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RAID Review

RAID Review

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Published by Mohan Reddy K

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Published by: Mohan Reddy K on Jul 04, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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RAID Review
RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive or Independent Disks) is an important component for serverson a critical enterprise or workgroup network. RAID provides crash-proof hard drive systems. Howdoes it work? How do I administer it? What does it cost? What is the difference between RAID levelsand RAID vendors?
RAID Background
RAID as a computer concept has been around for over twenty years. The computer sciencedepartment at UC Berkeley first developed the RAID concept back in the 1980's. They used theword
rather than today's
.Since then, changes in technology and the use of computers have made RAID more popular.Computers and hard disk drives became faster, smaller, and less expensive. The computer hasbecome a critical part of an organizations business. More and more data is stored in the computerand this information must be available 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. Data accessibility andreliability has become a key factor in the success of business.Accessibility is the essential component of RAID. RAID technology makes data more accessible bypreventing downtime due to a hardware failure. RAID systems can sustain several bad sectors andeven whole disk failures, continue running, and all the while being transparent to the end-user.But, with that accessibility, comes a price. How much? It depends on your total storage requirement,the type of redundancy, and how quickly you need to recover from a failure. The cost of this hardwareshould be measured against the cost of having a failure, and on the cost of the downtime due to thisfailure. Some companies can sustain the loss of a disk drive or two and not suffer financially. Othercompanies, such as brokerages, measure downtime in minutes of revenue loss. For this class ofcustomer, RAID with full redundancy is a must-have.RAID systems not only increase reliability, they also increase available storage capacity. Kintronicsmanufactures RAID systems with over 1,000 Gigabyte or 1 Terabyte. Remember when a 40megabyte drive was overwhelmingly large?
RAID Levels
Six distinctive RAID levels have been developed and agreed upon, voluntarily, by variousmanufacturers. These RAID levels are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Other combinations of these levels are alsoused, such as level 10 (which is 0+1) or level 6 (which is 5+1).A RAID system appears as a single large hard disk to the operating system. All of the computationsassociated with creating the RAID set are hidden from the operating system. RAID responds tostandard disk commands such as read, write, and format.
RAID Level 0
stripes data across all disks without redundancy or parity. This Level maximizesdata transfer rates and is good for handling large files. Spare drives are not useful on this Level.
RAID Level 1
mirrors data across multiple disks. Data is duplicated on another set of drives. Ifone drive fails, then the data is still available on the other mirror. This Level has the highest cost perMB and is best suited for smaller capacity applications such as mirroring the boot drive. Typically onlyone drive is mirrored at a time. Spare drives are not useful on this Level.
RAID Level 2
bit interleaves data across multiple disks with parity information created using aHamming code. A Hamming code detects errors that occur and determines which part is in error.
RAID Level 2 specifies 39 disks with 32 disks of user storage and 7 disks of error recovery coding.This Level is not used in practice.
RAID Levels 3 and 4
stripe data across multiple drives and write parity to a dedicated drive.Level 3 is typically implemented at the BYTE level. While Level 4 is typically implemented at theBLOCK level. These Levels combine the performance of RAID 0 with a redundancy feature. If a drivefails, the data can be restructured by the parity drive. RAID 3 and 4 are best suited for large transfersizes and rates where redundancy is important. The parity information is calculated during write timeand can effect overall performance. Spare drives take over in the event of a drive failure.
RAID Level 5
stripes data and parity information at the block level across all the drives in thearray. Parity is written onto the next available drive rather than a dedicated parity drive. Reads andwrites may be performed concurrently. Level 5 also calculates parity during the write cycles, but usesan Exclusive-OR (X-OR) algorithm. This algorithm is best suited for smaller data transfers. Sparedrives take over in the event of a drive failure.Table 1 - Summaries RAID Levels
Theoretical Capacity
Example of ActualCapacity
using seven 9 GBdisks
Striping # Drives x Cap Drive
63 GB1
Mirroring (# Drives / 2) x Cap Drive
31.5 GB2
Hamming code parity (# Drives -1) x Cap Drive
54 GB3
Byte level parity (# Drives -1) x Cap Drive
54 GB4
Block level parity (# Drives -1) x Cap Drive
54 GB5
Interleave parity (# Drives -1) x Cap Drive
54 GB
RAID Implementation
RAID can be implemented in hardware or software. Software RAID solutions use the host computer'sCPU and memory to implement the RAID functions. As an example, Sun Computers (Online DiskSuite) implement RAID Level 0 or Level 1 using software and the internal processor. It takesadvantage of the large cache memory available in this computer.RAID Level 3 or 5 are usually implemented in hardware. The hardware RAID controller has adedicated CPU to calculate parity and map the location of the files.Hardware RAID is implemented using either using an internal RAID board (like the Adaptec RAIDsystems) or an external RAID processor such as the CMD controllers. Internal RAID, like softwareRAID, is operating system dependent. It usually requires a driver to access and configure the RAIDcontroller. On the plus side, the internal RAID controller can communicate faster than an externalcontroller, because it incorporates the SCSI adapter function. This means that access to the dataavoids one communication layer. Also, an internal RAID controller is usually less expensive than acomparably equipped external controller.There are some major disadvantages to an internal controller. First, if the controller fails, then the hostcomputer must be shut down to repair or replace the board. If an external RAID controller fails, simplyturn off the other devices on that bus. Second, most internal controllers do not have expansion cards,so the size of the RAID set is limited. External controllers offer more flexibility in the number of drives

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