Poor Raid5 Performance with RocketRaid 1640

Hello Experts!!
Background information:  I have a small file server setup, which includes a Pentium4 3.0GHz, and 3 Seagate 500GB SATAII Hard drives (yes, the jumpers are set to limit to 1.5 instead of 3gb), and 1 RocketRaid Internal HBA.  The Raid card is a RocketRaid 1640, which does Raid5, however the performance of it is poor.  My understanding is that the parity calculation is not done on this card, but instead is offloaded to the CPU.  Essentially, since the parity is offloaded, I am only getting 15MB/sec write speed.

My question is, does anyone have any experience with this particular model, or any other Highpoint cards?  I'm looking for a new controller (preferably PCI-Express x1 or PCI), which will give me a significant gain in read/write speeds.

Thanks in advance!
kmountAsked:
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Shane32EEConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I don't have experience with the highpoint cards, but I can tell you that there is a vast difference between an inexpensive RAID card, and a good one.  The first one I bought, a SCSI model for striping on 2GB disks, cost $700 and wasn't much faster than the single drive.  I sent it back and bought a $1400 MegaRAID controller, and it worked perfect.  I've used them ever since.  Until recently, I was using a MegaRAID 300-8X model.  It was very fast and the BIOS on the MegaRAID adapters is unbeatable (for configuration).  I'd strongly suggest looking up that model if you want performance.  My new server has an PCI-E x4 slot, so I upgraded to the SAS model with PCI-E support...but for $1000, I don't know if it's worth it.

Note that the battery is very valuable to have because if your computer locks up, the RAID array will go out of sync.  Without the battery, the RAID card will (or certainly should) rebuild the entire RAID array, which will slow your computer to a crawl for a few hours.  With the battery, your computer can save the last few writes, and you're all set.  Of course, if you have the cache disabled, or if your RAID card has no cache, it would make less difference.

I've also been happy with the Intel chipsets that incorporate RAID technology.  They don't have battery backup capability, but other than that, they are good performers.

Don't buy Silicon Image RAID chipsets.  They usually work fine, but not always.  I had problems where a mirrored RAID set would stop mirroring after loading the XP drivers for the card.  Then, sometimes the chipset would read data off of both drives, and as one had old, out of date data, it would be reading corrupt data.  That was a mess!

If you pay the big bucks for an expensive LSI Logic MegaRAID controller, I guarantee you you'll be happy.  (Oh, note that the cheapest MegaRAID controllers are not as fast; I tried some of them.)  If you don't want to do that, my best recommendation, if you want performance, is to look for a new motherboard with an Intel chipset with RAID.  The software is excellent, and it has excellent performance.  I wouldn't use an onboard Silicon Image adapter, or an offbrand RAID solution.

Hope this helps,

Shane
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andyalderConnect With a Mentor Commented:
It would probably be cheaper to put another hard disk in it and use RAID 10 on the current controller, this will give you about double the write speed.
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kmountAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the information!  I'm not too happy with the performance of this card.  It took me about a week to finally get ahold of the tech support at Highpoint.  They basically stated that the 1640 model is their worst performing model in terms of raid5.  I have used Highpoint many times in the past, and never really had any problems with their adapters.  So I am inclined to stick with something that I know has worked for me in the past.

Shane, I too have used the intel chipsets to implement raid.  So far, I am not disappointed at all in how they perform.  As far as buying a $1k raid card, that will happen sometime down the road.  At the moment we need a cheap fix.  

Thanks again!!
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Shane32EECommented:
No problem.  You can pick up them cheaper though -- this is the one I mentioned on ebay, a new model that sold for $338.  It's only the highest end SAS ones that cost $1k.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280162069356
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kmountAuthor Commented:
Shane, thanks for your recommendations and checking out ebay.  We ended up settling on a cheap fix, a Highpoint RocketRaid 2300 (PCI-Express x1).  So far we are extremely happy with the performance.  With the 1640 we had write speeds of about 15MB/sec, and now with the 2300 we are now with speeds of 120MB/sec.  Needless to say, huge performance increase and this definitely suits our needs.  

Again, thanks for the recommendations and within the next year or so, we will be ready to upgrade and I will be probably going with your suggestions.

Thanks again!
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