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What cheap RAID 5 PCI card?

Posted on 2007-09-28
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I want to buy a SATA RAID card, on the cheap.  Can anybody suggest what I should buy?

It has to be a PCI card, can control the boot disk, and must support RAID 5.  Ideally, I'd like to buy something cheap, used even, on eBay.

Suggestions?

Thanks.
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Question by:mrmoderate
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SysExpert earned 2000 total points
ID: 19981326
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by:SysExpert
ID: 19981342
also

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Misc/Q_22105784.html
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Misc/Q_21930267.html

Note that you need to know if you only want RAID 1, or RAID 5, prices differ based on this option.

I hope this helps !
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by:andyalder
ID: 19981508
RAID 1 would certainly be faster than 5 and with the enormous disk sizes these days would probably provide enough space.
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by:garycase
ID: 19981692
"... you need to know if you only want RAID 1, or RAID 5 ..." ==>  Hmmm ... what part of the questioner's "... and must support RAID 5 ..." was hard to understand ??

"... RAID 1 would certainly be faster than 5 ..." ==>  ????  Not true in most cases.   Depends very much on the size of the array.   But in general the striping of a RAID 5 will give it much better read performance than a RAID 1 array, and approximately the same write performance (although the RAID 1 will outperform a RAID 5 for small writes that don't benefit from the striping, since the parity write is always required on a RAID 5).

mrmoderate =>  unfortunately "cheap" and "good" are hard to find in a controller that supports RAID 5.   The Promise and Highpoint offerings are a good compromise between performance and features at a reasonable price-point; and if you look on e-bay you can sometimes get a bargain on them.   The 3-Ware, Adaptec, and Areca controllers have much better features and user interfaces, but they are definitely NOT "cheap".     I know you said you want a SATA controller => but if you want "good" and "cheap" the best bargains are from folks who have upgraded to SATA controllers and are selling their old IDE controllers on e-bay.   I've seen a 3-Ware 12-disk controller on e-bay that sold for ~ $100 !!  (I got outbid at the last second !!)
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by:andyalder
ID: 19981832
The point is Gary that if the controller does RAID 5 it probably does RAID 10 and that's always faster for write than RAID 5 for the same number of disks and faster for read if it's a good one that does balanced reads. I suppose it depends if mrmoderate has a bunch of small second hand disks or is building from scratch.
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by:garycase
ID: 19981876
Agree with RAID 10 => but your earlier comment said RAID 1 :-)
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by:andyalder
ID: 19981948
I know, it was a deliberate mistake to try to get mrmoderate to say why it had to do RAID 5 yet had to be cheap. For a new system it doesn't make sense it being ultra cheap, putting a large number of old disks in an array is asking for trouble so that leaves the possibility that they're trying to recover data from an old array.
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by:mrmoderate
ID: 19982480
I haven't yet read all the posts above, at least not very carefully, but I think I need to respond.

The reason I said I want RAID level 5 is because I want protection against drive failures.  Ideally, if one of the drives drops dead, I'd like the system to keep functioning as normal, at least as it would appear to users on our network.  (I'm going to use this computer as a file "server" on our small office LAN.)  Speed considerations are immaterial.  I think RAID 5 is preferable to RAID 1 because you lose 1/3 of your disk space to a RAID 5 system, whereas you lose 1/2 to a RAID 1 system.

I'm not clear on RAID 3 or 4, but perhaps they would be acceptable, too.  I'm also not totally clear about RAID 5 setups that contain more than 3 disks.  Can you create a 4 disk RAID 5 setup, lose only 1/4 of your storage to fault-tolerance, and still have the array function normally when a single disk drops dead?

On the PATA-SATA question: I'd be open to a PATA setup, but unless there's a big price difference, I'd just assume go with SATA drives.  What I envision is a 3 drive array, consisting of 750GB or 1TB drives.  If I invest in a PATA RAID setup, then when drives start failing, my replacement choices are going to be very limited, and smaller in size.  Thoughts?

