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    Setup and Testing DataCore DriveHarmony in Windows Home Server 2011


    Dave

    DataCore has released their beta of the Add-In, DriveHarmony.  It’s one of the latest Drive Extender “like” replacements to vie for your dollar in the near future.  DataCore describes it best:

    Leveraging techniques learned from a decade of experience in large data centers across the globe, DataCore™ DriveHarmony maximizes the value home users get from their hard disk drives. The software integrates into the familiar WHS dashboard with a simple, easy-to-use control panel. From there, users can combine one or more physical disks of variable sizes and types into one “Virtual Big Disk” pool. When this virtual drive is created, it is automatically initialized, formatted, assigned a drive letter, and selectively mirrored for data protection. The virtual drive is then ready for use by any application running on the WHS 2011 operating system.

    Let’s install it and test it out.

     

    It’s a standard install file that you will copy to the server and execute from the server.  It will require a restart before you can use it.  When your install and restart are done you will find the add-in loaded in the WHS 2011 Dashboard.

     

     

     

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    One thing I didn’t like in this beta is the fact that it’s not listed in the add-in tab of the dashboard.  I don’t know why that bothers me but I would like to see it in there as being “official.”

     

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    My test server is a hodge podge collection of drives.  Take a look.

     

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    I’m all set to start choosing drives for protection.  So I think.

     

    Back to the Add-In choose “Create Protected Drive.”

     

    A box will pop up with a list of hard drives for you to select for the protected drive.

     

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    Yet, there are no drives.  DriveHarmony would not use the drives I had already loaded into the server and assigned drive letters to.  I had to load Disk Management and delete the volume on each drive.  Then back to the Add-In.

     

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    Now they show up.  Remember this is virtually a “mirror” so you want to create drives of like sizes otherwise the mirror will be the size of the smallest drive.

     

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    When you click Create Drive the add-in will take over and create the protected drive out of the two you selected.

     

    This may take a while.  It took 5 to 6 hours for mine to complete but the good news is the new drive is useable after only a short time.  Notice the size and the percentage of drive space that is initialized.

     

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    I wouldn’t expect to do much during this process although I didn’t test any streaming or other operations.  Here is why.

     

    16 15

     

    Memory usage was sky high.  This is a beta so keep that in mind.

     

    Once it’s complete the add-in screen will not look much different.

     

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    One good thing I noticed is I was able to use the WHS 2011 move folder wizard to the newly protected drive.

     

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    One bad thing I noticed is that memory usage of the add-in is still very high in a static state.

     

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    Yet another good thing about this add-in is the ability to extend the drive.  You can add another like size or even unlike size, and add it to the protected drive.  That’s a very good thing for future growth.  I know it’s a beta but the memory usage seems a tad high.

     

     

     

    Speed testing DriveHarmony

     

    Does it perform?   I need a comparable so here is my OS Drive.

     

    It’s two, 250Gig hard drives which are the Seagate Momentus 5400.6 ST9250315AS 250GB 5400 RPM 2.5″ SATA 3.0Gbps drives.

     

    Mirrored with Icy Dock MB982SPR-2S, plugged into a Gigabyte P55-USB3 motherboard, Jmicron port

     

    image

     

     

     

     

     

    Single drive tests

     

    Here is a 2TB Seagate Drive just for a baseline.

     

    ST3200542AS, 5900 RPM

     

    image

     

     

     

    DataCore DriveHarmony protected drive.

     

    Here is the DriveHarmony setup.

     

    One 500Gig Western Digital Blue WD500AAKS, SATA 3, 7200RPM

     

    One 500Gig Seagate ST3500418AS, SATA 3, 7200 RPM

     

    Both plugged into a Gigabyte P55-USB3 board, Intel ports.  I didn’t load the add-in with 7200 RPM drives on purpose.  That’s just what I had handy.  Obviously they are faster.

     

    image

     

    Whoa.  What’s going on with the write speeds and how did it achieve such high read rates?  These are SSD results not 7200 RPM drive results.

     

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    I had to run it twice since it looked erratic.  It got faster.

     

    image

     

    3rd run it got even faster.  Time to ask DataCore what’s going on.  Carlos, who we interviewed in episode 132, has a response to what might be going on.

    The benchmark appears to be sequential IOs of various transfer sizes. Running this kind of test against a single drive produces pretty consistent results (diagram #25).  In comparison, the DriveHarmony drive pool’s high read IO rate is due to read-ahead caching that detects read patterns and pre-fetches blocks.  For writes it depends on how busy the cache is as well as what disk you are writing to (also bear in mind that you’re performing 2 write operations on a protected drive before acknowledgement is sent back to the application). The other thing we noticed is that in #25 (physical disk) the numbers for read/write IOs are similar for all transfer sizes while in #26 the numbers highly vary – without knowledge about how the test tool works we can’t comment on this difference.

    This explains it.  I wonder if the write speeds would be better if you were just writing a folder to it and not hitting it with so many read operations?  How well will it perform with streaming?  My guess is this is going to be just fine for enthusiasts.  Remember, this is a beta too.  Carlos also reminded me of this.

    As I alluded to previously, the final version of the product will use an updated I/O driver so any benchmarks conducted with the beta driver will not be indicative of the final performance characteristics (particularly for write operations).

    So what do you think of the Add-in?  I think if they can clean this up a little bit it has real merit not just as a replacement for Drive Extender but as a means to manage RAID on your server.  The caching mechanism alone seems to be worth the install.

     

    Hit the forums for more discussion.  Here is the DriveHarmony topic.

     

    Update:  See the comments section for a reply from Datacore.  Feel free to leave your thoughts here or in the forums post above.

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    Update: DataCore contacted me about he memory issue and the Add-In concern that I had in this initial review. Here is that reply. "Regarding being listed in the “Add-in” tab, this was more of a marketing decision than a technical one. We liked the idea of being featured as an icon on the console ribbon. As currently coded our installer calls the ‘add-in’ functions behind the scenes and presents the DriveHarmony icon on the console." "Regarding memory usage, this is a known issue. A future update will limit memory usage to 256MB."

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    You write: "It’s a standard install file that you will copy to the server and execute from the server". Er, that was standard for WHS v1. For WHS 2011, I thought the standard install for an Add-in was to execute it from one of the client PCs?

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