INTRODUCTION TO RAID

 The redundant array of Independent Disks (RAID) architecture integrates multiple disk drives into an array to provide higher performance, capacity and reliability as compared to a single large drive.  This architecture is also known as Redundant array of Inexpensive Disks and comprises various implementations called RAID levels.

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RAID levels 

RAID 0  RAID 1  RAID 2  RAID 3  RAID 4  RAID 5

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RAID-0 

 

RAID 0 represents a striped disk array that does not store parity information. As a result, it does not provide data redundancy. RAID 0 represents a striped array that does not store parity information. As a result, it does not provide data redundancy. RAID 0 arrays with large stripes are beneficial for multi-user environments and RAID 0 arrays with small stripes are used in single-user systems that require access to long and sequential records.

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RAID-0 Configuration 

 

A RAID-0 array requires a minimum of two hard disks. The storage capacity of the array can be increased by providing additional physical disks. The hard disk in RAID 0 need not be of the same size because the total capacity of the array is the total capacities of the individual hard disks. Many RAID 0 systems can be formed with a mixture of Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) and Integrated Drives Electronics (IDE) Drives.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of RAID-0 

Advantages High performance  Handles data redundancy 

Disadvantages 
Lack of data redundancy  Loss of even one disk in the array result in the loss of the entire volume.

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RAID-1 

 

RAID 1 provides data redundancy by implementing disk mirroring. This is done by using a pair or group of identical primary and secondary hard disks. In disk mirroring, data is written concurrently to both the primary and secondary hard disks. If the primary hard disk fails the secondary or mirrored hard disk is used until the primary hard disk is restored. This restoration takes place by using the data on the mirrored disk.

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Disk Mirroring 

Disk Mirroring offers complete redundancy of data but it is expensive. This is because twice the disk capacity is required to store the same volume of data. 

Disk mirroring offers better read performance as data can be read from the hard disks concurrently. 

Write operations are slow because the same data is written to both the hard disks.

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Disk Duplexing 

The fault tolerance of disk mirroring can be enhanced by implementing disk duplexing. Disk mirroring consists of a single disk controller for the mirrored hard disks in the array. 

This makes the data irrecoverable if the controller fails. Disk duplexing overcomes this problem by utilizing a separate disk controller for the mirrored disks. 

Disk duplexing results in increased costs.

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RAID-3 

  

RAID 3 requires at least three hard disks in which two are striped disks. The third hard disk is used to store parity data. If one striped disk fails, the data can be restored from the from the parity data. The write operations in RAID 3 are slow as parity data has to be stored on the parity disk. The read performance is high because the parity disk is used only when the data cannot be read from the striped drives.

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Use of RAID-3 

The capacity of a RAID 3 array can be increased by adding more hard disks. This involves an effective increase in the size of the parity disk, which should be equal to or greater than the size of the individual striped disks. 



RAID 3 is most suited for applications that access data sequentially. It should not be used for intensive and transactional database applications.

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RAID 5  

 

RAID 5 requires at least three hard disks. The parity data is distributed across all disk drives. As a result, a portion of the total disk space is dedicated for storing parity data. This portion generally amounts to the size of one hard disk in the array. RAID 5 enhances read performance as data can be read from all the disk concurrently. Write operations are slow because parity data is recorded in the parity stripes.

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Benefits of RAID-5 

When a hard disk fails in a RAID 5 array, it can be restored from the parity information stored on the other hard disks. 

Read write operations can continue on these hard disks while the data is being restored from the information. 

This lowers the performance but greatly increases the availability of data in the array. 

RAID 5 very useful for storing critical data.

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RAID 2 and RAID 4 

RAID 2 is rarely implemented because it is designed for disk drives
that do not have built-in Error-Correction Code. At present, ECC is embedded in most disk drives. 

RAID 4 is seldom used because it does not support multiple
concurrent write operations.

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Hybrid RAID level 

RAID integrates multiple disk drives into an array to provide
optimum performance, capacity and reliability. 

By combining different RAID implementations, various hybrid RAID
levels can be created.

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Hybrid RAID level types 

1+5  5+1  0+1  1+0  0+5  5+0

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1+5 and 5+1 

It is a combination of disk mirroring and block striping with
distributed parity. 

A RAID 1+5 array is created when a number of mirrored sets are
striped with parity. 

On the other hand, a RAID 5+1 array is a mirrored configuration of
complete RAID-5 arrays.

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0+1 and 1+0 

 

The 0+1 and 1+0 hybrid levels use mirrored sets in conjunction with the striped sets without parity. RAID 0+1 is created by mirroring two striped sets, where as a RAID 1+0 array is created by striping multiple mirrored pairs. RAID 0+1 and 1+0 combine the advantages of striping and mirroring to obtain large arrays that can provide high performance and efficient fault tolerance.

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0+5 and 5+0 

The 0+5 and 5+0 hybrid levels use the block striping and parity implementation of RAID 5 along with the striped set technique of RAID 0. 

RAID 0+5 is essentially a set multiple striped RAID 0 arrays that are integrated into a RAID 5 array. 

RAID 5+0 is created by using a RAID 0 array that is striped across RAID 5 elements.

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ZCR Cards 

RAID levels are implemented using Zero Channel RAID (ZCR) cards. A ZCR card is a compact implementation of a RAID controller card and functions with an onboard SCSI chip. This allows for more space on the card. 

