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Discussion Starter #1
I have been wanting to build a htpc and media server for awhile now, but money is tight so I was wondering is there a RAID setup that I can add additional hard drives to in the future that won't require me to reformat the whole thing. I would mainly like to use the server for ripped DVD streaming and pvr storage in the future. Any suggestions for the RAID question or for the server would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 

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Apparently some LSI based chips will resize RAID arrays in hardware. I don't think the 3ware controllers will.


Also there is a Linux utility to do this. I have not been able to find a windows software RAID utility that will resize.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
then would it be better to not even to combine the drives in RAID, and just have each individual drive seperate?
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by chester51
I have been wanting to build a htpc and media server for awhile now, but money is tight so I was wondering is there a RAID setup that I can add additional hard drives to in the future that won't require me to reformat the whole thing.
If money is tight, all the more reason to go with software raid on Linux. The money you save on a decent RAID controller should allow you to buy an additional hard drive up front, and *still* have money left over to throw at extra RAM to cache the heck out of the array for excellent performance.
 

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I hate to endorse Microsoft products (sob!), but I would strongly recommend using XP Pro as the OS for your server. I originally set up my media server using Linux (Mandrake 9.2 distro) with Samba -- and after days of tweaking (actually NIGHTS of tweaking) it still wouldn't work easily. Although I could see the mounted drives I couldn't access the files even though I kept tweaking all the config files. I got frustrated, reformatted my boot disk, installed XP Pro and had the media server up and running inside of 90 minutes.


FWIW, I also question the need for any RAID set-up and personally endorse the JABOD (just a bunch of disks) approach.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by eggz
I hate to endorse Microsoft products (sob!), but I would strongly recommend using XP Pro as the OS for your server.
If you're going to endorse MS, then at least recommend 2000 Server or 2003 Server, both of which support software RAID 5 (though I've never known anyone who has used it successfully.)
Quote:
I originally set up my media server using Linux (Mandrake 9.2 distro) with Samba -- and after days of tweaking (actually NIGHTS of tweaking) it still wouldn't work easily.
Samba is a real BEAR. That's why you start with SME Server (formerly e-smith server) - it sets up all that stuff for you. It's based on RedHat 7.3 and is a free download - http://www.e-smith.org
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FWIW, I also question the need for any RAID set-up and personally endorse the JABOD (just a bunch of disks) approach.
Depends on what you're putting out there - many of us have hours upon hours invested in ripping CDs and DVDs to media server... How much is your time worth?
 

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I think when you look at RAID cost a lot of people get scared. granted there is nothing cheaper then software raid (linux or m$ well sorta).

If you are on a really low budget you can still get into some really nice SATA RAID cards for under $200 which is cheaper then m$ 2000 or 2003 if you obtain it legaly.

As for resizing RAID sure there are some controlers (and software) that let you do that but in my experience this is a dangerous thing to attempt, some people have huge problems (like me) others have none.


All that being said if you are worried about total capacity for the money you have, how about getting a SATA RAID controler with 6 or 8 or even 12 ports, get 3 drives to build a RAID 5. Then when you are ready to go again get another 3 drives and build another RAID 5 set. You will lose more space this way then if you put all 6 together but it's the best way to upgrade imho.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
thanks for all of the replies it has been very useful. with all of this talk about drives failing and such, is that a big problem with these setups because ive had my desktop for 4 years know and have never had a drive fail on it and it stays on all the time and i do a lot of dvd ripping on it. Just wondering if i really need to go through the hassle of trying to figure out what i need.



another question i have is can you have more then one RAID card on the mobo at one time. The reason i ask is because i saw a 2 channel SATA RAID card pretty cheap and i could get that and setup a RAID 0. Then later when i have more funds i can by another 2 channel card and setup another array.
 

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Actually I have software RAID5 running on Server 2003 and it runs pretty well. I just can't expand on the fly.

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Originally posted by ElvisIncognito
If you're going to endorse MS, then at least recommend 2000 Server or 2003 Server, both of which support software RAID 5 (though I've never known anyone who has used it successfully.)
 

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Yes, In fact you could actually have the hardware RAID stripe the drives RAID 0 and have the OS RAID stripe THOSE into a RAID 5 in software (although you would have to move the data first).


You will be sending a lot of information across the PCI bus though. If you have an HDTV reciever card or other card which needs a lot of care you will run into trouble.

Quote:
Originally posted by chester51
another question i have is can you have more then one RAID card on the mobo at one time. The reason i ask is because i saw a 2 channel SATA RAID card pretty cheap and i could get that and setup a RAID 0. Then later when i have more funds i can by another 2 channel card and setup another array.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by ElvisIncognito
If you're going to endorse MS, then at least recommend 2000 Server or 2003 Server, both of which support software RAID 5 (though I've never known anyone who has used it successfully.
That would be me, although not on a production server. It works fine, but Fedora Core 1 Linux is much faster on the same hardware.


Also, the ability to put Volume Manager partitions on top of RAID partitions allows Linux to give easily re-sizable and expandable RAID.
 

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well for the need for raid if you are going to setup a media server and spend hours ripping, putting your pics and music on there do you really want a single drive to die and take with it x amount of hours and all your pics? personally I wouldn't do it anyother way but many people do.

HD failure (like most computer components) usually fail very quickly or not at all (unless you handle it all the time) so when you buy a new drive there is always a potential for failure; do some research buy good reliable drives some model out there have had up to 40% failure rate (can you say medalist).


