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


Most people probably don’t want to install more than a few hard drives into their PC, as it requires a massive case with sufficient ventilation as well as a solid power supply. We don’t consider this project to be something enthusiasts should necessarily reproduce. Instead, we set out to analyze what level of storage performance you’d get if you were to spend the same money as on an enthusiast processor, such as a $1,000 Core i7-975 Extreme. For the same cost, you could assemble 12 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F1 hard drives. Of course, you still need a suitable multi-port controller, which is why we selected Areca’s ARC-1680iX-20.

These are our findings: The 12 hard drives…

  • still cannot reach the I/O performance and access time of a single Intel X25-E flash SSD (thousands of I/O operations per second)
  • require careful system configuration (staggered spin-up)
  • require a powerful RAID controller with sufficient ports
  • aren’t convenient for desktop users
  • are still subject to issues when using 2+ TB partitions
  • deliver 6 to 8 times more throughput than an individual drive: almost 1,000 MB/s
  • deliver 3 to 7 times better I/O performance than an individual drive
  • result in 11 TB net capacity in RAID 5 or 10 TB in RAID 6
  • deliver excellent cost per gigabyte, especially with the 1 TB Samsung drives we used (2 TB drives are still too expensive)
  • still beat a flash SSD array in terms of throughput even if you keep two or three hard disks as spares