True Hardware Raid

babaghan

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Evidently, some RAID controller cards are not a fully hardware-based. Can someone suggest a true hardware-based RAID conroller that's not outrageously expensive?

Windows Vista Ultimate
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
BFG GeForce 8800 GTX OC
Corsair XMS2 TWIN2X2048-6400 2X1GB DDR2-800
Western Digital 150GB Raptor X
Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro Series
Dell E207WFP & Samsung SyncMaster 213T
Asus Striker Extreme Motherboard
PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1KW-SR
Thermaltake Kandalf LCS VD4000WBS (no leaks)
Pioneer DVR-212D DVD/CD Writer
APC Back-UPS XS 1000
 

choirbass

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well, 'outrageously expensive' is pretty relative, especially compared to other enthusiast hardware (new cpu, new hdd, new gpu, new monitor, water cooling, etc)...

Areca ARC-1210 PCI-Express x 8 bus SATA II RAID Controller Card RAID level 0, 1, 1E, 3, 5, 6 (if RAID 6 engine supported) and JBOD - Retail $320
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816131003

Open Box: Areca ARC-1210 PCI-Express x 8 bus SATA II RAID Controller Card RAID level 0, 1, 1E, 3, 5, 6 (if RAID 6 engine supported) and JBOD - OEM $290
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816131003R

LSI LOGIC LSI00110 PCI Express SATA / SAS Controller Card RAID 0/1/1E/10E - Retail $315
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816118061

LSI LOGIC LSI00051-F PCI Express SATA / SAS Controller Card RAID 0/1/5/10/50 - Retail
High-performance SAS/SATA controller, limited time offer $350 (normally $650)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816118055

3ware 9650SE-4LPML PCI Express x4 SATA II Controller Card RAID Levels 0, 1, 5, 10, Single Disk, JBOD - Retail $335
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816116042

as always, it wont hurt at all to search for reviews and benchmarks on any of them that you might consider buying

edit: the highpoints i had listed i guess werent hardware based, which probably explains why they were so cheap to begin with, lol
 

JonnyDough

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Yeah, I've been looking into them recently as well. Noticed a new one for over a grand and said..."Hmm."

Anything cheaper than $320? Still seems like a hell of a lot for a PCI card...I'd sooner wait for Oblivion levels to load, and go ahead and buy a new video card with that cash. If anyone can place a superb card with 2-4 SATA connectors for $150 or less I'll consider it.

MUST be completely hardware based. Using up system resources completely defeats the point of buying the card since motherboards now come with software raid.
 

choirbass

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well... its not so much about using resources or not, its the card itself being able to intelligently manage and organize the I/O requests with a built in logic chip (i.e. IOP333 I/O processor) and onboard memory buffer (among other things i presume), that an x86 cpu is pretty incompetant about handling all by itself, let alone managing efficiently

to loosely compare, its like comparing a specialized add on physics processor, to a general purpose single core x86 cpu having to calculate the physics instead... they both can do it, one just does it a lot better

a couple reviews THG did on some pcie hardware raid controllers
http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/10/31/sata_spells_trouble_for_scsi_raid/
http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/12/13/pci-express-sata-raid-controllers-for-smb-servers/

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/storage/display/areca-arc1220.html
 

chunkymonster

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Anything cheaper than $320? Still seems like a hell of a lot for a PCI card...I'd sooner wait for Oblivion levels to load, and go ahead and buy a new video card with that cash. If anyone can place a superb card with 2-4 SATA connectors for $150 or less I'll consider it.
A quality true hardware RAID card is one of those things that fits into the "You Get What You Pay For" category. I am now using a cheap software RAID5 solution (in sig) and I have used 3Ware cards; the 8506 and 9500S. I will vouch for the fact that if you want the performance of real hardware RAID, it's worth the price you pay. For the silicon and technology you get on a hardware RAID card, paying ~$300 is actually reasonable.

Another thing to consider, how much does a cheap semi-hardware/software based RAID card really load down a high-end dual core system with lots of RAM. If all you want is some faster load times, then just having a RAID array will give you noticeable improvements compared to a single drive. Let alone noticing any system lag because the RAID solution is software based as opposed to hardware based. For example, I'm using my RAID5 as redundant storage and as a file server to 3 pc's thru my house. The semi-hardware/software solution I have offers performance enough with no noticeable system lag to my last gen dual opterons. Again, just something to consider...

