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Software Vs Hardware Raid

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April 25, 2004 3:27:39 AM

I currently have 2 WD 80 gig, ATA 100, 8 meg buffer as dynaic disks using stripped volumes on XP Pro. Since the burner is on the chain of one of the disks, I think it slows the raid to its level. Is it worth buying 2 80 gig, 8 meg buffer, sata 150 drives to use on the hardware raid built into my MSI m/b. Would the difference in performance be worth the cost? Thank you for all input.

More about : software hardware raid

April 25, 2004 12:44:22 PM

I have never heard of a motherboard with hardware RAID built in.

P4c 2.6@3.25
512Mb PC4000
2x120Gb 7200.7 in RAID0
Waterchill KT12-L30
Abit AI7
Radeon 9800Pro
April 25, 2004 11:32:24 PM

Just for the record, I am NOT in favor of using "Dynamic Disks". So I have very little experience with them. (However, during the brief time I did use them I did not have any problems.)

I have used Windows NT and Windows 2000 in software RAID configurations where I was mirroring the drives.

When I switched to a hardware RAID solution there was a significant improvement in speed.

I, personally, am always in favor of compartmentalizing responsibilities.

If the RAID is handled by your hardware that is one less thing Windows has to deal with directly.

I, personally, would never stripe by boot/system drive. I only mirror the boot/system drive. That is simply because in diagnosing/recovering from problems the most important issue is to get the PC up. The RAID cards, or on board, that I use all use "generic hard drive formats" for mirroring. That way if I need to boot outside of the RAID I can just pop off a drive, any drive, and boot under a different controller.

Only the data drives that I use would I put into RAID 0 or RAID 5.

For me, it mainly just eases recovering and it's what I got myself used to.

It would be likely that a pair of Raptor 36gb drives in a mirrored configuration would end up being faster than your current striped set anyway. If you went this approach you could still use your drives as data/application drives. (Raptor drives are made by Western Digital, and have an SATA interface. They cost about $124 each. NOTE: Whether your other drives can be configured in RAID 0 still will depend on your motherboard. I have seen some that ONLY allow a single RAID configuration. SATA or IDE?)

>Is it worth it?

That would be entirely dependent on you.

For me, yes it is worth it. I'm not a speed junkie but for peice of mind I think it is a safer approach.
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April 25, 2004 11:38:10 PM

My mistake, I don't have the version with raid. MSI model 865PE Neo2-FIS2(R) has raid, I have LS, not R. I may misunderstand, but at http://www.msi.com.tw/program/products/mainboard/mbd/pr... it says it has raid support- I assumed it was hardware raid using "Intel ICH5R" chipset. It may very well be that it uses software to create the raid. Either case, I don't have that model. If anyone does know, I would be interested in if this is hardware or software raid on the (R) board.
April 25, 2004 11:54:58 PM

Jim552,
Just for the record, I separated the system and boot (each in their own partion) and created stripped volumes for the pagging file and all programs. I created the stripping to try to increase performance (raid 0) and just to play around. You know, OHHH I have a raid on my home system. I must say your responce is very professional-you clearly do this for a living. Now, since I can only have software raid with my present setup, the question is would buying 2 SATA Raptors, since they would not be on the same chain as the optical drive, increase my performance enough to justify the $250. I have another question, would it be worth it to get 1 SATA Raptor for paging file and programs and ide WD for system and boot? Decessions, decessions.
April 26, 2004 7:31:45 AM

Im using RAID through the ICH5R on my motherboard, but I think it is still counted as software RAID (I could be wrong). If it was hardware RAID I can't imagine why people would splash out £200+ for a hardware RAID card.

P4c 2.6@3.25
512Mb PC4000
2x120Gb 7200.7 in RAID0
Waterchill KT12-L30
Abit AI7
Radeon 9800Pro
April 26, 2004 5:57:16 PM

""why people would splash out £200+ for a hardware RAID card""

£200+ is el cheapo, but anyway, they splash it caz of the SPEED and RELIABILITY.

..this is very useful and helpful place for information...
April 26, 2004 9:27:32 PM

Yeh thats what Im saying, RAID through the ICH5R is not hardware RAID...otherwise there would be no need for hardware RAID cards.

P4c 2.6@3.25
512Mb PC4000
2x120Gb 7200.7 in RAID0
Waterchill KT12-L30
Abit AI7
Radeon 9800Pro
April 26, 2004 11:50:06 PM

You've put it is such way that it seams like you are confused about it, my bad.

..this is very useful and helpful place for information...
April 27, 2004 2:03:42 AM

Generally, if the hard drive interface has a BIOS/CONFIGURATION setup that is performed at a system restart it is considered hardware RAID.

Now, of course, there will always be software involved to some degree. That degree though is often unknown to an end user. You can test it, buy looking at CPU usage and making guesses?

For example, if you setup your system so that it is single drive, (generally RAID 0 with only 1 drive), and watch the CPU during file transfers you can get a base line. Then set your computer up in a mirrored configuration and then do the same process. (I prefer larger file(s) a gig in total size.)

If your CPU usage remains unchanged, your controller likely is doing it at a hardware level. If your CPU usage increases, then it is more software oriented. (The increase should not be all that much.)

Different configurations for different controllers will have different results. (RAID 0, vs RAID 1, vs RAID 5.) There are many controllers that do real well with RAID 0 and RAID 1 and then use large amounts of CPU for RAID 5.

NOTE: This is a pretty course way of getting some numbers, but it's prettty simple. There are more detailed methods to get better numbers.

As for configurations, I like to keep "ALL" of my OS on a single drive. (Boot/System/Paging.)

I, sometimes, will put Paging somewhere else but I haven't really noticed too much of a difference. (I generally, do it when I have used up too much space on Drive C:, or root, and need some back. So often it's just a temporary fix.)

