Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

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Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

Postposted on Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:46 pm

Hmm,
This week's deal of the week highlights two 60GB SSDs, the OCZ Agility 3 and Corsair Force 3, which got me to thinking about mixing the drives for a RAID-0 setup. The drive are based on a common SandForce SF-2200 controller. I'm in the market for a new primary drive solution, in the form of a single 120GB SSD or 2x 60GB SSDs in RAID-0. With the price cuts, rebates, and free shipping, the two solutions are about equal in cost, but obviously there would be quite a gap in peak performance, which is appealing.

My motherboard has the SB750 with SATA2 controller, so I won't be able to realize SATA3 speeds at this point. However, I do want to go with a SATA3 SSD solution so as to not cap myself at SATA2 speeds, as I may upgrade to a SATA3 board in the next year. And the cost difference between single, like SATA2 and SATA3 drives is negligible, so making the jump isn't that hard to justify. I'm fine with RAID-0, as the drive would only serve Win7 OS, applications, and games (thus 120GB total).

So, since the Agility 3 and Force 3 have the same controller and offer the same storage space, would I be able to establish a RAID-0 configuration with the two drives, or would there be problems? A potential issue that immediately comes to mind is updating two different firmwares on two different drives in RAID-0 (sounds like a headache waiting to happen).


What are other problems with this solution, or should I pull the trigger and buy the 2x 60GB SSDs, or spring for the 120GB Force GT?


Also, can somebody please shoot me the step-by-step guide for setting up RAID-0 on the SB750? I saw it on here once, but it seems to have become buried.
Azza Helios||Hyper Type-R 580W||ASUS M4A79XTD||Phenom II X4 955||ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B||4GB G.SKILL DDR3 1600||Corsair Force GT 120GB||2x WD 1TB Caviar Black||HT Omega Striker 7.1||PowerColor HD4870 512MB||Win7 Pro x64

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Re: Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

Postposted on Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:50 pm

While the Force 3 and the Force GT use the same SandForce SF-2281 controller, the Force GT uses faster flash memory chips.
i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

Postposted on Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:05 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:While the Force 3 and the Force GT use the same SandForce SF-2281 controller


Are you sure? Newegg and Amazon report the SF-2200. The Corsair website doesn't offer an contradictory/amplifying information regarding the controller.

JustAnEngineer wrote:the Force GT uses faster flash memory chips.


Yeah, I read into that a day or two ago (maybe on here in the most recent SSD writeup). The science/engineering behind the minor speeds differences in the models is interesting.
Azza Helios||Hyper Type-R 580W||ASUS M4A79XTD||Phenom II X4 955||ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B||4GB G.SKILL DDR3 1600||Corsair Force GT 120GB||2x WD 1TB Caviar Black||HT Omega Striker 7.1||PowerColor HD4870 512MB||Win7 Pro x64

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Re: Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

Postposted on Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:49 am

i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

Postposted on Mon Nov 14, 2011 4:44 pm

So, after some digging on the router-connected-intranets, an obvious response regarding SSD firmware and RAID is "update the firmware before establishing the RAID array." Simple enough (duh), moving along.



Sandforce says drives must be updated with OEM specific firmware. Sandforce does not provide firmware for each device, but rather works with the OEMs to tailor each OEM's respective firmwares. Neat.

Over on some EVGA forums, other users claim to have done it, but with like drives. The process required breaking up the array, performing the firmware update, and then reassembling the array.

OCZ and Corsair also offer similar guidance on performing the procedure, again with like drives.

Comments from one site call the idea of even doing something like this (different controllers, but the concept of different firmwares is the same) a "recipe for disaster."




Yet, rhetorical questions still remain: is there a substantial performance improvement in daily tasks from RAID-ing two SSDs; is RAID kind of a headache to establish if you have problems; is the time spent remedying these problems worth the time saved by having an SSD RAID-0 setup; etc.

So, my mildly-informed opinion is that updating the firmware on drives of different manufactures is possible, absolutely and in a RAID configuration. However, it's probably not worth my time to setup a RAID-0 array with SSDs, as I probably won't realize the peak performance increase during the majority of my time using said array. Maybe an odd benchmark here or there would enlarge my head, but the daily use thing is what I'm interested in. Plus, so many non-power users and even uber-high-end-power users report the noticeable speed increase by going from HDD to SSD is tangible and "worth the money." So, I think I'll go with the a single 120GB Force GT instead of trying the method in this thread's subject. Heck, Black Friday is less than two weeks away anyway; maybe I'll catch a wicked deal on a 120GB, or something large even!
Azza Helios||Hyper Type-R 580W||ASUS M4A79XTD||Phenom II X4 955||ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B||4GB G.SKILL DDR3 1600||Corsair Force GT 120GB||2x WD 1TB Caviar Black||HT Omega Striker 7.1||PowerColor HD4870 512MB||Win7 Pro x64

3.48GHz 30/52C||1640MHz 8-8-8-24 2T
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Re: Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

Postposted on Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:12 pm

I think it's better to go with a Synchronous flash based 2281 than two Async 60s.

