Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The iStorage Pro iT8SAE is available in several configurations. On the website iStorage Pro only lists the unit with drives in four different capacity configurations. I was able to find at least one online source for a base unit that came without drives. Since we only use Seagate 7200.11 1TB (SATA) or Seagate 15K.7 600GB (SAS) drives for testing, we asked iStorage Pro to send us a unit without drives. This allows us to keep the comparisons between one product and another equal.
The iT8SAE uses SATA/SAS expander technology. Inside the unit we found an Areca 8020 expander, a new high performance unit that holds true to Areca's amazing track record of producing high speed SCSI products. The iT8SAE houses up to eight SATA or SAS hard drives and has the ability to hold up to 16TB of data.
Since the Areca 8020 has no direct RAID functionality; you will need to purchase a SATA/SAS RAID controller with an external SFF-8088 data port. For our testing we used the Areca ARC-1680X, an iStorage Pro approved RAID controller and also tested the new LSI MegaRAID 9280-8E. iStorage Pro includes the data cable with the iT8SAE, so you will not have to worry about purchasing a cable which can run anywhere between 20 to 300 USD, depending on length.
Expander technology is quite impressive. In the image above we see how the iT8SAE can be "stacked" or daisy chained to add more capacity. The only down fall is that you are not going to see a speed increase since the ARC-8020 only uses SAS 3 Gbps and units with SATA 6Gbps have yet to be released. Each SFF-8088 connector runs what we would think of as four SAS channels at SAS 3 Gbps speeds. The end result means we should see speeds of around 800 MB/s, something that we could actually see with just four of the latest 15K.7 SAS hard drives. In the image above that shows the expansion, one cable is running to the MAC, but a more competent way of arranging the system would be to run two chains and take advantage of both 4x SAS channels on the controller.
When it comes to availability, we were able to find the iT8SAE in a few specialty A/V e-tailers. Our pricing information came from Coastal Media Concepts. At CMC we found the iT8SAE available in five different configurations including the base model without drives. A bare unit is going to run right around 1,595 USD and the fully loaded 16TB model is just shy of 6,000 Dollars. If you have the technical know how, buying the base model and installing your own Seagate Barracuda XT or Western Digital Caviar Black drives will save you over 2,000 Dollars. Both Seagate and Western Digital make 2TB drives that cost close to half as much as their flagship high speed models, so if you wanted 16TB and were working on a budget, you could get the entire system setup for 2,800 Dollars, less than half of what the e-tailer is selling the unit for. As you may have guessed, this is why we like to get our pricing information from Newegg and other long standing e-tailers that don't set their prices based on the wow factor. You can see a full list of retail and e-tail sellers on this page.
Let's take a look at the iStorage Pro iT8SAE.