Good luck!
 

valis

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If anyone can place a superb card with 2-4 SATA connectors for $150 or less I'll consider it.
we aren't raid card salesman. i dont give a rats ass if you buy one or not. if you need one, you find the one you need and buy it. if you dont, you dont.

chances are whoever started this thread has no real need for raid in the first place.

Valis
 

babaghan

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Valis, I'm the chap that started this thread. I don't *need* a RAID controller, I *want* a RAID controller. I have blue LEDs and UV lighting in my computer chassis too. Are you okay with that? :D
 

valis

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Valis, I'm the chap that started this thread. I don't *need* a RAID controller, I *want* a RAID controller. I have blue LEDs and UV lighting in my computer chassis too. Are you okay with that? :D
i wasn't responding directly to you, i was responding to the user i quoted. the one that made it appear as if he was doing us a favor by buying a raid controller.

(and i have blue and red AND uv lighting as well as el-tape in mine ;) )

(i'm using highpoint rocketraid 2320, currently 2.5 terabyte raid 5, it's a dedicated storage box, upgradeable to 10+ terabytes)

Valis
 

yamla

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Anything cheaper than $320? Still seems like a hell of a lot for a PCI card...I'd sooner wait for Oblivion levels to load, and go ahead and buy a new video card with that cash. If anyone can place a superb card with 2-4 SATA connectors for $150 or less I'll consider it.

MUST be completely hardware based. Using up system resources completely defeats the point of buying the card since motherboards now come with software raid.
You won't find a hardware RAID-5 card for $150, not new.

On the other hand, you can't do RAID-5 with only two drives, so perhaps you're only interested in RAID0 or RAID1, neither of which need significant amounts of hardware.
 

choirbass

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directed @ both valis and chunkymonster: im wondering though, since both of you have used/own hardware raid controllers, how do you feel they perform compared to general software based onboard raid controllers as far as an improvement in overall performance? for things such as general windows usage, games, and the like?

im genuinely wondering if there really is an appreciable difference, or if onboard software raid could nearly be considered hardware raids equal in this respect

thanks
 

yamla

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directed @ both valis and chunkymonster: im wondering though, since both of you have used/own hardware raid controllers, how do you feel they perform compared to general software based onboard raid controllers as far as an improvement in overall performance? for things such as general windows usage, games, and the like?

im genuinely wondering if there really is an appreciable difference, or if onboard software raid could nearly be considered hardware raids equal in this respect
I've used software RAID-0, RAID-1, and RAID-5 in Linux, and am currently using hardware RAID-6 with a 3ware 9650 card.

The benchmarks show a huge performance improvement going to hardware RAID. However, I don't actually notice all that much difference given my regular workloads in Linux. I'm a software developer so a lot of my computer's effort is spent compiling.

So really, it's going to depend on your workload. With software RAID, your CPU fills in the gap whenever you are writing anything to disk. Can you afford to give up some CPU power at that point? Often, you can.

Also, the way RAID5 (or even RAID6) is implemented, you aren't going to get a significant increase while READING data. Unless your array is degraded, of course.

So, what's your workload? Most people won't see much improvement with hardware RAID5 because most disk access is reading, not writing. And most of the time when they write data, they aren't using much CPU at the time. Some people will notice a huge improvement, mind you. I wouldn't want to run a database on software RAID-5, for example. Also, you'll have a much easier time with software RAID-5 with a dual core or quad core machine.

RAID6 is still another matter. It's going to use about twice the CPU of RAID5.

This is all assuming that the Windows driver provides a high quality implementation of software RAID. This may very well not be the case.

One final thing to consider is that a real hardware RAID5 or RAID6 card will have its own cache. Mine has 256 megs of RAM. This alone provides a non-trivial benefit (and tends to skew benchmarks unless they test with a substantial amount of data).
 

valis

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directed @ both valis and chunkymonster: im wondering though, since both of you have used/own hardware raid controllers, how do you feel they perform compared to general software based onboard raid controllers as far as an improvement in overall performance? for things such as general windows usage, games, and the like?

im genuinely wondering if there really is an appreciable difference, or if onboard software raid could nearly be considered hardware raids equal in this respect

thanks
as the poster above stated, it also depends on what raid level you're going to be using. raid 5 and 6 and others that utilize parity require much more intensive computations and processing power than other raid levels. so on my raid 5 arrays i use hardware based controllers, for my mirrored arrays i use software controllers.

