Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

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Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:39 pm

I think it's time to give the old server a little upgrade, as far as storage goes - a single 40 gig ATA100 laptop drive, held in with duct tape, just isn't cutting it any more.

(And I do mean old - it's an old Dell Dimension 2100, Coppermine Celeron 1100, 384 MiB RAM, an i810, and a genuine Windows Me license. Scary part is, it runs great, and it's actually become a game to see how many years I can get out of this thing, so far it's gotten 11 years of use (five of them being as my server), and other than the occasional HDD failure (I got it for free because of a dead Deathstar 60GXP, and I had an 8.4 gig Seagate drive crap out on me in it), it's been by far my most reliable computer ever.)

The server is currently running Ubuntu Server 10.04, in case this affects compatibility. I'll migrate it to 12.04 when it comes out.

So, it doesn't have SATA at all. I'd also like to go RAID 1 this time, and I'm thinking hardware RAID would be better simply to reduce CPU utilization.

What RAID-capable PCI (not PCIe) SATA card would you recommend? (Also, I'm wondering if I'm going to run into 48-bit LBA issues...)
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Re: Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:47 pm

What are you willing to pay? A true hardware RAID card (which is what you'd need to take the load off the CPU) is going to cost you big bucks.

That said, RAID-1 is not particularly demanding; any PCI SATA card with a chipset that's well-supported in Linux (which AFAIK is pretty much all of them these days) will probably be OK, even with that CPU.

As far as potential LBA issues go, as long as you create a small /boot partition at the start of the drive I think you should be OK?
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Re: Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:07 pm

Hm. I was kinda thinking the $50 ballpark.

Looks like Newegg has a HighPoint RocketRAID 1640 for $50, but it's vague as to whether that's hardware.

The 1720, which is $75, is supposedly "hardware-accelerated".

Anyway, I remembered... these SATA cards wouldn't use the on-board BIOS's LBA, they'd use their own BIOS, so the card would be fine with 48-bit LBA.
Last edited by bhtooefr on Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:11 pm

Quick new egg search showed a few PCI (not PCIe) cards from $40-$100 that have anywhere from 2-4 SATA2 (though not SATA3) ports. Though you would have to check the chipset for specifics, it's likely the linux kernel supports most of them, though you may have to recompile the kernel if the one you get has an oddball chipset that's not included in the ubuntu stock kernel.

Most of these will do RAID0, RAID 1, and RAID 0+1, though as to the "hardware vs. software" debate on raid, it's likely all these cards have the host CPU doing a lot of the work (though I cannot confirm that). Linux RAID has gotten better over the years, though even with RAID1, make sure you have a separate backup.
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Re: Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:07 am

bhtooefr wrote:Hm. I was kinda thinking the $50 ballpark.

Looks like Newegg has a HighPoint RocketRAID 1640 for $50, but it's vague as to whether that's hardware.

The 1720, which is $75, is supposedly "hardware-accelerated".

Anyway, I remembered... these SATA cards wouldn't use the on-board BIOS's LBA, they'd use their own BIOS, so the card would be fine with 48-bit LBA.

You are *not* going to find a full hardware-based RAID card for $50. I'm actually surprised there's (possibly) one for $75; IIRC the last time I looked they were all over $200.

I would double-check driver support for your specific distro before considering the 1720, as I see it is based on a Marvell chipset (Marvell is *not* particularly good about releasing hardware specs to the Open Source community). Also note that the 1640 is based on the (now obsolete twice over) SATA-I standard, and the 1720 has only 2 ports... not good.

For your budget, your best bet is probably something like this. Cheap, SATA-II (so only one gen out of date instead of two), 4 ports, and a Silicon Image chipset with mature Linux driver support. Just don't try to run a software RAID-5 array on it and the performance won't totally suck.

(And quite frankly, your best bet really is to upgrade the whole server instead of trying to nurse that ancient box along for another few years.)
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Re: Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:57 am

Oh, I know, I'm just doing this to see how much life I can get out of it at this point.

Although, I tried to spin up a Diaspora pod on it (I'm beginning to move from some cloud services to self-hosted in my apartment - given that I'm the only user, I don't need much power for most things), and performance was absolutely dreadful. Then again, it was so bad that I'd expect it to be dreadful on a VPS, too. Actually, it seemed like anything even related to Ruby on Rails was going to be dreadful on this machine...

Anyway, it looks like the 88SX6042 isn't actually hardware accelerated at all (but it looks like it is supported under Linux), so screw it, I'll get a cheaper card if they're all dumb.

That said, at that point... what do I get out of SATA II, when I'm strapping the whole thing to a 33 MHz, 32-bit (1056 mebibit/s) bus? Even SATA I (at 1500 megabit/s) could saturate it, no?
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Re: Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:19 pm

bhtooefr wrote:Oh, I know, I'm just doing this to see how much life I can get out of it at this point.

I played that game too, with my old Slot A system. Finally retired it a couple of years ago...

bhtooefr wrote:That said, at that point... what do I get out of SATA II, when I'm strapping the whole thing to a 33 MHz, 32-bit (1056 mebibit/s) bus? Even SATA I (at 1500 megabit/s) could saturate it, no?

Yes... but IIRC that Silicon Image chip supports 66MHz PCI in case you ever decide to move it to another system that has 66Mhz PCI support. Yeah I know 66MHz PCI is a rare feature for desktop mobos, but you seem to collect old hardware, you may have something else that can take advantage of it. I also have vague (possibly mistaken?) recollections of some older SATA-I chipsets not implementing hot swap correctly; I don't know if that matters to you at all, but FWIW with the addition of a cheap eSATA bracket it can be quite handy for external backup drives.

And it's cheaper than either of the other cards you were looking at anyway!
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Re: Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:12 pm

Oh, I know, but if I was going cheap, I was also thinking the Rosewill RC-209-EX, which is even cheaper, if I don't need SATA II.

In any case, whenever I rebuild the server, I'll go for something new, rather than used, so the card wouldn't be needed past this machine.
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Re: Recommendations for a SATA RAID card?

Postposted on Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:34 pm

bhtooefr wrote:Oh, I know, but if I was going cheap, I was also thinking the Rosewill RC-209-EX, which is even cheaper, if I don't need SATA II.

If your goal is to minimize the cash outlay and you need 4 ports, that card is probably a good choice.
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