80TB flexraid (tRAID) finally done and online - AVS Forum
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Old 08-05-2014, 04:53 PM - Thread Starter
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80TB flexraid (tRAID) finally done and online

I figured I'd share my experience with migrating from hardware raid (2 Areca RAID 6 arrays, each consisting of 24 drives), to a dual tRAID setup.

I was running Areca controllers (ARC-1170 and ARC-1680) for many years and they were generally speaking trouble free. The 1170 had 24 SATA ports on it, each being connected to a mating port on a passive backplane in a SuperMicro 846 chassis. The 1680 was connected to a LSISASX36 expander backplane in a 2nd 846 chassis.

That setup served me well over several years although I did have several close calls with 2 drives failing in a short time frame and even had a 3rd fail during a rebuilt twice, which dropped the entire array. By sheer luck, I was able to get one of the 3 failed drives back online again for just long enough to restore the array. The array on the 1170 controller started out with all 1TB drives and the 1680 array with 2TB drives. Over the years as drives failed (I have gone through about 20 failed drives or more), I typically replaced with same size, but sometime went larger if a sale was going on. Of course with hardware RAID, the extra capacity is lost since the smallest drive dictate usable space.

After another episode of almost loosing an entire array again, I decided to make the switch to FlexRAID, or more specifically, the tRAID variant. It was a painful and learning experience to migrate the existing data (about 45TB) onto the new arrays. I had previously tested tRAID on the Areca 1680 controller with some spare drives using pass-through mode, and it worked ok, although write speed left something to be desired at around 30 MBps.

So the first order of business was to copy all the data off the 24TB array on the 1170 PCIX controller. The great thing about FlexRAID is that you can copy data to individual drives and then make them part of an array without loosing any data. So I picked up enough 4TB drives to copy all the data from the 24TB array. Once that was done, I blew away the old 24TB array and setup a new tRAID array after turning the 1170 controller into JBOD mode. Turns out that did not work out well for a variety of reasons I won't go into here. So I decided to make some hardware changes.

I upgraded both of my SuperMicro backplanes to LSISAS2X36 ones and picked up a pair of IBM 1015 HBA controllers seen below. These are just re-badged LSI SAS2008 based controllers.



The first thing I did was to flash them both to the latest SAS9211-8i IT firmware with no boot BIOS.



I was now able to stand up tRAID1 with no issues. It took about 21 hours to calculate the parity for the 2 PPUs. (tRAID2 shown below, but tRAID1 was exactly the same).



Next I copied all the data that I could from the 2nd Areca RAID6 array onto tRAID1. This was a slow process since the data was only copying at around 30 Mbps still. I was in no rush and it was all unattended and completed in about 5 days. What didn't fit on tRAID1 was copied onto other devices on my network.

With that done, I decommissioned the 1680 controller and installed the SAS2 backplane in the external chassis. I also ran a 2nd SFF-8087 cable to each of the backplanes to utilize the 2nd 4 lane port on each controller. Wow what a difference! I was now able to copy at 60Mbps into either tRAID array!

Here's a shot showing all 8 channel LEDs lit up on both controller as I'm copying data from one to the other:



Here's a Disk Management view showing the 48 tRAID virtual drives. So between the virtual and physical drives, I now have just under 100 drives in this server. Disk Manager takes a little while to load now.



Here's a view from the server desktop showing the 2 pool drives for each tRAID array:



And a view from the FlexRaid manager showing the physical drives and tRAID1 status:



Next I picked up a 64GB SSD drive to use as a "Landing Disk". This is a new feature in tRAID where any new data added to the array goes here first, so no more 30 or 60Mbps write speed limitation. I went ahead and added a 3rd IBM 1015 controller to the server and migrated my boot drive (Samsung 840 120GB and the 64GB landing disk) to it. This one was also flashed to the "IT" firmware, but I included the BIOS this time since I had to be able to go in and configure it to boot off the Samsung.

Couple of shots of the 3 controllers:





And finally a show of the BIOS screen. This was before I removed 2 of the controllers from the boot order.