First, while you'd get impressive sequential performance for easily compressible data, you'd end up about the same speed as a Force GT 120. I don't really consider compressible performance with SF drives, but rather incompressible performance. In reality, you'll get about 23% of that compressible advantage on average (that's what I've seen on mine). The 60GB async models have somewhat abysmal performance compared to the sync NAND-equipped versions, much less the drives toting 32nm Toshiba Toggle NAND. My Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 60GB was as fast as 120GB Force 3 in incompressible writes, but sported ~500MBs incompressible sequential reads in comparison. The 120GB Chronos Deluxe (also sold by/as the Patriot Wildfire/OWC Merc. 6G Extreme and OCZ MaxIOPS) is $220 right now, and it's about as fast as a 240GB Vertex 3/Force GT.

You can't go wrong with the Force GT 120, and there are some areas in which the Micron *AAB 25nm NAND in it is actually better than the 32nm Toshiba. I certainly think it's better quality NAND, even if it's not 3xnm. It will be slightly slower in some ways, but just avoid the Asynchronous models if you can help it, unless you can spring for a 240GB model. It's awfully hard though, as the Force 3 and OCZ Solid 3 have been selling for around $130 on sale. That's hard to beat, and if you can get one of those for that kind of money, you should buy it and laugh. For that kind of money, you can get another later and stripe them if you want, and still end up with fast drives and a hellacious deal. The Force 3 is preferable to the Solid 3, as the Solid 3 has been nerfed (in FW) in anticipation of using awful NAND in the future (if they get a good deal on cheap stuff they can use instead of the async Micron). US.NCIX.COM has been selling both drives cheap.

Secondly, 4K numbers aren't going to scale. They're pretty good already though, and a common 4K QD1 read/write Crystal Disk Mark number would be 30MBs read/90MBs write.
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Re: Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

Postposted on Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:45 pm

Compton wrote: LOTS OF GOOD STUFF


All good points. I've looked at the Patriot Wildfires too. You're right, the 120GB version of these friggin blaze like a 240GB drive from other manufacturers, but the WFs sure are costly (ouch!).

JustAnEngineer was getting at the synch/asynch point in his first post, but yours goes into more detail (good for other newbs like me that come across this thread in the future). That's why the GT series drew me in, and based on TRs recent SSD showdown which highlighted the GT as a high performance/dollar item. However, looking at other reviews (thanks for the links JAE), the GTs aren't as appealing with the WFs and fast 240GB drives out there.

After all this research, I think my desire to 1337pwn n()obs with two SSDs in a striped RAID array has fizzled out. I'll just wait for Black Friday and 1337pwn on some savings!
Azza Helios||Hyper Type-R 580W||ASUS M4A79XTD||Phenom II X4 955||ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B||4GB G.SKILL DDR3 1600||Corsair Force GT 120GB||2x WD 1TB Caviar Black||HT Omega Striker 7.1||PowerColor HD4870 512MB||Win7 Pro x64

3.48GHz 30/52C||1640MHz 8-8-8-24 2T
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Re: Mixing SSDs with same controller for RAID-0

Postposted on Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:02 pm

The best SSD is the one you can afford.

I mention the Chronos Deluxe 120 because it's significantly cheaper (and identical) to the Wildfire. Basically, the Toggle NAND models are faster because they have more NAND devices per controller channel. As the NAND die shrinks happen, you get more capacity per NAND device, meaning that you have to get a higher capacity drive at 25nm than you did at 34nm to get the same number of NAND devices (sort of). The more devices per channel you have, the more you can interleave operations. This is more important for write speed, but affects reads too to some degree. Basically, a 3xnm drive at 120GB has as many devices as a 240GB drive at 25nm (that's one way to look at it). The Force GT and Vertex 3 are still really fast though. It's like the difference between single channel memory, dual channel, and triple channel memory. The RAM might operate at the same speed, but if you can use more channels to interleave, you can get double or triple the throughput of the single channel.

The best example of what losing half of your devices can do is to look at the Intel X25-V 40 vs. the X25-M 80. The 80 populates all 10 channels while the V has only 5 channels filled. Read speeds are around 200MBs for the V and 250MBs for the M, but sequential writes are only half as fast on the V -- 40ish MBs vs 80ish on the M. Random 4Ks are similar though, which is why the V feels almost as fast when you're using it. Now Sync vs. Async is another issue entirely, one which would be best explained by someone who know what they're talking about. Sync NAND works off of a clock signal, sort of like the base clock affects other components like ram and CPU speed (but not really).


Maybe I'm just confusing myself now. If you want some more (accurate) information, Toms and Anandtech have done some good reporting on why the number of devices and whether the NAND is sync or async matters.



I consider read speeds, random reads and random writes to be most important (though other people may say sequential writes are more important). The Crucial M4 is awesome too if you're looking at non-SF drives. The new SF firmware has fixed all of my problems though.
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