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WHS and RAID-1 for the System Drive RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • After being bit by a failed Seagate system drive (not sure if caused by the known Seagate firmware issue) I do hope that the next version of WHS will make it easier to use RAID-1 for at least the system drive (C: and D:).

    I know that the OS can be reinstalled and that the data is safe but once the OS is reinstalled the add-ins need to be configured. You also have updates, service packs and others. The whole thing could be time consuming and as usual these things have the habit of failing at the most inopportune moment.
    Monday, March 16, 2009 3:37 PM

All replies

  • Normally, the most onerous part of a reinstallation is going to be recreating users and reassigning security. In the case of a system drive failure, there will be a long pause in setup while "tombstones" are rebuilt, but that doesn't require user intervention. In a standard Windows Home Server installation, add-ins will already be present in the appropriate folder and can be immediately reinstalled. If an add-in needs to persist configuration information across the reinstallation process, there is a mechanism available for it to do so in the SDK (application folders, assuming that either duplication was turned on for that folder by the add-in or that the folder wasn't damaged by a drive failure). Home computers will be picked back up and reconnected with their backups (assuming the backup database isn't damaged by a drive failure which resulted in the reinstallation). So all that's left is the recreation of users.

    If you do extensive customization of your server outside of the Console, then you are on your own as far as rebuilding those configuration changes. 

    If you find that you need to perform frequent server reinstallations/recoveries, there is probably something more fundamental at issue. Perhaps you're using the server in an inappropriate manner (it's not designed for even light desktop use, for example), or perhaps you have a hardware or driver problem that should be resolved. Possibly an add-in is causing problems, too.

    All that said, if you feel strongly about this, you should go to Connect, register (if you haven't already), and search the Feedback section for a suggestion that you agree with (there are a number relating to RAID support). If you don't find one, submit your own. Just realize that the lack of official support for RAID is an intentional decision, and it's likely that the product team will require a lot of convincing to change that design decision.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Monday, March 16, 2009 3:56 PM
    Moderator
  • Ken: I respectably disagree with the MS view on not supporting RAID for WHS.  My set-up includes a RAID 1 for the "C" & "D" drive.  Simple, I don't have the time to reinstall the "C" drive if the hard drive fails.  Where I somewhat agree with MS is that no software RAID should be supported, but, I'm using real RAID, a 3ware 9650SE-4LPML, which is working great.   I can set this up with a hot spare which automatically rebuilds in cause one drive fails.  If the "average" user needs to understand how to set-up a computer bios, then, they have all the skills to handle a hardware RAID card.  Please, MS don't patronize your end-user.
    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 2:03 AM
  • working1 said:

    Ken: I respectably disagree with the MS view on not supporting RAID for WHS.  My set-up includes a RAID 1 for the "C" & "D" drive.  Simple, I don't have the time to reinstall the "C" drive if the hard drive fails.  Where I somewhat agree with MS is that no software RAID should be supported, but, I'm using real RAID, a 3ware 9650SE-4LPML, which is working great.   I can set this up with a hot spare which automatically rebuilds in cause one drive fails.  If the "average" user needs to understand how to set-up a computer bios, then, they have all the skills to handle a hardware RAID card.  Please, MS don't patronize your end-user.


    I don't think you understand the target audience of the product.  It's not people who are in the IT field who know what RAID is.  It's the average John Doe who doesn't have the foggiest idea what you're talking about (either BIOS or RAID).  If you get it to work, fantastic.  It's still not supported.
    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 2:20 AM
    Moderator
  • kariya21 said:

    I don't think you understand the target audience of the product.  It's not people who are in the IT field who know what RAID is.  It's the average John Doe who doesn't have the foggiest idea what you're talking about (either BIOS or RAID).  If you get it to work, fantastic.  It's still not supported.



    Sorry. I don't want to start anything here, but that is one of the most pathetic replies that I heard. If the average John Doe doesn't have the foggiest idea about BIOS and RAID, the average John Doe would not be in there.  But for crying out loud why restrict those that do have an idea from doing it?
    If John Doe cannot drive a car does it mean that I can't drive one either?
    If Bill Gates had gone that way many years ago there would be no Microsoft. We might be running now some kind of iHS.
    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 10:12 AM
  • You can build your server with a RAID array, John. There are many reasons why Microsoft chose not to support those hardware configurations (See Why RAID is not a consumer technology, which I also linked above, for some of them), but there's nothing in the product that will break just because you have a RAID array in the storage pool. A RAID array and dodgy drivers is a different matter, of course, but that would be a problem anyway...

