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NForce 4 and RAID5

Posted on 2005-04-18
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I'm really keen to get into RAID5 having just lost a HD and most of its data.
My new NForce4 board claims to support RAID5. I also read a while back this would need special types of SATA drive.

So yeah, my question is two-fold. a) What HDs do I need b) how do i get them into the array once the disk're here?
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Question by:OliWarner
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by:OliWarner
ID: 13811802
Oh yeah... a review or 2 of the raid5 performance on a nforce 4 wouldnt go amiss.
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 200 total points
ID: 13811883
Which nForce4 motherboard do you have?  Asus A8N-SLI?  You don't need anything special about the SATA drives in order to make a RAID5 array; just make sure they are all the same size, have the same specs for access time, have enough connectors to handle them (3 minimum for RAID5), and that your drives are the same SATA specification (150 for SATA1).  However, most onboard RAID that I have seen only support RAID0, RAID1, RAID0+1, and JBOD - RAID5 requires a processor to compute parity values, which can lower your cpu performance.

Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe review
http://www.cdrinfo.com/Sections/Reviews/Print.aspx?ArticleId=12466
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by:OliWarner
ID: 13811926
Yeah that's the one. I'm not so much looking for a review of the board. I did that bit of research last year... I'm looking for its RAID5 performance against other systems and storage methods.

The A8N comes with a Silicon Image 3114R RAID controller... A review of that would do just as well i guess... and as it uses this, does that still mean its going to drain my CPU in RAID5 for all its parity bits?
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by:Callandor
ID: 13811966
>does that still mean its going to drain my CPU in RAID5 for all its parity bits?

Yes, it will snatch away some cpu cycles, unlike dedicated RAID cards which have their own cpu on it.
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by:mysticaldan
mysticaldan earned 400 total points
ID: 13812852
Not much differencein the RAIDS as its a technique on a fundamental level. Data is instructed to be written in a certain way and the rest depends on the hard disk controller and its performance. So the RAID will only be as good and fast as the hard disks being used.

As Callandor said that a RAID5 will consume CPU bits if its not from the controller. However this wud be mroe like a software RAID IMO and there wud be no difference in which case it wud be pointless for the manufacturers to put in dedicated support for it in the controller itself.

Your particualar board does support RAID5 from the controller so loosing CPU time shud not be an issue IMHO.

Howevere becuase of the very nature of RAID5 where a parity bit is written it means that time is spent by the hard disk to write data to and fro and that takes time for sure unlike a clean read and write which is where hard disk speed becomes critical. A 10000 RPM hard disk is what wud be best rather than a 7200 RPM hard disk if ur looking for maximum performance and reliability as well. Decreasing the hard disk speed will and can led to a slowdown but if u can live with that its not a big deal really. A few microseconds here and there in normal conditions.

A faste3r hard disk also makes sure that any additional CPU bits are not wasted sinc ethe CPU does not need to wait for the data to be written and the hard disk controller is fast enuf to compensate for it.

Dan
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by:rindi
rindi earned 800 total points
ID: 13812922
I wouldn't worry about some cpu resources being used for raid. Todays CPUs, in particular the AMDs, are so fast you probably won't really notice the differance. For the raid, I'd use all four SATA drives for it, then you get faster disk access because they can be read from at the same time (the more disks, the faster the array).

Once you have the disks, you have to use the setup utility (probably you get into that first by enabling the raid controller in bios, then by pressing a key combination when booting, like ctrl+s or similar). Inside this utility tools you should now be able to build the array.

Once the array has been built, you will also need to have the drivers installed for your OS. If it is something like windows 2000 or newer, and you are installing it to your array, you will have to press f6 when the install program asks you to, and then you have to supply the floppy with the driver on it. If you OS is already installed to one of the other IDE drives, Windows may already have installed those drivers when you enabled the controller.

