RAID,.....how to?

Started Apr 22, 2013 | Discussions thread
Michael Firstlight
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Re: RAID,.....how to? This is one way to do it....
In reply to Tareq Abdulla, Apr 25, 2013

It all depends on what you do with data/applicaitons and your budget.  If you are like me and process really huge files and copy hundreds of gigabytes of data around regularly, do frequent disk image backups of large partitions, run multiple virtual machines and so on, then SSDs and RAID is a godsend.

I am on the extreme end both in terms of my high end overclocked system builds and use.  I actually make regular use of the high performance builds I have, then again, I do ridiculous things like loading 100+ 36MP images into ACR for synchronous adjustments before stitching into gigapixel monsters.

My i7 3930 system has a pair of Samsung 540 Pro 512GB SSDs in RAID 0 for my OS, apps, and scratch. I sometimes first load data onto to that array before working on it as temporary storage but won't have to do that anymore since I just installed 64GB of RAM and can afford to make a 32GB RAM DISK for that.  I always treat the RAID 0 drive (and now also my RAM disk) as trashable storage - if either fails my critical data is always safe elsewhere.

When I put the main system array into RAID 0, I get almost double the sequential read performance - that's over a whopping 1GB/s (1059.9MB/s to be exact as measured by AS SSD), which is great for very large files. I say almost twice because there is some processor overhead and write performance isn't double.  Because I am on a Series 7 motherboard (an X79 Asus Rampage IV Extreme) and Windows 7, I get RAID SSD TRIM support which reclaims used disk space and keeps the SSDs in tip-top shape. You only get RAID 0 TRIM for SSDs on Series 7 and up motherboards; you don't get SSD TRIM support any other type of RAID array. With RAID 0, the total storage is the total of both drives combined, so I end up with about a gig of SSD storage on that RAID 0 array.  I've used about half of that on my fully loaded Win 7 Ultimate system with about 100 applications and two VM Ware machines which start up and run as fast as if they were a native OS being run from the SSD RAID 0 array.

My second data array consists of four Seagate Barracuda 3TB drives in RAID 10  (that is also sometimes referred to as RAID 1+0).  This is my secure data array. RAID 10 provides the speed of RAID 0 (data striping) with the redundancy of RAID 1, but at the cost of half the potential storage space.  The drives have to be identical.  Although that amounts to 12TB of disk space out of the box, after putting them into RAID 10 it ends up to be about 6TB or usable space (my current data occupies about 1/3 of that already).  The nice thing about RAID 10 is that if one drive fails I can simply replace it and the other remaining drives will rebuild it. Even so, I auto-synchronize my critical data to yet another large external drive as well as Blu Ray discs.

Now making the RAID arrays wasn't hard. First you need to mount the drives and make sure you've plugged them into the right SATA ports for boot drives, and, if they are SATA III drives make sure they are SATA III ports ANDbe sur eto use SATA III cables (a common mistake people make is using SATA II cables).  Next, you have to set the BIOS disk mode to RAID mode and during boot-up (before the OS loads), hit a key combo when it prompts you and select which disks go into a RAID array.You also need to specify the data stripe size - most modern the motherboards will default to the best one and which you should use depends on the nature of your own data. Also, when loading the OS (for example, Windows), you'll need the motherboard support disk and manually load the RAID driver when the OS asks if you want to load a driver before the OS starts installing. That will ensure that the system drive looks like a single drive and can be partitioned and formatted as such as looks like only one drive to the OS.  If you have a second RAID array like I do, then you lso have to make sure you load all of the motherboard drivers which includes the RAID driver from the motherboard support disk after the OS is installed else the OS won't see the non system RAID array as a single drive. After that you can partition and format what then appears as a single drive.

With the SSDs and RAID 0 it is very important to make sure that TRIM is actually working.  There is a way to verify it is working (after it runs it will write all zero's to the same disk sector that had non-zero's in it) but it take a free Hex editor and process to do so; that process takes only a few minutes and is worth it for peace of mind.

Is it all worth it?  For users with data and applications like mine, absolutely. For most users, probably not.

Regards,
Mike

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