The landing disk feature has completely eliminated the one annoyance I had with converting to software raid, namely the write performance. Of course if I need to copy more than 64GB at a time, I'll exhaust the "buffer" but now that I'm done with my massive data migration, I don't see this ever being an issue.

I can finally sleep good at night again!

Last edited by pclausen; 08-05-2014 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 08-05-2014, 05:06 PM
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Nice write up, and glad to hear you got all of your data migrated over safely.

I've been mulling over an expander based setup for my next upgrade. I'll probably be asking you a few more questions when it comes time to pull the trigger.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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Old 08-05-2014, 06:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks. It was touch and go a few times. By the time the dust settled, there were some casualties:

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Old 08-05-2014, 06:35 PM
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Seagate... Seagate... Hitachi... Hitachi... Hey what the?!? What's a Maxtor doing in that pile? Nest thing, you'll be telling me there's a Micropolis buried at the bottom.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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Old 08-05-2014, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Lol, good eye!

Yup. mostly Seagate Barracuda ES.2 1TB drives. They had a 5 year warranty, but I'm way past that now. I must have replaced at least 8 of those suckers under warranty.

Hitachi... HITACHI!!! OMG, those have been the worst drives in my arrays ever! I lost 4 of those during the migration to tRAID. Was a pain in the arse to deal with. Had to recalc parity 3 times due to those failing.

You got me on the Maxtor. That's a DiamondMax 16 300GB ATA/133. My raid back in 2003 was made up of 8 of these suckers in a RAID5. Here's a pic from when I converted from my old chassis to the SuperMicro 846, circa 2008:



And one from 2006 when I first started using SATA drives:



I've been at this game for way too long...
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Old 08-05-2014, 08:58 PM - Thread Starter
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A few more shots from before I added the 2nd SFF-8087 cable to each back plane and the 3rd controller.







Once everything is burned in, it will go back in the racks like this this:

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Old 08-05-2014, 09:04 PM
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Kick ass thread is kicking ass....

Really nice write up! Loved the pictures. And ... Congrats on creating the least pussified build thread in this forum in a over 2 years. Well done.

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Old 08-05-2014, 09:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pclausen View Post
Lol, good eye!

Yup. mostly Seagate Barracuda ES.2 1TB drives. They had a 5 year warranty, but I'm way past that now. I must have replaced at least 8 of those suckers under warranty.

Hitachi... HITACHI!!! OMG, those have been the worst drives in my arrays ever! I lost 4 of those during the migration to tRAID. Was a pain in the arse to deal with. Had to recalc parity 3 times due to those failing.
Impossible. Seagate and Hitachi are the most reliable drives in the world. Just ask... anyone else in this thread.

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You got me on the Maxtor. That's a DiamondMax 16 300GB ATA/133. My raid back in 2003 was made up of 8 of these suckers in a RAID5. Here's a pic from when I converted from my old chassis to the SuperMicro 846, circa 2008:

And one from 2006 when I first started using SATA drives:

I've been at this game for way too long...
Yeah, you and me both brother.

First RAID I ever had personally was on a Mylex DAC960 with 4 (later 5) 2GB UW-SCSI Seagate Barracudas in RAID-5. Later I upgraded to 5 Micropolis 9GB drives on an AmiRAID 428. Then I tried my hand with IDE raid with some Quantum 30GB drives on a Promise FastTrak hardware modded to run RAID-0. At one point I think I was running 4 of those DiamondMax drives in RAID-0. And I had 3 of the Seagate 1TB SATA drives in RAID-0, the 3 of the 1.5TB drives replaced them...

Currently I just have 8 Samsung 2TB drives in RAID-5 and 8 3TB Seagates in another array, both running off of a couple of cheap RR622s. While having everything in one huge array is nice, I kinda prefer my setup now where I have two independent arrays, which makes upgrading much easier.

But I've also had the opportunity to play with some fun toys at work too. Years ago I got to design a multi TB storage array for Turner Entertainment (this was back when a multi TB array occupied two full racks, instead of two laptop drives) I kinda miss SCSI.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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Old 08-05-2014, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by pclausen View Post
Lol, good eye!



