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WHS and Data on a Raid 5 array RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hello,

    I did search the forums for RAID support and largest supported volume size. One post from an MVP mentioned that hardware raid works (but is not supported by MS atm and that's fine). Also a lot of posts mention the current largest volume supported is <=2T(i?)B. Here's my planned setup:

    Ancient box with an AMD 3200+, 1 GB of RAM, a 200GB PATA for the system drive, an Adaptec PCI 4 port SATA RAID (2410SA) card and 3*1 TB SATA drives for a RAID5 configuration of 2TB available space for data. Will this setup work for installing WHS on the systemdrive and using the RAID array for data? Or will WHS insist on a mirror for the RAID array? Can I disable the mirroring aspect and force WSH to use the data volume? I don't want to install the OS on the array itself.

    My other alternative is to install  Windows 2000 Server or slap Debian on the box. WHS does have me intrigued enough to want to try it out (ordered the free 120 day eval kit). The primary purpose of this box is for backup and maybe a little fileserving (get it to talk to the 360 in the living room).

    Thanks in advance.
    Tuesday, October 7, 2008 11:04 PM

Answers

  • "Will this setup work for installing WHS on the systemdrive and using the RAID array for data?"

    Yes.

    My current setup uses one 500gb hard drive as the system drive and a 4x320gb RAID5 array as a data drive.  I do use file duplication on some of my WHS shares (what you're calling mirroring I believe).  This results in the data being duplicated on both the system drive and the RAID5 array.  In addition I backup data onto a separate external hard drive every few weeks.

    My choice in using a RAID5 array for data was really out of idle curiousity than for performance or data safety issues.

    Your RAID5 array of three 1TB hard drives will result in 2 TB of useable space and would fit in the requiements of <= 2TB.

    • Marked as answer by Pawsome Wednesday, October 8, 2008 2:56 PM
    Wednesday, October 8, 2008 12:08 AM

All replies

  • "Will this setup work for installing WHS on the systemdrive and using the RAID array for data?"

    Yes.

    My current setup uses one 500gb hard drive as the system drive and a 4x320gb RAID5 array as a data drive.  I do use file duplication on some of my WHS shares (what you're calling mirroring I believe).  This results in the data being duplicated on both the system drive and the RAID5 array.  In addition I backup data onto a separate external hard drive every few weeks.

    My choice in using a RAID5 array for data was really out of idle curiousity than for performance or data safety issues.

    Your RAID5 array of three 1TB hard drives will result in 2 TB of useable space and would fit in the requiements of <= 2TB.

    • Marked as answer by Pawsome Wednesday, October 8, 2008 2:56 PM
    Wednesday, October 8, 2008 12:08 AM
  • Thank you Lliam. 
    Wednesday, October 8, 2008 2:58 PM
  • Pawsome:

    This is exactly what I planned on back in 2003 when I first setup my MCE "Media Box".  While the answer to your "Will it work?" question is, "yes", it is not the most efficient setup - especially the way WHS handles data in the "Storage Pool".  There are also a few facts you need to be aware of, mostly good news.  Note: I am surprised you did not find my posts over the last two weeks, as I have asked precisely these type of questions and limits.

    Largest supported volume size is 2 TB.  While this sounds like bad news, let's define a few terms that may be confusing for others and how they apply here.

    Container - When you setup a RAID array set of any type, in your RAID Bios (card, or onboard) you setup what is called a "container".  This "container" is seen by the operating systems as simple a Storage Device.  Which, in turn, you can format one or several Volumes.

    Volume - My definition of a "volume" is a "Partition" on a HDD (or device).  This can be either a Primary or Secondary partition type.

    Storage Pool - This is WHS' "grand storage array" accessible only via Shares (you really want to use only the shares, and stay away from the "D" drive WHS creates.

    With these definitions, you would create a RAID5 container of 3x 1TB HDDs.  Standard RAID5 will give you about a 2 TB container in size.  This is as far as you can go; because, when you want to add a Storage Device to WHS (done via the console, don't worry, you can add normal drives to), WHS formats that storage device - completely erasing all data.

    Like I mentioned, you can add storage devices without WHS formatting it.  You don't have to add it to the pool (see my screenshot in this post, where you can see one of my 500GB drives is not added to the Storage pool).

    Now, for a few FAQs that were not answered here:

    Q: What if I want to grow the RAID container by adding more drives?  Will WHS use the extra space as another partition?
    A: No.  If you stick in a 10 TB hdd, as of today, WHS will format the drive as 2 TB partition - wasting the extra space.

