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RAID - SBS 2008

Posted on 2013-06-28
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Last Modified: 2013-06-30
I would like to find experts experience using software RAID with SBS 2008. I do understand that hardware RAID would be a better option but the customer's resources will not stretch that far. I am undecided whether to install software RAID or simply leave it with two separate drives and be very careful to ensure that the backup system(s) are working well.  The server is used by < 10 users and they could cope with a few hours outage but any more would be detrimental to their business.

Thanks

John
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Question by:jhswinson
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by:gpizzuto
gpizzuto earned 166 total points
ID: 39285229
Why rely on Windows when you can trust RAID manifacturer ?
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rindi earned 112 total points
ID: 39285268
RAID 1 using Windows built-in RAID works very well. It is more reliable and also faster than most hardware RAID controllers. It certainly is far better than what you get with any fake-RAID controllers which you'll find included on many desktop motherboards these day. You also don't necessarily have to use enterprise class disks (which is essential with hardware RAID), but of course that would still be better, as standard disks aren't built to run 24/7 all the time.
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by:nate0187
nate0187 earned 55 total points
ID: 39285283
Software raid all the way. Don't don't trust hardware it will fail one day, and why use hardware? Every time you have to make a change to the raid configuration you have to reboot the server.
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by:gpizzuto
gpizzuto earned 166 total points
ID: 39285327
True if you use Raid 1. But what if you are using raid5 and Windows doesn't start ?
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by:Cliff Galiher
Cliff Galiher earned 111 total points
ID: 39285521
It has been my experience that dynamic volumes for the purposes of mirroring, striping, or other RAID-like functionality on a server put too much stress on the system. It is fine for a desktop OS or a high-use/important workstation, but servers inherently tax the system differently.

Put it this way: There is a reason MS has their line of "Windows Storage Server" OEM offerings. And there is a reason they have invested heavily into their iSCSI initiator, target, and Storage Spaces technologies for servers. Dynamic disks weren't cutting it.

SBS 2008 is already doing a *lot* more than the average server. Your performance will suffer, and your DR scenarios are significantly more complex.

My first reaction is, given your choices, the answer is neither. A good hardware RAID card is honestly *not* that expensive. Take the HP Microserver. This is a real server, with a "real" RAID solution (not software, not emulated as desktop motherboards often do) but a server-class RAID controller, and the entire server costs $500 (US.)  My honest opinion is that if the business can't afford a real server (and there are inexpensive options out there) with RAID then they really don't need a server. Even in tight budget constraints, there are ways to do this.

But, if you *absolutely must* choose one of your two options (and again, I encourage you to push back on the customer, because doing a job halfway is unacceptable to them and to your reputation) then I'd do basic disks and regularly verify (test restore) backups. Longer term, if a disk really does fail, you'll need to restore anyways (a failed disk often breaks windows soft-RAID), and the recovery scenarios are easier to deal with.

-Cliff
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by:rindi
rindi earned 112 total points
ID: 39285560
That isn't correct. Today's hardware very easily copes with software RAID. there is practically no impact on the processor of the server and there is no additional stress that would be measurable. It may have been a different story many years ago in the days of PIII CPU's or below.
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by:Cliff Galiher
Cliff Galiher earned 111 total points
ID: 39285624
It isn't about CPU alone. It is the bus. It is the memory channel. It is the disk controller. For software-RAID, all of the data (so mirroring, twice the data, for RAID-5, the parity data) must move through the *entire* pipeline.

With hardware RAID, the software simply requests the read or write as a "normal" I/O operation. The RAID controller has onboard ASICs to handle the operations. All modern controllers also have much larger on-board caches with battery backup, which gives you the equivalent of a small SSD. There is a reason SSD drives are considered one of the most significant storage improvements you can do, whether it is a laptop, desktop, or tiered storage in a server.

This isn't hypothetical and this isn't old knowledge. I've done the benchmarks. I've compared software RAID, hardware RAID, 3rd-party solutions like Drobo over SMB and over iSCSI, Storage Spaces, and ZFS, among others. I can tell you, without question, that software RAID poses a significant enough of a tax on system performance that, for SBS, it will be noticeable.

-Cliff
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by:gpizzuto
gpizzuto earned 166 total points
ID: 39285629
So, why do you use graphics cards, sound cards, etc. ?
Your CPU, at the present time, can do everything it needs.
The CPU can delegate the disc read/write/copy/verify of the data to some other hardware, so can do better its job, expecially under Windows...
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
David Johnson, CD, MVP earned 56 total points
ID: 39286008
The biggest item to remember that raid does not replace backup.  This must be stressed to the user.   Lets say you have setup raid 1 you get double the read speed but 1/2 the write speed (assuming software raid).. When one drive fails if you've done it right the system still boots and runs (both physical drives have all of the boot information including the boot sector).. you replace the drive.. the remaining good drive now has the task of copying all of the information over to the new drive. There will be significantly degraded performance throughout the system. And the highly taxed drive might also fail before the raid has been reconstructed.  It may not.. again you have to take everything into account.

In this particular situation I can guarantee that the backup has not been tested in a disaster recovery situation.

Fakeraid is definitely the worst of all scenarios adding a real storage subsystem is the ideal solution.  I'm talking about a battery backed up raid system with megabytes of cache memory.

Yes software raid will have an impact and can push an already taxed system over the edge. Will it adversely impact the current infrastructure, it depends. There is no one sized fits all solution here.
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Author Closing Comment

by:jhswinson
ID: 39288205
As expected I got a full range of opinions, however the info is useful in helping me reach my own conclusions in this case. As I asked for opinions rather than specifice info I have shared the points. Hope this is OK
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