In Part 1, I explored the built in software RAID of Server 2008 R2. In this part I travel down a slightly different road and talk about Hardware RAID. I am no expert on the subject but this has been a learning experience for me and I believe for the first time that RAID will be part of my future.
For my testing I picked a Highpoint 2640X4 RAID controller which I got on sale for about $90. It has 4 ports and theoretically supports drive expansion. Drive Expansion could be important if the event you want to expand your storage needs and add an additional drive. There are many questions there but I will cover expansion and failure recovery in a separate write up, so for now lets talk hardware….
I selected this controller mainly on price and features. It seemed to have all the things “I think” I want included drive expansion and happened to be on sale for about $90 making it the perfect candidate for my test server.
Nicely built card other than I did not like the two ports sticking out the back as it made the cable routing awkward. Connectors where of good quality and the cables fit very firmly unlike some other sata controllers I have tried.
This is a picture of what you see in the controllers BIOS when you first boot into the controllers BIOS. You get much the same options in the BIOS as you do in the software (see below) but it seems better organized in the application than it does in the BIOS.
The software is actually a web app and not an actual installable application. All the information is there and it tells you what is going on including the SHI where it list the health of your array as well as an event log that shows everything that has happened. Overall it contains all you need but it is fairly clunky application. Fortunately it is not something that you have to use too often.
The array took 15 hours to build (3x1T green drives) and had a usable storage of 1.8T out of the 3. Assuming that time scales linearly based on size and number of drives, I would estimate that if I created the same size array with this controller vs the built in software array in Server 2008, that I would have taken somewhere around 50 hour to build as opposed to the 96 hours it took using software only. Again, this is an estimate and once the array is built, it technically does not change so you are looking at a one time shot as opposed to the drive balancing used in WHS which is continuous. Needless to say it was fast and what was truly impressive is the the performance between the two arrays. I copied between the software array and the hardware array and achieved speeds of 283/MBs. Less than 2.5 minutes to copy a 39.2G blu-ray rip. Awesome. Brings file management to new heights. To test its capability on the net work, I streamed four BD steams to different computers without a hitch including running the all the movies in 2x simultaneously. Very impressive for media serving. As an added benefit, I noticed that when viewing the list of 455 movies in media center (cover art only, native WMC), my collection popped up in about 3 seconds complete with cover art. Something that used to take WMC about 10 sec when pulling the same number of movies off WHS v1. Although there are still many unanswered questions as to whether or not this is a viable way to go in Vail, but one thing if for sure, performance and speed is not one of them…