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Hardware RAID or WHS software duplication? RRS feed

  • Question

  •  

    I just collected my WHS hardware and now it’s about time to install the software, but before I start out, I have one question regarding configuration of RAID.

     

    My Motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R with RAID support (Intel Matrix Storage Technology).

     

    I have 3 new hard drives and my GOAL is to use RAID5, because of the high data protection and performance.

     

    I was reading some threads in this forum, but I not sure how to proceed, the Manuel says:

     

    To successfully install operating system onto SATA hard drive(s) that is/are configured to RAID/AHCI mode, you need to install the SATA controller driver during the OS installation. Without the driver, the hard drive may not be recognized during the Windows setup process.

     

    1)      You need to config the required BIOS settings

    a.       To create RAID, set SATA RAID/AHCI Mode under the Integrated Peripherals menu to RAIDSATA RAID/AHCI Mode 1 [RAID]

    b.      Save changes and exit BIOS Setup.

    c.       After the POST memory test begins and before the operating system boot begins, look for a message which says Press <Ctrl> + <I> to enter the RAID Configuration Utility.

    d.      Select Create RAID Volume in MAIN MENU

    e.       Select a RAID level RAID 5

    f.        Select the hard drives to be included in the RAID array.

    g.       Set the stripe block size

    h.       When completed, you can see detailed information about the RAID array in the DISK/VOLUME INFORMATION section.

    2)      Prepare a ATA RAID/AHCI driver diskette/CD with the driver

    a.       Restart your system to boot from the Windows Vista/XP/2000 setup disk and press <F6> as soon as you see the message "Press F6 if you need to install a 3rd party SCSI or RAID driver" (Figure1). After pressing <F6>

    3)      And you are ready to install Windows Vista/XP/2000 onto your hard drive(s).

     

     

    It’s the way to do it will it work good? Is there a <F6> options on WHS like Windows?

     

    It seems like the WHS with hardware RAID is unsupported from Microsoft.

    Should I consider the WHS own software (I'm not sure what that works):

    1)      Install WHS on one disk and expand it with to disks after with the Drive Extender?

    2)      And then activate 'folder duplication' This replicates the data onto the second drive as a precaution against the first disk failing?

     

    Let me know how your running your system!

     

    Friday, January 18, 2008 11:00 AM

Answers

  • It's certainly possible to install WHS on a RAID array. As you've already learned, it's unsupported, which in this case means that Microsoft doesn't test for issues that may occur as a result of RAID, won't accept bug reports from systems with a RAID array, and should you ever call for (paid) support might just tell you "Well, you need to break your array and reinstall the operating system. Then we'll see if your problem continues to occur."

    There are other reasons not to use a RAID array in a WHS system. You're planning to use the RAID controller on the motherboard. While those controllers are much better than they were, it's still software RAID; there's no hardware RAID acceleration, and many of the advanced features of high-end RAID controllers will be absent. So your performance will not be all you're expecting. (Not that that matters. You won't see any benefit anyway; other system bottlenecks will reduce your total I/O performance to well below the capabilites of any single drive.) You may find that you can't easily expand your array without breaking it and recreating it, too. Even if you can expand it, you will never be able to take it beyond the 6 ports on the motherboard.

    Overall, RAID isn't a recommended configuration for a lot of good reasons. But if you insist on trying it, you will have to supply your drivers twice. Once is during the initial graphical setup, when it asks if you want to add storage drivers. The second time is at the start of text mode setup, at the Press F6 prompt. For the second, you will have to supply your drivers on a floppy.
    Friday, January 18, 2008 12:36 PM
    Moderator

  • You can do a couple of things.  One is add the volume to your WHS as any other volume.  This gives you some (odd) safety benefit, however it probably won't give you any performance benefit.

    You could *try* to use a mirroring software (i.e. Acronis) to mirror your non RAID disk to your RAID array.  This might be feasible if your WHS only uses one physical drive.  Personally I wouldn't try this unless I had all my WHS data backed up elsewhere.  Otherwise you may be re-installing WHS.

    You can also run HDTach on your RAID array to see if you're getting any performance benefit at all.  My experience with onboard RAID controllers is that RAID5 is going to be very slow.  RAID0 will give a performance boost, RAID1 will limit performance and RAID01/10 may or may not give you a performance gain.


