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SATA questions. RRS feed

  • Question

  • I have just ordered my WHS media kit. My plan is to re-use my XP machine, P4HT 3.00GHz 1GB RAM, (gives me an excuse to buy a new Vista machine). The m/b has 2 SATA1 ports, and some PCI slots. None of those fancy PCIe or PCI-X jobbies. I would like to use 4 SATA drives so I need to add 2 more SATA ports. The only PCI SATA2 cards I can source in New Zealand seem to be RAID controllers.

    Q : Will a RAID card allow me to connect drives without RAIDing them?

    Q : Does it matter if I have a mixture of SATA1 and SATA2 drives?

    Q : Can I connect SATA2 drives to my m/b SATA1 ports?

     

    Sorry to have so many questions, but the only thing I know about SATA is how to spell it.

    Friday, September 21, 2007 1:08 AM

Answers

  • The PCI bus is the bottleneck between anything connected to an add-in card and anything else, so yes, it would be a bottleneck between the two controllers. A bigger bottleneck is your network, which is why I said that your overall performance as a server wouldn't suffer with SATA I instead of SATA II. As for a 2 vs. 4 port SATA card, the PCI bus is still the bottleneck for any drive I/O.

    Overall, though, a single drive won't saturate your PCI bus. Two drives might. Drives are still much slower for sustained throughput than PCI.

    My suggestion? Don't overthink your hardware choice. Number one is to have good Windows Server 2003 support. Everything else is a distant second in my book, unless you need a particular form factor or motherboard feature for some reason. A solid motherboard that will take a gig of RAM and a modern CPU, gigabit ethernet, and enough drive connections for the drives you want to install is all you need. In your case, you can probably find a PCI card with 2 or more SATA ports for 25 USD or less. As long as it has Windows Server 2003 drivers available you should be fine.
    Friday, September 21, 2007 4:04 AM
    Moderator

All replies

  •  KiwiFidget wrote:
    Q : Will a RAID card allow me to connect drives without RAIDing them?
    It depends, but a card that won't let you use drives individually is pretty rare. You'll need to load drivers for whatever card you choose, however.
     KiwiFidget wrote:

    Q : Does it matter if I have a mixture of SATA1 and SATA2 drives?

    Not really, in terms of overall performance as a server. However, I wouldn't bother putting more than a SATA I PCI card in. SATA I has more bandwidth than PCI, so the PCI bus is the bottleneck. If you can find a good cheap SATA II card, though, don't let that stop you. Smile
     KiwiFidget wrote:

    Q : Can I connect SATA2 drives to my m/b SATA1 ports?

    Yes, though you may need to jumper them to slow them to SATA I speeds.

    Friday, September 21, 2007 3:14 AM
    Moderator
  • Thank you Ken, that was very helpful.

     

    Would I be right in assuming the PCI bus would be the bottleneck between the drives connected to the m/b SATA ports and the drives connected to the controller card?

    So a SATA2 controller card with 4 ports would not be hampered by the PCI bus, allowing 4 SATA2 drives to talk at full speed?

     

    Friday, September 21, 2007 3:37 AM
  • The PCI bus is the bottleneck between anything connected to an add-in card and anything else, so yes, it would be a bottleneck between the two controllers. A bigger bottleneck is your network, which is why I said that your overall performance as a server wouldn't suffer with SATA I instead of SATA II. As for a 2 vs. 4 port SATA card, the PCI bus is still the bottleneck for any drive I/O.

    Overall, though, a single drive won't saturate your PCI bus. Two drives might. Drives are still much slower for sustained throughput than PCI.

    My suggestion? Don't overthink your hardware choice. Number one is to have good Windows Server 2003 support. Everything else is a distant second in my book, unless you need a particular form factor or motherboard feature for some reason. A solid motherboard that will take a gig of RAM and a modern CPU, gigabit ethernet, and enough drive connections for the drives you want to install is all you need. In your case, you can probably find a PCI card with 2 or more SATA ports for 25 USD or less. As long as it has Windows Server 2003 drivers available you should be fine.
    Friday, September 21, 2007 4:04 AM
    Moderator
  •  

    I can get a Promise TX4310. It has 2003 drivers. But only two references to it in these forums, one good and one bad.

    Also a Promise TX2300. Two of these is slightly cheaper than the TX4310. About $NZ350. Everything else seems to be more than $NZ500.

     

    I'm thinking now, get one TX2300, and use my two m/b ports as well. Thanks for your help. 

    Friday, September 21, 2007 5:37 AM
  • Wow Ken

    Thanks for that post.

    in my server I have 6 discs, 2 connected to the MB (and show as IDE in WHS) and 4 connected to PCI cards (and show as SCSI).
    I take your point about the network being the bottle neck but when I copy files from the server I only use about 10% of my 1 GB network. When I copy files from a striped RAID array that I also have in the server (not in the storage pool) I get 20 - 30%. This is also a PCI card though.

    I'm getting a new MB soon with 4 SATA ports which should speed things up a bit. I have a bit a mix of HDDs and I have no idea if they are SATA 1 or 2 or what. Is there an easy way of telling?

    Again mega fast HDs might not make the server perform that much better but it will make balancing a lot quicker.

    My server is balancing storage literally all the time. Every time I am in there the HD light is flashing away like mad. THis can't be that good for the drives and is also consuming a lot of energy. The study is always boiling when I go in.

    Guess I need to look for some PCI-E SATA cards. Can anyone recommend any?

    Thanks.

