The iodyne Pro Data is quite a beast when it comes to fast data storage for editing and post-production. It isn’t just a fast RAID or a fast SSD: it is a very fast SSD RAID (using NVMe storage) but a bit more than that. Now, SSD RAIDs aren’t anything new. We’ve reviewed SSD RAIDs here on ProVideo Coalition over the years and they have always been fast. But the iodyne Pro Data is taking things a bit to the next level.
The Pro Data isn’t just a few SSD RAID’d together. It’s 12 NVMe SSDs RAIDed together in one enclosure for a high-speed storage device unlike any other. You can connect one Thunderbolt cable for very fast direct-attached storage. But there is also an option called multi-pathing where you can connect two Thunderbolt cables to two different Thunderbolt busses on your Mac for even more performance. It’s a unique option that I’ve never seen before. There are a number of ways to use a Pro Data and iodyne has set up some “blueprints” to help understand this unique device.
The Pro Data is small enough to be portable as it’s a bit bigger than a large laptop. It’s also considerably heavier than a laptop but I’ve carried this test unit around in a backpack multiple times so it is doable. Currently, it’s Mac-only but iodyne says Windows and Linux are coming. You can create multiple partitions (or containers as they are called), up to 15 per unit for workflow flexibility. You can connect up to 4 Macs at once with a single connection per Mac.
But look at the ports and you can get an idea of how that multi-path thing works:
Connect one Thunderbolt 3 Mac with two cables to two of your Mac’s Thunderbolt ports (running on different Thunderbolt busses) into two different ports on the Pro Data pairs and you have Multi-pathing for increased speed. The busses thing is important to note as older Macs might share a bus between ports. On the newer M1 Macs each Thunderbolt port is its own bus. The second Thunderbolt port in a pair (meaning those ports inside the paraenthesis) would be considered a “downstream” port and could be used for daisy-chaining.
This could be a place where the Mac Studio M1 Ultra could be worth the extra cash as you have more Thunderbolt ports than the M1 Max with the addition of two on the front. When you are multi-pathing those Thunderbolt ports can fill up quickly. Heck, when you’re video editing those ports can fill up quickly!
When it came to testing the Pro Data for this review, I threw it right into some real production though I was only able to use it by myself as I never had an opportunity to connect other working Macs to it (other than on my own just to see how multiple connections worked). I used it on a couple of branded content jobs and then stuffed it full for a reality show. I also did a 6 camera edit off of the Pro Data and that was smooth as butter but since the source media was ProRes I didn’t expect any issues. I don’t use a bunch of benchmarking tools when I do this kind of thing so I would encourage you to read this article from Storage Review if you’re thinking about spending the money on a Pro Data to get another opinion on this unique (and expensive) device.
The unit isn’t cheap. Storage capacity can range from 12 TBs (at $3,950) to 24 TBs (at $7,500) with a 48 TB coming later this year. Those are some high prices but this is a high-level device that won’t fit everyone’s needs. But those that need this kind of speed and connectivity need it as the upcoming 48 TB version is the result of customer requests. A custom option could take your Pro Data (and the price) to another level.
Pro Data setup
I don’t know exactly how iodyne is doing their thing but there is a piece of software and a system extension that runs on your Mac to manage.
Of note, when installing the iodyne drivers on an M1 Mac with the T2 security chips you have to disable the secure boot option to make the iodyne system extensions run. This is important and not unique to the Pro Data. Things that require system access like some RAID software or utilities like LucidLink require the same thing so it’s just a fact of life on newer Macs.
Once the system drivers are installed you then have to set up the partitions for the Pro Data.
Of note, you can get the Pro Data in dark space gray, silver and purple. The color is the brace around the unit. I kinda like the purple myself and I’m sure the Avid editors out there would go for it first!
Using the utility you can partition the Pro Data as a RAID–0 or RAID–6. In a RAID–6 configuration 12 TBs is 10TBs of space with redundancy.
Setting the Pro Data up is called provisioning a new container.
It’s nice as you can specify a side or a percentage of the available space.
Password protection is also an option so security is strong. This setup is also where you choose your RAID level.
Honestly, with this kind of tool and the speed it can provide for video editing I don’t know why you’d want to partition it with any RAID–6 redundancy. You’re almost assuredly going to have backups easily accessible. I don’t know the failure rate of NVME SSD drives but I’d hope they are way lower than spinning drives in traditional RAIDs. The Pro Data is built around a philosophy of user repairability so if something does go wrong you can often repair it yourself which is great for a device at this cost level.
