Since Windows Home Server 2011 was released without Drive Extender you may be wondering how you are going to protect your data on the server now. One method is to use RAID. I’m not going to get into the fundamentals of RAID in this article but if you want more information you can visit a wiki article that goes over all the different flavors of RAID. I’m also not going to go over a highly detailed step by step on how to do it but rather show you that it can be done and give you a basis of how to accomplish it. There are many different ways to do it due to all the different hardware that is available. I’ll give you the hardware that I used and hopefully that will help give you some direction.
Here is what we are going to do. Install WHS2011 on a mirror of two hard drives using the Icy Dock MB982SPR-2S and then use the Intel SATA ports as a RAID 5 array on the Gigabyte P55-USB3 motherboard. At the end of the article I’m going to attempt to increase the RAID 5 array by adding a drive and hopefully not lose any data while trying!
Here are some refresher links if you would like to take a deeper look at these parts.
This little jewel has a JMicron RAID chip built into it. The RAID is done on the enclosure so you only have to run one SATA port to it.
Here is the test server build in detail in case you would like to see all the parts: http://homeservershow.com/vail-test-server-build.html
The ports used on the P55 motherboard are as follows:
I used one of the JMicron ports for the Icy Dock. It’s the set of two white ports in the photo. Use the blue Intel ports for the RAID5.
If you don’t want to use the Icy Dock enclosure for this mirror you could simply use both the JMicron ports on the motherboard as the mirror. If you want to save space in your case you can use a little box like the one below.
I did a head to head RAID comparison of the Intel ports vs. the JMicron ports on the motherboard in this article. It is also required reading!
The Icy Dock mirrored install is a breeze. You can do it two ways. Set the switch on the box to mirror and install or do the install to one drive then use the Icy Dock software after you install WHS2011 to setup the mirror while you are logged in via Remote Desktop. You can’t do this in WHS2011’s Dashboard. Windows Home Server 2011 will automatically load the drivers for this Icy Dock RAID enclosure during install. No extra drivers needed.
There is not a whole lot to it. Once you have installed WHS2011 verify the OS drive in the dashboard and it is the correct size.
The RAID 5 array is no more difficult than the mirror. We will be using the blue Intel ports on the board.
Here are some of the drives being used for the tests. I’m using the MB973SP-B trayless 3 in 3 SATA backplane module from Icy Dock.
Install your drives to these SATA ports and power it up. The first thing you have to do is enter bios setup and designate the ports as RAID.
In this motherboard RAID is under Integrated Peripherals.
Now the ports are set to RAID.
Reboot the box saving your bios settings and be ready to recognize a different in the RAID bios screen. It will list all your drives and allow you to hit a key combination like CTRL-I to enter RAID bios setup. It’s here where you will designate RAID 5.
Set the RAID up as per the defaults choosing RAID 5. Save and exit. When your server reboots you will have one hard drive in your dashboard. This is your array although it’s not useable yet. You will be notified via alerts that the drive is ready to be formatted. Format and your done!
You now have two RAID arrays setup on your new WHS2011 server. One mirror for the OS and one RAID 5 for the data.
In this screen shot you can see the OS Drive that is 60GB and the rest of the remaining space on it which is 172.7GB. The Intel Raid shows up as 931GB free.
You can go further into this adventure by installing the Intel(Intel Rapid Storage Technology) and/or the JMicron RAID software on your server via remote desktop. This software will help you check the RAID health and do repairs if needed.
Some extra info.
I had a hodge-podge collection of hard drives to test with.
I used all these drives in the RAID 5 array. I don’t really recommend this as I think it’s better to go with like drives. As large as you can afford if possible. The 500 GB drive I have installed in this array is dragging down the total size of usable space. Let’s break down these drives though. They add up to to 3Tb of total storage. In version 1 of WHS this would be 1.5TB if you used duplication and filled the pool up with data. It’s a 1 to 1 ratio.
This hodge-podge RAID 5 array came in at roughly 1TB of usable space. That’s not a very efficient use of the SATA ports which reiterates the point of installing like sized drives and large ones if possible.
We have all heard the horror stories of how long it takes to format RAID arrays with software based RAID. This RAID 5 array is not large by any standard but it only took around a minute to format it. Can’t beat that!
Can you expand the RAID 5 Array?
It’s the million dollar question. Can you successfully add a hard drive to the RAID array without losing your data that's already on the array? This is the whole reason I started this article. I want to know!
I powered the server off and added a 1.5TB drive to a blue SATA port which is now controlled by RAID. I’m going to attempt this via the software Intel provides for the motherboard, Intel Rapid Storage Technology. (verify your setup before installing)
In this shot you can see the RAID 5 array at the top right. Everything with it looks good. However, the software is reporting a new drive sitting all by itself.
