Friday, August 18, 2006

Hardware RAID is a really bad idea

A year or so ago I built a computer for my father in law, intended for video and graphics processing, so I wanted to use RAID (to get a performance boost from striping). I picked up what seemed a quality motherboard, from a very name-brand manufacturer whose motherboards I'd been using for several years with no trouble ever. Built the machine, it worked, sent it off. And it worked well.

Then he wanted some help finidng some new software, so he brought the machine back, and it hasn't booted since. Seems that particular motherboard model has had some problems (hard-disconnect from the mains, and it may not start again). Who'd have thought?

The problem is, I can't get that motherboard any more, and the specific RAID chip isn't available in a contemporary board. So I'm hosed ('hosed' is a highly technical Canadian IT term).

I've now bought a few other boards with closely related RAID chips to see whether one would recognize the striped array, no luck.  This is turning out to be rather an expensive (in time and hardware) service call in my IT-to-relatives hobby.

The right answer, of course, is to ensure you have backups, but that doesn't always happen.  The other thing that would have helped would have been to use software RAID and not been at the mercy of a transient hardware vendor.

I've since built a couple of big servers for my home use, around 3TB combined, using lvm and software raid and they work great.  I've even moved an array from one system to another without a hiccup, and recabled within a system to replace some drives, and the raid system figured out the changed drives and reassembled without a hitch.

I'll use software RAID exclusively in the future. And avoid mobos with RAID chips like the plague.

[Comments from my previous blog]

1. Mikael Gueck left...
Friday, 27 October 2006 8:47 am
One acronym: ZFS.

2. Behi left...
Friday, 27 October 2006 1:51 pm ::
That's so sad... Have you searched ebay? You might find a compatible motherboard there...

3. Yo left...
Saturday, 28 October 2006 6:39 pm
Suggestion, as I have had the same thing happen to me on more than one computer... hardware raid PCI card. They aren't too expensive, and unless the card craps, you can move it to another m/b and all should be fine. I too am worried as I set up 2 120GB drives in raid for video and what not. I usually reinstall Windows every so often and more than once forgot the dang drivers for the raid. One time I ended up scrapping what was on them due to a m/b failure and not able to get them working with a different m/b that I ended up buying to replace the bad one. 240GB, gone. And that's nothing compared to today's cheap drives.