Muse R-Duo, Continued

The Muse R-Duo is an intelligent RAID offering, meaning the hard drive(s) appear to the host system as a single physical drive. The enclosure handles all RAID functions - RAID 0, RAID 1, stacked (or "big"), or linear - internally. In the case of the latter, the system can access the hard drives independently, foregoing any RAID benefits. Whichever option is chosen by the user (other than linear), the R-Duo configures the array internally, and presents a single volume to the host OS as a finished product. This cuts down substantially on the processing power required by the system, and makes this a "true" RAID product, differentiating itself from many competitors who simply put multiple drives in a single enclosure and call that RAID. Connectivity to the host system is via either USB 2.0 or eSATA, and the Muse supports hot-swapping.

In a slightly different twist on multiple drive enclosures, Thermaltake has opted to put the PCB in the center of the enclosure and mount the two hard drives in opposing fashion. This setup (rather than conventional methods, using a separate backplane) makes the enclosure itself somewhat smaller, but could potentially expose the PCB to more heat than it otherwise might experience.

Another twist to the R-Duo is the use of dipswitches as a means to select which RAID function the device will provide. There are two of these switches on the back of the unit, along with writing on the case identifying what each combination will accomplish. The modes supported by the Muse R-Duo are:

Linear - The Muse exposes the drives as standard hard drives. RAID functions of the controller are disabled.

Big - The Muse combines both drives into a single, large volume (i.e. a variant of JBOD - Just a Bunch Of Disks). The drive capacities do not need to be matching, though there is no striping or other performance benefits. In this way, two older hard drives (i.e., a 200GB drive plus a 320GB hard drive) would form a single 520GB volume. The Muse uses the first drive until it's full and then begins writing to the second drive.

RAID 0 - In standard RAID 0 fashion, both drives are striped and combined to form a single volume. If the drives are of differing capacity, the Muse uses the smaller capacity on both drives, resulting in a total volume size double the capacity of the smallest hard drive found in the enclosure. Under normal circumstances, this is the highest performing RAID flavor available.

RAID 1 - One drive is used as the data access drive (the drive which "faces" the operating system), while a copy of the data is kept on a second drive (written to both drives at the same time, to ensure data integrity). If one of the drives fail, the volume remains available for use without interruption. The volume size is the capacity of the smallest hard drive in the array.

Note: The initial release of the Muse R-Duo had a capacity limit of 750GB per drive (1.5TB total). Newer models now support capacities of 1TB per drive, and Thermaltake updated their website to reflect this fact. Also, to read up on the full details of the RAID functions supplied by the Muse R Duo, please check our earlier RAID primer here.

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  • Zak - Friday, December 14, 2007 - link

    I've gone through 4 dual drive enclosures and concluded that anything with fan smaller than 80mm is too loud. They were usually louder than my computer so I don't expect this one to be any better. I've settled for SansDigital 4-drive USB eclosure in JBOD mode. Their 4-drive SATA is also a great value but I couldn't get the included SATA card to work properly neither under OSX nor Windows XP so it went back. But I'd like to see some reviews of SansDigital hardware, they have some nice offerings.

  • MrPickins - Friday, December 14, 2007 - link

    I'm sure I missed it when reading the article, but what type of connection were you using for the benchmarks?

    I'd assume eSATA, but I'd also like to see how the enclosure performs using the USB interface.
  • Dave Robinet - Friday, December 14, 2007 - link

    Yep - eSATA was used. It's tough to imagine a lot of USB use for this sort of device, to be honest, so that wasn't tested.

    Thanks a lot for reading!
  • Magendanz - Friday, December 14, 2007 - link

    I believe this unit uses the Silicon Image SiI5744 Storage Processor, which has frequent firmware updates and a decent utility called SteelVine Manager for configuring and monitoring the chipset. I purchased a similar unit called the ONNTO DataWhale from CoolDrives and have been very happy with it. (The DataWhale has removeable drive trays, which I like.)