    What most people think of as software RAID (handled entirely in the operating system) is not only not supported, but can't be configured for Windows Home Server at all. But hardware RAID (including RAID from the motherboard, which is actually software RAID handled at a lower level than the OS) should normally work.

    The target market plays into this in a couple of ways. First, they don't have the technical knowledge to understand the tradeoffs involved. Second, adding a RAID controller will increase the BOM costs for an OEM unit rather significantly, and consumers will probably balk at the increased price.




    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 4:32 PM
    Moderator
  •  

    I did read the link provided by Ken on “Why RAID is not a consumer technology”.   So let me rate where I see this version of WHS:

    Windows Home Server storage system design requirements

    • Must be extremely simple to use. (What is simple to one user can be complicated to another.  This requirement is very subjective)
    • Must be infinitely & transparently extendible. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    • All storage must be accessible using a single namespace. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    • The storage namespace must be prescriptive. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    • Must be redundant & reliable. There are two components in every modern computer that are guaranteed to fail: fans and hard drives. Because they have moving parts, Windows Home Server must be resilient to the failure of one or more hard drives. (This requirement is NOT fulfilled with the current version of WHS!  Even with the use of duplication set for all folders, the “C” and “D” drive DO NOT have any means to be backed up!  A hard drive failure on the system drive can cause a loss of data.)
    • Must be compatible. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS, although it would be nice to finally get rid of the floppy drive)
    • Must have great performance. (The hardware used will have a big influence on this.)
    • Must be secure. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    • Must enable future innovation (If you count add-ins, then yes, this requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)

    I did much research before buying into WHS.  My conclusion was there is no way I would set-up this version of WHS without using RAID 1 for the “C” and “D” drive.  And that’s my recommendation to anyone considering WHS and that values their time and more importantly, their data.


    The comment is interesting: “It's the average John Doe who doesn't have the foggiest idea what you're talking about (either BIOS or RAID). “   Have you tried to buy a motherboard or the cheapest DELL system that doesn’t have RAID built-in lately?  Good luck.  To be clear, I do not recommend using motherboard RAID for WHS.  The extra cost for using a quality real hardware RAID is cheap if it saves time and data in the long run.
     

    This version of WHS does not fulfill the requirement that it claims to.  The WHS product team hopefully goes back and reads up on why Microsoft Bob was a failure before the next version is released.  There’s so many parallels here it’s a bit frightening.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:01 AM
  • working1 said:

    I did read the link provided by Ken on "Why RAID is not a consumer technology”.   So let me rate where I see this version of WHS:

    Windows Home Server storage system design requirements

    Must be extremely simple to use. (What is simple to one user can be complicated to another.  This requirement is very subjective)
    Must be infinitely & transparently extendible. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    All storage must be accessible using a single namespace. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    The storage namespace must be prescriptive. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    Must be redundant & reliable. There are two components in every modern computer that are guaranteed to fail: fans and hard drives. Because they have moving parts, Windows Home Server must be resilient to the failure of one or more hard drives. (This requirement is NOT fulfilled with the current version of WHS!  Even with the use of duplication set for all folders, the “C” and “D” drive DO NOT have any means to be backed up!  A hard drive failure on the system drive can cause a loss of data.)

    Wrong.  If you have Folder Duplication active on all shares and use the product as designed (meaning not adding your own apps/tweaks/hacks etc. to the server by logging into the server desktop), you will not lose 1 bit of data stored in the network shares to a failed hard drive (including the primary drive).  Please get your facts straight.  Start by reading the support docs found here.
     
    working1 said:

    Must be compatible. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS, although it would be nice to finally get rid of the floppy drive)
    Must have great performance. (The hardware used will have a big influence on this.)
    Must be secure. (Requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    Must enable future innovation (If you count add-ins, then yes, this requirement is fulfilled with the current version of WHS)
    I did much research before buying into WHS.  My conclusion was there is no way I would set-up this version of WHS without using RAID 1 for the “C” and “D” drive.  And that’s my recommendation to anyone considering WHS and that values their time and more importantly, their data.

