HP ML310e RAID recommendation

Hello Folks,

I will be replacing an old windows 2003 server for a new client. As it is a smaller office with 11 workstations, I would like to use an HP ML310e which is an entry level server. I need to support a optometry software database which currently replies on SQL 2008 R2. My question is what RAID configuration would you suggest I use? Most of the ML310e units but with a B120i controller which supports raid 1 and I believe 10 as well. High end variations of server are available with a true RAID P420 controller. I don't want to spend the client's money needlessly however. Here are some options I am considering:

#1: B120i - 2 Sata 7200 disks RAID 1
#2: B120i - 4 Sata 7200 disks RAID 10
#3: B120i - 1 Sata enterprise SSD
#4: P420 - 2 SAS 15K Disks

Recommendations anyone? Thank you!
Who is Participating?
Chach DalSantoConnect With a Mentor Solutions & Systems ArchitectCommented:
I would recommend getting the fastest drives you can (pair of SSD's would be great if $ allowed; the 15k you mentioned would be great too) with enough space to accommodate years of their growth (e.g. do they store large graphic files or videos of procedures, for example?) and going with a SIMPLE MIRROR that is properly backed up.  Preferably off-site.

With small businesses, its best to KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) whenever possible.  A RAID 10 (RAID 1+0) would be a good second choice, but would be more complex than they really need and more costly.  Just as an FYI; RAID 5 is advised against for SQL applications by Microsoft, so they could run into support issues if they have an application problem.  In the real world, a small database has no problems running on it but always go with the recommendations.

A Simple mirror RAID 1 setup is easy for even a novice to administer; and by novice I'm meaning an employee someone on-site, not their IT helper :-)
Tom FI.T. and Support Staff ManagerCommented:
A Lot of this depends on budget and storage space requirements.  Generally speaking, these days One Big Raid 10 is going to get your job done.  

Here's some good reading:

JohnnyD74Author Commented:
Hi Tom,

The budget is not a concern but I just want to make sure I spend their money wisely. Are you familiar with the B120i?
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Smart array (420) has the easiest and best recovery options.
You can easily swap servers and have minimal stuffing around in a critical recovery scenario.
Go smartarray if you can afford it, raid 1 with 2 disks in your question.
Tom FConnect With a Mentor I.T. and Support Staff ManagerCommented:
This is from an HP rep.  I personally don't have experience with the B's, just the 420.  

"The P400 series he refers to below are still the standard controllers on p series systems (DL380p, ML350p, etc). In Gen8 it’s called the P420 (or P420i for the embedded version).

We used to have the B110i as a more entry level SA controller option on our 100 series.  This has moved to the B120i and B320i (call dynamic smart array) in Gen8.  This is used on the e series systems (DL380e, ML350e, etc), which are the replacements for the 100 series.

These controllers are more entry level, however they use the exact same HP Smart Array software that is used on the P420.  Meaning the tools to manage are the same, and you can even migrate a set of drives from one of the dynamic smart array controllers to a P series controller if it’s added later.  They will have lower performance than the P420 used in the p series.

• RAID 0,1,10 standard.  Upgradeable to RAID 5 via 512MB cache.
• Supports up to 4 or 6 (depending on server) SATA drives only.
• This uses the host processors cycles to run.
• Used as the base controller on almost all the e series Gen8 servers

• RAID 0,1,10 standard.  Upgradeable to RAID 5 via 512MB cache.
• Supports up to 8 SAS drives (requires license for SAS drive support). Can also support up to 27 drives in the systems with and integrated SAS expander.
• Has it’s own chip on the controller, therefore not having to use host processor cycles.
• Upgrade option on the DL360e and DL380e only.  Used primarily to support SAS drives without having to add a P420 (which costs more)

• RAID 0,1,10 standard.  Upgradeable to RAID 5 via 512MB, 1GB, or 2GB cache.
• Supports up to 8 SAS drives (no license required).  Can also support up to 27 drives in the systems with and integrated SAS expander.
• Also has it’s own chip on controller (ROC).  Higher performance than the B320i (up to 220K IOPS).
• Standard option on the p series systems.  Can also be added as a PCI card to any system.
Tom FI.T. and Support Staff ManagerCommented:
There isn't anything complex about a RAID10 array - not to the administrator anyway.  

