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Advice on components for home-based Raid 5 server

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  • Homebuilt
  • NAS / RAID
  • Systems
Last response: in Systems
January 17, 2006 1:02:46 PM

Intention: Build a box centered around a large Raid 5 array which will serve to backup computers at my home. My primary computers are a corporate laptop and another workstation (games/video editing) running Raid 0, so I want to offload data from those systems for peace-of-mind.

Priority: (1) Dependable, (2) Budget <$800, (3) Speed

Expansion: Although I do not have gigabit (wireless) right now, I assume that it will be available in the next 2-3 years(?) In the meantime, big bottleneck is wireless G router. Even if I had gigabit network access - would this remain the primary bottleneck? If so, the hardware specs should reflect that.

RAID card: Looks like I'm going to drop ~$200 on a decent card. Do I target PCI-X? Assume I'll need SATA.
CPU: AMD/Intel preference here? Raid cards have processing on board - right?
Motherboard: Do bus speeds matter here? Anything I should consider?
Hard drives: Does it matter if they have onboard buffer? (8/16 meg?) Assume I'll get 3 large (250/300 meg) SATA drives on the cheap.
Power Supply: Assume 3-4 hard drives - what size power supply is needed?
OS: Going with XP here, sorry, no time to tinker with Linux.
RAM: Do I need more than 512 meg?

Alternatives: Do I consider RAID 1 on the mobo instead for additional cost saving? Hurts expansion doesn't it? Should I consider software RAID 5 (remember XP) knowing bottleneck is network?

Anything I'm overlooking? Thanks for your time and consideration.

More about : advice components home based raid server

a b B Homebuilt system
January 17, 2006 2:14:29 PM

If your goal is simply relatively safe backup of data, I'd just look at Norton Ghost, and add a large IDE or SATA drive, where 250 GB of space is avail for $59 on sale occasionally at COMPUSA....

With wireless G, you are limited at 54 Mbs, or only 6 Mbytes/sec throughput anyway if accessing via wireless, so blazing RAID 5 speeds for backup/restore function is not really needed, IMO...(Even a USB2.0 external drive can handle sustained throughput of about 25 Mbytes/sec )

Any new NF4 mb usually comes with an integrated Promise SATA RAID controller, so you could easily build a decent RAID 1 with no additional RAID cards...; functional, more than fast enough, and for less money,.
January 17, 2006 2:23:45 PM

Those are good suggestions and certainly are budget-concious, but I think I want to get away from using my existing desktop (~2 years old). I considered an external USB drive but you're looking at a single point of failure, unless I can find one that will mirror?
Related resources
January 17, 2006 6:22:24 PM

Ya know… my mobo knowledge is a bit "aged" and it took me all of 1 google search to find an Asus motherboard (Asus K8N-E Deluxe Socket754 ATX) that has onboard RAID 5 (SATA) and all the bells and whistles for < $100. GigE, USB 2, Firewire, AGP8x, etc. Thus, no need for an expensive controller card.

mobo, cpu, ram --> $200
tower & power supply --> $200
video card --> $25
hard drives --> $300

So this is doable right? Do I just simply order that motherboard (or similar), tower, RAM, CPU from NewEgg and let them configure it? then add the RAID drives later?
January 17, 2006 6:57:28 PM

The socket 754 platform is outdated, and was host to the first generation of athlon 64 processors. You should look for motherboards with the socket 939 platform, and an nforce4 ultra chipset (assuming you're going to go with AMD). Most will have RAID, usually levels 0 and 1, but I'm sure they are out there with RAID 5 to boot.

I would recommend a 450 watt PSU, from a reputable manufacturer. I'm sure you could calculate (to a degree) exactly how many watts will be used by your entire system, but I know not the specs nor have the desire to.
January 17, 2006 7:16:34 PM

Newegg does not configure anything.
Raid 5 is nice and seems to fit your budget.


If it is back up only and not a file server 512mb ram will be fine.
Here is a power supply calculator.

8 or 16 either one will be fine for a file server.

Like you mentioned your only bottleneck is the wireless network.
January 17, 2006 7:39:24 PM

Scoyle: Great suggestion. Based on Tom's reviews, AMD is really the only choice. Assuming socket 939, I have a choice of ~4 different models (and clock speeds) care to make a more specific suggestion? or does it really matter?

Vascular: I had someone else share that PSU link - what a great tool!