    Clearly you don't understand how the files are handled.  There is no user data on either of those partitions.

    working1 said:

    The comment is interesting: “It's the average John Doe who doesn't have the foggiest idea what you're talking about (either BIOS or RAID). “   Have you tried to buy a motherboard or the cheapest DELL system that doesn’t have RAID built-in lately?

    Just because all mobos have it, that doesn't mean the OEM manufacturers always use it (as a matter of fact, most don't OOTB), nor does it mean the average user still has the foggiest idea what it is.

    working1 said:

    Good luck.  To be clear, I do not recommend using motherboard RAID for WHS.  The extra cost for using a quality real hardware RAID is cheap if it saves time and data in the long run.

    This version of WHS does not fulfill the requirement that it claims to.  The WHS product team hopefully goes back and reads up on why Microsoft Bob was a failure before the next version is released.  There’s so many parallels here it’s a bit frightening.



    Thursday, March 19, 2009 2:54 AM
    Moderator
  • Ken Warren said:

    The target market plays into this in a couple of ways. First, they don't have the technical knowledge to understand the tradeoffs involved. Second, adding a RAID controller will increase the BOM costs for an OEM unit rather significantly, and consumers will probably balk at the increased price.



    Something just doesn't make sense with this "target market" issue. Is WHS designed for a different target market than Vista or XP are? Or 2000? With those operating systems just press F and provide the needed drivers. WHS appears to make it hard. I haven't done this myself yet, but I read many posts here on the issue.

    Then... a server is a server is a server and so on. It is supposed to be able to provide as much up time as possible. My system drive bit the dust 5 days ago. I did order a replacement but I had to leave on a trip. When I return I will have to go thru the reinstall process which will take the better part of a whole day. In the end that will be quite a few days of down time. The rest of my family does not have access to the shared files and none of the computers are being backed up.

    The DE technology is great and overcomes many of the shortcomings of RAID. It makes easy adding and removing drives, uses the available space more efficiently and it is more transparent to the user. But it does not do anything to protect the system drive.

    True, there are times when even if a RAID is in use it will be necessary to reinstall the OS. Hard drive failure would not be one of those though.

    OEMs building the machines do not have to use motherboards capable of RAID-1, even though most of today's motherboards do have the capability. They would have made the reinstall process as easy as possible for the users just as they now do with the other Vista and XP machines they sell.

    Maybe I am more sensitive to the issue now that I was affected by it. One of the features that MS and the OEMs use to sell WHS is the data protection and how simply replacing a failed drive allows your home server to stay online and continue protecting it. And yet the OS drive is treated so much different.

    With that said, I will get back home in a few days and will look into using RAID-1 for the system drive on the GA-MA790GP-DS4H motherboard.
    Thursday, March 19, 2009 4:08 AM
  • working1 said:
    • Must be redundant & reliable. There are two components in every modern computer that are guaranteed to fail: fans and hard drives. Because they have moving parts, Windows Home Server must be resilient to the failure of one or more hard drives. (This requirement is NOT fulfilled with the current version of WHS!  Even with the use of duplication set for all folders, the “C” and “D” drive DO NOT have any means to be backed up!  A hard drive failure on the system drive can cause a loss of data.)

    The C: and D: partitions, assuming Windows Home Server is being used in a supported fashion, should contain only fungible data. All you will lose is some time.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:20 PM
    Moderator
  • Fuzzy John said:

    Something just doesn't make sense with this "target market" issue. Is WHS designed for a different target market than Vista or XP are? Or 2000? With those operating systems just press F and provide the needed drivers. WHS appears to make it hard. I haven't done this myself yet, but I read many posts here on the issue.

    The target market doesn't buy a system builder package and install Windows Home Server on their own hardware. They buy an HP MediaSmart Server (or other hardware/software package, whether from an OEM or a true "system builder"). The OEM/system builder is expected to provide support/mechanisms to deal with recovering a failed system drive. As a self-installer, you're being asked to do the same thing on your own, and finding that it's not so easy.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:26 PM
    Moderator
  • Ken Warren said:

    ......... and finding that it's not so easy.

