On my last post I talked about using a RAID hardware controller. I am not going to get into the hardware again so if you did not have a chance to read the last post you find it HERE. What I want to discuss today is how I implemented my existing RAID solution into WHS 2011 and the results I got when it was done.
My goal when I setup and tested the RAID card several weeks ago was to have a solution in place and working with Server 2008 R2 and to be able to port that hardware and its contents into a WHS 2011. What I did know is that I could install a different OS and not effect the data as the array as it is stored on the card not in the OS. What I did not know is how MS would be implementing WHS 2011. If you recall prior versions creamed all the drives attached to it during the initial install. Since all the data I have was duplicated on another server I was not too concerned about losing it so I went and did the install. Interestingly enough, the install was painless and did not touch the data I had on the arrays but the actual install took 3-4 times longer than a Server 2008R2 install which takes only about 7-8 minutes.
Since we do not have DE anymore, I wanted to see how I could set up WHS 2011 to be as simple as possible, provide a more than decent amount of space, and of course to be large enough to avoid 20 drive letters.
Using the configuration I created before, you can see Disk Mgt screen that shows basically 4 drives (volumes). Disk 0 is a system drive (broken into three parts during the install, boot partition, OS, and the balance created a data partition), Disk 1 which is a an array of 5 2T drives for a storage total of 8T, Disk 2 which is a 3 2T disk array which provides for a total space of 4t. Notice that the two arrays show up as a single drive not multiples.
Setting up the folders
There is not right or wrong way to do this but below is how I broke down the major task's. In looking at the available storage, I picked folders in locations that I thought would provide plenty of storage now and the future. Please note that I moved all the folders from the defaults locations to one of the arrays where there is plenty of storage and not worry about running out including the backups. I am actually backing up the clients to the RAID 5 array not the local drive. I may change this later and just add a standalone 3T to be used as the backup.
Existing computers that have been ported to WHS 2011
Configured user list.
Great example of the drive/volume and what it looks like. Notice the RAID 5 arrays appear as one drive and are invisible to WHS 2011.
And of course this shows you the final product and the configuration of your drives as it appears in the disk management window.
Top drive is for the OS, and the bottom 5 are for the first array (5x2T)
The second array of 3x2T
Conclusions and Next steps….
So far I am ecstatic about this configuration. It provides more than enough storage capacity, is faster than you can hope for, all with the wonderful front end of Windows Home Server 2011. On the upside, I was impressed that I could install WHS 2011 on a clean drive and it not mess with any of the data that was on the arrays. I loved that I could move the default locations over the raid volumes without affecting the data on them. WHS 2011 works very well with a setup like this and will do just as well as we see more of the internal drive cages with built in raid controllers. I believe that with the right hardware, this will become an even more powerful solution than we had before. Maybe not quite as flexible, but potentially a better, faster, and more consistent experience.
I have tested heavy streaming (4 concurrent BD streams) while doing other tasks such as reading and writing and could not get it to stumble. Throughput around my network rarely dropped below 100 MB/s when connected to the WHS 2011, and usability was incredible.
The only downside (becoming less and less of an issue) is the hardware selection. I realize this is a bit extreme and not everyone will go to this level of expense, however it does demonstrate that you have options and if you look hard enough and plan it out right, you can set up a smaller version of this with minimal expense. For example, if you uses the same 8 port controller that I used, you can start with a simple 3 drive array, and either expand it by adding additional drives over time, or by adding another array of say 3 more drives as your storage needs grow. Sure it is not the “do whatever you want” approach of V1 but it can still be done fairly reasonably and the payback is awesome in terms of performance. I know that many are turned off by the “RAID THING”, but it is not as bad as we once thought and can be done for a decent cost.
So what is next? I plan on running this way for the next 3-4 weeks and after that, I will be testing the restore process and setting up an Icy Dock mirrored raid box like Dave is using for the OS, as well as adding as testing various other ways of providing backup. Start planning your hardware now and look for deals and you will not be disappointed…