If budget isn't an issue and you want MUCH better performance go with 10.
Chach DalSantoSolutions & Systems ArchitectCommented:
Tom F; thats my point.  He's the administrator, but what about a year or two from now?  He may have moved on, and the client will need a simple solution.  As IT people we understand the workings of RAID volumes because we do it every day.  Someone who doesn't even open their PC at home may be overwhelmed by, not 1 but 2 separate RAID functions working together intertwined, and which drive to replace, and how to trigger rebuild... etc.

15K or SSD mirror will be PLENTY of performance for 11 users.  It really will.  Even with a SQL based application.

Tom FI.T. and Support Staff ManagerCommented:
A non-admin isnt going to understand a RAID1 any better than a RAID10 or any other raid for that matter and chances are they won't have to.  It's really no more difficult to create or maintain a RAID1 vs RAID10 either.  

I'm not even sure why we're working under the impression there will be no admin type in the future. I'd rather plan for future growth.
Chach DalSantoSolutions & Systems ArchitectCommented:
"I'm not even sure why we're working under the impression there will be no admin type in the future"

Murphy's Law.  We should plan for the worst within reason because with SMB's you never know.  Thats all.  Especially in medical facilities like this; they tend to be the WORST users because its not their training.

These are just opinions for JohnnyD74 to review, and in my experience simpler is far better. I have dozens of small businesses just like this that we maintain and being considerate of their money while delivering good performance has earned me the loyalty of all of them.  I see that you've commented on being considerate of that as well, and thats really good.  Lots of consultants aren't.  

IMHO 2 drives is just less money and less moving parts than 4 drives, so less things to break.  High throughput isn't an issue due to small user base, storage sizes on hard drives are enormous these days, and if he really wants high performance the SSD's are just as reliable as traditional HDD's.  This server could easily be expanded in the future through additional internal drives, or even external USB drives at a later date if and when they become necessary.  No need to buy them 8-12TB raw if they are never gonna use more than 500GB, and JohnnyD74 is the only one who can answer that with his client.

JohnnyD74 can review our opinions and decide whats best for his client, and how he wants to proceed with them.  Both solutions we've discussed will do the job, they are both good opinions, and even the cost difference wouldn't be major.  I simply haven't read anything leading me to believe that they NEED or would BENEFIT very much from a more complex setup... thats all.
Tom FI.T. and Support Staff ManagerCommented:
I understand planning for the worst, but sometimes we have to make certain assumptions.  Assuming someone will be available to admin a server is one of those assumptions - otherwise we shouldn't be installing a server at all.

2 drives is less money than 4, obviously, but you're only going to be getting half of the space from a RAID 1 setup.  You are only get half in a RAID10 as well, but you have twice the number of drives, so for twice the money you have twice the space essentially making it a wash.

Just some things to consider as well.
Chach DalSantoSolutions & Systems ArchitectCommented:
Not really a wash; Either solution can be sized correctly from the beginning.  2 larger drives are going to be less expensive than 4 smaller drives.  

We're starting to split hairs.  Obviously we see things differently here; lets not argue it anymore.  Let him decide whats best for his client at this point and make his recommendation.

JohnnyD74, can you chime in on their current storage requirements (total data they're keeping on the old server) as well as what they anticipate to grow by?  Add a good safety factor to that growth, and thats how much storage you can reasonably predict they'll need in the foreseeable future.

TWISI, this decision is not so much of a technical one anymore, as much as a business one.  They'll only want to buy what they can reasonably need in the foreseeable future.  Don't overbuild.  Just because they may say the budget isn't a concern, but believe me... as a small business owner myself, it is always scrutinized.

JohnnyD74, let me throw this out as well... If larger, mirrored SSD's or 15K SAS drives with the 420i push the price up too much, can always go with WD Raptor drives.  10K rpm, SATA interface, large caches.  A great compromise between low cost inexpensive drives and high end performance drives.  I have run them in several workstations and servers with no problems for up to 8 years (just retired 2 big MacPro workstations and their server I built with them back in 2007) and the performance was fabulous.  No errors, no SMART warnings even after 8 years of non-stop 3-shift use.  

Don't be afraid to be creative.  Hope it goes well for you.
Tom FI.T. and Support Staff ManagerCommented:
LoL, obviously we will let him decide.   We do have a difference (and a fairly small difference) of opinions here and that's what it's all about.  I'm not 'arguing' I was simply pointing out another consideration.  

Good luck Johnny, and to answer your multiple choice question, based on what we know, my answer would be #2.
JohnnyD74Author Commented:
Thank you so much guys for your insight! I will likely so with the RAID 10 solution.
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