     



    Which is exactly my point. I did not ask MS to give me support on using RAID-1. I did not come here to ask others for help on using RAID-1. I just commented on something that is not easy to do with this version of WHS hoping that MS will change this in future versions. Make just as easy as in other editions of Windows. Until then, whether WHS hardware is provided by a real OEM or by individuals as myself, using standard available hardware, WHS does not 100% protection against hard disk failures. A Windows crash because of a failed hard disk could possibly endanger data that was opened at the time the crash happened. With the C: and D: drives on a RAID-1 the system would continue to run, albeit in a degraded state. And in my particular case the server would not be down for at least 10 days.

    In retrospect, I should have insisted 5 month ago, when I built my system, on using RAID-1 instead of following the "not supported" line. Definitely my fault there.
    Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:44 PM
  • I'll be honest. I understand where you're coming from. It would be nice if Windows Home Server went through all the changes required to turn it into a shrinkwrap software product instead of the OEM/system builder beast it is today. That's really what you're asking for.

    But I'd really rather Microsoft focussed their attention on other areas of the product. I'm not the biggest media guy in the world, but even I think that WHS media handling is severely lacking. There are other areas that could use significant improvement, too, such as Drive Extender. DE is an interesting exercise in it's current incarnation, but it's also quite an ugly lash-up in some ways.

    Given the focus of the product, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

    I will point one thing out. RAID arrays are not intended to allow you to continue to run in a degraded state. They will do that, but they're really only designed to protect you against single drive failure. Which Windows Home Server is also designed to do. Speaking as an IT pro, if you run your server with a degraded RAID array for more than a very short period of time, you are asking very loudly for trouble.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, March 19, 2009 3:47 PM
    Moderator
  • Ken Warren said:
    I will point one thing out. RAID arrays are not intended to allow you to continue to run in a degraded state. They will do that, but they're really only designed to protect you against single drive failure. Which Windows Home Server is also designed to do. Speaking as an IT pro, if you run your server with a degraded RAID array for more than a very short period of time, you are asking very loudly for trouble.

     


    Since WHS only uses a single hard drive for the C: and D: partitions it is kind of the same thing.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 11:27 PM
  • kariya21 said:

    Wrong.  If you have Folder Duplication active on all shares and use the product as designed (meaning not adding your own apps/tweaks/hacks etc. to the server by logging into the server desktop), you will not lose 1 bit of data stored in the network shares to a failed hard drive (including the primary drive).  Please get your facts straight.  Start by reading the support docs found here.


    Clearly you don't understand how the files are handled.  There is no user data on either of those partitions.

     

     

    If I understand correctly, and if Folder Duplication is active, the data file will be copied to both the Primary drive's Data Partition (landing pad) and the storage pool at the same time.

    However, my expectations are WHS is responsible for the data as soon as the file enters from the network cable until it is completely written to the hard drives.  If a system hard drive failure occurs while moving a large data file, that file will never make it to the storage pool.  The file is lost.

    The major issue here is the time difference to recover from the above scenario.

    The official "supported" WHS approach:

    WHS customer "A":

    1. Gets call at work from spouse on Monday at 10:00 am and complains they can't watch their favorite video from the WHS server.  Tells them to wait until after work and they'll look into it.


    2. Monday at 6:00 pm, comes home and goes straight to the WHS server.  Hooks up a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.  Tries to boot-up and only gets the bios screen.  Not knowing what the problem is takes an old power supply and replaces the existing one.  At 7:30 pm, tries to power up again.  Some bios screen.  Concludes it maybe the hard drive, but, not really sure.  Goes ahead and places an order on-line.  Can't get the replacement until Wednesday, even with overnight shipment.


    3. Gets the replacement drive Wednesday.  Starts to replace it at 6:00 pm.  Also needs to put back the original power supply since it was not the problem.  It's 8:00 pm and it's too late to start reinstalling the WHS software.