    Alternative?  Create muliple RAID5 containers (this is what I am helping a buddy build for his WHS).  Let's take a 8 port RAID card.  Use two ports for a RAID1 container (at least 300 GB!), and install the OS on here.  This leaves 6x ports, so you can create two RAID5 2 TB containers if you had 6x 1 TB HDDs.  This gives you a total space of about 4.2 TB when it is all said and done (you adding the RAID Containers as "storage hdds" to the storage pool.

    Q: Another question that might popup from your suggested setup is, "Why > 300GB for the OS?"
    A: Actually, this is not for the OS.  It's for the "WHS System Drive".  WHS will format 20 GB for the "C", which you will never touch!  The rest gets formatted as a drive "D", that is the start of your storage pool - and any storage devices you add will simply extend the grand storage pool, but drive "D" doesn't change.  Think of drive "D" as your "configuration" drive that holds all of the configuration settings, shares, and so on.  Again, you will not touch "D".  You have been warned.

    Now the > 300 GB suggestion is because of copying.  Say me, who tried to copy 600 GB last night, ran into an issue because my drive "D" has only 420 GB free - it is dirt slow, taking > 12h.  This is because WHS uses the rest of your system drive (D) as a "temp copying dumping ground".  In other words, since I have about 420 GB free - I should only have moved data in chunks of 400 GB.


    Suggestions:  I have a few suggestions from my RAID experience in IT and now with MCE and WHS. 

    1) PCI RAID is S-L-O-W.  The PCI bus maxes out at 133 MB/s.  RAID 5 gives you two pros: 1) It attempts redundancy security of your data with parity mapping, and 2) it increases the overall throughput by 33% (in a 3 HDD setup).  If  you use more that 3 HDDs, you increase the speed even more - but, you are at a greater risk of loosing data bacause in RAID5: You can loose 1 HDD, but not 2 HDDs.

    2) RAID 5EE is a better option for securing your data, with increasing the I/O speed.  But, this uses up another HDD.  In this case, I suggest RAID6 for consumers if you are willing to go with 4 HDD in a RAID 5EE setup.  Higher I/O, especially if two HDDs completely fail, your HDDs will not be going insane as they would be in RAID 5EE.

    3) Scrap RAID and just use an SATA extender card.  They make some cheap ones for PCIe x1 ports.  Why?  Because WHS has what is called "Duplication" that will attempt a RAID1-like storage of your share folders you mark as Duplication. 

    Pros: WHS manages the "health" of each HDD.  When it detects one failing, or failed, it moves your Duplicated data around to other HDDs, away from the bad HDD  Think of "auto-restore".  Also, another pro is cost: there is no cost.  Just plug in more HDDs. I have 8 sata ports on my mobo, and plan on filling that up.

    The BIGGEST pro for me was that WHS will SPIN DOWN YOUR HDDS!  (I will be blogging about my Power-Saving techniques with WHS soon).  I wanted a very energy efficient, quiet box sitting in my home office. No raid cards do not support spin down, unless you get into the >$600 range (i.e. Adaptec 5xxx series).

    Cons: There is two cons to letting WHS use HDDs out-right.  One is speed: you only get the I/O of the HDD that the data is sitting on.  The average 7200 HDD these days gets about 60 MB/s, on a good day. 

    The second con is one I am still debating setting up my RAID6 containers again for: The "Drive Extender Service" runs at all times, and manages your Storage Pool - especially handling Duplication (and I think SIS for the backups).  The "DEMigrator.exe" service can really chew up your CPU and HDD I/O resources, when you are moving or copying a large number of files (i.e. I was copying 10,000 pictures and media).  It took about a day for it to calm down, but main my HDDs were going insane during that time.

    My theory to side-step the DEMigrator.exe "HDD Insanity" issue, and the general I/O throughput, is to setup two RAID6 containers on 8x 1 TB HDDs.  This will give me 4 TB of storage.  Since I will NOT be using Duplication on any folders using this new storage pool (removing the other HDDs obviously) because the RAID6 gives me my duplication, this should side-step the DEMigrator.exe service from going insane on my HDDs.  But, of course, I need a raid controller that will spin-down the HDDs when not in use (i.e. the Adaptec 5085).  This setup is not for everyone, or even 5% of WHS users out there.  The controller alone costs > $600, plus the cost of 8x $100 HDDs.

