a heatsink.
  • Form
    It’s has an aestheically pleasing design. Nice grooves in the top provide more surface area for thermal cooling.
  • Very sticky feet!
    It has very thin rubber “feet” that outline the screw holes on the bottom. It’s likely that no one will ever look at the bottom of these things, but it’s a nice aesthetic touch none the less. I’m not sure what type of rubber tape they use for this tape, but it’s pretty grippy.

Cons

  • There’s a very small activity LED deeply recessed. This is somewhat minor to me, but to others it may be a larger concern.

No Opinion / Neutral

  • Included screws are not standard head, they’re a star pattern. Appropriate small screwdriver is included. I list this a neutral because from a security standpoint I guess the NVMe inside is safer (more safe?), however, it makes the maintainability slightly worse for changing NVMe disks.
  • Not stackable. I’m neutral here because I think enclosures like this benefit from airflow and stacking isn’t always conducive to that. It would’ve been a nice to have, but it’s probably not there by design.
  • Made in USA. For global visitors this will likely not be a concern or consideration. Personally, I like that it’s made in the USA. Listed here as neutral for that reason.
  • Two LEDs from different vantage points. I see this as a positive.
  • To the corrolary, LEDs don’t show activity, only power status. Since this counters having two easily visible LEDs visible, I list it here as neutral.
  • Signature brand silkscreen. Nice touch and indicator of attention to detail. Does nothing for functionality however, so neutral.

Misc

  • You get a nice little bag to tote it around in.

Bottom Line

I really like these enclosures. They’re a bit pricey but worth it in my opinion and over time, I expect Thunderbolt accessories to become more affordable. The performance of just one is vastly superior to USB3 and I haven’t found any USB4 equivalents yet. If you know of any, let me know in the comments below. 👇

Author

Chris Bergeron

Posted on

08-11-2021

Updated on

09-11-2021

Licensed under

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