    It's interesting to note that the SteelVine products have support for SAFE33 and SAFE50 modes (which split the drives into RAID 1 and BIG partitions) as well as an advanced GUI configuration mode that allows you to configure combined modes manually. On the DataWhale, this was enabled with an internal jumper and I'd expect the Muse also has this. Just pull the jumper and set the DIP switches to SAFE mode, then you can configure to your heart's content using SteelVine Manager.

    Note: The latest version of SteelVine Manager requires the latest firmware update, but since SteelVine Manager is required to update the firmware this results in a bit of a Catch 22. Just install an older version of SteelVine Manager, install the firmware update, and then update to the latest version.
  • Yawgm0th - Friday, December 14, 2007 - link

    The definition of RAID 1 listed in the article is not correct. In a standard RAID 1, the drives are mirrored and presented as a single volume to the operating system. However, they will both be accessed simultaneously during all read and write actions. This is why RAID 1 generally results in a substantial increase in read speeds but a slight decrease in write speeds.

    This is true if you are doing a software RAID, in which case the operating system or RAID software knows to do this, and with a hardware RAID, in which case the controller automatically reads and writes to both drives simultaneously. Anything else is not RAID 1.

    The definition listed for RAID 1 in this article describes a behind-the-scenes backup, which is not RAID 1. If this is the case, it ought to be given more mention in the article. One of the biggest benefits to using RAID 1 is not just the high reliability, but the greatly increased read speeds. If the described method is what's in use, then it's a serious flaw in the device.
  • Dave Robinet - Friday, December 14, 2007 - link

    The device does provide true RAID 1 in its normal sense. My choice of words was meant to illustrate the way the end-user sees the device, and it's substantially easier to say "show one device, then use the other".

    The reality of RAID 1 is that the OS reads from only one drive, so the basic definition is essentially true, though. I'll see about cleaning up the wording to satisfy both clarity and to make it more accurate. Good catch!
  • yyrkoon - Friday, December 14, 2007 - link

    $143 usd is not a terribly large sum of money, but if you look into alternatives, you can get the addonics 2port port Multiplier, and do the same thing for cheaper. Then again, you'd have to either build your own enclosure, or buy one. I wouldnt be surprised if this device in fact uses the addonics port multiplier . . .

    All the above said, I would have to agree in wondering if RAID really has a place on the desktop(or most workstations and servers for that matter), as there are so many 'better' ways to store data safely without even using RAID in the first place. Database servers storing mission critical data MAY need RAID for an added form of reliability, but probably do not need RAID for performance, as any self respecting database admin is probably using a static ram HDD device, or possibly a large RAM disk(assuming balls out performance is even needed).

    I cannot really help but wonder if a software RAID array, on a multiple core system would outperform this device or not. That and the fact with tools such as rsync, and just storing important files on multiple drives wouldn't be as safe, without the hassles/complications that RAID can bring into the big picture. The cost definately would be less . . .
  • cserwin - Friday, December 14, 2007 - link

    I've had to explain to too many family members that their digital photos are gone-baby-gone because they haven't backed them up.

    I think RAID 1 is critical for digital photos.

    ESATA give the advantage of allowing direct management of the photos on the redundant array without any appreciable loss of performance, and it is very portable for upgrades. It is way more functional than USB 'backup' solutions - especially for me, who gets the phone call when my uncle/mom/sister/aunt is having a problem.
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, December 15, 2007 - link

    Sorry, but RAID 1 is not going to magically fix all of everyones problems. What happens if bobby-sue's kid deletes (a la shift delete) all their families image files, or disk corruption creeps onto a single somehow, while mirroring to the second ? Try explaining to a family that their Photos and other data files are bye-bye-gone after you recommended that they spend twice as much in HDDs plus controller(if needed).


    Smart partitioning + DeltaCopy + offsite optical media storage may not be perfect, but is a good bit smarter than just adding another point of failure to a storage syst
  • Magendanz - Sunday, December 16, 2007 - link

    Fortunately, Vista and Windows Server shadow copies prevents data loss in these scenarios. Reply

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