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Z68 RAID 5 Questions

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February 18, 2013 1:09:48 AM

Current System:
OS: Windows 7 Pro 64 bit (Legal, do not have/own legal copies of Windows Server)
Case: NZXT Switch 810
CPU: i5 2500k OC@4.2GHz
MoBo: ASRock z68 Extreme3 Gen3
RAM: 8gb Ripjaws X 1333
SSD1: 60gb OCZ Vertex 3 (Windows OS)
SSD2: 90gb Corsair Force GT (Steam Games)
HDD1: 1tb Seagate junk drive (This drive is dying I use it for short term storage such as encoding videos from BD Rips)
HDD2: 1tb Toshiba External 2.5" usb3.0 (This is what I'm storing all my data on since my other 1tb is dying, filling up fast)
GPU: EVGA Geforce GTX 570
PSU: XFX Core Pro 750w
Optical: ASUS BD Reader DVD/CD Burner
Other: ASUS EA-N66 Network Adapter
Router: ASUS RT-N66u

RAID5 HDDs: 4x WD Red (Have not bought, waiting on 4tb/5tb drives to be released soon)
Controller Card: ??? Depends on if z68 software raid5 is good enough.

Q1:
Is the Raid functionality of this board/chipset 'good enough' for personal file server use?

Q2:
This RAID will be for a plex server. Is the software raid of my os sufficient for file streaming? Do I need a Windows Server OS?

Q3:
Should I get a hardware raid card instead of using the onboard z68 raid features? Is there a decent 4 port sataII card that uses PCI-E 1x? $150 ish?

Q4:
Can I 'add' to the array? Can I start with 2 HDDs then add a 3rd then a 4th (Budget issues) or MUST I wait and buy all 4 HDDs and create the array at once?

Q5:
Will my ability to game and stream video be an issue? IE If I'm playing Black Ops II while my wife trys to watch Across the Universe (7.5gb BD Rip). Will my computer have performance issues due to software raid eating resources?

I'm basically turning my already 24/7 Gaming desktop into a gaming desktop and file server/steamer.
I'm streaming 1080p BD Rips + Apple Lossless music via Plex. If needed I would consider upgrading to a Core i7 3770k. I do not want a new platform. I do not want a NAS. I thought about build a small file server based on FM2 and an APU (8 sataIII ports are nice). But I would rather use my existing beast.
I already know that I may need a better PSU. I was looking at Corsair's AX860i.
I'm already looking at more RAM, specifically Corsair Vengenance LP DDR3-1600. (4x8gb) Would faster RAM be better than more RAM?

I understand some of the theology and basics of RAID. I do not know how to set one up I will admit. I am pretty adamant about RAID5 because its cheap data redundancy. I do not want to rip my entire DVD/BD library and have 1 drive die and loose my entire library.

More about : z68 raid questions

a b G Storage
February 18, 2013 3:52:08 PM

I can't speak for z68 specifically because I have never used that board. However, you should be able to find more details (ie, in the manual) base on my responses below.
A1:
Personal use of relative. Be specific on exactly what you intend to do and what features you need. Keep in mind that RAID on consumer boards are typically added as "me too" features (ie, they have to keep the same feature set as their competitors to justify the board prices). They are very limited in their functionality and should never be used if you want a longer term, hassle free, reliable setup.

A2:
Windows is very new to the RAID game (as it is with all server features outside exchange), and should not be considered for software RAID solution. You will need to look to other OS which supports ZFS (FreeNAS, OpenIndiana, etc) or Linux md for reliable software RAID with decent performance.

A3:
Yes, you should definitely consider a hardware RAID card. Lots of cards are available pre-owned on ebay within that price range. The IBM M1015 is a great card for consumer use. Stay away from anything made by HighPoint. PCIe 1x will not have sufficient bandwidth for 4 SATAIII drives. Get a 8x card. If you really want performance and a lot of RAID features, consider spending $400+ for a decent RAID card. You get true hardware RAID, onboard cache, etc at that price range. (Note: These features are not necessarily need for home streaming needs but if you have the cash, they do help).

A4:
Those features depend on the RAID card or software RAID you use. Most consumer board RAID (and is suspect the z68 is the same) will not allow you to add drives after building the RAID. Once the array is built, you will only be able to replace failed disks. Adding new disks will involve destroying the existing RAID with your data and creating a new one. To perform these tasks, you will need support for RAID migration (changing from one RAID level to another) and RAID expansion (adding disk to your existing RAID and increase the storage size). I think the M1015 support RAID expansion but not RAID migration (check the manual before you buy) so you will not be able to start with two disk then add a third. Cards in the $400 range should allow this. Both software RAID from other OSes mentioned about supports these features.

A5:
Even though you don't want a separate device, it is advisable to get a dedicated NAS, separate from your gaming rig/every day use PC. Your main PC should not be your centralize storage appliance as well. With that said, there shouldn't be any need to "beef up" your gaming rig for RAID. As stated above, if you are sticking with a single Windows box, all you need is a decent hardware RAID card. That will take care of all the RAID processing. Performance should only be an issue if you're running the game or your OS off the RAID5 array. In that case, get SSD drive(s) for the OS and games.
February 20, 2013 1:45:17 AM

Well, I certainly want the data redundancy.
I looked into some z68 performance, and if it weren't for the XOR calculations I know it'd be fine for RAID 1. But alas, 4.2Ghz isn't enough for 'some' reason. :pfff: 

So, I would certainly consider a Hardware raid card. However I maybe missing something from the IBM M1015 you picked out. But it doesn't seem to have its own processor and RAM. Unless I'm missing something. (Which I could be).

