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Help with Complex Disk Configuration

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  • NAS / RAID
  • Configuration
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Last response: in Storage
January 14, 2010 2:16:16 AM

Gentlemen (and Ladies),

Here's the challenge - I need help with a complex disk/RAID/controller configuration. I'm pretty decent technically, but I know beans about storage configurations. :pt1cable:  I'd appreciate any advice.

I'm building a performance-oriented workstation for two radically different I/O workflows - financial data processing and photo/video editing. The first involves downloading and processing daily financial data - a large number of small file transactions. The second is photo/video editing - a small number of large file transactions.

The workstation config is a Core i7-920 processor with 12Gb of memory on a new Asus P6X58D MOBO: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168.... I'm pretty comfortable with this config, EXCEPT for disk storage. Right now, I'm thinking of:

- System & App Disk: (1) WD 300GB Velociraptor for fast overall system performance.

- Financial Data/Scratch Disk: (1) WD 300GB Velociraptor for fast financial processing database performance.

- Photo/Video RAID: (2) Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB configured RAID 0 for good photo/video processing performance.

- Backup Disk: (1) Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB for nightly backups of file changes to Data/Scratch Disk and Photo/Video RAID.

- Removable Offline Archive Disk: (1) 500Gb drive (existing) in removable carriage like this: http://www.addonics.com/products/mobile_rack/aesnapmrsa... for archiving off old files from the Backup Disk. (Think of it as a very large floppy disk.)

The Asus P6X58D MOBO has two disk controllers:
- An Intel ICH10R that supports RAID
- A Marvell PCIe SATA (6Gb/s)

I want to use the Marvel disk controller for the two Velociraptor disks. That leaves the Intel controller for the Photo/Video RAID, Backup Disk, and Removable Offline Archive Disk. This is where it gets complex...

As I understand this:
- If the Intel controller RAID is turned, ALL of its disks must be in the RAID.
- The Backup Disk is standalone. (And therefore can't be part of the RAID.)
- To be removable, the Offline Archive Disk must be hooked to a RAID controller.

From what I can figure out, this can't be done with just the MOBO's Intel controller. :non:  Which means getting another SATA disk/RAID controller. So...

Any ideas about how to build this disk configuration? Alternative disk layouts? Recommendations for reasonable-cost raid or disk controllers?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Regards,

Dan.

More about : complex disk configuration

January 14, 2010 3:02:08 AM

After re-reading my post above, I realized that it's pretty long-winded. (Sorry.) Here's the short version...

My new MOBO has two controllers - one RAID (Intel ICH10R) and one non-raid (Marvell PCIe). What do I need to do (or buy) to support this config:

- System & App Disk: 1x WD 300GB Velociraptor for fast overall system performance.

- Financial Data/Scratch Disk: 1x WD 300GB Velociraptor for fast financial processing database performance.

- Photo/Video RAID: 2x Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB configured RAID 0 for good photo/video processing performance.

- Backup Disk: 1x Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB for nightly backups of Data/Scratch Disk and Photo/Video RAID file changes.

- Removable Offline Archive Disk: 1x 500Gb drive (existing) in removable carriage like this: http://www.addonics.com/products/m [...] apmrsa.asp for archiving off old files from the Backup Disk. (Think of it as a very large floppy disk.) I believe this needs to be on a raid controller.

- DVD: 1x SATA DVD

Thanks,

Dan.
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Best solution

a c 464 G Storage
January 14, 2010 2:04:36 PM

You've made a critical assumption that I suspect is wrong, so check carefully. You say you believe that, if the Intel controller is set to RAID mode to use its drives in array(s), then ALL of the drives attached to it MUST be involved in RAID arrays. I do not believe that is so.

I have read your mobo manual and I see on page 4-11 it certainly leads you to believe that ALL drives on that controller must be RAID drives. That is NOT the common way for things to operate, and I THINK this is what they really mean, but you should CHECK further. Maybe others on this forum can comment, or maybe you can get clarification from the ASUS Tech Support site. I think what they mean is that, once you set the Intel chip to operate in RAID mode (manual page 3-10) so SOME of its drives can be used in arrays, then you MUST load the Intel RAID driver into Windows because that is required for use of ANY drive connected to it (and certainly necessary to use any RAID array you have created). However, you still must use the RAID setup utility (manual pages 4-11 to 13) to set up your RAID array(s). As you do so, you will see that all disks attached to the Intel controller are listed and that, by default, all are in non-RAID mode. You can define an array type and then you must select particular drive units to be used in the array you create. Once that is done and a couple other parameters set, you confirm and the array is created by this utility. But NOTE that any other disks that you do NOT assign to the array are NOT included in it. So, in addition to the drives you have put into a RAID array, you actually do end up with HDD units attached to the Intel controller that are NOT being used in any RAID array (in other words, they are just "normal" HDD units.