i dont reccomend using onboard raid PERIOD. to much crap can go wrong and you're generally locked in, meaning if something goes belly up with your motherboard and you cant find the exact same one then you're pretty much hosed on the raid as well, it's generally not a walk in the park moving one raid setup from one controller to another (if not impossible).

i dont use raid in a general setup, there just isn't enough boost to justify it. i use a 120 gig raid 0 as a scratch and speed disk in my main machine, it's fastest at unrar'ing and unzipping and compressing and uncompressing multiple gig size files. when you're unrar'ing something 8 gig in size there is definately a speed increase, by several minutes. however, if you just want to load your game faster, you'll be sitting at the "loading" screen ~10 seconds less than otherwise. meh. also, if one drive fails, the whole thing goes, and so nothing of importance is kept on the drive.

on another computer i use a software raid 1 for security, if one drive fails there's an automatic backup.

i have two storage boxes both with hardware based raid controllers, one with 4 x 160 gig drives, one with 6 x 500 gig drives, 450 gig and 2.5 terabyte respectively. they both sit on their own machines, the 2.5 terabyte is a dedicated storage box, expandable to 10+ terabytes. it's a pci-express raid card, but is software based. i didn't need a hardware based raid since this is a seperate box and the machine can work on calculating parity and it doesn't bother me over on my main machine.

so in a nutshell, if you are using raid 5 or 6 or such for storage you want a card that can calculate the parity bit in hardware if you're also using that machine for other tasks, like video editing. if it's a standalone box, software is fine (but not onboard, be sure you know the difference).

if you want application speed you'll probably do fine with onboard since you'll be using raid 1, striping, which isn't computationally intensive, but dont put anything you can't bear to lose on the drive, and i wouldn't make it my OS. add in two drives, stripe them, and use them for installed games, with your other applications and especially important data elsewhere.

valis
hope that helps a bit. this has probably been a bit rambling.
 

choirbass

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well, i was mainly asking due to supposed benefits that a hardware controller could offer particularly when used for games (as thats usually the reason people ask for raid advice on here)

if i remember correctly, another member had said that one of the main differences was in how the controller dealt with the I/O requests, compared to how the cpu would instead (be unable to) properly handle it... and with the proper handling of the random I/Os, you could get a significant performance boost (even in load times), considering optimized striping and cluster sizes as well

also because my friend is considering purchasing one of the above, to test on his own, and it would be a waste of his money, if it really didnt benefit much at all for general uses

edit: ah, okay. that clears things up a bit then. thanks :)
 

valis

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well, i was mainly asking due to supposed benefits that a hardware controller could offer particularly when used for games (as thats usually the reason people ask for raid advice on here)

if i remember correctly, another member had said that one of the main differences was in how the controller dealt with the I/O requests, compared to how the cpu would instead (be unable to) properly handle it... and with the proper handling of the random I/Os, you could get a significant performance boost (even in load times), considering optimized striping and cluster sizes as well

also because my friend is considering purchasing one of the above, to test on his own, and it would be a waste of his money, if it really didnt benefit much at all for general uses

edit: ah, okay. that clears things up a bit then. thanks :)
i usually tell people that my general rule is that if you dont know what raid is or what the levels are then you dont need it. if you're playing games and reading your email you're not going to see much of a difference.

if your storing multiple terabytes, programming, video editing on a large scale, compressing and un-compressing multigigabyte files then you will see a difference, but chances are that if you're doing those things you already have a good knowledge of raid and it's benefits.

it's not condescending, it's just the way things work out. if you aren't doing anything specialized then you dont need raid, which is itself a specialized setup.

if you WANT it of course then go for it and more power to ya.

but just like anything, the more you find out the more you may find out you dont know! like optimal cluster size for your use, stripe sizes, interface bandwidth, bios upgrades....
 

yamla

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I've settled with 3ware's 9650SE-4LPML. Thanks to all for replying. :D
I have the 8 port version of this card and it works very well. Native support in Linux, though this requires a 2.6.19 or later kernel, and this was very important to me. It's a great little card.
 

chunkymonster

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directed @ both valis and chunkymonster: im wondering though, since both of you have used/own hardware raid controllers, how do you feel they perform compared to general software based onboard raid controllers as far as an improvement in overall performance? for things such as general windows usage, games, and the like?

im genuinely wondering if there really is an appreciable difference, or if onboard software raid could nearly be considered hardware raids equal in this respect

thanks
I would not say that hardware and software RAID are equal, but for everyday gaming and general computer usage, my experience has been that using onboard software RAID0 or RAID1 is adequate. Even with just going from a single drive to software based onboard RAID0 will show an improvement in reads/writes. I have not used any onboard software RAID5 so I can't comment on that.

