10 TB for $1,000: Tom’s Hardware's Über RAID Array

Need more capacity? Want more hard drive performance? Knowing that hard drive prices are about to drop below $80 for a 1 TB drive, we decided to create the ultimate RAID array, one that should be able store all of your data for years to come while providing much faster performance than any individual drive could. Twelve Samsung 1 TB hard drives helped us to reach speed records and an impressive 10 TB net capacity.

Some of you may want to argue over this performance statement. After all, doesn’t everyone know that hard drives don’t stand a chance against solid state drives (SSDs)? It’s true. More and more high-end SSDs can now exceed 200 MB/s read and 100 MB/s write throughput with virtually zero access time—numbers that are becoming standard for more and more high-end SSDs. However, lofty SSD costs remain an issue, which is where good old hard drives kick in.

While hard drives can’t match an SSD’s quick access times, higher throughput can be achieved by using more than one drive in a striping RAID mode—and throughput is still the top characteristic people care about on their desktop systems. In addition, hard drive capacities exceed SSD capacities by many times over and also beat SSDs in terms of cost per gigabyte. For example, $1,000 won’t buy you more than 1 TB in SSD capacity, and even to get close requires taking a step or two down in performance. Meanwhile, with hard drives, we had 12 x 1 TB at our disposal. The only reason we didn’t use larger hard drives was constrained availability in quantities of ten or more.

The Idea: Massive Hard Drive Storage Within a $1,000 Budget

The prospect of using up to 12 3.5” hard drives in RAID certainly isn’t very applicable for desktop PCs. Twelve drives require a lot of space, a suitable SATA RAID controller, and they produce a noticeable amount of heat, noise, and vibration, as well. Still…it’s cool, and we’ll soon see what a massive RAID array using conventional hard drives can actually do.