Your plan is that the boot disk unit will be attached to the Marvel controller, and the disks attached to the Intel controller will never be used to boot from. In that case, normally you do NOT need to load the RAID driver into Windows by pressing the F6 key (and loading from a removable-medium drive) early in the Windows Install process. It is sufficient that AFTER you have Windows loaded and running, you use the RAID setup utility to create the RAID array from a couple of disks, then boot into Windows and load the RAID driver by running the software support DVD disk that comes with the mobo and installing the Intel chipset drivers using this utility. When you run this, it should detect that a RAID array has been created and offer to install the RAID driver for you. Note that it will NOT likely offer to do this driver install until AFTER you have actually created a RAID array using the BIOS utility.

Of course, you still could do things in the sequence that the mobo manual suggests in Section 4.5 (pages 4-15 to 18). That process involves using the F6 key early in the first installation process for Windows and loading the RAID driver from a removable disk medium as part of the fundamental Windows installation. This would make sure that the RAID driver is available for ANY operation involving RAID disks, including both data-only units (your plan) and boot devices (not your plan). There certainly is no problem doing it this way (except that you must prepare and use the driver disk as detailed in the manual), but I think you have the alternative possibility of loading into Windows AFTER it is installed for your situation.
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a c 464 G Storage
January 14, 2010 2:45:42 PM

Look also at this thread in this forum:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/254776-32-raid-raid-d...

From it and others I'm beginning to suspect that, in order to use RAID for anything with this chipset / controller, you MUST load the RAID driver from a removable medium using the F6 key during the initial installation of Windows. It may be that, once the BIOS is set to use the controller in RAID mode, ALL uses of that controller are done using their RAID driver, and this includes the boot processes, even if the boot device itself is not being used as a RAID array component but as a simple drive.

I believe this still allows use of some drives connected to the Intel controller chip as single regular drives. BUT that sill may require that the RAID driver for this controller be installed.
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January 14, 2010 3:03:23 PM

Paperdoc,

Many thanks for your detailed response. I sincerely hope that my assumption is wrong and that you are correct! It would simplify things and reduce cost. It would be great to start with software raid on the MOBO and then buy additional RAID hardware if/when needed.

Using your assessment, it looks like this config should work:

Marvell PCIe Controller (set to non-RAID):
- System & App Disk: 1x WD Velociraptor
- Financial Data/Scratch Disk: 1x WD Velociraptor

Intel ICH10R Controller (set to RAID):

- Photo/Video RAID: 2x WD Caviar Black (RAID 0)
- Backup Disk: 1x WD Caviar Green (non-RAID)
- Removable Offline Archive Disk: 1x Seagate (non-RAID)
- DVD: 1x SATA DVD (non-RAID)

I also appreciate your feedback about RAID setup. This helps clear away "the fog".

I look forward to comments fror other forum members and I'll definitely contact Asus Tech support.

Again thanks and best regards,

Dan.

Paperdoc said:
You've made a critical assumption that I suspect is wrong, so check carefully. You say you believe that, if the Intel controller is set to RAID mode to use its drives in array(s), then ALL of the drives attached to it MUST be involved in RAID arrays. I do not believe that is so.

I have read your mobo manual and I see on page 4-11 it certainly leads you to believe that ALL drives on that controller must be RAID drives. That is NOT the common way for things to operate, and I THINK this is what they really mean, but you should CHECK further. Maybe others on this forum can comment, or maybe you can get clarification from the ASUS Tech Support site. I think what they mean is that, once you set the Intel chip to operate in RAID mode (manual page 3-10) so SOME of its drives can be used in arrays, then you MUST load the Intel RAID driver into Windows because that is required for use of ANY drive connected to it (and certainly necessary to use any RAID array you have created). However, you still must use the RAID setup utility (manual pages 4-11 to 13) to set up your RAID array(s). As you do so, you will see that all disks attached to the Intel controller are listed and that, by default, all are in non-RAID mode. You can define an array type and then you must select particular drive units to be used in the array you create. Once that is done and a couple other parameters set, you confirm and the array is created by this utility. But NOTE that any other disks that you do NOT assign to the array are NOT included in it. So, in addition to the drives you have put into a RAID array, you actually do end up with HDD units attached to the Intel controller that are NOT being used in any RAID array (in other words, they are just "normal" HDD units.

