Saturday, April 14, 2012

Zalman ZM-VE series Enclosures: Next-Gen Virtual ODD

Last week I received an anonymous comment on my iodd : Multi-boot madness! post. -- Thanks Tipster!

You may recall the IODD device is an external drive enclosure that supports multi-mode operation:

You can use it in an external hard-drive mode to just copy files back and forth and access them as needed.

You can use it in an ODD (optical disk drive) virtualization mode. In this mode you load a bunch of ISO image files onto it. Then while operating in this mode, you can select the ISO file and PC will see it as a virtual optical disk. If the ISO represents a bootable disk image, you can likewise boot the system with it. This massively cuts down on the number of “burned” boot disks as well as installation media disks you need to carry. Just carry this device and you are limited only by the size of your external drive capacity.

Then there is a multi-mode where it operated in both an external drive/ODD mode.

I love the device I have and it has made my life so much cooler easier when I roll out on an troubleshooting/incident response call.

The model I have and cherish is an older iODD 2501 model. It has both an eSATA connection (requires independent power connection via dual USB plugs), and a USB 2.0 connector.

It’s rock solid, and firmware updates were available to allow it to operate all partitions including any that include your _ISO store to be NTFS. download page. My primary (_ISO holding) partition remains FAT32 because I’ve yet to create a 4 GB+ ISO file I need to boot with or access and that’s all I presently use it for on that partition.

Anyway… as my tipster points out, it appears there is a new model out from the IODD manufacturer. Based on the main page, it looks like “worldwide sales” is seeing it marketed/distributed under the “Zalman Tech” name now.

The features of the newest model appear pretty much the same except for the addition now of a USB 3.0 port rather than the older USB 2.0 connection and eSATA combo. The USB 3.0 can net you up to 5 Gbps transfer rate if you have the hardware to support it. Compare that to the 480 Mbps USB 2.0 rate. Wowzers. It also appears to provide some SMART drive stats on the display now as well.

Here are some useful links based on some quick research I did over the last week.

Still Super Cool. Still Valca Recommended.

Related Concept:

As I said, my iODD 2501 model is running strong and I don’t have any systems that support the USB 3.0 hardware (personally or in the trenches) so I’m not rushing out to pick a Zalman model up just yet. However I can’t help but be a bit envious of the transfer rates in this new model.


--Claus V.


Anonymous said...

Wow, my anon tip spurred a post? I'm a bit starstruck, actually :)

Just my my ZM-VE300 in the mail and hope to have it loaded up in the next day or two.

Claus said...

@ Anonymous - Of course it did!

I appreciate and value great tips and comments that help enrich the content of both this blog in general as well as my own knowledge.

Please consider dropping a comment again once it comes in and you have put it through some paces. I'm interested to know what kind of internal drive you go with (model/size/speed/etc.).

When I got my iODD I tried to fit a 500GB 2.5" in it but while it fit, it seemed so tight the drive wouldn't spin properly. Eeek! I swapped it out for a 350 GB 2.5" and it slid in a bit easier and has worked flawlessly since. I didn't measure but I suspect the larger capacity drive was just a bit "taller" than the smaller one...although maybe it was just a bad drive to begin with...

Anyway, I'd welcome some feedback on your experience with this new model drive.


--Claus V.

Anonymous said...

I've mounted a drive and played with the ISOs a bit but haven't had a chance to boot off of it yet.

I had a 40GB Intel X-25V SSD laying around so I used that. It is one of the thinner drives (7mm?) so I used a small adapter to get it up to the more standard thickness (9.5mm?). Installed fine, but it looks like people could have issues with SSDs that don't fit just right.

It was kind of a pain to secure the drive. You have to peel back two pesky pieces of plastic and drive in two tiny screws.

Hope to get enough time to actually load up some _ISO soon!

Anonymous said...

I was having lots of problems booting from the device so I upgraded to firmware ZMVE-300_user_fw_writer_02(R904N) and now it works great!

Unknown said...

I bought a ZM-VE300 and it works great with the latest NTFS Firmware V300_010_1005N. I found some older BIOS which seem not to support USB-CDROM but only USB-HDD.

So my question is:

Can ZM-VE300 handle multiple partitions with the NTFS firmware?


Part 1 : 16GB FAT32
Part 2 : Rest of space NTFS with _ISO folder

This way I could use Grub4Dos on the Fat32 partition to load some ISO images using USB-HDD mode if USB-CDROM does not work because if BIOS limitations.

XBOOT is a ver good tool to do this and I use it with my USB sticks and drives. The only problem is if an operating system/LiveCD tries to access the physical CD-ROMas part of its boot process Grub4Dos fails. Most LiveCDs work fine.

Any idea if this combination works with ZM-VE300 ?


Claus said...

@ Oliver - Thank you for asking. I don't think I have a good answer for you.

I have an older IODD device and not one of the "newer" Zalman models. I understand they are still based on the same original platform of the IODD's but have some new bits to them.

If I understand your questions correctly, you want to try to make your Zalman drive multi-partitioned.

You can multi-partition your device. I have mine set up with two partitions in fact. (primary - FAT32 + secondary = NTFS)

You want to set the primary partition as FAT32, with the other(s) as NTFS. By doing so you can set the device to HDD mode, then use Grub4DOS on the problematic BIOS systems.

So far so good. Since I set mine up with a FAT32 primary partition I didn't consider making that partition "Bootable" since I tend to the WinPE side pretty much. That would have required a firmware update to allow the hardware to access the NFTS primary partiton, then I would have to convert the primary partition to on and so forth... As I said in my post, I haven't (for now) had any ISO files over 4 GB file size so it hasn't been an issue and I have piles of USB flash drives and a few single-purpose USB external HDD's set up that way so the need just isn't there (yet) for me do reconfig my IODD that way...but I do understand the "all-in-one" approach you are gunning for. I digress.

I think this is where the problem you will run into exists.

At least for my IODD device (and probably your Zalman device will be the same), the "_ISO" folder had to be on the primary/first partition of the device.

So if you leave it on your FAT32 primary partition, it should work. If you move it to the 2nd NTFS partition, then it likely won't.

I'm guessing you suggested putting it on the NTFS partition as you might have some ISO files over 4 GB. Is that correct?

If not then you might be able to work, and leave the FAT32 in place.

I don't think I heard about the XBOOT project. I'll need to check it out in more detail.

I'm not sure my feedback was very helpful. If you do get your special configuration working, please drop us an update. I'm sure there are lots of others who would benefit from your findings.


--Claus V.

Unknown said...

Hello Claus

That is what I feared; that _ISO must be located on the first partition. I use the ZM-VE300 with the NTFS firmware because of large ISOs (>4GB) and because of the robustness of the file system compared to FAT32.

As far as I know GRUB4DOS has experimental support for NTFS so maybe that's the way to go. On my USB Sticks I use XBOOT and FAT32 which works great with the exception of "bad" LiveCDs accessing the physical CD-ROM during loading. OS Setup ISOs can have similar problems. That is where the ODD functionality comes into place :-)

Thanks for helping so far.