I've been at this game for way too long...
Are those a couple of IBM DeskStars I spy in the background? Your threads are just chock full of great nostalgia.

But getting back to the current setup, that really is a very impressive build you have.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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Old 08-06-2014, 01:04 AM
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Now that's some real (home) server porn. Great write up!

I'm curious about your server room. How are you cooling all that stuff? What about the noise? The pictures suggest that's just a regular room, not your garage.
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Old 08-06-2014, 06:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ajhieb View Post
Are those a couple of IBM DeskStars I spy in the background? Your threads are just chock full of great nostalgia.
Nah, those are just some cheap caddies I got to mount my drives in. The issue with those was that the little fans in the would fail and then the drives would get hot and eventually fail. No SMART back in those days. That's when I switched to mounting the drives 'naked' with the 2 large fans you see in the old server pics above.

Btw, I started out on a BusLogic controller, then went to a 3Ware and finally to the Areca ones.

You mentioned Micropolis drives. Back in the 90's I ran a BBS and I remember trading my HP LaserJet for a Micropolis 340MB 5.25" drive. It had the white face plate. I had it connected to my Amiga 2000 that was running a 2 line BBS.
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Old 08-06-2014, 06:27 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm curious about your server room. How are you cooling all that stuff? What about the noise? The pictures suggest that's just a regular room, not your garage.
That's actually a hallway in my basement, so noise is not an issue. It stays pretty cool down there and the air is pulled in from the front and can escape up top. Heat is only an issue when listening to music and watching movies at a loud volume as the amps generate quite a bit heat power then, especially the Crown 2k's.

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Old 08-06-2014, 06:36 AM - Thread Starter
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I dug up another picture of the old server, circa 2006.



And here's a shot of the racks of how they looked back in 2004, 10 years ago.



And finally a shot of the SuperMicro server when I first got the Areca 1170 controller going in 2008 with the 24 SATA cables neatly routed to the passive backplane. You'll notice it is the same Asus Mobo I had in the old server chassis. There's also an ATI 9700 Pro graphics card that was driving my Barco 1208 projector back then. These days the server no longer acts as a HTPC as well, it only holds data.

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Old 08-06-2014, 07:39 AM
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Just have to echo the great write up and tour of your previous setups. Shoot I'll take one of your old setups today.
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:23 AM
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What oman said
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pclausen View Post
Nah, those are just some cheap caddies I got to mount my drives in. The issue with those was that the little fans in the would fail and then the drives would get hot and eventually fail. No SMART back in those days. That's when I switched to mounting the drives 'naked' with the 2 large fans you see in the old server pics above.
On the other side... The white jumpers and the label on the back with the magenta jumper diagram makes me pretty sure it's an old IBM Pata drive. (Possibly of the "DeathStar" vintage)


Quote:
Originally Posted by pclausen View Post
Btw, I started out on a BusLogic controller, then went to a 3Ware and finally to the Areca ones.

You mentioned Micropolis drives. Back in the 90's I ran a BBS and I remember trading my HP LaserJet for a Micropolis 340MB 5.25" drive. It had the white face plate. I had it connected to my Amiga 2000 that was running a 2 line BBS.
Ahh... I miss BBSs so much. "Set your modem to 8-N-1..." I used to connect to to a bunch of local ones on the ol' C64 back in the day. Just about everyone in my neck of the woods was running Wildcat! or PCBoard back then. Good times.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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Old 08-06-2014, 11:40 AM
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Yeah I remember playing txt based trade wars for hours with my friends over those BBS's fun stuff
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Old 08-06-2014, 11:57 AM
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awesome setup. I have approx 20TB in my setup and now it feels tiny in comparison. My biggest fear with RAID there's so many points of potential failure, especially if the card goes bad. Awesome job though!!!

My Setup
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Old 08-06-2014, 04:46 PM
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I'm closing in on 80TB, but still far off. (50TB) I am jealous. What do you use all the space for ?

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Old 08-06-2014, 08:24 PM
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Excellent post pclausen!

