Suitable RAID Controller for Dell PowerEdge 860 Server.

Posted on 2013-10-23
Last Modified: 2016-11-23
Good morning,

I'm looking for a suitable RAID controller for a Dell PowerEdge 860 server running Windows 2008 Server.
I just need a card for RAID 1 and can take SATA drives.

I don't want it to cost a fortune.

Can anybody suggest anything?

Would the following be OK?:

Question by:mudfrog
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LVL 13

Accepted Solution

Norm Dickinson earned 250 total points
ID: 39593747
First off, here is an article explaining the various aspects of a RAID controller on a Dell server.

While it may save a few dollars at first, the card you have chosen is decidedly a consumer card, not an enterprise-grade device. So it will depend upon your tolerance for downtime and risk of being offline or having an issue with the controller.

Secondly, Dell sells the same controller directly for less...

However, it is really intended for workstations and PCs, not servers.

Dell does not show an available PCI RAID controller for this particular rack-mount server. They suggest a phone call for advice on buying parts that fit: "For prices and availability of parts and upgrades for this system, call 1-800-357-3355." See for available options.

A call to Dell would be the best bet - just ask them if a consumer-grade, off the shelf adapter will work, if that's what you really want to put in the server.

Author Comment

ID: 39593790
I have contacted Dell and am awaiting what they suggest as a suitable controller.

The server it will be used on will be a kind of holding area for data. Like a backup of data that isn't required to be accessed.

I will see what Dell suggest.
LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:Norm Dickinson
ID: 39593802
Good luck and keep me is always interesting to hear what the "official experts" of the company suggest.

If the potential for downtime is not a big deal, and it sounds like in this case it is not, just order a couple of the cheaper cards and keep one on the shelf in case of failure. Don't count on being able to replace the cheap adapter with an identical unit two years from now - and if you can't find the same adapter, you may end up rebuilding the RAID array to get it to work. It is always much easier on an identical part replacement than a migration. Just write down the settings you use to set it up with so you have them handy if you do need to replace someday.
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 39593832
You don't need a RAID controller for RAID 1. Windows Builtin software RAID 1 works far better, is more reliable, and also faster than if you use any of those cheap fake-RAID controllers like you posted a Link to.

If you really do need a RAID controller, get it directly from Dell. For your server you can get the optional SAS 5i/R or PERC 5/e RAID controllers, according to the PowerEdge 860 spec sheet.

You can use SATA disks on an SAS controller (it is backward compatible), but if you use SATA disks, also make sure you get the certified disks from Dell, or at least enterprise class disks. Consumer grade disks aren't built to run in an array, and also they shouldn't run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Author Comment

ID: 39593937
I did install the server using software RAID 1 but my manager wants to have a proper RAID controller card if possible.
I know there are performance issues with software RAID but for this particular server I think software RAID is fine for the purpose as its only really an interim solution.
It's got a couple 2TB Seagate Barracuda ST2000DM001 drives which should be OK.
LVL 88

Assisted Solution

rindi earned 250 total points
ID: 39594059
There aren't any performance issues using windows built-in software RAID. As I mentioned earlier, performance is actually better when compared to that of the cheap RAID controllers. Sometimes even an expensive real hardware RAID controller won't be able to keep up.

Your disks aren't enterprise class, and your array would fail using those. With Built-in Windows Software RAID the danger of a failure is less. So if you get a RAID controller you'll also have to get better disks.
LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:Norm Dickinson
ID: 39594106
Not to debate you on the point, Rindi, but the word "Would" really should be replaced with the word "Could" in regards to failure of the consumer-grade disks on cheap RAID controllers in a Windows Server 2008 environment.
 While not recommended and unlikely to withstand the rigors of a production environment, I have several clients who have opted for just that kind of arrangement and they have historically been able to get several years of reasonable light-duty use from the equipment. Of at least a dozen servers with this exact configuration that I'm responsible for servicing personally, only one has had a disk failure and none have had controller failures. In fact the disk failure is most likely due to physical contact with the server in a high-traffic area in that particular case. The risk is much higher of a failure, but it is certainly able to run with that configuration. A spare part or two and a good backup is really all that is required for light duty operation with a high tolerance for downtime.
LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 39594139
It's not the disks that fail, but rather the array. The reason is that consumer grade disks use a longer retry timing when bad sectors are encountered than the server grade disks do. These longer retries cause the controller to think the disk has failed. At least that's how I understand the matter. Experts-Exchange Expert Dlethe is the guru on this matter, and he's always preaching this on this site.
LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:Norm Dickinson
ID: 39594183
That is correct - but it is a matter of the dynamics of a heavy-use environment more than the design of the disks or the controller. I just wanted to differentiate between higher risk of failure, and incompatible hardware. It does work when you put it together using inexpensive disks and inexpensive controllers - heck, that's where RAID got its name - (Redundant Array of IN-expensive Disks) but it is not designed for mission-critical or high levels of utilization. In this particular case it should work fine.
LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 39595309
Just remember that a lot of Dell PE's do not support booting off of a 3rd party SATA controller.

Been there ,done that.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 39641315
I think for now we will look to use the software RAID as it isn't a production server as such so not a critical piece of equipment.

Thanks for all of your help!

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