Your plan is that the boot disk unit will be attached to the Marvel controller, and the disks attached to the Intel controller will never be used to boot from. In that case, normally you do NOT need to load the RAID driver into Windows by pressing the F6 key (and loading from a removable-medium drive) early in the Windows Install process. It is sufficient that AFTER you have Windows loaded and running, you use the RAID setup utility to create the RAID array from a couple of disks, then boot into Windows and load the RAID driver by running the software support DVD disk that comes with the mobo and installing the Intel chipset drivers using this utility. When you run this, it should detect that a RAID array has been created and offer to install the RAID driver for you. Note that it will NOT likely offer to do this driver install until AFTER you have actually created a RAID array using the BIOS utility.

Of course, you still could do things in the sequence that the mobo manual suggests in Section 4.5 (pages 4-15 to 18). That process involves using the F6 key early in the first installation process for Windows and loading the RAID driver from a removable disk medium as part of the fundamental Windows installation. This would make sure that the RAID driver is available for ANY operation involving RAID disks, including both data-only units (your plan) and boot devices (not your plan). There certainly is no problem doing it this way (except that you must prepare and use the driver disk as detailed in the manual), but I think you have the alternative possibility of loading into Windows AFTER it is installed for your situation.
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a c 464 G Storage
January 14, 2010 3:26:46 PM

That looks good to me.
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January 14, 2010 3:32:18 PM

Paperdoc,

As they say in the movie biz, "The plot thickens!" :pt1cable:  :lol: 

I looked at that thread. The fellow has an "Asus P6T Deluxe V2" MOBO, which has an Intel disk controller described as:

"Southbridge
6 xSATA 3 Gb/s ports
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID Support RAID"

OTOH, the "P6X58D" MOBO has a disk controller described as:

"Intel ICH10R controller
6 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10"

I would assume that they are identical or very close to it, but... :ouch:  Given some of the other threads on this Storage forum, it looks like I'm in good company. :) 

Thanks,

Dan.



Paperdoc said:
Look also at this thread in this forum:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/254776-32-raid-raid-d...

From it and others I'm beginning to suspect that, in order to use RAID for anything with this chipset / controller, you MUST load the RAID driver from a removable medium using the F6 key during the initial installation of Windows. It may be that, once the BIOS is set to use the controller in RAID mode, ALL uses of that controller are done using their RAID driver, and this includes the boot processes, even if the boot device itself is not being used as a RAID array component but as a simple drive.

I believe this still allows use of some drives connected to the Intel controller chip as single regular drives. BUT that sill may require that the RAID driver for this controller be installed.

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January 14, 2010 3:33:15 PM

Paperdoc said:
That looks good to me.

Cool!

Thanks again,

Dan.
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January 14, 2010 5:06:01 PM

Paperdoc,

Good news! I posted on the Asus support forum and got good, fast, positive news. The Intel disk controller can support RAID arrays and non-RAID disks simultaneously on the same controller. Here's the thread on that forum: http://vip.asus.com/forum/view.aspx?id=2010011423532200.... Also, the moderator pointed me to this Intel Matrix Storage Manager manual: http://download.intel.com/support/chipsets/imsm/sb/8_x_... . Good reading.

This resolves my sole remaining config issue so I can move ahead with purchasing my workstation components. Thanks again for the help!!!

Regards,

Dan.
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a c 464 G Storage
January 15, 2010 1:29:47 PM

Glad you got it figured. Make yourself a certificate and some business cards as a Intel RAID System Specialist, and see how many people cringe when you show them your "IRS Specialist" card.
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January 15, 2010 3:39:08 PM

Paperdoc said:
Glad you got it figured. Make yourself a certificate and some business cards as a Intel RAID System Specialist, and see how many people cringe when you show them your "IRS Specialist" card.

Hmmm... The killer is that my undergraduate degree is a double-major in Finance and Accounting. And I used to work for Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Company (now KPMG) - one of the (then) big-8 accounting firms. Add IRS Specialist to my business cards? That would be scary. :sol: 

Regards,

Dan.

p.s., I hate accounting. Now I'm a programmer. Much better! :D 
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