The compact design of a ZCR card reduces the cost of RAID controller card. ZCR provides the flexibility to add a card at lower cost that onechannel and two channel RAID cards.

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RADIOS 

To use a ZCR card, you need a RAID I/O system (RAIDOS) chip embedded on the motherboard. 

This chip is used to enable an embedded I/O controller. The I/O controller and I/O processor are the main hardware components of a RAID system. 

The RAIDIOS circuit allows the I/O processor to configure the controller and service its interrupts.

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Software RAID Vs Hardware RAID 

  

In software RAID, the existing CPU cycles are used. This reduces the processing capacity of a server. In hardware RAID, dedicated circuitry and embedded software are used. This helps to provide RAID functionality without increasing the load on the CPU. In both hardware and software RAID, software is used to calculate the array allotments and data flow.

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IOC RAID  



The common types of hardware RAID implementations are I/O Controller (IOC) and I/O Processor (IOP). In IOC RAID, processors on disk controller are used to handle RAID functionality. IOC ± based RAID systems can run processes in the background and are independent of operating systems running on servers. The IOC performance is constrained by the controller¶s processor speed and memory bandwidth.

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IOP RAID 

In IOP, various RAID processes are performed by using a special processor or subsystem in the array. IOP is a commonly implemented hardware RAID option and is used in servers and Host Bus Adaptors (HBA). 

IOP RAID systems have a dedicated processors and firmware that helps in efficient handling of RAID tasks, such as RAID level migration. However, IOP is an expensive RAID implementation.

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IOC/IOP RAID Comparison 

When compared to IOP based RAID systems, IOC ± based RAID systems are cheaper. However, they lack in performance and flexibility.  For example, IOC does not provide optimum performance when used with applications such as databases.  Moreover, IOP handles more RAID-management jobs as compared to IOC.

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Software RAID: Types 

Software RAID implementations are of two types: 
RAID based on drivers  RAID based on OS

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RAID-System based on drivers 

A driver based RAID system is implemented in disk controller
drivers. Driver based RAID is independent of the operating system but is dependent on the version of the hard disk controller for RAID functionality.

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RAID-System based on OS 

A RAID system that is based on the OS is implemented by including a RAID engine in the OS. 

The RAID system is independent of the hard disk controller but is dependent on the OS. 

For proper functioning, both types of Software RAID are dependent on the systems processor and memory resources.

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Software RAID: Issues 

Software-based RAID is cheaper that hardware based RAID.
However, software RAID systems have certain disadvantages when compared to hardware RAID systems.

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Software RAID: Issues 



Disadvantages include limited performance as less reliability. Software RAID has components that depend on the OS. This results portability issue. Software RAID solutions are implemented as kernel mode components. Moreover, in OS such as Linux, the RAID solutions are included in Kernel. Usually, kernel mode components require a scheduler to preempt their operations when their time quantum expires or a higher priority task is scheduled.

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Software RAID: Issues 

A kernel mode RAID engine needs to share processor time with other kernel mode components and applications. 

This may lead to an increase in the CPU load, thereby affecting the engine¶s performance. An increase in the CPU load may be caused due to factors such as network traffic, application servers, operating system architecture and components, and increased I/O processing to and from the secondary storage.

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Software RAID: Issues 

Another issue that effects software RAID implementations is unreliable kernel mode programs. Kernel mode programs can execute privileged instructions and modify the contents of virtual addresses. 

Moreover, kernel mode programming errors may change system dependent variables, which may lead to the failure of RAID modules in the Kernel. This in turn, may cause a system failure.

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Hardware RAID advantages 

In contrast, hardware RAID offers various advantages. In hardware RAID, the associated software or firmware is executed on a dedicated processor. Therefore, hardware RAID does not share the processor with other kernel mode components and applications. 

This provides the advantages of asymmetric multiprocessing such as distributed task processing.

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Hardware RAID - Advantages 

Hardware RAID is not dependent on the operating system of a
server. Moreover, in the case of a RAID hardware malfunction the server can continue to operate and alert the user about malfunction. 

If the server fails, hardware RAID continues to function with the help
of backup modules.

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RAID DISK concepts 

Mirrored Drives  Hot Plug Drives  Hot Swap  Hot Spare Drives  Hot Plug Boards

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Mirrored Drives 

Most RAID arrays use mirrored drives where all the data on a server is written simultaneously to two hard disks.  The RAID Controller uses the mirrored drive when one hard disk in a RAID array fails and this ensures that the downtime is kept at a minimum.  The process of a mirrored drive replacing a failed drive is known as failover.

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Hot Plug Drives 

Hot plug drives ensure that a server is always online. A failed drive
in a RAID array can be replaced with hot plug drives. 

A hot plug drive can be installed or removed from a RAID array
without interrupting server operations.

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Hot Swap 

Hot swap is the ability of a RAID system to recognize a drive that is
inserted while the system is running. 

For example, if a drive in a RAID 1 array fails, the malfunctioning
drive can be replaced with a new drive while the system is still operating.

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Hot Spare Drives 

A hot spare drive is connected to a RAID Controller even when other
drives in the RAID array are not functional. When a drive fails, the controller automatically rebuilds data on the hot spare drive and disconnects the failed drive.

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Hot Plug Boards 

Hot plug boards are used for hard disk failures in a RAID array. A
hot plug board allows compatible hard disk drives and peripherals to be installed or removed without shutting down the server. 

The advantages offered by hot plug board are scalability, high
uptime and minimal down time.

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