I found this on newegg:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

While I dont 'want' to spend $350, but the only gripe I have about this is 1) only 1x sas port. 2) How do I address 32 hard drives when I can only find break away cables that go from 1 sas to 4 sata?
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a b G Storage
February 20, 2013 1:34:39 PM

RAID1 does not use XOR calculations as there are no parity involved. RAID1 is simply data mirroring.

The M1015 does have an onboard processor for XOR calculation, however it is very limited in it's performance. The lack of an onboard cache further limits its performance. This card was suggest base on your original price. This card would more than suffice for your streaming needs, as long as you don't plan on writing HD rips will you are streaming. If you want better performance, look at the LSI9260.

The 1x SFF-8087 controller is able to address 4 drives via a breakout cable or backplane. You can address more drives by getting a port multiplier/expander.
a c 126 G Storage
February 20, 2013 1:55:40 PM

Don't buy hardware RAID; you will waste your money and get about the same quality implementation as onboard Intel chipset RAID provided by Windows drivers. This also supports RAID level migration, Online Capacity Expansion and more features commonly found in hardware RAID controllers.

RAID1 and RAID0 demand extremely low CPU cycles. A 100MHz processor would probably be enough. Let alone 4,2GHz with multiple cores; your CPU will only spend a fraction of that horsepower on the RAID. RAID5 demands a little more CPU power, but not all that much. RAID itself is not CPU-intensive at all. Even if you run RAID5, the XOR instructions are relatively easy and fast and offer very little challenge even for low-end processors.

Just remember that 'legacy RAID' as I call it, offers no protection against bad sectors and such. If your disks are dropping out of the RAID, this is normal and expected. RAID alone will not protect your data in this case. If you want truly reliable storage you should consider a ZFS NAS instead.

February 20, 2013 2:21:20 PM

@Nothing-But-Nas
I feel the m1015 would be a waste if it doesn't have any inboard cache.
I'm willing to spend the money on a good hardware raid card if it will genuinely be in my interest. It is important to stress that is for personal use. Just myself and my wife.

@submesa
Is z68 really fine for software raid? This raid is too stream bd rips and flac rips.
My bd rips are 5gb-15gb in size depending on source material.
I know read performance is fine on raid5. However if still like to see something like 100mb/s write times as a minimum. I don't want to wait days for my bd rips to copy from the hdd I use to rip and encode to the array.
What do you mean by "legacy raid". I want raid 5 incase a hdd drops I can pop in a replacement and spend a day or two rebuilding. Is there an economical NAS that supports hdds greater than 2tb?

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a c 126 G Storage
February 20, 2013 3:33:52 PM
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Buying hardware RAID for RAID1 of RAID1+0/0+1 is just silly. Hardware RAID only shines on Windows platforms with parity RAID, special disks and BBU battery backup unit.

Z68 is just the SATA controller. It does not support RAID, it is a SATA controller nothing more. It is the Intel drivers that implement RAID, and you are allowed to use those drivers if you have specific controllers; these are 'political' decisions by Intel. In theory Intel could grant you usage of their RAID engine on an AMD controller or otherwise. This is prevented intentionally.

Intel RAID drivers are the best onboard RAID, because it supports many features as well as have decent write performance in RAID5 with volume write-back enabled. This comes at risk of corruption because the drivers are using your RAM as write-back buffercache. A crash or power failure could corrupt your filesystem. But in terms of performance it will be very decent.

For RAID0 and RAID1 the onboard RAID is as good as it gets. Expensive Hardware RAID offers virtually no advantage in this case.

With Legacy RAID I am referring to the old-fashioned way RAID works, and its inherent unreliability. It promises you to protect your data from disk failure, but no one tells you that it actually can make your storage LESS SAFE because it becomes hyper-sensitive to bad sectors and timeouts. The result can be that the array is 'FAILED' or 'DEGRADED' because one or more disks have suddenly dropped out, now having the status of 'non member disk' or 'free disk' while other disks are still part of the broken RAID array. In other words, I do not feel 'Legacy RAID' is very safe.

If you want to offer your bluray rips and other data true protection, it is very hard to find a suitable alternative to ZFS. ZFS means you care about your data. Other solutions available on Windows can not offer this kind of protection, and thus your data is at risk, because you think you are protected by RAID while in fact you are running a quite fragile setup. Because you think you are protected, you also probably will not invest in backups. Just consider that such a setup is not safe and dataloss can occur. If you really want to stop that gap, you will need to use either ZFS, Btrfs or ReFS where only ZFS is currently a mature product.
a c 748 G Storage
February 20, 2013 9:03:16 PM

I also like ZFS but this would mean running linux distro insterad of windows.
Raid 5 would work but I wouldn't bother unless you were going to run at least 4 drives and with that the onboard is good enough. Raid 1 or 10 would also work but you loose drive capacity and what you accidentally delete from one drive gets deleted from the mirror too; hence the need for a good backup plan.

You've got some thinking to do.
February 27, 2013 11:05:51 PM

Best answer selected by sazyario.
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