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Ideal Volume Configuration for Best Performance (Server 2008)

Posted on 2013-01-01
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Hi folks!

I have a file server running Windows Server 2008 R2 x64. (It is a Dell PowerEdge R200, if you are curious.) It has two identical 2 TB SATA hard drives using the server's built-in drive controller.

Within Windows, the drives are configured as dynamic disks and are broken into a mirrored system volume of approximately 500 GB and a striped data volume of approximately 3 TB (1.5 TB from each drive). This is all being done at the software level. There is no hardware RAID solution in this server.

I am trying to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of this machine that is possible within the limitations of the current hardware configuration. (I know that going hardware RAID with SCSI/SAS drives would be a much better choice, but that's not going to happen for the time being.) So my question is how you would evaluate the way the volumes are set up now, and what might be better for performance.

Should the mirror of the system volume be broken and it used as a simple or spanned volume? Is striping the best choice for the data volume? Understand that redundancy and fault tolerance are not the goals here. Simply the best possible performance. As I said, this is a file server, so reading and writing files are its primary functions.

Thanks,
Ithizar
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by:gmbaxter
ID: 38735141
Seeing as you only have 2 drives (spindles) your options for performance are limited. Best performance would be SAS drives in raid 10, but obviously there is a cost implication.

The best thing you can do is reduce the system volume down to around 250GB, and mirror it, then the remainder should be for data, again mirrored. Striping (Raid 0 provides no redundancy).

Have you checked the bios menu of the server to see if there is a simple on-board raid controller, rather than using the Windows raid?
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by:Ithizar
ID: 38735149
The best thing you can do is reduce the system volume down to around 250GB, and mirror it, then the remainder should be for data, again mirrored. Striping (Raid 0 provides no redundancy).
I understand that striping provides no redundancy. However, my primary goal here is performance, not redundancy. We make regular backups, and the loss of a few hours while restoring in the event of a hard drive failure would not be catastrophic. It is more important that our users get the best possible performance -- within our hardware limitations, of course. It was based on that I was going in the striping direction, because I was under the impression that striping does provide improved performance over mirroring, where each piece of data must be written twice.

Based on the sole goal being performance, and not redundancy, would you modify your recommendations at all?

Also, I will look into the possibility of an on-board RAID controller, but I don't believe these units have them.

Thanks,
Ithizar
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teomcam earned 400 total points
ID: 38735173
If redundancy is not an issue for you then go for RAID0 (stripping) as it will give you double performance to compare RAID1 or single HDD. In your case nothing can give you better performance than RAID0.
As far as I know DEll PE R200 has no RAID card in it as it sold as an option
Optional SAS 6/iR or PERC 6/E
. By a chance if you already have definetely go for hardware RAID rather than Windows!
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by:gmbaxter
ID: 38735191
In that case, stripe the data partition then that is probably the best you can do.
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by:Ithizar
ID: 38735195
If redundancy is not an issue for you then go for RAID0 (stripping) as it will give you double performance to compare RAID1 or single HDD. In your case nothing can give you better performance than RAID0.
Thanks! I am definitely going to look into some hardware upgrades later in the year, but for now I have to make do with what we have. That's why I was thinking RAID 0.

In the case of the system volume, it is already set up as a mirrored (RAID 1) volume, and I don't believe it is possible to change it to a striped (RAID 0) volume without destroying the data and starting over. Am I correct on that? If so, and therefore striping is not really a feasible option for that volume, am I better off leaving it mirrored as it currently is, or breaking the mirror and changing to either a simple volume or a spanned volume using the extra freed space? RAID 1 degrades performance due to the double writes, correct? That's why I was thinking that if RAID 0 is not an option, at least breaking the mirror would improve performance.

Thanks,
Ithizar
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by:teomcam
ID: 38735436
As far as I know you are right, you cannot migrate to RAID0 without destrying existing one in your case.
If you swicth to RAID0 you will have to reinstall your OS again and re copy all files into the server. If you do;
Your total space will be 2+2=4TB with double speed compare to a single HDD or RAID1.
RAID1 does not reduce the performance but you get only performance of 1 single HDD.
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by:andyalder
andyalder earned 100 total points
ID: 38736077
>I don't believe it is possible to change it to a striped (RAID 0) volume without destroying the data

Windows can't boot from software RAID 0 (or software RAID 5) since it doesn't have the RAID driver loaded until after it's booted so can only read the first block of data and doesn't know to go to disk 2 for the next block.
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