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  • Dave

    During the last couple of posts on RAID, I talked about both software and hardware RAID.  Since that time I had a small issue which sent looking for a better solution.  Specifically, I had a power outage the other day which caused my test server to shut off (yours truly forgot to hook up the USB cable from the UPS).  When I powered it back on after I got home from from work, I noticed that the software array had been disturbed and that it was rebuilding itself.  Granted, this is exactly what it is supposed to do if it detects a  problem but it kind of bugged me that it took something this small to set it off.  To make things even worse, the rebuild took as long as the initial build which around 96 hours.  I had a hardware array on this systems as well and nothing happened to that so it was only the software array.  At this point I realized that an array this large is probably not practical done in software as it is just to slow if has to rebuild.  So I set out to find a decent hardware controller that would not require a second mortgage to purchase and that would provide for around 8 sata ports.


    In my frequent travels to newegg.com, l discovered the Highpoint RocketRAID 2680 which happened to be on sale for around $139, a $140 off the normal price.  After doing some homework it appeared to be a decent controller and supported 8 sata ports through a breakout cable (see below).  The card itself has twos SFF-8087 connectors which allows the card to be very small.


    HighPoint RocketRaid 2680




    SFF-8087 Sata Fan Out Cable


    The concept here is that you plug the SFF connector on to the controller and attach the drives to the breakout.  Each cable supports 4 sata drives and there are two connectors on the card for a total of 8 sata drives supported.




    4 Sata ports per cable.  Each us labeled nicely and cables are very pliable.




    SFF-8087 connector that plugs into the controller card.




    Card is a 4x PCI express.  Heatsink gets hot after hard use.




    Package Contents.  Also came with SFF to SFF cable to chain controllers together.




    This is what it looks like inserted into the motherboard with the breakout cables attached.




    The control BIOS which is accessed by “CTRL+H” during boot up.  You do most things from here or the software screen depending on your preference and situation.




    The first array I created was using 5 older 2T “EADS” drives in a single array for a total of 8T of available storage.  The array took 37 hours to build which is still a long time but dramatically faster than the software array which took 96 hours for a smaller array (4x2T).


    New Highpoint Controller


    I also took the last three ports and added 3 2T “EARS” drives for a second array of 4T.  This gave me a total of 12T (8T + 4T) which should be enough for even the most demanding users.


    Two Array


    Drive Management




    All in all, I found the experience to be fairly painless.  The controller itself seems very fast and overall is straightforward once you get past the terminology.  Compared to other controllers, I saw it as very cost effective (assuming you can get it on sale) especially when compared to 4 port controllers.  The end result turned out better than I expected and I feel better with regards to the safety of the data.  During my experimentation, I was able to set it up, delete the OS and re-install a different OS, load the drivers and everything re-appeared with out incident.  Swapping the motherboard also yielded the same result.  Considering the RAID 5 protection, not having to worry that I have the right motherboard if something goes bad, or worrying that something will go wrong because I installed a new OS, I have a much better feeling about using this technology.  Also, the first RAID array has 4 identical disks and 1 of a different vintage and it seems to work without an issue.  This particular server I am testing will become my Vail test box when the next refresh comes out so I will publish an update once I install Vail and see how it interacts with this RAID configuration.  I plan to install Vail it on an ICY box using two laptop drives in a mirrored configuration.  Stay tuned and let me know if you have any questions or comments.




    1. Speed


    2. Not motherboard dependent


    3. Expandable


    4. Not OS dependent (Tried WHS, Server 2008, and Win7 without issue)


    5. On sale, it is relatively low cost




    1. Requires the purchase of separate cables ($29 for each breakout, 4 Sata plugs)


    2. Although much faster than software, initial build and rebuilds do take time


    3. Although not very difficult, it does require a moderate technical skill


    4. Controller did run a bit hot for my taste especially after about a few days of solid copying, but a small fan resolved the issue quickly.




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    Excellent article Doc. Was there any mention of the ability to grow the array with another disk? Lets say someone starts out with 2x2TB and want's to add another 2TB drive or even two more. 37 hours. Wow, still seems like a long time. Will this be acceptable to the enthusiast community? Common user? Are you brave enough to attempt a "power loss" test on this array?
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    Well, this is encouraging. In my initial dealings with WHS 2011 RC, I've not been pleased with the idea of figuring out which folders should go on which drives. Consequently, there's been a lot mumbling and muttering about the loss of DE. But after reading your article, it's seems that RAID 5 w/RAID card is good way to go and not so difficult. Thanks for taking the time to write this up!
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    After a month of testing various configurations, I finally isolated the root cause of my problem. My problems do not stem from the Highpoint RAID controller (2640x4) with the WD EARS drives, but rather, my new SSD drive. I bought the Adata S599 128 GB SSD for my new boot drive and found out that the firmware preloaded on the retail version (3.1) was flaky and caused a lot of BSOD and didn't allow computers to resume from a suspend state. Once I upgraded the firmware (v3.4.6 RC4), my server has been up and running without any BSOD, lock-ups, or "boot drive not found" errors. Thanks to those who had to put up with my frustrations, but sometimes the unsuspecting components the toughest to isolate! Bottom line: 1. Highpoint RAID controller (2640x4) does work with WD20EARS drives - idle time was not changed (matter of fact, couldn't get WDIDLE3 to work), sector size for RAID volume changed to 4K; and 2. Anyone who purchased an Adata S599 SSD should upgrade their firmware once the official release is available.
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    After reading this article, I ordered a Highpoint 2680 SGL card w/ fan out cable. I have a Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard, but wanted a dedicated hardware RAID controller vs. onboard Intel chipset. Will be running WHS 2011 on the PC with a Q9550 and 8 GB RAM. I plan to install the WHS 2011 OS using your Icy Dock method in RAID 1 mirror with 2 x 250GB 2.5 in. 5400 RPM laptop drives and objective was to run 4 x 1.5 TB 7200 RPM Seagate HDDs in a RAID 5 config. Questions: - seems this HP 2680 RAID card isn't a hardware raid card, but I got it for $99 from newegg. I was hoping to avoid spending $250+ if overkill for a home server on a UPS. Has anyone installed this card that would discourage it? - Is there another card that will do RAID 0, 1, 5 (6 even) that isn't as expensive as the Adaptec 5405? - should I install 3 x 1.5 TB drives in RAID 5 array and add the 4th as a spare? I was hoping to use all 4 HDDs in the RAID 5 array to maximize my available space. - does this card require a add-on fan? would be installing in an Antec Three Hundred case w/ decent airflow.
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    Dam, 16x 3TB drives. You must have a healthy budget for your setup. I'm looking to use this card in my new WHS2011 build. I will be using a spare system (was my old workstation till I built a 2x Quad Core Extreme Skull trail rig), which currently is my handbreak rig used to convert blu-rays. The system has 4GB mem, Q6600 G0, and a 320 VRaptor, but I'll be swapping that out for an SSD. I'll also be using 2 x ICY Box Backplain systems (IB-554SSK) with 4x 2TB drives in each. Great article. Thanks.
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