And for your second question yep you can have as many controlers as PCI slots (make sure you PCI slots are compatible if your motherboard is a bit old).
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by chester51
another question i have is can you have more then one RAID card on the mobo at one time. The reason i ask is because i saw a 2 channel SATA RAID card pretty cheap and i could get that and setup a RAID 0.
Before you go down that road, there's a couple of things you should know...

1) RAID 0 is not fault tolerant. It should actually be called "AID 0" because there is NO redundancy. If one drive fails, the whole array is history - all your data - *poof* - gone.

2) Every time a RAID discussion comes up, someone always says "hardware RAID isn't that expensive"... Well, $200 buys you another 250GB drive! (Unless you're going serial ATA - and I can't fathom why you would throw away all that extra money on RAID drives for a media server.)

3) Consider this - a HW RAID card is another point of failure, and your HW RAID will only work with the HW RAID card you start out with... if the card dies, and they're no longer making that same card, there's a very good chance that *poof* - there goes your data.

4) "But HW RAID is faster" they'll tell you. Not if the SW RAID is set up properly and well-cached. Besides, how fast does it *need* to be? You'll be streaming audio & video for crying out loud - not the backend database for Amazon.com!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
thanks those are some points that i haven't thought of. so my main question is how can i expand on the fly?
 

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I think some of what you are looking for is traditionally known as LVM (Logical Volume Management). There is a How-To for Linux here . I have not tried to use LVM and RAID together in Linux, however, so I don't know if LVM will allow you to expand a RAID 5 array, for example. LVM should certainly make JBOD easier to manage if you decide to go that route.
 

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Just thought I'd throw one more thing into the ring...


Though I can't find a VAR anywhere in the States that has them, RAIDCore 8 port SATA devices can be found on Ebay with great regularity. Now, many of you suggest that there is no need for SATA, but with a converter costing ~$18 and PATA HD's down around $0.25/gig if you can find a good deal, the cost of making a PATA drive into an SATA drive is rather negligible, especially considering the capacities involved.


So, a RAIDCore card runs about $320 on average on ebay, and it has online expansion. Assuming you pay $18 per converter, that means you'll end up forking out around $450 for the card and converters once you've filled up all the ports. Also, the RAIDCore has absolutely amazing performance and is PCI-X (for those of us with motherboards that support it). Not that it matters very much for a media server, but...you know...bragging rights :D.


Best I can find, the PATA 8 port Escalade runs about $280 and you don't need a converter with PATA drivers. The downside is your stuck with a fixed array.


So if you wanted to run, say, 250gig drives on the array, you need to buy all the drives you're ever going to want in the array. Right now, that's going to cost you $1200 (8x150).


Meanwhile, if you start with three drives and then add a drive to the RAIDCore when you find a good deal on a drive, you could conceivably expand with your needs and get the drives for an average of - say - $0.35/gig. That works out to an end cost of ~$900 (150x3 + 87.5x5). Which is just about the difference between the cards + adapters.


One more thing. Apparently the Escalade has problems with more than one controller per PCI bus? The RAIDCore is not supposed to have that problem, so if you wanted to buy a case to hold 16 drives, you would be wasting 8 bays if you went with an Escalade.


And wouldn't one run into a problem finding an 8 drive non-RAID controller in order to do software RAID in the first place?


I really don't know where I was going with this, but...yeah, I think that summarizes the situation.


Oh, and Tomshardware has a review of the raidcore that shouldn't be more than a google search away.


And I'm done.
 

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Quote:
And wouldn't one run into a problem finding an 8 drive non-RAID controller in order to do software RAID in the first place?
I've had no problems using multiple Promise Ultra133 TX2 cards (about $37 each, 2 ultra133 ports for a total of 4 drives per conroller).
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Loki7154
So, a RAIDCore card runs about $320 on average on ebay, and it has online expansion. Assuming you pay $18 per converter, that means you'll end up forking out around $450 for the card and converters once you've filled up all the ports.

(snip)

Best I can find, the PATA 8 port Escalade runs about $280
That's still money that could be spent on a couple extra drives. Maxtor 250GB drives are on pricewatch.com for $168. ($190 if you want the 7200RPM/8MB buffer version.) For the extra $336, what would you rather have - a hardware controller card or an extra half terabyte of storage capacity? (Seems like a no-brainer to me...)
Quote:
And wouldn't one run into a problem finding an 8 drive non-RAID controller in order to do software RAID in the first place?
The mobo is going to have 2 IDE channels supporting 2 drives each - that's 4 drives. An ATA133 controller card can be had for less than $20 (less than $40 if you want a name brand card) OR, they are occasionally included in the retail box versions of certain drives. (The 320GB drive my wife got me for my birthday came with one.) These cards go into a PCI slot and give you two more channels - supporting 2 drives each. That's 4 more drives, for a total of eight.


As for "absolutely amazing performance"... SW RAID performance can be very, very good if configured properly, but again, we really should consider real-world needs (bragging rights aside. ;))
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by chester51
thanks those are some points that i haven't thought of. so my main question is how can i expand on the fly?
By "on the fly", if you mean growing a mounted filesystem, there are special patches that have to be applied when building the Linux 2.4 kernel in order to be able to do this. I have no idea how difficult/complicated it is, but in general, a media server is far from being a "mission critical production server", so in most cases, it's no big deal to temporarily unmount the array (take it offline). At that point, you can easily expand it by simply re-creating the raid array and resizing the file system. mdadm (multiple devices admin), an excellent alternative to "raidtools", allows you to do all of this. There's an intro to mdadm here . There's also a nice overview of Linux SW RAID here (part 1) and here (part 2) . Note that these two articles focus on raidtools (mdadm is much easier to use) but they're still a good way to get your feet wet.
 
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