     Shawn G. wrote:
    I have done as suggested with success (got WHS up without RAID, then loaded Raid). 

    The WHS Console can see "1.82 TB" of disk at the Location: "Internal (SCSI)".  Do I now just add this disk to the pool from the console?  I have read that the storage pool should be avoided with your RAID, but how?   Map a network drive (to disk on the server?)

    Thanks for helping this enthusiastic Novice with this!!



    Shawn G.
     - 250 GB OS disk (20GB used for OS - C Drive, balance on D Drive)
     - Highpoint 2320 RAID Controller in RAID 5 with
     - 5 X 500 GB disk (Available to add via Console but not viewable at all from WHS's "My Computer")
    Saturday, February 2, 2008 9:47 PM

All replies

  • It's certainly possible to install WHS on a RAID array. As you've already learned, it's unsupported, which in this case means that Microsoft doesn't test for issues that may occur as a result of RAID, won't accept bug reports from systems with a RAID array, and should you ever call for (paid) support might just tell you "Well, you need to break your array and reinstall the operating system. Then we'll see if your problem continues to occur."

    There are other reasons not to use a RAID array in a WHS system. You're planning to use the RAID controller on the motherboard. While those controllers are much better than they were, it's still software RAID; there's no hardware RAID acceleration, and many of the advanced features of high-end RAID controllers will be absent. So your performance will not be all you're expecting. (Not that that matters. You won't see any benefit anyway; other system bottlenecks will reduce your total I/O performance to well below the capabilites of any single drive.) You may find that you can't easily expand your array without breaking it and recreating it, too. Even if you can expand it, you will never be able to take it beyond the 6 ports on the motherboard.

    Overall, RAID isn't a recommended configuration for a lot of good reasons. But if you insist on trying it, you will have to supply your drivers twice. Once is during the initial graphical setup, when it asks if you want to add storage drivers. The second time is at the start of text mode setup, at the Press F6 prompt. For the second, you will have to supply your drivers on a floppy.
    Friday, January 18, 2008 12:36 PM
    Moderator
  • I'll skip the motherboard RAID for now, and take a better look at the options on the Home Sever.

    I prerfer a stable system over RAID :-)

     

    Thanks for the input!

     

    Friday, January 18, 2008 5:17 PM
  • I'm not saying that your server wouldn't be stable, and with enough disks it would outperform a multi-disk server pretty handily. Early in the beta program I ran a server on RAID for several months. I eventually gave up on it because I couldn't grow the array without breaking and rebuilding it. Which reminds me of another advantage of letting WHS handle your disks: the disks that WHS manages are formatted individually using the NTFS file system. The disks your RAID controller are not, individually. The array is formatted with NTFS, but there's no way of getting at the data one disk at a time.

    WHS is similar to RAID 1, and that's enough data protection for me. Smile Performance-wise, though, you'll see a benefit as long as the only "disk" is your array.
    Friday, January 18, 2008 9:09 PM
    Moderator
  • I have chosen to move forward with RAID5 on my WHS and although I have had problems, I have learned there were of my own making. The advantage I see with RAID5 is more capacity than with WHS duplication. For any that would want to try this I suggest getting WHS up and running without RAID activated (do not connect those drives) then load the RAID drivers. WHS will see a new drive and prompt with the new drive wizard.

     

    Friday, January 18, 2008 9:18 PM
  • I have done as suggested with success (got WHS up without RAID, then loaded Raid). 

    The WHS Console can see "1.82 TB" of disk at the Location: "Internal (SCSI)".  Do I now just add this disk to the pool from the console?  I have read that the storage pool should be avoided with your RAID, but how?   Map a network drive (to disk on the server?)

    Thanks for helping this enthusiastic Novice with this!!



    Shawn G.
     - 250 GB OS disk (20GB used for OS - C Drive, balance on D Drive)
     - Highpoint 2320 RAID Controller in RAID 5 with
     - 5 X 500 GB disk (Available to add via Console but not viewable at all from WHS's "My Computer")
    Saturday, February 2, 2008 8:58 PM

  • You can do a couple of things.  One is add the volume to your WHS as any other volume.  This gives you some (odd) safety benefit, however it probably won't give you any performance benefit.