One thing that you can’t do is change and adjust the partitions and sizes once they are created. This might be different from what you’re used to if you use more traditional shared storage where you can create shared folders that mount like a hard drive.
Using the iodyne Pro Data
But once containers are created and mounted they mount on your desktop just like any other disk because they are just like any other disk.
Above I have the Pro Data with two containers taking up 100% of the available space. You can see them mounted on the desktop.
As expected, Hedge was able to copy media to the Pro Data from field drives just like any other drive.
Your NLE will see the Pro Data just like any other drive. Once again, because it is a drive! Just a very, very fast drive that we’ll talk about in a bit.
Hovering over the container map will give you an idea of the size. Compare this to the image below and you can see the difference as I didn’t fully container out all of the space into mountable drives upon my initial setup (seen in the below image) of the Pro Data. In the image below, there are still 5 TBs of free space wanting to be containerized. (I made that word up). You will need to be sure you know what kind of space you might need in a container before you begin since you can’t dynamically adjust the containers once they’ve been created.
As mentioned I have used the Pro Data on a few different jobs. One is some branded content with limited media and the other is an unscripted show with tons of media.
I ran into a containering (I made that word up too) math issue when I transitioned from the branded content job to the unscripted show. I wasn’t sure how much raw footage the show would produce but as it kept coming in I had to add space.
I ended up just moving the branded content (pilot) into its own small container that was just big enough for the raw footage and creating a show container (get rich) that took up 100% of the rest of the free space.
When the branded content job was done I couldn’t just add the new empty space from the Pilot2 container to the Get Rich container so I just piled get rich footage into Pilot2. I’m guessing the inability to dynamically change container sizes might be an operating system limitation but it would be nice to somehow dynamically adjust the containers and their size.
Shared storage but not like you might be thinking
One important thing to note is that the iodyne Pro Data is not shared storage in the sense of a NAS or a SAN. You cannot have multiple people connected to the same container/partition and working off of the same media at the same time. But you can have multiple editors connected to the same Pro Data unit at the same time, they just have to work off of different partitions/containers. Forgive me if I keep calling them a partition.
You can see above one container mounted on my iMac Pro and another mounted to my Macbook Pro.
Checking the status tab gives you even more detail. You can see the configuration of the SSDs inside the unit as well as which Thunderbolt ports are in use and the machine the port is connected to.
When thinking about the Pro Data as not being traditional shared storage you have to look at what it does when it comes to collaboration. The approach is that you can hand off a particular partition to another editor or they can request access when they need it. This is a very important thing to understand so it fits in within the desired workflow if you’re going to spend many thousands of dollars on it.
If you want to move a container from one user to another you can do a handoff via the iodyne utility.
Need a container to work off of? Request a handoff from the system that needs the container.
The request pops up on the other system that has that container mounted. From there it’s a simple allow or deny. If you deny the requesting machine gets a message that there was a denial.
And that’s it really as far as the sharing goes. Pretty simple. iodyne has created a series of blueprints for how you might connect and use a Pro Data so if you’re in the market I would highly consider reading them. The Pro Data could be very useful for a group of editors sitting around a table working on different parts of a job. I think of this review I did years ago for the Jellyfish and it could have replaced that with a much smaller and more portable shared storage device. But that’s only if we have been careful and put each editor’s media on a different partition. Using the Pro Data as shared storage means you have to be very purposeful about who is using what media and who has the access to that.
There’s a bit of different hard drive mount terminology that might pop up when using the Pro Data. When attaching different systems you might not always get the desired container to mount of the first try and be asked if you want to force attach that container.
The first thing that went through my mind when I saw this was the “force eject” message you might get on a Mac and how I’m always a bit wary of force ejecting a drive. I think it’s that word force that throws me. But force attaching a Pro Data container is fine and it’s related to how the container is visible to a host system. Once a container is visible you have an OS-level option to eject and mount the container just like any drive. That way you can, for example, shut down a system and it should automatically mount the next day.
What about the speed?
The Pro Data is fast. As mentioned above I don’t have any in-depth geeky tools to measure drive speed so I’m going to rely on two of post-production’s favorites but these tools might not do the multi-pathing justice as they can’t properly measure the multipath connection in the way that some deeper benchmarking tools maybe can.
To maximize the multipath connection you have to be sure you connect the Pro Data properly. That’s two different Thunderbolt busses on your Mac and connected to different port groups on the Pro Data.
This image can help understand the connections.
So here is one connection of the Pro Data for correct multipathing.