BTW, I probably should have defined "on the cheap" more clearly.  I'd like to spend $50 on the card, but up to $200 would be OK; nothing above $300 for sure.

Finally, what does the term "channel" refer to in RAID controllers.  Does a 2 channel RAID 5 card mean that the card can support 2 sets of RAID 5 arrays, 3 drives each, that will be seen as a single drive/partition in My Computer?  If so, then I guess up to 2 drives could fail before the system would cease functioning.

Thanks for your help, everybody, and I'll check out the links you folks suggested.
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by:garycase
ID: 19982502
"... Can you create a 4 disk RAID 5 setup, lose only 1/4 of your storage to fault-tolerance ..." ==> Yes, that's how RAID 5 works.   If you have a controller that supports enough drives, you can create a 16-drive RAID 5 and still only lose 1 drive to fault-tolerance :-)

As for SATA vs. IDE => I'm not aware of any 1TB IDE drives; but you can get 750GB drives ... so I don't think there's a big difference in the size of the drives.   I agree it's preferable to use SATA ... but as I noted before, it really doesn't make much difference; and you are much more likely to be able to get a high-end controller at a bargain price with IDE controllers.
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by:andyalder
ID: 19982624
>The reason I said I want RAID level 5 is because I want protection against drive failures.

RAID 1 does that.

> I think RAID 5 is preferable to RAID 1 because you lose 1/3 of your disk space to a RAID 5 system, whereas you lose 1/2 to a RAID 1 system.

That is eactly why they invented RAID 5, to give you capacity at the expense of performance; It isn't a valid algorithm with 750GB disks being available at reasonable prices. Not for 3 or four physical disks. They are too big, we need to g back to re-engineer drum storage.
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by:garycase
ID: 19982760
"... It isn't a valid algorithm with 750GB disks being available at reasonable prices ..." ==>  That, of course, is a matter of perspective.    I'm planning to build a new storage server for my home network that I plan to put 8TB in :-)    Haven't decided for sure, but I'll either use RAID-5 or RAID-6 with either an Areca or 3-Ware controller.   And either 750GB or 1TB drives.

... no such thing as "too big"  :-)  :-)
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by:andyalder
ID: 19983744
What are you going to back it up to?
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by:mrmoderate
ID: 19985742
What do the terms "port" and "channel" mean in RAID controller cards?  Are they synonyms?  Also, what does "zero channel RAID" refer to?
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by:garycase
ID: 19985773
With SATA controllers port and channel are synonymous [unlike with SCSI, where each channel can have many devices].

Zero channel refers to a RAID card designed to use the disk interfaces on the motherboard instead of on the RAID card.   This requires a supporting interface on the motherboard; and also has a somewhat reduced bandwidth since the disk I/O must then traverse the PCI (or PCIe) bus.

But for your simple requirements (max 4 drives, SATA array) I would just look at the inexpensive Promise & Highpoint controllers.   This should work just fine:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816115029
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by:mrmoderate
ID: 20011352
So, if I want to leave open the possibility of creating a 6 disk RAID 5 array, then I need a "6 channel" or "6 port" RAID 5 card, right?

BTW, I've been making an assumption on this project.  The on-board drive controller appears to be toast on the computer I'm going to use.  I'm assuming that I can buy a RAID card and use it as a drive controller (of the C: [i.e., boot]) drive, a single drive, that is.  Then, when I get around to it I can set up my RAID array.  In other words, any RAID card can be used as just a standard drive controller card OR as a RAID controller.  Am I right?  This is, I guess, a pretty important issue.
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by:garycase
ID: 20011394
Yes, you need at least as many ports as you want to install disks.

Most controllers will allow you to boot from the controller -- and will work with a single disk attached;  so Yes, you can do what you want.   However ... if the motherboard's controller has failed, it's difficult to say what else might be wrong with the board.   For the price of an inexpensive RAID-5 controller you can buy a new motherboard with an embedded RAID controller ... and many of these are RAID-5 capable [e.g. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128048 ]

... might be time to think about a more major upgrade :-)
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