    You could *try* to use a mirroring software (i.e. Acronis) to mirror your non RAID disk to your RAID array.  This might be feasible if your WHS only uses one physical drive.  Personally I wouldn't try this unless I had all my WHS data backed up elsewhere.  Otherwise you may be re-installing WHS.

    You can also run HDTach on your RAID array to see if you're getting any performance benefit at all.  My experience with onboard RAID controllers is that RAID5 is going to be very slow.  RAID0 will give a performance boost, RAID1 will limit performance and RAID01/10 may or may not give you a performance gain.


     Shawn G. wrote:
    I have done as suggested with success (got WHS up without RAID, then loaded Raid). 

    The WHS Console can see "1.82 TB" of disk at the Location: "Internal (SCSI)".  Do I now just add this disk to the pool from the console?  I have read that the storage pool should be avoided with your RAID, but how?   Map a network drive (to disk on the server?)

    Thanks for helping this enthusiastic Novice with this!!



    Shawn G.
     - 250 GB OS disk (20GB used for OS - C Drive, balance on D Drive)
     - Highpoint 2320 RAID Controller in RAID 5 with
     - 5 X 500 GB disk (Available to add via Console but not viewable at all from WHS's "My Computer")
    Saturday, February 2, 2008 9:47 PM
  • Thanks Lliam.

    I re-configured my RAID 5 to JBOD.

    I surrender to the God's of M$, may they have mercy on my $oul...
    Sunday, February 3, 2008 1:44 AM
  • It's always fun to try these things to see how they work. Smile

    Sunday, February 3, 2008 7:34 AM
  • The advantage I am looking for in considering using RAID would be for the benefit of not having to reinstall WHS should the disk it's installed on fail.  I'm guessing WHS can't make it's own installation fault tolerant with it's own replication technologies - is this true?

     

    Can WHS be installed on a modest size drive (say 100GB) and be configured to write all shared data to a pair of 1TB drives?  If so, can WHS create a DR boot disc to restore itself from?

     

    Friday, June 20, 2008 3:17 AM
  • Chris,

    Initially, you really need to read the WHS Documentation , in the build, you should be using your largest available drive ( say 300Gb or so,) as your system drive. This allows a large transfer area for files being transferred to the server.

    You cannot alter the way WHS uses it's drives, by choosing which drives do what; however, if you use a least three drives, with each pair of drives other than the system disk being similar size, then all your duplicated data will be stored across these other drives.

    I'm not really sure that there is any benefit in using a Raid array for the system disk, but that's your choice. I've found that a re-installation is relevantly quick and then it's just a matter of re-adding the Clients etc.

     

    Colin

    Friday, June 20, 2008 11:21 AM
  • Hi everyone,

    I have recently installed my WHS. I'm extremely happy with it, except for one thing: the system drive is not fault tolerant. As it took quite a lot of juggling to get the install to work at all (an older Dell Dimension 4400, no onboard SATA, SATA using a PCI card, unexpected issues with drivers, etc. etc.) I find an answer like "Just plug in a new disk en run the installation DVD" not very satisfactory. I would very much like to see a genuine solution to this issue (which I would still call a problem). I read in another forum that using ntbackup.exe won't work either. In fact most of the fora tell em that I shouldn't use any non-WHS disk software at all, as the software won't understand the WHS file store. This looks like a serious lock-in to me... [In the Netherlands I don't see a lot of mention of WHS, only right after the announcement.]

    Can anyone recommend me a safe way to backup the system partition in such a format that I would be able to restore from the backup?

    John
    Monday, April 27, 2009 4:13 PM
  • John, there is no supported method of backing up the system partition. That is, I'm afraid, the last word from Microsoft on the topic. The main obstacle to backing up and restoring the system partition isn't that non-WHS software doesn't understand the file system, it's that there is volatile system configuration information that will get backed up that may cause severe issues when you restore from the backup later.

    The chosen method of restoring from a system drive failure or OS corruption is intended to be usable by people with no technical skills to speak of. these people will have purchased an OEM product from e.g. HP or Fujitsu-Siemens, and the manufacturer will provide a way to reimage the system partition (or rebuild the entire system disk, in the case of a disk failure) easily and safely. (Normally this is via a network boot and restore of some sort.)