    Giles.
    Friday, September 21, 2007 7:09 AM
  • Your best bet is something on the Windows Server 2003 HCL. Take a look; there's got to be something cheaper than $NZ350 on the list that you can get by mail order. Failing that, it's likely that many SATA PCI cards will have a Windows Server 2003 driver available. You'll have to check manufacturer web sites, though, and I would prefer to see you spend a little more for something that's been through Microsoft's testing regimen.

    BTW, most Promise cards are on the HCL. Even the inexpensive ones.
    Saturday, September 22, 2007 1:04 AM
    Moderator
  • Roaders, anything on the HCL is what I would recommend.

    Regarding buses: on a PCI card you are limited by the bandwidth the bus has available. PCI 1 runs at 33 MHz, and is 32 bits wide. That equates to a theoretical bandwidth of ~133 MB/s, which is shared among all devices on the bus. PCI Express has dedicated lanes for every device on the bus, so no shared bandwidth, and it has a much higher clock rate, resulting in throughput of about 500 MB/s for PCI-E 1x.

    Regarding general throughput: You're getting worse performance than I do. I see consistent 20%-25% utilization when reading from the server. Writing is much slower, due to Drive Extender (I think).

    Regarding balancing and HD temps: Hard drives have a range of temperatures in which they are certified to operate correctly. As long as the drive isn't outside that range, don't sweat it. It's like CPUs: if your CPU is rated to run at temps up to 85° C, and it's running at less than that under load, don't worry. The CPU will last long past the point where it's too slow for the kid's computer. Smile Cooling it to 40° C will make it last longer, but you'll never care.
    Saturday, September 22, 2007 1:20 AM
    Moderator
  • Gentlemen

     

    I am currently running a Intel 7210 entry level serverboard utilizing two of the three available PCI-X slots using Sil3124 cards you can get at cooldrives.com. The nice thing about these cards is you can flash the BIOS to run in IDE mode which allows direct control of each drive, in other words these cards don't even post in the BIOS and require no MB resources.  The two I have are in the Multilane configuration using SAS connections for a total of 8 external hard drives being utilized.  These boards will fit in standard PCI and still run at SATA II speeds and come in different flavors, i.e internal connections, Mulitlane connections and E-sata connections.  Silicone Image does have drivers for all the OS's including Server 2003.  The only thing is you will have to do the F6 install to get the drivers to install correctly upon initial set-up.  For the cost these are the best for the buck!!  You may want to check it out.  On the mention of PCI-E cards, be very, very carefull, I have in the last year tested the following and have had major problems.  It seems that the BIOS allocations on most motherboards are not sufficient to support some boards adaquately and will result in dropped drives and/or corrupted files.  Again these are my experiences using a Intel 975XBX, Intel 975XBX2, Intel 965, and Intel 945, Asus P5 series, and MSI 975 Series.

     

    Cards tested and failed with BIOS memory allocation issues:

    Highpoint PCI-e 2300, 2310, 2322, 2320

    Areca 1220

     

    Hope this helps for you to make a better decision as far as add on sata cards go.

     

    Smitty

    Monday, September 24, 2007 12:53 PM
  • Hi,

    I have that Promise TX4310. Besides a quirky driver installation during the setup of the RTM this hardware is running very well.

    Best greetings from Germany

    Olaf

    Monday, September 24, 2007 8:33 PM
    Moderator
  • Will having only PCI slots limit anything else from working at full speed?

    I was also going to add a PCI gigabit ethernet card, but will I notice any difference from my onboard 10/100Mbps NIC?

     

     

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007 11:40 PM
  • PCI is a shared bus, but a PCI gigabit ethernet card won't saturate it. It will have an effect on any drives being served off the PCI bus, though. I see that in my production WHS, which has an aftermarket NIC and a RAID controller on the bus. Large file transfers are noticeably slowed by the contention, but I do so few such transfers that it doesn't really bother me for now.

    Anyway, adding a gigabit NIC will probably up your throughput somewhat. How much will depend on what else you're doing with your server, and what hardware you have.
    Wednesday, September 26, 2007 12:15 AM
    Moderator
  • Hi Olaf,

     

    Which drivers are you using and can you please elaborate on "a quirky driver installation".

    I'm currently considering buying a new core 2 quad workstation PC and using my existing P4 3GHz 4GbRAM 400Gb RAID10 (Promise TX4310) as a WHS. Do you have an alternate drive to boot from? (I've read numerours posts here about people having issues with booting from a raid array on the TX4310)

    If the Promise TX4310 doesn't work with WHS, I'll have to find another RAID controller or just a SATA300 controller for my sata disks.

     

    /Jonas

    Sunday, December 9, 2007 4:27 PM
  • Hi Jonas,

    It turned out, that pointing the GUI to the driver USB stick and having the file copy started does not take care about the mass storage drivers provided at this point after a subsequent reboot.

    The following non GUI setup part did accept only a floppy disk. The provided drivers have been read and so the disk could be recognized for the next step, but this part also rejected to copy the files from that floppy with only the message file (filename) could not be copied for all the 3 files and only options skip and retry. Skipping of course caused the next reboot to GUI again end in BSOD 0x7B. Maybe a file was missing or buggy on the floppy (which has been generated with the drivers from the Promise website).

    So I booted from the Homeserver disk again in the hope to be able to perform this copy process manually from the setup GUI, but failed. At least I could not find an emergency cmd prompt reachable to access the file system for some repair. So I had finally to boot again from a Vista DVD and copy the files from floppy disk to the Windows inf and drivers subfolders on the harddisk - a method, which is far from comfortable.

    But after that setup finished (do not forget to put the WHS Setup disk in again).

    Best greetings from Germany

    Olaf

    Sunday, December 9, 2007 6:16 PM
    Moderator