Initial backup will be done hardwired through router - subsequent access will be wireless for immediate future.
a b B Homebuilt system
January 18, 2006 9:10:16 AM

"Most will have RAID, usually levels 0 and 1, but I'm sure they are out there with RAID 5 to boot. "

Actually, Asus claims it's upper-end SLI boards support RAID5 on the integrated SATA controller, so, yeah, I am sure the others prob have the same features too.....
January 18, 2006 11:26:54 AM

Cheapest mainboard with "RAID-5" support. Same company that makes the Winfast branded video cards.

http://www.foxconnchannel.com/products_motherboard_2.cf...

You may find the GeForce 6150 onboard useful, to reduce costs, and also save money you can invest into RAM. (1-2 GB RAM would benefit it, as the OS will use it as a giant disk cache).

For your price range it might be better to look at running 4 x SATA HDDs in RAID 0/1 instead of RAID-5 for performance reasons.

It is commonly believed that nVidia nForce 4 "RAID-5" is performed by the Windows XP / XP x64 driver via software 'CPU offloading of XOR' anyway. Although if the CPU is doing nothing else and if you really want to save $$$ could always run Linux on it, and use Linux software RAID-5 with lots of RAM and a decent Linux file system (ReiserFS comes to mind), performance would be similar to the Windows NV-RAID 5, but it would cost less, or put saved cash into RAM for OS to use as disk cache. ;) 

So long as you've got a Gigabit connection to it (with no wireless inbetween) you'll be able to backup your data quick smart. Wireless 54g will slow it down considerably... but it should still work.

Real 'hardware offloaded' RAID-5 comes at a price, you typically require PCI-X slots (thus more expensive mobo) and a pricer PCI-X RAID-5 card. Adaptec and LSI are prob best bet here though.

http://www.giga-byte.com - under Products, Server / Workstation board they have a hidden stash of decent offerings. Also some of their standard Mainboards include a single PCI-X slot, usually Intel workstation ones though, but within your price range perhaps (?).

Remember that 4 x 250+ GB HDDs will set you back a fair bit, unless you've already got some, then need to add PC parts to build 'around' them.
January 18, 2006 11:46:08 AM

You could buy a Snap 4X00 Server from ebay. It's support raid 5.
January 18, 2006 1:36:27 PM

First off Linux would make a great system for your backups :-)

However wireless has several major problems:

0. Security. Wireless is completely insecure even when using encryption. The FBI can hack encrypted wireless in under 30 min, a good hacker in under an hour or two and your neighbor's 9 year old kid in about 3 hours.

1. Bandwidth. You are limited to 54Mbps on a good day which is about 5MB/sec MAX theoretical bandwidth which is terrible.

2. Windows can hardly push 5MB/sec on regular 100Mbps ether let alone 802.11g wireless so your performance is likely to be very poor no matter what.

For those reasons and many others that I do not have time to list here because it would take all day, I would recommend using multiple external drives for backups and or a Linux backup / samba server accessible over wired gigabit Ethernet with hardware RAID 1, RAID 5 or RAID 6.

250GB HDDs sell for about 100 bux now and external USB, Firewire or SATA enclosures sell for 25-70 bux each.

I would recommend external SATA, Firewire or USB 2.0 in that order. SATA would be the fastest and most reliable solution.

Instead of getting external enclosures you could get removable SATA HDDs plug them in daily for the backup and when done take them and plug them into your optional Linux backup server so the data is online in case you need it. You should alternate HDDs every other day for more data security.

Ideally you want to backup all your data to HDD0, HDD1 and HDD2 and put HDD0 in your fireproof safe, HDD1 in your safety deposit box and keep HDD2 at home.

Every other day alternate between HDD0 and HDD2 and once a month or so backup to HDD1.

