Kool Tools: Sonnet xMac Pro Server 
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Kool Tools: Sonnet xMac Pro Server 

Sonnet's (www.sonnettech.com) new xMac Pro Server is a Thunderbolt 2-to-PCI Express (PCIe) expansion system and 4U rackmount enclosure for the latest generation of Mac Pro computers. It securely mounts the computer horizontally inside a specially designed 4U modular enclosure, connects three PCIe 2.0 slots via Thunderbolt 2 technology, and provides space to install additional equipment in two 5.25-inch mobile rack bays.

The Mac Pro, on its own lacks storage expansion and PCIe slots. By supporting every Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe card available, the xMac Pro Server enables audio-video professionals to fully leverage their investment in the new Mac Pro and still use the high-performance PCIe cards they need.

The xMac Pro Server's PCIe card expansion module incorporates 20 Gb/sec Thunderbolt 2 technology, providing sufficient throughput to support many of the highest-performing PCIe cards, including pro audio, Ethernet, and Fibre Channel, as well as SAS/SATA RAID controllers and video capture and editing 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 one auxiliary 75-watt PCIe power connector for cards that require supplementary power, such as the Avid Pro Tools | HDX or the RED ROCKET-X cards. Two quiet, temperature-controlled, variable-speed fans manage the airflow path according to the Apple operating guidelines for the Mac Pro, ensuring cool, reliable operation in noise-sensitive environments.

The xMac Pro Server's Computer Mounting Module secures the Mac Pro in a protective steel cocoon covered inside with soft-touch padding, holding the Mac Pro firmly in place while protecting its mirror finish. The module 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.

Because panel-mount connectors for Thunderbolt cables don't exist, the Computer Mounting Module provides cable management tie-downs for securing all Thunderbolt cables that are connected to the Mac Pro during installation. An included Thunderbolt cable connects the Mac Pro to one of the xMac Pro Server PCIe expansion system's two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and an included lock secures the Thunderbolt cables in place when connected to the expansion system.

The xMac Pro Server provides space for additional expansion equipment. With the optional Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit (Basic Edition), users can install two 5.25-inch mobile rack devices of their choice in the outer enclosure and connect them easily to cards installed in the PCIe slots. Without taking up additional rack space, the kit supports an 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.

Sonnet also offers preconfigured Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kits that include the basic kit; one or two devices such as those mentioned above; a high-performance PCIe controller card to support the devices; and the necessary cables to connect them together. Users need only add their own hard drives, SSDs, or LTO tape drives to complete the package.

The xMac Pro Server has a suggested retail price of US$1,499. A basic edition Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit has a suggested retail price of $199 and is available now; preconfigured Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kits are also available now at retail prices ranging from $699 to $1,899.

A 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.

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