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Need help choosing a RAID card

Posted on 2013-05-27
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Last Modified: 2013-06-13
Hi,


A client uses his computer for professional use and I would like to build him one with a 4-disk RAID 10 using these SATA drives.

Can you recommend a RAID controller card that's decent but won't break the bank?  By the way, the motherboard does support RAID 10, but I heard it's not recommended to use the native RAID controller.  Don't know how true that is, but this is the motherboard I'm looking to get.
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Question by:epichero22
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garycase earned 167 total points
ID: 39199936
The motherboard RAID will work;  but you'll get better performance; more reliable operation; and easier to migrate RAID with a good dedicated controller.    For a simple RAID-10 there's less difference than a more sophisticated RAID level (5, 6, 50, 60, etc.) ... but the dedicated card is still a better approach.

I like Areca & LSI controllers -- some of the Adaptecs are good as well, but since they were purchased by PMC their controllers aren't as well-regarded, so I'd stay with Areca or LSI.

This is an excellent choice:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816151039
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by:duttcom
ID: 39199945
I can recommend ATTO cards - http://www.attotech.com/products/category.php?id=1&catid=10

Their RAID adapters come with a 3 year warranty and are well priced.
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by:Andrej Pirman
Andrej Pirman earned 166 total points
ID: 39199964
Just my 5 cents:
I have the similar situation at home and my win situation was 1 x 240 GB SSD drive on 6G on-board controller, plus RAID 1 mirroring with 2 x 2TB SATA drives. I put ALL temp, paging and stratch locations on fast SSD drive, while on RAID 1 mirror there are only DATA files.
It was huge performance boost against my old config with RAID 10 disk array.

Of course, from there on I make BACKUP once a day on external QNAP device and check it on daily basis!!!
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by:garycase
ID: 39200019
"... Of course, from there on I make BACKUP once a day ..."  ==>  Backups are necessary no matter which RAID controller you use.   A RAID is NOT a substitute for backups.    It's designed to provide fault-tolerance, so the system will continue to run even if a disk fails ... but it's NOT a replacement for a good backup strategy.

... and if this is for a business, you don't want those backups on an external device in the same room as the main system !!   [As an excellent example of just how good major financial companies are with their backups, note that NO data was lost on 9/11 !!]
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by:Andrej Pirman
ID: 39200030
@Garycase: yes, you'rite...but honestly, how many HOME users you know which have regular, consistent, FULL daily backup? :) I just wanted to point out, that backup is necessary. ...which, I admit, you did better ;)
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by:garycase
ID: 39200091
Actually a lot of home users have good backups these days ... thanks to Carbonite, Crashplan, and the like.    I help a lot of folks, and always insist that they either have a 2nd hard drive with an automated daily backup, or a subscription to a cloud-based backup system.

The cloud-based backups are actually better, since they're off-site, and clearly have their own very redundant backups ... so the backup "drive" can't fail, like an external drive could.

For the average person these days, $50/year for Carbonite is all the backup they need ... and will almost always be a HUGE improvement over whatever they're using now.
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by:dlethe
ID: 39200101
Save your money on the RAID card and put it into buying ENTERPRISE class disks instead.  That disk is unsuitable for server use. The WD blacks are designed for light duty, 8 hours a day, 300 days per year.  Those are not 24x7x365 disks.

Then use host-based software RAID.
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by:garycase
ID: 39200135
While I agree the Enterprise class disks are better, I've got 6 1.5TB WD Blacks in my HTPC that record TV 24/7 and have been doing so for about 4 years with ZERO failures.    The system has NEVER been off (except for a couple of extended power failures) ... is rarely rebooted (2-3 times a year);  and has been rock-solid since I built it.

The system has 8 TV tuners, so we can record 8 channels at once; and although that's a VERY rare occurrence, it does record a LOT ... often 3-4 things at a time.    We record FAR more than we actually watch ... but capture virtually all new series;  several newscasts; etc. and then selectively delete/watch as we get a chance.

But the point is that those WD Blacks have been running 24/7 for about 4 years with never so much as a "hiccup" :-)      And they're very active ... recording 8-10 shows/day (sometimes more), re-rendering these overnight to take up less space, and analyzing the recordings after they're finished to mark the commercials (so they'll be auto-skipped on playback).