One HUGE problem for Windows 2000, and XP, is that when you are using BASIC disks and have your paging file on another drive letter Windows can become confused. (This ONLY happens when you are moving drives around and rebooted etc.) When it becomes confused it can get to a point where it can't find a paging file and then won't boot.

Microsoft has a workaround for this, but without and emergency recovery disk, I have not been able to get this to work. (And with an emergency recovery disk the configuration would have to be put back into the exact same before it would work there too. Sometimes not something possible of convienient to do.)

Thus, if it's all on the same drive I have NEVER expereinced problems getting things to work again! It's also very reassuring to me to know that only one drive is necessary to get the system up! (Of course you could be tricky as well, and configure everything for single drive operation then make an emergency recovery disk, then move the paging file elsewhere?)

As far as increasing your performance enough to justify the Raptor drives? It's a real hard call. I have been VERY happy with the Raptor drives, and received some of the first ones made. (Back then whey were $300+, so $124 is a real bargain for me.) On my servers chaning ONLY the Raptor hard drives enabled the servers to boot up twice as fast and before. (Although on a 300mhz server that I did just for a test, it had NO affect at all. The server was getting data from the SCSI-2 drives as fast as it could use it anyway, so the Raptors had no affect.)

Did the Raptor drives make everything run twice as fast?
No, just the boot up process but there was a marked increase in performance abliet less than double.

I do think it is safe to say though, that you will not find many people that have purchased Raptor drives that are dissapointed.

A thing that I used to think, that may be appropriate here, is that the optical drive would significantly impact performance? I did some REALLY extensive comparisons on my systems here in regards to that.

While a CD media being recognized causes Windows Explorer to hang, the Windows Desktop, it doesn't seem to significantly affect background operations on hard drives on that same channel. For a long time I had incorreclty surmised that the hang in Windows Explorer during optical media recognition actually caused a slowdown on the IDE bus. (Different motherboards may produce different results.) Reading optical media did cause a slight slowdown on hard drive transfer but that was less than I expected as well.

You can always start out with one Raptor and we what happens?

Most people don't mirror their drives, and just rely on backups. That works, I don't change the software on my system too much, so having crashes due to software configs is pretty much a mute point for me. So, for me, that basically leaves hardware failures.

Another thing I do, on certain systems, is to mirror the Boot/system drives but really only use it as a restore point.

Configure the system for RAID 1, mirror the drives. Then I break them mirror and use the offline drive as a backup/restore point.

I add software, change configurations, etc. If all still works well I remirror the offline drive to the online drive. Otherwise I revert to the offline drive, and start over.

Hopefully not too long for you, and helpful?
April 27, 2004 3:34:26 AM

You really know your stuff!!!! I must thank you for taking the time to impart that knowledge to me. Just when I start thinking I am very knowlegable, I meet someone who realy is and it puts me back in my place. As far as the optical drive, what I ment is if the H/D is ATA 133 and on the same ide chain you have a ATA 33 device (optical drive) the whole chain slows down to ATA 33-doesn't it? With one H/D in my stripped volume down to ATA 33, the whole raid slows to ATA 33-doesn't it? THanks for letting me pick your brain on this-he's smart, I want him on my team!!!!!!
April 27, 2004 7:35:26 PM

<A HREF="http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/if/ide/confTiming-c.html" target="_new">Independent Device Timing</A>

Toey

<A HREF="http://forums.btvillarin.com/index.php?act=ST&f=41&t=32..." target="_new"><font color=green>My System Rigs</font color=green></A>
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April 27, 2004 10:46:14 PM

Quote:
One HUGE problem for Windows 2000, and XP, is that when you are using BASIC disks and have your paging file on another drive letter Windows can become confused. (This ONLY happens when you are moving drives around and rebooted etc.) When it becomes confused it can get to a point where it can't find a paging file and then won't boot.

I'm pretty sure I had this problem. I had my OS on the first partition of a Raptor (imaged to a partition on a 2nd Raptor) and set the pagefile to use my other 2 Raptors that were in a RAID 0 array. I think I probably did muck around with the drives after this. Eventually I couldn't boot into windows, and had to restore from the image.

I've recently moved the pagefile to the RAID 0 array once more, but it's pretty much the last thing I've done with an otherwise stable system, and haven't had the case open since. So far, so good.

In response to the original posts...

As far as Raptors go, I'm happy with mine. Don't expect HUGE performance increases across the board, but there are noticeable ones. IMHO hard drives show minimal differnces in performance and you have to use something like HDtach to see a real difference. With Raptors I've noticed a performance increase just using my 'puter normally. Personally I think that's a worthwhile investment, and unlike other components (eg graphics cards) they're likely to be good enough for a few years.


<A HREF="http://forums.btvillarin.com/index.php?act=ST&f=41&t=27..." target="_new">My Rigs</A>
April 28, 2004 2:12:04 AM

Wow, that was a new one one me. I guess it doesn't matter about different devices. Very cool. That just goes to prove a point I have made a few times in these posts. We are all here (or should be) to help others and learn ourselves. I know I have learned many interesting things reading posts here. Again, thanks Toey.
April 28, 2004 2:22:15 AM

I apreciate your input, arkus, on this issue. I have to say I, personally have never had any issues (YET!!!) seperating things into 4 partions/volumes, but I like knowing about potential pitfalls. I don't mind wasting some storage, I have 160Gig, I am using a total of about 20 gigs now. Ok, I admit I got the second 80 Gig drive to play with raid, not becouse I needed the storage. This is my surfing/games computer, so if everything did go, life as I know it would continue-but I would be pissed about losing my almost finished Far cry, but still, it is only a game.
!