    I think I could use that money for a nice vacation instead.  :)


    To finish, why do I suggest no RAID?  I have an $450 Adaptec 3805 PCIe 8-port card, sitting on the floor.  As well as an $850 Adaptec 31605 PCIe 16-port card! (not to mention an Adaptec 5085 PCIe 8-port External card for massive drive arrays, I may keep).   Major players for RAID, and I had major plans!  But, after some testing I decided to just use SATA ports and let WHS control it and regain my $$$ (think stock market, vacation), not to mention the spin-down power/noise savings.  No, i did not pay that much for them (got to love eBay) - but I know serious hardware is required to secure my data and to setup a proper RAID system.

    And those of you reading this that are even considering Software RAID, needs to be shot.  Go home.

    (Ps, too tired to spell-check - sorry for the mis-spellings, all nighter!)

    Eric A. Duncan http://eduncan911.com
    Wednesday, October 8, 2008 4:18 PM
  • eduncan911.com said:

    Now the > 300 GB suggestion is because of copying.  Say me, who tried to copy 600 GB last night, ran into an issue because my drive "D" has only 420 GB free - it is dirt slow, taking > 12h.  This is because WHS uses the rest of your system drive (D) as a "temp copying dumping ground".  In other words, since I have about 420 GB free - I should only have moved data in chunks of 400 GB.


    With power pack 1 this has changed.  The 'landing zone' concept is no longer in use with the exception that WHS returns the size of the D: share to Vista when Vista verifies that there is enough space on the destination drive when copying.  Copying of data now results in the data being copied directly to the destination drive.


    Re: RAID
    I'll agree, don't worry about setting up a RAID array, just use WHS duplication & append disks as needed.


    FWIW, I am using the Intel ICH10R onboard raid at this time (software raid).  I've done some performance tests and performance is adequate.  (I've got a post somewhere about my experience w/ this)  My RAID array does spin its disks down (the disks make quite a racket spinning back up).  I don't believe I did anything special - perhaps the Intel Matrix Manager software uses system settings for power management.
    Wednesday, October 8, 2008 9:10 PM
  • I did consider a SATA controller card when I was sure of putting Debian on the machine (and using mdadm to manage the array). My only motivation for considering RAID5 (and the card which costs 400 odd$ but thankfully ebay is around) was to get a little more space out of three drives.

    The idea is for the data to survive long enough for me to take backups on DVD (once a month or once in two months, give or take). Hopefully Blu-ray burners will come down soon to around 100$ (cheapest Liteon on newegg is 199$ atm) that I can take bigger backups of data! -   Thanks all for replying.
    Wednesday, October 8, 2008 10:24 PM
  • TotallyPawsome said:

    I did consider a SATA controller card when I was sure of putting Debian on the machine (and using mdadm to manage the array). My only motivation for considering RAID5 (and the card which costs 400 odd$ but thankfully ebay is around) was to get a little more space out of three drives.

    The idea is for the data to survive long enough for me to take backups on DVD (once a month or once in two months, give or take). Hopefully Blu-ray burners will come down soon to around 100$ (cheapest Liteon on newegg is 199$ atm) that I can take bigger backups of data! -   Thanks all for replying.


    Considering Blu-ray media is ~$15 a pop (that's for one, and it use to be $25!), it may be a while before Blue-ray is a practical backup medium.

    Given your configuration & need - I would use two of the 1 TB drives as data drives (non raid).  Enable duplication for important items (to ensure data is copied to a different drive).  Then stick the remaining 1 TB drive into an external enclosure and use it as a USB drive to back up important data from your server (WHS allows you to use a drive for server backup).
    Wednesday, October 8, 2008 11:04 PM
  •  

    I have an M/B with 8 SATA ports, 6 of them can be used for RAID-volumes, so I bought six 1 TB Samsung 7200rpm Spinpoint SATA drives (HD103UJ) and created an RAID5-volume of approximate 5 TB. As this volume is too large to boot on I installed an 250 GB SATA drive to be used for the system.

    After installing WHS and loaded drives for the RAID etc, the setup looks very good besides one thing, the DATA-volume starts with 230 GB of the system drive and continued on the RAID-volume…  this I do not want, the system drive isn’t redundant and I want to have all data on “fail-safe” drives..


    This is what I want:
    Drive 0 - SATA (250 GB) - System Drive for O/S etc, no data storage on this drive
    Drive 1 - RAID5 (5 TB) volume - Data storage

    Thanks,
    Tomas

    Sunday, November 2, 2008 1:28 PM