It’s even visible in the dashboard which expels one myth that I thought was true about setting the Intel ports to RAID. I thought that all the ports were set to RAID and you couldn’t load a drive on a free port without using it in the array. Looks like I was wrong. Notice I have some data on it as well. I’m expecting to lose that data if I’m able to insert the drive into the array.
I’m going to follow the IRST instructions of “Reset disk to Normal.”
I’m not sure what it did but the drive is now green.
Click on the array on the top right and Add Disk.
Here is the warning that any data on the drive will be lost. Also, it states that once the process is complete I will need to reboot and increase the size of the volume using Windows Disk Management.
The drive is now added. The process took about 30 seconds.
Back in the dashboard WHS2011 still reports the old size of around 1TB but the drive did disappear. Reboot time.
After the reboot I checked IRST to see what was going on with the array before I did anything else. It reports that it is Migrating data and there is a caution flag on the drive I just added. Dashboard still reports the old size of 1TB but the data I had on the array is still intact. I’m not real sure what it’s doing at this point and it’s going very slow!
In Disk Management I can see that I have unallocated space ready to be added to the volume.
In Disk Management right click the healthy RAID volume and click Extend Volume. Don't click on the unallocated space.
Next you will see what is available to add.
The RAID volume has now grown.
I clicked through this at a lightning pace since it’s just a test and I don’t have any real data to lose if it failed. As soon as I clicked finish on the Extend Volume Wizard the IRST application notified me that a drive in the array has failed. It’s not the drive that I just added though. It’s the 500GB drive in the array. The irony to this is I was going to attempt to remove this drive from the array since it’s the smallest and is really holding back the entire array due to it’s size. My best guess is that the array is now too big and the smaller drive can no longer participate in the array due to it’s size.
In a normal situation I would have let the IRST finish the data migration before attempting to extend the volume. I also would never have added a 500GB drive to a RAID 5 array. I just happened to find the 1.5TB drive after I had already started the testing. I will follow up and let you know how it all turns out.
The rebuild finished sometime overnight so I can't tell you how long it took but everything looks good. I've received a few messages from some guys that know more about RAID than myself and have some better explanations for you.
Well stated. I was trying to say that! He also goes on with a quick RAID lesson. The stuff I didn't want to get into!
That makes perfect sense. Better yet, all my clicking and rushing through this process didn't effect it one bit. It all works and all the data is good on the array. I think that speaks highly of the technology if I can't mess it up! I also think this is a good lesson displaying the effects of RAID and using unlike sizes of drives. As in, don't do it. I'm willing to bet most WHS v1 owners don't have same size drives throughout their system. When I bought my v1 server a 500GB drive was awesome to have and soooo big! Now 2TB drives are pretty much the standard. I have a mishmash of sizes from 1.0 to 2TB in my MediaSmart Server today.
Get rid of that 500 GB drive. I don't see a clear cut way to remove a drive via the IRST software. I'm going to further test this thing but powering the server off and pulling the 500GB drive out. That should also suffice as a disaster recovery test.
After it's removal IRST is all kinds of annoyed. One drive is not in good state and the 500 is reported missing.
The drive that is reported "At Risk" has a link to click to reset it to normal. I've seen this once before and it just takes a few seconds although I don't know why it's doing it. I still cannot find a way to remove the drive from the array. Update: Some sort of SMART event is taking place. I'll have to dig deeper to see what.
Disk Management looks normal as well. Looks like I need to reboot it and look at the RAID BIOS utility. Once I looked in there it became clear. There was an option to remove a drive from the RAID array. That's what I was hoping to find in IRST but didn't. The caveat is I had to add yet another hard drive in order to remove a hard drive. The contents of this 500 were to be moved to the new drive. It's a larger drive as well so I'm not sure what it will look like in IRST. I'm hoping that my RAID 5 volume would increase. The BIOS also told me that the rebuild would happen in the OS. So I saved and selected exit.
Once inside WHS2011 the IRST application shows the array as rebuilding. It looks to be progressing faster than the original rebuild but still it's a slow process. A question though. I replaced the 500GB drive with a 2TB drive. Shouldn't my volume size increase? Is the RAID hardware only using 500GB out of the 2TB to replace the 500GB drive that is being removed? Sounds confusing but my volume did not grow. It's still rebuilding so I will wait and see. More to come...
Just as suspected. Increase size is now available.
Size of volume increased!
A question was asked about resources during a rebuild. I don't see much of a problem in this area.
And that's it. The end of the marathon RAID post.