There will also be some utility software you can run inside windows, so also install that. Usually it is best to make sure your raid drivers are uptodate, so visit the SI site and download the newest ones.
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by:Scott_Peach
ID: 13819804
ok I skimmd the answers and didn't see this - but its posted already - my apologies.  Note that I would go with some quiet samsung drives. http://www.newegg.com/app/SearchProductResult.asp?DEPA=0

"RAID 5 stripes both data and parity information across three or more drives. It is similar to RAID 4 except that it exchanges the dedicated parity drive for a distributed parity algorithm, writing data and parity blocks across all the drives in the array. This removes the "bottleneck" that the dedicated parity drive represents, improving write performance slightly and allowing somewhat better parallelism in a multiple-transaction environment, though the overhead necessary in dealing with the parity continues to bog down writes. Fault tolerance is maintained by ensuring that the parity information for any given block of data is placed on a drive separate from those used to store the data itself. The performance of a RAID 5 array can be "adjusted" by trying different stripe sizes until one is found that is well-matched to the application being used." from http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/perf/raid/levels/singleLevel5-c.html
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by:Scott_Peach
ID: 13819829
here is a fantastic table explaining the value points, storage effiencies, number of disks required etc. for the various levels of RAID
http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/perf/raid/levels/comp.htm
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Scott_Peach earned 600 total points
ID: 13819933
rindi did touch on this, but going about installing the disks is very staright forward.  The only bumps in the road are if things don't work out as they are suposed to, there are few indicators of why/whats wrong.

All RAID controllers add an entry during bootup to allow for configuration.  Note you may have to turn on this feature in your BIOS.

Assume its CTRL-S (Silicon Image) hold CTRL and Tap "S" just after boot.

When the array config utility loads, you just need to create an array.  Choose the type and the disks, exit, & reboot.  It is fairly intutive as I have done many and nevery looked for a guide on this part.  You will only have to do this one time, and doing this will have the same result on the drives as a "quick" format.  All data on the drives will be lost, retreievable through special apps only.

Now if you plan on running your OS on a disk outside of the RAID controller, theres not much else to do as the formatting etc. can all be done through the OS after installtion.

However, if you want to load the os on the new array you just created you need to load the drivers on to a floppy disk (the 1st of two reasons I still have a floppy drive - the other is bios flashing).  Donwload these from the raid controlers or mothereboards website tagged as such for this vary prupose if you dont have them already on a cd provided.  Not you cant use the cd.  Anyway on an NT kernal OS install (4, 5/2000, or 6/XP) your first very temperary option as the setup disk is load files is a note at the bottom of the screen telling you to press F6 to load the "additional disk controller"  If you were using a dated controller (circa 2001 or older) it would be already loaded, but we already know you have an an Nforce4 board.  Make sure you tap F^ while you see this note.  If you just press it once I have found it sometimes doesn't take and I have to reboot/restart the install.  If you get a screen that ask you to press "s" to install additional controlelrs your good.  just put int he floppy disk with the files on it (NOTE do not put them in a sub folder - put them directly on the root disk directory) and the rest of the install is just as straight forward.

Note that I would use the OS setup to go ahead and create all the partitions I planned on using.  You can easily format them later from the OS.  I use several partitions for various reasons - but that's a different thread.  Radified touches on it here :http://radified.com/Articles/laptop.htm and theres more on good reasosn to why to use multiple partitions elsewhere on his website.

I use striping (RAID 0) on about 5 computers (inlcuding a sager 9860 lnotebook) and do this process evrey time I format and resinstall windows - which is too often.  Of course, striping does the opposite of what you are looking for!
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by:rindi
rindi earned 800 total points
ID: 13819981
I'd also go for the really silent samsung spinpoint drives. Whenever we buy new drives it is always a spinpoint, and we've never yet had an issue with them (as opposed to many different types of maxtor drives). The only problem is you don't get them yet in really large capacity (160GB is the largest at the moment, I think).
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