    There are options for someone with a good technical background. If you have purchased the software in a system builder package, it should have come with a disk labeled something like "OEM Preinstallation Kit" or "OPK". On this disk are tools that will allow you to create an image of your system disk similar to the one that e.g. HP uses to perform a server recovery. 



    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Monday, April 27, 2009 5:05 PM
    Moderator
  • Chris,

    Initially, you really need to read the WHS Documentation , in the build, you should be using your largest available drive ( say 300Gb or so,) as your system drive. This allows a large transfer area for files being transferred to the server.

    You cannot alter the way WHS uses it's drives, by choosing which drives do what; however, if you use a least three drives, with each pair of drives other than the system disk being similar size, then all your duplicated data will be stored across these other drives.

    I'm not really sure that there is any benefit in using a Raid array for the system disk, but that's your choice. I've found that a re-installation is relevantly quick and then it's just a matter of re-adding the Clients etc.

     

    Colin

    I initially built my WHS with 2 drives.  I installed WHS on the 750 GB drive as primary, with a 250 GB as secondary.  Now I am considering adding a 1 TB drive.  Should I expect any issues if I want to replace the 250 GB with the 1 TB?  Ideally, the largest drive should be the primary, but this will seldom happen as new drives added are probably newer and larger.  Will I be OK with a 750 GB primary and 1 TB secondary?

    Should I consider keeping the 250 GB drive as well?  Finally, assuming I want to drop the 250 GB and just go with the 1 TB, what is the correct way?  Do I tell the OS to stop using the 250 GB, power the server down, remove the 250 GB, add the 1 TB, boot the server and tell it to use the 1 TB? 

    Thanks.
    Monday, May 4, 2009 3:51 PM
  • I initially built my WHS with 2 drives.  I installed WHS on the 750 GB drive as primary, with a 250 GB as secondary.  Now I am considering adding a 1 TB drive.  Should I expect any issues if I want to replace the 250 GB with the 1 TB?

    No.  Just power down the server, connect the 1 TB drive to the server, power up the server, then add the 1 TB drive first through the Console.  After that, remove the 250 GB drive through the Console, then power down the server and disconnect the 250 GB drive.

    Ideally, the largest drive should be the primary

    The way WHS works, it doesn't matter.

    but this will seldom happen as new drives added are probably newer and larger.  Will I be OK with a 750 GB primary and 1 TB secondary?

    Yep.

    Should I consider keeping the 250 GB drive as well?

    It's up to you.  It gives you more space, but also draws more electricity.

    Finally, assuming I want to drop the 250 GB and just go with the 1 TB, what is the correct way?  Do I tell the OS to stop using the 250 GB, power the server down, remove the 250 GB, add the 1 TB, boot the server and tell it to use the 1 TB? 

    Thanks.

    See above.
    Tuesday, May 5, 2009 3:36 AM
    Moderator
  • No.  Just power down the server, connect the 1 TB drive to the server, power up the server, then add the 1 TB drive first through the Console.  After that, remove the 250 GB drive through the Console, then power down the server and disconnect the 250 GB drive.

    Ideally, the largest drive should be the primary

    The way WHS works, it doesn't matter.
    Thanks for the response.  May I assume that I do not need to allow any "set" time between adding the 1 TB drive in the Console and removing the 250 GB drive?  Meaning, I go into the Console, add one and immediately remove the other?

    As for saying "it doesn't matter" if the primary drive is the largest, was this a change brought about in PP1?  I remember reading the recommendation of using the largest disk as primary in a Microsoft document when I first set up my WHS.

    Thanks again.
    Tuesday, May 5, 2009 5:57 PM
  • Thanks for the response.  May I assume that I do not need to allow any "set" time between adding the 1 TB drive in the Console and removing the 250 GB drive?

    I would wait for WHS to finish configuring the drive first. ;)  But yes,   you can immediately remove the 250 GB drive afterwards.

    Meaning, I go into the Console, add one and immediately remove the other?

    As for saying "it doesn't matter" if the primary drive is the largest, was this a change brought about in PP1?

    Actually, it's more to do with KB957825.

    I remember reading the recommendation of using the largest disk as primary in a Microsoft document when I first set up my WHS.

    Thanks again.

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009 1:23 AM
    Moderator