Why did you choose tRaid over Raid-F? I'm thinking about finally migrating away from my HW Raid system to flexraid. Was thinking I'd go Raid-F since I'm mostly just storing movies/TV - nothing dynamic that I would need immediate parity on.
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Old 08-06-2014, 09:31 PM
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The SSD dump space feature seems really cool! What kind of speed you get ?

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Old 08-07-2014, 07:10 AM
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VERY nice setup!

Quick question for ya...
I know, of course, that FlexRAID does parity on your data, but do you do any checksums of your own? Especially when copying over so much data. What I mean is, did you hash out your data before and after the migration? The point before FlexRAID builds its own parity.

I ask because I've been using md5 hashes on all my data for many years now and it's amazing how many copy errors will pop up.
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Old 08-07-2014, 07:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosferatu View Post
My biggest fear with RAID there's so many points of potential failure, especially if the card goes bad.
That's the benefit to using parity RAID... you don't have those issues. Which is why I simply can't understand why anyone uses Windows Storage Spaces when even a free parity solution (SnapRAID) is available.
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Old 08-08-2014, 08:02 PM
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I only have 54TB - dangit, now I'll have to plan something obscene to replace it.
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Old 08-12-2014, 12:07 PM - Thread Starter
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What do you use all the space for ?
I rip all my Blu-Ray and HD-DVD (yes I got a lot of those when they first came out) 100% loss-less into .MKVs and I got a lot of them. Also keep TV Episodes indefinitely building up series with 10+ seasons.

That said, I have a lot of unused space right now due to space gained by 2TB and 4TB drives that were only being partially used before since the arrays they were in were made up of 1 and 2 TB drives.
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Old 08-12-2014, 12:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by NNate View Post
Why did you choose tRaid over Raid-F? I'm thinking about finally migrating away from my HW Raid system to flexraid. Was thinking I'd go Raid-F since I'm mostly just storing movies/TV - nothing dynamic that I would need immediate parity on.
I just figured tRaid would be easier to manage. Other than the initial copying of data into the raid being slow when there's a lot of it, I don't see the downside to disk level vs file level raid, even if the data is mostly static.
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Old 08-12-2014, 12:12 PM - Thread Starter
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The SSD dump space feature seems really cool! What kind of speed you get ?
I maxes out my 1GB Ethernet link when I copy data over the network. The only downside is that once it starts copying the data from the SSD into the array, if I then copy more data to the SSD before it completes, it pokes along at around 40 MB/s.
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Old 08-12-2014, 12:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by video321 View Post
I know, of course, that FlexRAID does parity on your data, but do you do any checksums of your own? Especially when copying over so much data. What I mean is, did you hash out your data before and after the migration? The point before FlexRAID builds its own parity.

I ask because I've been using md5 hashes on all my data for many years now and it's amazing how many copy errors will pop up.
I just copied data from the old hardware raid onto individual disks, and I had 22 disks choke full of data, I stood up the first tRAID array by adding 2 parity drives and letting it create the parity data. I have not run into any corrupt data yet.
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Old 08-16-2014, 06:23 PM
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@pclausen
Sweet build thread. I did not know you were on AVS. It is really cool to see you here.
I was even going to ask you to start a build thread on the FlexRAID forum once you had everything stabilized.

A Samsung EVO will keep you plenty happy as a Landing Disk.
Those things are getting cheaper and cheaper, which is good.

Is it your preference to use two separate pools or would you have preferred a single Storage Pool that covers both arrays?
Your setup is making me think of adding a new feature to the stand alone pooling feature.
That is, I am thinking of adding the option of being able to enter the name of a tRAID configuration as entry in the custom Storage Pool.
This way starting the custom pool would auto-start the arrays as needed. This would also save from manually configuring the individual tRAID disks in the custom pool.
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Old 08-17-2014, 07:34 AM
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Quote:
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I maxes out my 1GB Ethernet link when I copy data over the network. The only downside is that once it starts copying the data from the SSD into the array, if I then copy more data to the SSD before it completes, it pokes along at around 40 MB/s.
Could you use a 3TB 7200 drive instead of SSD? Those still write faster than LAN.

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