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Virtual Disks vs Windows Partitions? (Dell T610 RAID5 - SBS 2008)

Posted on 2010-08-23
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
I'm setting up SBS 2008 on a Dell T610 server. We've got (4) 146GB 15K Hard Drives in RAID 5. One of the options in the RAID configuration is to configure several "Virtual Disks". I'm accustomed to partitioning my data by using Windows Partitions instead of these "virtual disks" but I'm wondering if virtual disks is a better choice?

We're not doing any virtualization on this machine. It will simply run SBS 2008 with Exchange Server and perform file and printer sharing on our 15 user network.

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Question by:HKComputer
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by:Cris Hanna
ID: 33505338
When creating a raid..you must first create the Virtual Disk set, which is made up of several physical disks...has nothing to do with virtualization
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by:clw3388
ID: 33505356
Call it  bad choice of words on Dell's part but the "virtual disk" is the Raid configuration in the perc bios.
Your raid 5 you say is there should be referred to as "virtual disk 0"..  The operating system partitioning is on a software level whereas the virtual disk is a hardware level..  Make sense?
In other words instead of having 4 basic disks in the windows disk manager, you use the hardware raid and windows sees all 4 disks as one basic disk because they are within a raid set.

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by:Cris Hanna
ID: 33505358
Are the drives already setup up for you in a RAID 5 as a single C:?
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by:Steve
ID: 33505426
raid controllers combine physical disks together in your chosen raid configuration and present the result to the OS as a virtual disk.
You can create one big one or several smaller ones, its up to you.

Incidentally, your SBS box will really struggle on a single disk (made up of 4 disks using raid 5)

Is raid 5 really that necessary for your system?

You'll get considerably better performance to provide two seperate drives made up of 2 mirrors (raid 1)
SBS is a very resource hungry system and you may be much better to have the OS and pagefile on C and all the exchange/SQL stuff on another drive. This allows the system to read/write to both drives at once and maakes your system a lot more efficient.
The mirrors still provide redundancy but allow for considerably better performance.

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by:Cris Hanna
ID: 33505459
@totally tonto...if there is only 1 raid controller, performance will be about the same whether you do 2 raid 1's or 1 raid 5...and with size drives he's got..he'd lose 146 GB with 2 Raid 1's
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by:HKComputer
ID: 33505671
Sorry, not trying to be a jerk, but I don't think any of your really answered my question yet, other than telling me things I already knew.

Won't this Dell system allow me to create a single RAID5 array (all 4 disks) with two separate "virtual disks" all at the hardware/RAID level? Each virtual disk would then need to be configured to have Windows volumes on them? I'm guessing there would be no benefit in doing it this way. In fact, maybe the 2nd virtual disk wouldn't even be available to the instance of Windows that will be installed on the first virtual disk.
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by:Cris Hanna
ID: 33505702
The single raid array becomes a single virtual disk, during the SBS install, you will need to supply the raid driver and you will specify the partition and size where to install SBS (C:\).  The minium is 60GB but suggest you double that.  When the core install is complete, you can go to computer manament, disk management and create whatever other partitions you want.
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by:HKComputer
ID: 33505756
>The single raid array becomes a single virtual disk...

Are you telling me that I couldn't configure (2) separate Virtual Disks on this single RAID5 Array even if I wanted to? It appears that I could judging by the options in my RAID configuration.
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by:Cris Hanna
ID: 33505766
Then you don't use all disk to create a create the Raid 5 if you want two separate virtual disks...and since you have to have minimum of 3 disks for Raid 5 or 2 disks if you want two Raid 1s  You could do two Raid 1s as two virtual disks, but you lose the raid 5
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clw3388 earned 500 total points
ID: 33506001
"Won't this Dell system allow me to create a single RAID5 array (all 4 disks) with two separate "virtual disks" all at the hardware/RAID level?"

What you are referring to is called raid slicing.. This method is commonly used when dealing with legacy bios based systems instead of efi based systems.  The only benefit in slicing is when you are dealing with a legacy bios limitation of having an MBR partition sized at 1.8TB or less.. Whereas an EFI based platform can and does support 2TB+++ boot partitions. (c:\) In your case dealing with 146 gig hdds you are way under the 2tb limitation therefore will see no benefit.
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by:HKComputer
ID: 33506042
Thanks clw3388, that's exactly the answer I was looking for. Thanks for clarifying this confusing matter.


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