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How to fit a round Mac Pro into a square rack

5 minute read

SonnetMac in a Rack


Now you can rackmount the new circular Mac Pro, and plug in PCIe expansion cards.

The new Mac Pro's a tour de force in industrial and functional design. It doesn't look like a desktop computer at all, and that's just the start of it.

In solving many of a "traditional" desktop computer's problems, the Mac Pro, in the eyes of many professional users, has created some of its own.

You can see why Apple has made their new flagship computer like this: it's aimed at the future and not the past. There are no expansion slots, but, in their place, there's an abundance of Thunderbolt 2 connectors.

But where do you plug a Thunderbolt 2 connector into your PCIe expansion cards?

You can't, of course, and - probably sensing your reluctance to bin these expensive add-ons, Sonnet have designed their new rackmount expansion system for the Mac Pro.

Just to make it clear, right from the start, this is no mere Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis: it's much more than that, because it houses the whole Mac Pro.

Radical solution

When you look at the arrangement, it's a rather radical solution. The Mac is laid on its side: you're looking at it end-on. But this has the major benefit of preserving the built-in cooling, which is one of the signature features of the new Mac Pro.

With that taken care of, you can then add up to three PCIe 2.0 cards into the slots provided. Thunderbolt 2 won't be fast enough for every card, but it probably will be for a lot of them - so you'll have to look very carefully before you buy. If you're using the type of card that's going to work, though, this might be a good solution for you.

Power supplies to the cards aren't an issue: the Expansion System comes with an integrated 300 watt power supply, and includes a 75 watt PCIe power connector for cards that require additional power such as the Avid Pro Tools|HDX cards and the RED ROCKET-X boards

There are more thoughtful touches as you can see in the full press release after the break.

The xMac Pro Server has a suggested retail price of $1,499 and is expected to be available June 2.

Press release in full after the break


Sonnet Announces Rackmount Enclosure With Thunderbolt™ 2-to-PCIe® Expansion System for New Mac Pro®

Sonnet's xMac™ Pro Server Securely Houses the Latest Mac Pro, Connects Three PCIe Expansion Cards Via Thunderbolt 2, and Provides 5.25-Inch Mobile Rack Expansion — All in a 4U Enclosure

IRVINE, Calif. — March 26, 2014 — At the 2014 NAB show in booth SL10824, Sonnet Technologies will unveil the xMac™ Pro Server Thunderbolt™ 2-to-PCI Express® (PCIe®) expansion system and 4U rackmount enclosure for new Mac Pro® computers. Similar in concept to Sonnet's award-winning xMac mini Server for Mac® mini computers, the xMac Pro Server securely mounts the Mac Pro horizontally inside a specially designed modular enclosure that connects three PCIe 2.0 slots to the computer via Thunderbolt 2 technology, and provides space to install additional equipment in two 5.25-inch mobile rack bays. 

By supporting every Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe card available, the xMac Pro Server enables audio-video professionals to use the high-performance PCIe cards they need with the latest Mac Pro, which on its own lacks PCIe expansion slots. Supported cards include pro audio, Ethernet, and Fibre Channel, as well as SAS/SATA RAID controllers, and video capture and editing cards. 

"With the success of our rackmountable xMac mini Server and Echo™ Express III-R Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion products, it was natural for us to properly address the need to efficiently rackmount the new Mac Pro and provide much-needed expansion capabilities," said Robert Farnsworth, CEO of Sonnet Technologies. "Ever since the new Mac Pro was announced, our customers have been asking us for this product, and we believe they will be pleased with our solution."

The xMac Pro Server's heavy-duty steel outer enclosure provides secure mounting and protection for the Mac Pro, PCIe cards, and mobile rack devices installed inside. Occupying a 4U rack space (7 inches) and just 16 inches deep, this system is perfect for use in a wide range of popular mobile racks, carts, and rack cases, as well as in a server room. The computer, PCIe card expansion system, and mobile rack devices reside in separate modules to simplify setup and maintenance. To make the Mac Pro fully rack- and road-ready, Sonnet constructed a protective cocoon for the computer out of formed steel and lined it with soft-touch padding to hold the computer firmly in place while safeguarding its lustrous finish. 

The xMac Pro Server's PCIe card expansion system incorporates ultrafast 20 Gb/sec Thunderbolt 2 technology, providing sufficient throughput to support many of the highest-performing PCIe cards. The expansion system supports up to three full-length PCIe cards with one x16 and two x8 PCIe slots. Along with an integrated 300-watt power supply, the system includes a 75-watt PCIe power connector for cards that require supplementary power such as the Avid Pro Tools|HDX or the RED ROCKET-X cards.

Mounted on its side inside the xMac Pro Server, the Mac Pro is kept cool by a quiet and efficient cooling system with an airflow path that remains unchanged and unobstructed according to Apple's specifications. The PCIe card expansion system's two remarkably quiet, temperature-controlled, variable-speed fans manage airflow to ensure cool, reliable operation in noise-sensitive environments.

The xMac Pro Server extends the Mac Pro's Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and HDMI interfaces to panel-mounted connectors on the back of the unit for easy external cable connection, while a USB 3.0 interface and power switch are mounted on the front to enable the user to conveniently connect a USB peripheral and activate the computer's power switch. The included Thunderbolt cable connects the Mac Pro to one of the xMac Pro Server's two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and an included lock secures the Thunderbolt cables in place when connected to the expansion system. These features make the xMac Pro Server ideal for use in both fixed and mobile applications.

With the optional Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit, the xMac Pro Server provides space for additional expansion equipment. Users can install two 5.25-inch mobile rack devices in the outer enclosure and connect them easily to cards installed in the PCIe slots. Without taking up additional rack space, the kit supports a wide array of devices such as an internal LTO tape drive, four or eight swappable 2.5-inch SSDs, a Blu-ray burner, a Sonnet Qio™ MR pro universal media reader, or three swappable 3.5-inch hard disk drives. The kit easily installs into the xMac Pro Server's enclosure, and an integrated 100-watt power supply inside the kit powers the installed devices while its internal fan works to keep the devices cool. Sonnet will also offer preconfigured kits that include the mobile rack devices, PCIe card, and necessary cables.

Along with the new xMac Pro Server, Sonnet expects to display the RackMac™ Pro, its upcoming rackmount enclosure for two Mac Pro computers. Similar to the xMac Pro Server in many ways, the RackMac Pro offers users a simpler way to rack one or two Mac Pro computers in a 4U rack space. Pricing and availability will be announced at a future date.

The xMac Pro Server (part number XMAC-PS) has a suggested retail price of $1,499 and is expected to be available June 2. The basic-edition Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit, formerly named Echo Express III-R Mobile Rack Kit (part number EXP3FR-MRM), has a suggested retail price of $199 and is available now. An extensive list of PCIe cards compatible with the xMac Pro Server is available on Sonnet's website, with the list continually expanding as more cards are tested and certified. Like Sonnet's Echo Express family of Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion systems, the xMac Pro Server was designed, engineered, and built by Sonnet in California.

More information on these products and Sonnet's complete product family is available at www.sonnettech.com.



Tags: Technology