I think there is a general misconception about RAID 5. True hardware RAID5 is not an everyday desktop solution, hardware based RAID5 it is really a server/enterprise level solution. When you've got a file/web server with 1000's of hits requesting data, a multiple drive RAID5 (or RAID0/1) is key to ensuring stability, reliability, and minimizing downtime. Or, like those in my position, I've got a RAID5 array because I've collected over 90GB of mp3's, over 200GB of movies and videos, do some video editing and DVD authoring, as well as use it to serve/stream media to my HTPC and another computer in the house; so redundancy and quick reads are what matters to me.

For the average every day email checking, web surfing, and game playing computer user, a software based onboard RAID0 solution for the OS and a single drive for back-ups is more than enough. For the developer, CAD workstation, A/V editing machine that is encoding, decoding, compiling, and otherwise has large I/O requirements, a hardware based RAID solution is reasonable, even recommended, because it off-loads the RAID work to the RAID card and allow the system to keep it's RAM and cpu cycles for itself and apps.

i usually tell people that my general rule is that if you dont know what raid is or what the levels are then you dont need it.
Ain't that the truth!!!!
 

bberson

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I've settled with 3ware's 9650SE-4LPML. Thanks to all for replying. :D
Be aware, you stand to get some performance improvements if you buy the battery module for this, but if you install that you may discover like I did that unless you have substantial forced air coming from the front of the case, that card may require some spot cooling.

Good luck,
-Brad
 

sandmanwn

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performance improvements for buying a battery? :lol:

Hopefully you meant having a battery is a good idea if you plan on using the 256mb of onboard cache, which isnt required but highly suggested as a power outtage will kill any data in cache without the battery and probably corrupt all kinds of data.
 

bberson

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performance improvements for buying a battery? :lol: Hopefully you meant having a battery is a good idea if you plan on using the 256mb of onboard cache, which isnt required but highly suggested as a power outtage will kill any data in cache without the battery and probably corrupt all kinds of data.
For someone who's so busy "Laughing Out Loud" over me skipping the explanation, I see you yourself failed to mention that it has nothing to do with using the onboard cache in general but plenty to do with using it to cache writes. The 3ware is one of the few that will permit caching writes without a battery backup, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Something else you also glossed over is the matter of hardware RAID controllers typically defeating Windows' own write caching, which usually translates to REDUCED everyday performance when going to hardware RAID if the controller has write caching disabled.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming...

-Brad
 

sandmanwn

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performance improvements for buying a battery? :lol: Hopefully you meant having a battery is a good idea if you plan on using the 256mb of onboard cache, which isnt required but highly suggested as a power outtage will kill any data in cache without the battery and probably corrupt all kinds of data.
For someone who's so busy "Laughing Out Loud" over me skipping the explanation, I see you yourself failed to mention that it has nothing to do with using the onboard cache in general but plenty to do with using it to cache writes. The 3ware is one of the few that will permit caching writes without a battery backup, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Something else you also glossed over is the matter of hardware RAID controllers typically defeating Windows' own write caching, which usually translates to REDUCED everyday performance when going to hardware RAID if the controller has write caching disabled.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming...

-Brad
Funny, I'm pretty sure you just destroyed your previous statement there all on your lonesome.

I don't believe I differentiated between write/read on the controller or windows caching period, but you are more than welcome to get all delusional for mine and everyone else's personal enjoyment if you so choose. Just be sure to point out how the magical battery boosts performance next time will yah! I can always use a good laugh.
 

bberson

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I don't believe I differentiated between write/read on the controller or windows caching period, but you are more than welcome to get all delusional for mine and everyone else's personal enjoyment if you so choose.
Nope, no delusion here. Just facts. I chose to go from point A to point C knowing that the OP - who wants the controller not because he needs one but because he wants one - may get lost in the noise. He was always welcome to question why, if he needed to. Then you come in thinking you're a riot with "performance improvements for buying a battery?"

Which, by the way, is a fact unless you over-ride the controller's default settings AND ignore the warnings when you do so.

You wanna fan the flames, go ahead, but just because your getting hit with your own embers is no reason to accuse anyone else of being delusional. Laugh all you want. It only feeds your childish ignorance.

-Brad
 

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