If you’ve successfully connected the Pro Data for multipathing the iodyne utility will show that connection.
This connection reflects the picture up above with the iMac Pro connected with the gaffers taped cables on the right two ports and the MacBook Pro connection via the port on the left. I wanted to test this initial speed configuration on the iMac Pro since it only has two Thunderbolt buses but has four ports. And because that’s the system I had at home when I was testing!
Here are the single-path and multipath connections back-to-back (I’ve labeled the multipath connections).
The usual disk speed tests with an iMac Pro
First up: This is the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test writing a 1 GB file to a container/partition with 332 GBs of free space … it’s getting pretty full.
Single Path connection:
I like that multipath speed boost.
One thing that the Pro Data goes well is to sustain its speed over longer read/write operations so it’s worth trying this on a larger file.
Single path 5 GB test file:
Multi-path 5 GB test file:
I like that speed boost even more.
Second up: The AJA System Test. This test was writing to the other container/partition that only had 190 or so GBs of free space.
That is a really nice speed bump with the multipath connection. I don’t know the different ways in which the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test measures vs. the AJA System Test but I wanted to try both for comparison.
Single path 16 GB file:
Multi-path 16 GB file:
More speed is better than less speed.
By comparison, here’s a popular Samsung T7 USB 3 SSD running that same speed test.
And also a G-Tech G-RAID G-Studio which is an 8-bay RAID6. This thing below is a workhorse but looking at speed and we can see the old spinning RAIDs are really starting to age in an SSD world!
The Samsung result is a big difference and should be slower as it’s a single SSD in a small enclosure with a slower USB-3 connection but I see forum posts where a lot of editors are running quite large jobs with all their media on an attached USB-C SSD drive. 👹
I want to point out that this article from iodyne that looks at this exact issue of speed tests:
Our traditional post-production disk speed test apparently can’t accurately measure what is going on here. The speed test chart from the article above shows a pretty staggering difference between a single path and a multipath connection. The disk speed tests don’t necessarily show that much of an increase from single path to multipath but I did see a speed improvement.
And another test using the reliable PugetBench tool compares the Pro Data to internal storage on an M1 Pro Apple machine.
Anything that can keep up with an internal M1 Mac SSD is great as they are very fast. But as mentioned above, you’re not going to keep TBs and TBs of raw camera media on your internal SSD.
Reading over the Rethinking Benchmarks article you can download something called the Flexible I/O Tester but when I saw Linux and terminal mentioned I moved on from trying it. 🤷♂️
I also ran the Adobe Premiere Pro Puget Benchmark with both the single path and multipath connections but didn’t see much difference but that test is much more dependent on your system hardware and not just the attached storage where the Puget Benchmark reads the media from. The single path and the multipath results weren’t that different.
A few tests with the Mac Studio
Since the iMac Pro has two Thunderbolt buses (and you have to be sure and connect properly to make sure you’re using both buses) and the Mac Studio technically has six (all Thunderbolt ports on Apple M1 chips are on their own bus) I decided to run a couple of those tests with the Pro Data connected to the Mac Studio.
I’m not sure why the write time went down with that multipath connection but I’ll take that faster read any day.
Ahh yes but what about disk performance tests beyond the BMD and AJA utilities?
It was pointed out to me after I ran the more traditional post-production disk speed tests that there are a couple of free apps on the Mac App Store that can run some deeper, nerdier, disk speed tests. So I downloaded the ATTO Disk Benchmark and AmorphousDiskMark and ran those as well on the Mac Studio.
I have no idea how to read these and what to make of them so they are presented here without comment.
As mentioned, I don’t exactly know how to read those two above tests so if you have some opinion on them, feel free to comment below.
I asked the folks at iodyne about the slower write speeds with the Pro Data. Mind you they aren’t that slow but they are slower than the read speeds and this was their reply:
In all SSDs, write speeds are slower than read speeds for sustained writes (as opposed to small bursts cached in DRAM) because in NAND Flash, the time-to-program is at least 10x the time-to-read. This is because a NAND program operation consists of small voltage pulses followed by reads to calibrate whether the voltage level has reached the desired target. Then at a broader system level, when RAID is involved, writes are slower than reads because writes must write data plus parity, whereas reads only need to access parity when a drive has failed. So these two “laws of physics” make sustained writes slower than reads for any SSD + RAID storage system, unless reads are somehow artificially limited by some other system design factor.