You could build a Linux file server / media server to hold all the data and share the files over samba or NFS, etc. That way you would have a big media jukebox and a backup server all in one :D 
January 18, 2006 2:47:47 PM

I'd go with a dual core opty for processor winxp x64 (cause it runs better on a network seek times faster) and seriously think about a wired 1000mbps connection (just far faster for data transfer and hardware not expensive) dlink makes a router that has gigabit wired ethernet and wireless G model DGL-4300, $139.99 from tigerdirect.com, i have one and it works great. Ram then would be as per remaining budget 1gb would be the min i would recomend as the raid is gonna use alot of memory. A good suggestions was made for onboard video, raid, and sound as that solution is usually cheaper.
January 18, 2006 2:51:54 PM

Understand advantages of Linux, just never found the time to pick up that skill set. Father of two, career, night school, etc. Your method does seem very secure, but there's that whole time/convenience trade-off there. The Buffalo NAS come close to what I'm looking for, but I'm more interested in a fault-tolerant server share than a true backup system. I don’t think I’ll be running apps on that machine, but want better access to it.
January 18, 2006 3:06:52 PM

Quote:
I'd go with a dual core opty for processor winxp x64 (cause it runs better on a network seek times faster) and seriously think about a wired 1000mbps connection (just far faster for data transfer and hardware not expensive) dlink makes a router that has gigabit wired ethernet and wireless G model DGL-4300, $139.99 from tigerdirect.com, i have one and it works great. Ram then would be as per remaining budget 1gb would be the min i would recomend as the raid is gonna use alot of memory. A good suggestions was made for onboard video, raid, and sound as that solution is usually cheaper.


I'd love to hardwire this, but the physical location makes it difficult in the near future. The more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to have to suck it up and hire someone to do the wiring.
January 18, 2006 3:11:08 PM

I have never seen a house that would take more than about 90 minutes to wire. A reputatbe computer firm with network techs should be able to do it for under $150.
January 18, 2006 3:20:22 PM

Then Linux is still perfect for this!

0. wire location with CAT5E (not CAT6 it's a waste).

1. obtain gigabit switch ( $50 @ newegg )

2. build Linux samba server ( use existing machine or build a new one for 300 - 800 from newegg )

3. run samba

4. schedule differential backup over gigabit ethernet on a daily basis from your machines to the samba share on the linux server

5. enjoy

samba =~ windows file and printer sharing so your RAID 1 or RAID 5 storage array will appear as drive z: on your windows machines :D 
January 18, 2006 3:45:26 PM

Here is a newegg config for a Linux samba server:

http://secure.newegg.com/NewVersion/Wishlist/WishShareShow.asp?ID=1856239

about $700 delivered

All of the components were selected with quality, reliability and performance in mind except for the case, RAM and VGA card.

The RAM or the disk space could be upgraded and still stay under the $800 mark.

In the future you could throw in 1GB PC3200 and an nVida 7800GT and you have a high-end Linux workstation / server for graphics work or a high-end gaming machine :D 

If you are not concerned about upgradability you could go 754 + nForce3 and save some $ or the new nForce6100 with integrated VGA however that usually gets in the way and that is why I went with the nForce4 + PCI VGA.
January 18, 2006 5:50:31 PM

If you're going to be implementing RAID 5, then you're going to need a board with an integrated RAID controller. The Nforce4 ultra chipset has a RAID controller, but it doesn't support RAID 5. On Asus deluxe and premuim version boards, there is an integrated silicon image RAID controller that supports RAID 5. A board with an integrated RAID controller is probably your best bet, as even the Nforce 4 Ultra chipset doesn't support that level RAID.
January 19, 2006 3:57:13 AM

you guys are killin me...

XOR engine is nice, but this is a home built low load server...he dont need XOR

Raid 5 is a nice idea, but will be a bit pricey. You Do NOT need a controller either...

To me sounds like you want the max amount of space and can handle your speed needs. Ok, 10/100 is ok but most modern boards have GbE on board. The lappy will have to do with 10/100 or "G" wireless. The others can use the gbe cheap. There was a 5 port GbE switch for $30 this week so its not horrible. Get one.

No controller I say? Easy, Windows XP Pro or a server class OS. They have built in RAID 5 software mode. Not nearlly as fance as a card but it will work. You can also consider a used older 3ware card, such as the 75xx series. Your budget tells me a 4 port card with 4 x 250GB hdd's. Giving you about 700 GB of formatted RAID 5 space. Put that in a decent mobo and it'll run great. Now keep in mind the cheap boards dont have PCI-X (64bit/66mhz or higher) but the 3ware will work in a 32bit/33mhz board, just not as fast. The buss bandwidth is 133MB/sec. Thats actually faster than even Gigabit so dont worry about it. if you get a mobo with built in GbE t hats attached to the southbridge chipset (such as NF3/4) then it wont matter cause thye dont compete for bandwidth. You can get one of those boards for $75, easy. The 7500 series 3ware is <100 and mobo for 75. Figure a cheap CPU (dont take much power) so maybe 100ish (find a used one if ya can) and ram, 512 is enough. 1-2GB is a total waste, the system will N OT cache to ram. For in house FTP use Internet Information Services. Only a couple of mb of ram used total is it. For RAID the 3ware runs beautifully. I have 2 8 port cards and a 4 port'r as well. It is not necessary thoguh...

