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I'm looking for a computer that can support RAID 1 out of the box.

Posted on 2011-02-17
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Last Modified: 2012-08-13
I currently have a six year old Dell 8400 that has onboard RAID support and which I am using in RAID 1 configuration. I want to replace the computer but have not been able to find a computer that has hardware RAID support. I don't want to build my own and II would rather not have to add a card. I have spent multiple hours on the phone with CSRs at DELL and HP (most of whom know very little about the subject) and they each report that their company has approximately one model with this feature. It doesn't seem like this used to be so hard to find. Any suggestions?
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Question by:kkc0123
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by:Kris Montgomery
Kris Montgomery earned 40 total points
ID: 34921955
Check the HP customizable Small Business PC's.  You can configure them with RAID:
http://h71016.www7.hp.com/dstore/MiddleFrame.asp?page=config&ProductLineId=429&FamilyId=3095&BaseId=31409&oi=E9CED&BEID=19701&SBLID=

Hopefully one of these links work... if not, you can find any "Configurable" business PC, add a second hard drive, and select "RAID Configuration".

http://www.hp.com/
http://h71016.www7.hp.com/dstore/ctoBases.asp?oi=E9CED&BEID=19701&SBLID=&ProductLineId=429&FamilyId=3095&LowBaseId=32128&LowPrice=$415.04&familyviewgroup=2245&viewtype=Matrix


Thanks.
mug
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by:PowerEdgeTech
ID: 34922190
"out of the box" ... it depends on what you put in the box.  Onboard RAID is hard to find ... there's nothing wrong with having a card in there - unless you have a specific reason for not wanting one.  I've configured several Precision workhorses over the years with RAID cards ... as long as you get the right one, they are very little trouble.  The Precision line of Dell computers can be configured with hardware RAID - I would recommend the PERC over the SAS 6/iR.  

I'm surprised to hear Dell has any options with "onboard" hardware RAID, as all the options I'm aware of use one of the above-mentioned cards or onboard driver-based RAID.  What model was it?
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by:dlethe
ID: 34922590
Software-based RAID1 works quite well in most operating systems.  Not only that, but with only 2 disk drives, I doubt you could find a controller at ANY price that will outperform software-based RAID1.  Furthermore, the cheap embedded controllers don't do read balancing, so you could very well run 50% faster on read I/Os then if you spent less than $200++ for a RAID controller.

As long as you configure windows, grub, or whatever O/S to have both disks in the boot path, then you are covered.  Don't buy a RAID controller, especially just for 2 disks.  Finally the raid controller will add a point of failure, so overall reliability & availability will be worse if you buy one.
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by:kkc0123
ID: 34931184
PE Tech:
I have a Dimension 8400 and it was simple to set up. Just had to plug in a second hard drive and change the bios setting. Been using this set up for over six years and I did indeed have a HDD failure during that time so it saved me.

Mug:
Hard to believe I'll have to spend over a thousand bucks just to get a desktop with a RAID capable mother board. Ridiculous. But thanks for the links.

dlethe:
It's my understanding that my HDDs will have to be changed to "dynamic" to use software RAID. I'm not sure I want to do that.
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by:PowerEdgeTech
PowerEdgeTech earned 90 total points
ID: 34931437
There are a couple of Dell systems that have driver-based RAID, which is supported onboard by chipset, like the Dimension 8400 ... the Precision T5500 and T7500.
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by:PowerEdgeTech
ID: 34931470
Many of the chipsets for the iSeries processors no longer support onboard RAID, so they are harder to find than they used to be.  The Precision workstations have Intel server boards that do support onboard RAID.
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by:dlethe
ID: 34931595
dlethe:
It's my understanding that my HDDs will have to be changed to "dynamic" to use software RAID. I'm not sure I want to do that.

-> True, but to use hardware RAID, you'll have to reformat the disk drive (after backing up, of course), then you have to deal with a potential reinstallation, because the total number of usable blocks will be different.

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by:kkc0123
ID: 34934893
diethe:
I can see how that might be true for RAID O but I don't see why it would be necessary for RAID 1.

PE Tech:
A dell CSR told me the Vostro 430 would support RAID 1 and this seems to be confirmed by various web posts that I have found. It has an Intel H57 chipset, which the Intel site says supports RAID. Weirdly, I bought an Inspiron 580 a few weeks ago, which has the same chipset as the Vostro and it did not support RAID. (Although I had been told by the pre-buy CSR that it did and the manual for the 580 actually describes how to set it up in RAID.)  Is this just because Dell chose to use a BIOS for the machine that ignored the chipset capabilitly? Anyway, I went onto the Dell business website last night to order the Vostro but the link to configure/build a machine actually linked to an Optima 980. So I just went to their outlet and bought one. I got if for about 1/3 the price of the Precision machines or the HP machines that Mug mentioned.
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dlethe earned 120 total points
ID: 34935149
The vast majority of controllers carve out some metadata starting at physical block #0 of ALL disks.  This is used to save configuration information like chunk sizes, slot ids, whether a HDD is a hot spare, etc.

The RAID level doesn't matter, as it still needs to know if a certain disk has data on it, or is a hot spare, or is rebuilding, or is online or offline ...
There are a handful of controllers that don't have this requirement, and it is counterintuitive, but you do NOT want one of them.   Reason is w/o the metadata, then the configuration goes on one place, the controller.  What if the controller dies?  What if the metadata is corrupted, or you have to update the firmware?

If your reason for R1 is data integrity, not performance (as it will be slower on low-end which you are targeting) .. then software-based RAID is also better because it con tolerate deep recovery time-outs .. many low-end ones can't, due to TLER.  I doubt your disks are qualified for hardware-based RAID anyway.

You should read this pdf from WD, so I don't have to rehash it.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=4&sqi=2&ved=0CDEQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wdc.com%2Fwdproducts%2Flibrary%2Fother%2F2579-001098.pdf&ei=KGJgTerJGoKglAfA6_jjCw&usg=AFQjCNFp1k98K6Uv_hnxCLV203VxkMt5RQ
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Author Comment

by:kkc0123
ID: 34935806
An interesting article. Thank you. However, it did say, "This error handling 'mis-coordination' is encountered when drives are under a high I/O load such as a video surveillance server, a busy e-mail server, or a busy web server." I'm just talking about a personal computer, used for a home business, so I don't think I'm at very much risk of getting this error. And the RAID set up is not my only back-up. I also run Norton Ghost and back-up nightly to an external HDD. And I back-up to an online server. Having a RAID 1 array in the event of a HDD failure will likely just save me recovery time.

I can see your point though and I will reconsider using software RAID. I guess, because the hardware setup has worked for me in the past, I feel pretty comfortable continuing with it.
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by:dlethe
ID: 34935886
Then article didn't make it clear enough.  You can have this at ANY time. You just need a few contiguous blocks, or for a HDD to go into deep recovery mode, then you are scr*wed.


The native Windows-based software RAID WILL work properly with consumer-class disk drives. Many of the RAID cards won't.
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Author Closing Comment

by:kkc0123
ID: 34958163
I would have appreciated some discussion of dlethe's arguement--whether any one else agreed or differed with his point of view.
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by:kkc0123
ID: 34958168
However, I thank you all for your help.
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