FWIW they're also not in a RAID array ... they're all assigned to a "recording pool" that Beyond TV can use as it sees fit, so recordings tend to be spread among them.
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by:dlethe
ID: 39200164
Gary, video is large block I/O; almost zero seeks; and low, low duty cycle/light use.  The WDC drives go into deep error recovery and can hang for over 30 seconds due to lack of TLER.  This alone makes those disks unacceptable for a wide number of RAID controllers anyway.

If the people who make the drive specifically state that they are unsuitable for servers, then take their advice.
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by:garycase
ID: 39200194
As I noted, Enterprise class drives are indeed better -- and the reason I mentioned that these aren't in a RAID array was to make it clear that TLER wasn't a factor for my use (but I agree I should have mentioned that this was an issue with RAID use).
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by:andyalder
ID: 39202475
It's not exactly a server board so it's probably for a high end workstation so there may be no 24x7 requirement. The onboard fake-RAID plus desktop drives may well be up to the job if that's the case.
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by:epichero22
ID: 39205450
Whoa whoa whoa, please, lets not let this get out of hand here, and the question was what RAID card would you recommend for a power user's desktop.  Mind you that the user isn't recording live TV programs around the clock (and as a side note, I can't imagine how you have time to watch every second of those recordings, maybe you watch them at 1.5x speeds?), but it would be nice to offer some level of fault tolerance and higher levels of performance.

The RAID cards that were linked were about $400.  That's way too much of a commitment for a single desktop user.  Also, I've tried doing a RAID 5 through an ASUS motherboard, and it was really, really crappy, so I was left thinking that mobo RAID is a waste of time.  And I've read that software RAID is also a waste of time, but I have yet to see benchmarks to verify that.

Regarding the SSD primary / conventional DATA, yes I've considered that, but since SSD is still a relatively new technology, I wouldn't want to build something that comes with a risk.

So, are there any $40-$50 RAID cards worthwhile?
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by:dlethe
dlethe earned 167 total points
ID: 39205459
No, there are NOT any $40-$50 RAID cards that are worth a while.  Unless you have a dedicated CPU, RAM, NVRAM, and consider controllers pay $20-$50 in royalties to the handful of RAID patent holders out there then you'll just end up with something slower an less stable than native software based RAID.
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by:andyalder
ID: 39205728
If you don't want to "want to build something that comes with a risk" then you have to give up on building anything since no form of RAID will cover a short in the PSU which could fry everything connected to it. I can't see that SSD as primary/boot and conventional disks are something new, they've been doing that for a few years with high end laptops even. Sure they fail but that's what backing up is for and at least with a desktop you have room for mirroring.

Regarding RAID 5 on the motherboard controller, yes it's really crappy since there's no cache so you're down to the basic 4 physical I/Os per logical one on write; to write a sector two of the disks are read, XOR computed and then the same disks are written to again so it's a really bad performer. Try RAID 1 or 10 instead on your cheap motherboard fake-RAID which by the way is near enough the same chips as the on the $40 cards.
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by:garycase
ID: 39205991
"... and as a side note, I can't imagine how you have time to watch every second of those recordings, maybe you watch them at 1.5x speeds?)"  ==>  We don't watch much of what we record.   I just record it "because I can" :-)

... I record Leno, Letterman, all the local news broadcasts, several cable news broadcasts, EVERY prime-time show, etc.   Most of the news & late-night stuff just gets discarded (automatically ... I have it set to only keep 15 of each show) ... but if someone mentions "Did you see xxxxxx on Leno last week?   or some such;  I can watch it.   We skim the news broadcasts ... and yes, I can play everything at 1.5x and it automatically compensates the sound so it doesn't sound "mousy".    It also automatically skips commercial breaks -- as a result a typical hour show takes ~ 40 minutes to watch at actual speed, or 27 minutes at 1.5x.

The prime time stuff we just save until we either decide to check out a new series, or just choose to delete it all.    There are still some series from the last two years we haven't watched at all ... but they're all available in case we want to :-)

But the bottom line is what I said above:  "... We record FAR more than we actually watch "
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by:epichero22
ID: 39227840
Hey guys, just another question to double check something: I heard that motherboard RAID 10 support isn't that bad...do you have experience with this?
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by:dlethe
ID: 39227908
With a fake-raid, yes it is that bad.
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by:epichero22
ID: 39246247
OK, thank you guys.
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