Sumup
Proc, mobo, Card (optional) $300ish

HDD $100 each, so 400 or so.

That leaves just enough money for a bit of ram ($65) and a case. No video card or sound card needed. The NF4 family's on board video will be fine as a previous person suggested or even another companies solution. Its not a gaming rig, its a term serve computer. With a reasonable case and 3ware card, about $850. NO card and XP/Server OS RAID, cheaper.

HideOut
January 19, 2006 1:03:54 PM

I think you nailed it - the system I'm looking for is for light home use, few users. The rebuild time is of low concern, it's not a system in use now so missing it for 12-48 hours won't stop workflow. I definitely think I should pick up a mobo with Raid on it - if the performance is poo-poo slow, I can always add a PCI card (will check mobos that have PCIx). Additionally, I should be able to find a mobo with integrated video, GigE, and sound that'll alleviate other needs.

Great thread guys, I learned a lot and it certainly got the brain to look at alternatives. Thanks! :trophy:

ps Gotta admire Linux bigots, they don't let it go :tongue: Not ruling it out in the future, wish I had picked it up by now, but I don't have the time to learn a new OS and be comfortable enough with which to put on my most important data.
January 19, 2006 1:46:30 PM

on board raid 5 is rare, if available at all. Software raid 5 will work on any board with any type of connections. The cheap, often free 2 port 4 drive promise cards that came with HDDs a couple years ago work fine. Hardware dont matter so long as it conrols the drives. In fact you could use for instance, 6 HDDs for your raid 5. 1 OS and 1 optical on the mobo and 4 on the cheap PCI card. To your OS's drive manager its all the same. If you decide to go software raid (0, 1, 5, etc) PM me and i'll run ya thru it. The 3ware cards are good but there are cheaper raid 5 hardware solutions. You can get one for $50 if you get a cheaper card and still make your $800 range. One thing nice about 3ware and similar cards is you can ad to them later by slapping in another similar card and ad drives. They are even hot pluggable, even with ata 133 drives.

Hide
January 19, 2006 4:07:57 PM

Linux makes an incredibly fast, stable, reliable and secure storage server.

Here are some 3Ware 9500 benchmarks on FC3 i386 and FC3 x86_64 both on an AMD64 server.

https://spare2.com/bench/index.html

FC3 = Fedora Core 3
x86_64 = AMD64 and EMT64

The newer 3Ware 9550SX can achieve 800MB/sec reads and 380MB/sec writes in RAID5 :D 

It is PCI-X however.

Areca makes a similar PCI-Express controller.

Both of them are quite expensive but also quite fast :D 

Semper Fi Linux on!
January 20, 2006 12:16:31 AM

right and those controllers alone would eat up 65% of his budget, so whats your point? Im pointing out a controller that for 100ish can do it...

Hide
January 20, 2006 5:14:30 AM

Given what you are looking for, I would suggest:

Socket 939 Motherboard with at least 4 SATA
Opteron 144 (Socket 939)
512MB DDR400
3x Maxtor MaxLine III 250/300GB SATA HDD
400W or greater PSU (Good quality)

Based on your choice of Windows XP and RAID 5, there is a tutorial on using Windows XP for Software RAID 5. Use this rather than on-motherboard SATA RAID 5, as it will be software as well, but directly tied to the SATA controllers drivers. If you use the Windows-based Soft-RAID, it can be put on a different controller without problems.
January 20, 2006 8:11:42 AM

You mentioned 3Ware and RAID 5 so I wanted to provide some info.

RAID 5 would require at least 3 HDDs at about $100 each and for best results would also require a good hardware RAID controller for $100-$1200 ($300-$800 for a 3Ware).

Most inexpensive controllers do not always do a very good job and software is even worse.

In this situation I suspect hardware RAID 1 would be much more appropriate, less expensive and more reliable overall.

Semper Fi Linux on!

PS Samba under Linux works great, you just set it and forget it!