Hardware Raid Controller or Not

Posted on 2016-09-26
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2016-12-08
This question is based on answers received from a couple different questions. Here is what was derived from previous questions:

1) The only drawback to RAID 5 is the amount of time if takes to rebuild a 1TB or larger drive. As long as the drives are 1TB or less RAID 5 is still pa perfectly good option.
2) The TRIM function is nice but not really a show stopper. SSDs can be used fine without TRIM.

Now the question. Would you use a hardware RAID controller or and OS RAID (1)?. I.E. If I wanted 1TB useable would you use a hardware RAID controller say RAID 5 with 3 500GB SSD drives or would you use a OS RAID1 with two 1TB SSDs? I am trying to determing is a hardware RAID controller is worth it or not.....
Question by:LockDown32
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LVL 17

Accepted Solution

pjam earned 500 total points
ID: 41816779
If this is for a server, my vote would always be hardware RAID.  If for a desktop OS works OK.
LVL 15

Author Comment

ID: 41816792
It is for a server. Small server. I have always been told hardware RAID too but  I am not sure if that philosophy isn't changing. The reason I always heard was that it relieves the processor of the burden but now processors are so outpacing everything else that maybe it isn't a problem any more?
LVL 11

Assisted Solution

Maclean earned 500 total points
ID: 41816826
Hardware RAID is still better. More efficient, better performance, and not being software, less prone to crashing unless its a hardware fault.
And Hardware RAID offers protected boot. Big plus for security.

In addition Software raid is sensitive to viruses. Hence Hardware is still the one to go to.
Adaptec has a nice clear whitepaper on it. Likely biased being a hardware vendor primarily, but it covers some good points.

See article here

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LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 41816834
Most good RAID controllers come with cache batteries as an added safety factor
LVL 15

Author Comment

ID: 41816846
I wish there was a date stamp on that article. There was no mention of PMC or Microsemi and the said RAID 6 was new. All things considered the article seems a little old. Was there a date on it?

On a side note I have been a big fan of Adaptec since Netware 2.X but no more. They go from Adaptec to PMC to Microsemi then to add insult to injury they give up Storage Manager and go to MaxView where even with the latest you can't email on any port other then 25. They have gone to the dogs......

I am kind of waiting for Rindi to weigh in. He is a big proponent of OS RAID. When you look at the cost of a server (just hardware) a good RAID Controller with batter backup is around 20-25% of the whole server.  That's a bunch.
LVL 88

Assisted Solution

rindi earned 500 total points
ID: 41816879
1) The only drawback to RAID 5 is the amount of time if takes to rebuild a 1TB or larger drive. As long as the drives are 1TB or less RAID 5 is still pa perfectly good option.
2) The TRIM function is nice but not really a show stopper. SSDs can be used fine without TRIM.

Neither of those statements are correct.

It isn't just that RAID 5 arrays with large disks take very long to rebuild, but the stress the disks are presented to at the time make it really very likely that other disks will fail during the rebuild making the array useless. There are also further problems with RAID 5 that will cause problems, but they are too difficult for me to explain.

SSD's need controllers that support trim, or they won't last long. This is definitely a show stopper. If you have spare SSD's, use them in PC's as single disks, then you get the most out of them,, and don't waste them in a system that doesn't support TRIM. If you want to RAID them, connect them to a normal SATA controller that supports TRIM, and use OS software RAID instead. That is cheaper, the SSD's will have a normal life-time, Performance will be a lot better.
LVL 11

Expert Comment

ID: 41816897
Adaptec Article was from January 2016, so its not super old or super new.
Here are some more recent articles. (Ignore whether its MAC, Windows or Linux, its the technology that matters)

7 hours old
June 13, 2016
May 8, 2016

I hope these help. Not as thorough as whitepaper, but more recent for sure comparing the info.
LVL 15

Author Comment

ID: 41816915
Rindi I hate to say this but I have contacted manufacturers directly and they support the two statements above about RAID 5 and TRIM. I have read several articles on RAID 5 and they all say the same thing. The only draw back is the time to rebuild. Can you provide me with articles that support your case? Especially the TRIM. Samsung did a test that more or less stated that the life expectancy of a MLC drive (even without TRIM) was so long (on the magnitude of 75 years) that all the manufacturers have all but dropped TLC just because it isn't needed. Shoot me some supporting docs please. What is your definition of "not lasting long"?

Thanks for the articles Maclean. PJam says the same thing and it is what I have heard for 25 years. Nothing beats hardware raid...... the problem not is who's hardware raid. Everyone keeps getting bought out.... who is the standard?
LVL 30

Assisted Solution

pgm554 earned 500 total points
ID: 41816936
If you are running RAID 1 SSD ,I see no compelling reason on not using the built in OS software as it should support trim out of the box on the more advanced OS's.

If you are mixing and matching HD and SSD,then a caching HW controller would make sense.

Lot's of HW RAID controllers let you set up tiered disk RAID sets so you can use regular spinning disk
(cheaper) along with SSD depending upon the app you are running.

Check out:

So the answer is ,it depends.
LVL 15

Author Comment

ID: 41816942
I would tend to agree pgm554. I have heard the same. Raid 0 or 1 from the sata ports on the motherboard should enable TRIM. The problem with Hardware RAID Controller is that TRIM does not work. As soon as you interject a RAID Controller TRIM is out of the picture.

Here is a CNET article https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-ssds-solid-state-drives-work-increase-lifespan/

States that if you write 50GB a day, every day, to a SSD is will probably last 12 years. What they don't say is if that is with TRIM enabled or not. The way the article is written would lead you to believe that is without TRIM. The computer will die long before the SSD even with TRIM disabled...
LVL 11

Expert Comment

ID: 41816949
Software can have benefits, depending on your requirements as per articles.
My own experience, I ensure that my ESXI, Acropolis or HyperV Physical servers have Vendor or Adaptec HW RAID.
Adaptec has been around for many many years, and from my personal view is the standard to go with.

If my server is a physical DC, then I don't care too much, Software RAID will do if it does not have a build in RAID which is rare.

Considering you are using SSD, the benefit of a hardware RAID for performance reasons is debatable.
I mean you are going to get plenty of IOPs with SSD. Not sure if the fraction of seconds with Hardware Raid for SSD validates added cost. However security and stability wise, I would recommend hardware RAID.

Software is software and more prone to external influence/erroring.
And if using hardware RAID, use either vendor supplied and supported controller, or find an Adaptec compatible with your system.

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