Iodyne’s Apple-esque design aesthetic makes for a pretty, fast drive

Well-designed and crafted hardware and software is a thing of beauty, and Iodyne’s Pro Data flash storage device is indeed beautiful.

Mike Shapiro.

It is about the size of a fifteen-inch laptop computer with a solid aluminium case and comes with 24TB or 12TB of NVMe flash capacity. These are connected to the outside world by eight Thunderbolt ports, delivering 5GB/sec of bandwidth through a multi-pathing design. A single port can deliver 3GB/sec and the Thunderbolt multi-pathing is said to be unique.

The case is machined from solid aluminium with curved edges and a subtle and textured dark grey surface finish. The band around the side can be coloured to provide contrast and the grey colour can be varied with a couple of shades. When picked up it has, as CEO and Iodyne co-founder Mike Shapiro told an IT Press Tour, “a substantive feel to it.”

The rear of the upper surface has inset grilles for cooling purposes. The device is slightly over an inch thick, and that seems unexpected until you realise that it runs silently. Yes, it could be made thinner but then high-powered fans would need to be used and they would be noisy.

Iodyne Pro Data case.

The target users are video and photography creative individuals and groups, and they could not countenance noisy fans disrupting the audio environment on a shoot or work in a studio. It supports Apple Mac laptops and desktops – appropriate for the target users – with Windows and Linux support coming.

Rear of Pro Data showing 8 Thunderbolt ports and power socket.

Shapiro said the designers went through about 50 prototypes before settling on the final design, with iteration after iteration attempting to shave millimetres off the motherboard and so reduce its size and thickness. 

The device is designed to be repairable by users and the top panel can be removed by unscrewing fixing screws with a normal screwdriver. This brings the motherboard into view. It is obvious that this too has been designed to look attractive and symmetrical;

The Iodyne people took great care over the circuit board’s colour as well as its layout. In fact an early recruit was a Creative Director, Todd Patrick, who was involved in the product’s look and feel, both for the hardware and its software.

We thought it has an Apple-like aesthetic and Patrick agreed, saying that was intentional. When fully populated with twelve M.2 drives, arranged in two rows of six, the exposed blue motherboard has a T-shape. There are heat sinks on the drives and on other larger components and the height of the fins contributes to the thickness of the device. A certain volume of air is needed inside it for the cooling system to do its silent thing

The intention is that the system could take larger capacity M.2 drives when they appear, with potential 4TB and 8TB drives increasing the Pro Data’s capacity, 

The user interface has a subtle aesthetic to it as well, making it both clear to understand and satisfyingly understated in its design colours and layout. This is a beautifully crafted tool for a creative workgroup or other users, photographers for example, to share and use screamingly fast storage.

The system is consistently fast in use, with benchmark tests from Anandtech and Storage Review showing a high and flat response with no drop off in IO performance over a 30 minute or longer run. One test result, based on sustained 128K sequential writes, compared the Pro Data running RAID 0 or RAID 6 (light purple line on chart above) against Seagate’s FireCuda, Samsung’s X5 and T7 Touch and the LaCie Rugged external flash drives.

The FireCuda (blue line on chart) exhibits a two-stage performance drop-off. The first one happens when the drive’s SLC cache fills up, about two minutes into the run. The second occurs just before the 10-minute point when the drive’s background garbage collection processes become more active and bring its performance level down to the 500MB/sec level.

Samsung’s X5 drive fared even worse, falling off to less than 100MB/sec after the three-minute point. The LaCie Rugged and the T7 Touch also exhibited dramatic drop-offs but Iodyne’s Pro Data was consistently and unvaryingly faster for the 30 minute run – around 1,700MB/sec with RAID 6 switched on and 2,300MB/sec with RAID 0.

This device is not cheap, costing around $3,500 for the 12TB model, but it provides great and dependable speed and looks as good as the Apple gear to which it will be hooked up. Creative people with an eye for good design should take to it in droves.