    4. Thursday at 6:00 pm, starts to find the entire disks needed to reinstall, drivers etc.  Takes time to review the on-line forums to be sure all the correct steps are done.  Places the WHS disc in and powers up.  Oops, forgets to change the bios to boot from the CD first.  Powers down and up again, presses delete and changes the bios set-up.  Exits with save and finally starts the install process.  By 9:00pm it looks like everything is installed, but, the entire user accounts will need to be set-up again.  It will have to wait until tomorrow.


    5. Friday at 6:00 pm, what a long week.  No way better to end it than resetting-up user accounts on a WHS server.


    The unofficial "unsupported" WHS approach:

    WHS customer "B" (using real hardware RAID 1 with hot spare):

    1. Gets an email from the RAID control card on Monday at 8:30 am telling them one drive is down and it's automatically rebuilding using the hot spare.   Places an online order at 9:00 am for next day delivery for the replacement hard drive.  Never gets a call at work from spouse complaining they can't watch their favorite video from the WHS server. 


     2. Tuesday, the hard drive is delivered.  At 6:00pm the server is shut-down and hard drive replaced, at 6:10pm the server is started back up. 



    Would you want to be WHS customer "A" or WHS customer "B"?



     

    Friday, March 20, 2009 12:33 AM
  • The road was a little bumpy but now I have the system and data partitions (C: and D:) on a RAID-1 array. While I could not simulate a hard drive failure, I removed one of the drives and the alarm sounded immediately. I reinserted the drive and the rebuilding process started automatically. It completed in just about a little over 2 hours. All this while the server stayed up.
    When I get the replacement for the failed drive from Seagate, that drive will become a hot spare for the RAID-1 array.

    Initially I did get the "Set up cannot continue, UI system failed" message, but after I turned off SATA RAID on the port used by the (SATA) DVD burner, setup passed that point and asked for drivers. I could not use the Vista drivers... kept getting a message about the OEMSETUP.TXT (I believe) file not being found. I could use the XP drivers instead.

    When the first reboot came I turned SATA RAID for the DVD port back on. Pressed F6 when prompted and then used the same drivers once again.

    Since I did a server reinstall, it preserved the data on my 2 other drives. It feels like the read performance when reading from the system drive is better than before.

    True that my system is still prone to a RAID controller failure, but the IDE controller can also fail. It is also prone to the OS corruption, but it would also have the same chance of failure if I did not use RAID-1.

    However, should a drive fail, the server would remain online and rebuild the mirror on the hot spare drive without skipping a beat.
    Tuesday, March 24, 2009 12:46 PM
  • Hey there John,

    I know for a FACT that I would rather be customer 'B'.  I'll be doing exactly what you just did when I build my server this weekend.  I will be using the motherboard's raid 1 feature.
    Wednesday, March 25, 2009 9:31 PM
  • Thanks Guys, Love a good Debate.

    Peter
    pwta
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 6:38 PM
  • I agree with working1.  Was on a trip and my wife gave me the call that "this box thing is making noise".  I shut it down remotely and when I got back got the smart drive warning on a potential drive failure.  Of course it is on the primary drive.  I'm going to go the Raid route.  Playing IT support after work goes like Customer "A" and I need it to be more like customer "B". 
    Saturday, September 18, 2010 5:14 PM
  • After being bit by a failed Seagate system drive (not sure if caused by the known Seagate firmware issue) I do hope that the next version of WHS will make it easier to use RAID-1 for at least the system drive (C: and D:).

    I know that the OS can be reinstalled and that the data is safe but once the OS is reinstalled the add-ins need to be configured. You also have updates, service packs and others. The whole thing could be time consuming and as usual these things have the habit of failing at the most inopportune moment.


    I'm with you Fuzzy John.  Without flaming Ken Warren (who's input I do appreciate and value), I find it nothing less than incredible that a product that is touted as a "server" with such data protection "magic" (that's their word, not mine) would be so vulnerable. 

    For the time being, I'm Ghosting my Drive C (Sys). 

    Along these lines I also have a question...

    How might one backup the "Server", as under the control panel option, without backing up to a RAID?  Hello.... the data partitions consist of several physical drives, where do I put this stuff?

    Thanks again fellows for a great discussion.  I'm here to learn, please help.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 4:19 PM