If you’re working with a single path connection and happen to have a Thunderbolt port free up and want to establish a multipath connection I did notice that you may to have to restart the Mac. Just plugging in the second Thunderbolt connection didn’t always show a multipath connection being made in the iodyne utility. Even after detaching and reattaching the storage still only showed a single path. I had to restart the Mac to get the multipath connection established. That was on the iMac Pro but then I tried this a second time and the second port did show up without a reattach or restart on the Mac Studio.
Ok, but how did editing with it “feel?”
I tried to test this multipath vs. single path in a bit of a different way, by setting up one of those multi-stream picture-in-picture timelines in a job I was working in Adobe Premiere Pro. It was a 10-stream stack of mostly 4K ProRes HQ as well as some GoPro H264 that was all scaled down to fit, a Lumetri color correction applied. The Pro Data was able to easily keep up with this multi-stream test on the Mac Studio M1 Ultra. Did I see much difference in performance between a single Thunderbolt connection vs a multipath connection? Honestly not really but it was able to keep up well on either. Even after nesting and duplicating the 10-stream nest multiple times it was still able to keep up. It only started to drop frames after off-setting some of the clips so the duplicated clips weren’t playing back the same frames which was interesting in its own right. I don’t think that was an iodyne but a multi-stream playback thing in general. I see these kinds of tests a lot but they aren’t real-world work for the most part.
By far the biggest job I did with the Pro Data was the reality show pilot. While most of the media were 4K ProRes we did have some drone footage and some GoPro footage that was H.264. Most of the ProRes 4K was shot with two cameras so I would guess that 75% of the show was 2-camera multicam. The Pro Data never missed a beat, and never dropped a frame between the Mac Studio, iMac Pro and an older Intel MacBook Pro laptop.
The editing “feel” on every job I did with the iodyne Pro Data was buttery smooth and that’s the best compliment I can make about any video editing media storage.
Here’s a question: Who is the iodyne Pro Data for?
At the current price point, it’s going to favor a narrow, high-end sliver of the post-production market. As mentioned above, if you’re in the market for that kind of speed then the price isn’t going to matter nearly as much. And editor, visual effects artists, colorist or finishing artist will be able to plug in and go to work on most any media tossed onto the Pro Data. That’s a big plus.
On the other hand, it’s marketed partly for its connectivity to multiple systems but since it’s not traditional shared storage with multiple systems mounted and reading the same partition that might be a limiting factor when spending that kind of money on storage.
I was wondering about SSD RAID speeds in general and a search back through the PVC archives revealed some slower SSD RAIDs back in the infancy of the concept of SSD RAIDs. Heck, even some 6 and 8 disk spinning hard drive RAIDs struggle to meet 1000 MB/s. But the more spinning disks the better but they are still huge, loud, hot spinning beasts. That said, you might be able to get near the Pro Data speeds in the NVMe world depending on cost and capacity.
All 3500+ plus words above about the iodyne Pro Data and who is in the market for such fast, yet expensive shared storage can really be summed up in one gif. If this is you and your post-production workflow and what you need at all costs then the Pro Data might be it.
iodyne Pro Data: from $3,950 for 12 TBs to $7,500 for 24 TBs. Custom options are available. Browse the tech specs for more information about performance, connectivity, power, dimensions and warranty.
- It’s fast. There aren’t a lot of RAID storage units that will be that much faster. The internal drive of a new Mac Studio is faster but you’re not going to put 20 TBs of media on the internal system drive, leave it there for weeks or months and maybe share that with other editors. That’s why you need proper media storage for editing and post-production.
- Setup and operation are simple.
- It’s meant for user repairability so you can probably service the thing yourself if need be.
- Did I mention it’s fast?
- It’s expensive but like an exotic car if you are worried about the price then you probably aren’t in the market for it anyway.
- You can’t dynamically adjust the size of the containers/partitions once they have been created.
- There is no power switch so you have to unplug it to power completely down.
- When multi-pathing make sure you’re connected to different Thunderbolt buses on an Intel Mac.
- While you can connect multiple systems to one Pro Data it isn’t traditional NAS/SAN shared storage so plan accordingly.
- The supplied Thunderbolt cables are short, almost too short at just over 2 feet. And you’ll need two of them to take real advantage of the Pro Data. iodyne does sell longer Thunderbolt cables including a 50-meter version for $475. The 6-foot cable for $60 might be the sweet spot.
- While the unit is surprisingly portable (think of it as a big 17-inch laptop) with few moving parts inside I would still be very careful with it since it ain’t cheap. iodyne is creating some custom Pelican cases to keep your Pro Data safe.