by Josh Linden

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt RAID DAS Review

Earlier this year, LaCie announced a lineup of new storage devices with Thunderbolt connectivity. The 2big Thunderbolt features two hard drives that can be operated in RAID 0, RAID 1, or JBOD, allowing the user to take advantage of Thunderbolt's high-speed data transfers for storage-intensive workstation applications in RAID 0 or to serve as portable storage with a redundant backup in RAID 1. With two Thunderbolt ports, the 2big can also daisy chain with other Thunderbolt devices.

The 2big Thunderbolt shares its chassis design with the 2big NAS which StorageReview recently benchmarked. With regard to functionality, it more closely resembles the 5big Thunderbolt which also leverages the OS X Disk utility to manage its RAID functions. Prepopulated with 4TB of internal storage, the 2big Thunderbolt is priced at $599. A 6TB unit costs $719, and 8TB is priced at $829. LaCie does not offer the 2big Thunderbolt without drives.

2big Thunderbolt Specifications

  • Interface: Dual 10Gb/s Thunderbolt ports
  • Included Disks: 2x swappable hard disks
  • Rotational Speed (rpm): 7200rpm
  • Cache: 64MB (2x 32MB) or greater
  • Protocols:
    • Data: PCI Express
    • Video: Dual-Mode DisplayPort
  • Data Channels: 10Gb/s independent uplink and downlink
  • Video Channels: 10Gb/s independent uplink and downlinks
  • RAID Modes: Preconfigured RAID 0 striped set. RAID 0 / 1 / JBOD configuration using Mac OS Disk Utility
  • Power Supply: 100-240Vca; 50/60Hz
  • Cooling: Aluminum enclosure with heat sink and high performance fan
  • Dimensions (WxHxD) : 3.5 x 6.7 x 7.8 in. / 91 x 172 x 200 mm
  • Weight: 5.95 lbs / 2700 g

Design and Build

The 2big chassis is constructed of aluminum that is ribbed to increase airflow and heat dissipation from the internal drives. The distinctive LaCie LED button on the front of the device visually indicates power status and can be used to put the 2big Thunderbolt into a reduced power state where its storage is not available but the device still passes Thunderbolt communications to daisy chained devices.

The 2big Thunderbolt is designed for desktop use, and isn’t too heavy for portable applications. The chassis is designed to stand vertically or lay horizontally for stacking with other 2big units. Lacie also offers a desk rack and rackmount kit. Since the 2big Thunderbolt will not saturate Thunderbolt's data transfer bandwidth even in RAID 0, multiple 2big units in RAID 0 can be used to increase cumulative data throughput.

The rear of the 2big Thunderbolt provides access to locking drive caddies, two Thunderbolt ports, the power connector, and an exhaust vent. LaCie's 2big case and drive caddies are sturdy and well-machined. Build quality is consistently one of LaCie's strong points.

In Use

The 2big Thunderbolt arrives formatted with an HFS+ journaled file system in a striped RAID 0 array for maximum performance. According to LaCie, the 2big can sustain an average transfer rate better than 327MB/s read and 319MB/s write in RAID 0 as measured by AJA System Test with a MacBook Pro 2.2Ghz Quad Core and 4GB RAM. Thunderbolt is mini-DisplayPort compatible allowing a 2big user to handle external storage and a video display with one port on the host workstation or laptop.

LaCie designed the 2big Thunderbolt to be configured using the OS X Disk Utility, which simplifies the learning curve for end users and support personnel. LaCie’s RAID Monitor software resides in the OS X menu bar and provides status information on the array. The RAID Monitor icon blinks with an exclamation mark inside a triangle when a problem is detected. The utility itself provides a simple visual representation of the array, using green to indicate working order and red to indicate a problem with one or both disks.

Conclusion

LaCie is a proven source of storage solutions for workstations and other high-performance desktop applications, and is a leader in the Mac external storage market where Thunderbolt is most frequently available. Users and administrators looking to leverage Thunderbolt's data transfer rates will not be disappointed by LaCie's take on Thunderbolt-connected hard drive storage. Data transfers to and from external storage can bottleneck applications in a variety of sectors. The 2big Thunderbolt has its strongest value proposition for applications where Thunderbolt storage can decrease time spent waiting for transfers to complete.

Pros

  • Thunderbolt’s high speed data transfers and daisy chaining abilities
  • Simple administration using OS X Disk Utility

Cons

  •  Not available without preinstalled hard drives

Bottom Line

There are a number of industries and applications where storage transfer speeds bottleneck staff time or tie up other resources. Thunderbolt-connected storage is still young technology but offers a strong value proposition in situations where waiting for data to transfer carries a high cost.

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt Product Page

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