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Hardware RAID0 Help


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#1
astrophysicist

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Im working on a research project that requires we write data to our HDDs at atleast 108MB/s. Naturally we went with a RAID0 config using 4 Seagate 160GB 7200 (8MB cache) SATA 150 HDDs and a Promise Technology's FastTrak S150TX4 RAID controller plugged into a 64bit PCI slot on our GA-8KNXP Ultra-64 MOBO. Our system runs 3.25GB or RAM on a 3.4GHz Pentium 4. We have a separate HDD which houses the our OS (XP Pro) - therefore the RAID array is dedicated to this writing process.

I have properly(I think) setup the RAID array and played around with all combinations of stripe size and NTFS cluster size to optimize performance.

Using benchmarking software, I am getting write speeds less than 50MB/s. The controller manufacturer claims their hardware can support up to 266MB/s - I understand this is a theoretical value, but I would assume with our system we shoule be able to obtain write speeds atleast half of the maximum.

I've done tons of internet searches trying to reslove this but to no avail. If anyone has had the same problem or has any advice, it would be greatly appreciated.

Chris
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#2
gerryf

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what are you writing? large files or small ones?

bios flashed on the raid card?
most current drivers?

what block size are you using? For large files, use at least 64 or more...for smaller files, use smaller block size.

how did you format?

are there any other pci cards in the system? Remove them (less congestion on the pci bus)

did you load the promise array management utility (PAM), and have you tried adjusting the pci utilization settings
try two drives, rather than four
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#3
astrophysicist

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gerryf, thanks for the response

We are trying to write large files. I have updated bios and drivers for this controller. There are other PCI slots on the MOBO but they are all full with necessary equipment (i.e. DAQ cards etc.). I was formatting originally just using standard format in Disk Management in XP...however, doing this repeatedly to test all possible cluster sizes was taking way too long (600GB to format takes forever! :tazz: ). Eventually, I resorted to using the "quick format" option in Disk Management.

I have loaded PAM but didn't find anything useful; perhaps I was looking in the wrong spot. It seemed to me that it was mainly a monitoring program that sends out alerts when something goes wrong? Where do I adjust PCI utilization settings?

I havnt' tried two drives because we need the full 600GB storage....however I may end up doing this just to make sure that the controller is working properly. Also, our MOBO supports RAID with 4 SATA drives; however, we purchased the hardware controller because we feared the MOBO would not have the performance we require.

Attached is the results from my benchmarking software (XMark 7.0 trial). Along the bottom axis is simply NTFS cluster size starting at 512b up to 64k. Vertical error bars are just from statistical standard deviation. I did these calculations in Excel after reading the data from XMark.

Chris

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#4
gerryf

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so, thus far, your best performance is a 128 stripe size with 16kb cluster size, if i am reading that correctly?

In PAM, click the CONTROLLER icon in Tree View to display it's OPTIONS in information view, the slide the pcio bus utilization to the left, and commit.

In the fasttrack fastbuild bios utility, is the drive in U or D mode?

Looking at manual, it looks like they are all separate channels rather than two channels with two drives each, so four drives should be better.

You used PERFORMANCE default in fasttrack fastbuild utility?

Is write caching enabled or disabled in Device Manager for the drive (if an option).

Start regedit and navigate to the following key:
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management]

Add these two lines, save the changes and reboot;
"DisablePagingExecutive"=dword:00000001
"LargeSystemCache"=dword:00000001

does that improve or degrade performance...
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#5
astrophysicist

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Correct. From my analysis, that combination of stripe size and cluster size is optimal at this speed.

In FASTBuild, the drives automatically default to mode U. The "Performance" option only shows up when you are doing the auto setup mode. It is basically just a tag saying you want to do striping instead of the other option, "Security" which is setup for mirroring. I have gone through and manually setup my RAID 0 array so that I can control stripe size.

Write caching in Device Manager was grayed out so I could not change it, however it was set on "optimize for performance."

I navigated to the subkeys you mentioned but I could not add those lines in, as there were already DWORDs with those names. So I simply changed the dword value from a 0 to a 1, restarted (there was no save option) and ran a test again. It seemed to slightly degrade performance, but only on the order of a few MB/s. I changed these back to zeros and took a look at the PAM utility.

I too was looking through the users manual found online, but I noticed that a lot of things in that manual are not shown in the program. We have the latest version 4.something, so I assumed the manual was for an earlier version. For example, there was no option for PCI utilization speed or even the option to create an array from the PAM utility as is mentioned in the manual. Any time I wanted to delete and recreate an array I had to reboot and go into FASTBuild.

Anyhow, I am going to try to roll back to a previous version of the PAM utility to see if these options are available. I'll get back to you about that, but in the meantime if you have more suggestions please keep them coming :tazz:
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#6
astrophysicist

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Ok, so I have installed the older version of Promise Array Management and am still having troubles. This version looks more like the manual images, however it is not the same.

I now have the option to create/destroy arrays within this GUI without going through the FastBuild Utility; however, when I set up the arrays it is not done in the same manner as outlined by the manual. I don't have nearly as many options as shown in the manual which is understandable because some images are for a different model(but those images that do have the same model as I, still have more options available). I create an array with say 128k block size and reboot the computer. When I log back into PAM it shows the array has a block size which is 256k (in general twice that of the declared size) and my array size is slightly more than half the size of any drive in the array( i.e. using 4 160GB drives leads to a 94.168GB array in the PAM utility).

I also don't have the option to adjust PCI utilization which, according to the manual, means my HDDs don't support this feature which is fine. I have tried contacting Promise Technologies, Inc. but have yet to receive a reply.
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#7
gerryf

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Hmm..ok...you mentioned that you used Windows to format the drive? What about the seagate tools?

Also, these were new drives?

Since your RAID is only as good as the slowest link, did you test these drives individually? Do any present noticeably slower performance?

indexing off?

virtual memory on or off or fixed?

Anything odd in performance monitor? (control panel > admin tools > performance) ?
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#8
astrophysicist

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After you mentioned it I took a look at Seagate's website for their formatting utilities. I downloaded one of the programs but there was some error in installation. These drives WERE new last summer when the group first set up the RAID system. However, I'm not sure the performance of these drives has been compromised due to their being "old" now because I am obtaining the same write speed values as the group had last summer.

I have not yet tried these drives individually, but will do so today to see if anything is weird. I have disassembled the hardware RAID setup and tried connecting the drives to our MOBO's RAID ports. Suprisingly, the performance was slightly better than (by ~7 MB/s) using the PCI controller. Right now I have the BIOS utility for the MOBO's RAID doing a low level format on all the drives and I will check them individually when it is done.

Indexing on these drives was set to off. I forget what the virtual memory was set to, but what would be the best setting? Also, peformance monitor showed no unusual activity. Could I possibly have a faulty PCI controller? I am STILL(after 3 emails) waiting on a response from Promise Technologies. :tazz:

Thanks a bunch for all the suggestions Gerry; I'm starting to run out of ideas myself ;)
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#9
gerryf

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possibly, but I also wonder about the pci bus just being over-taxed with so many peripherals on it...what cards are in there?
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#10
astrophysicist

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I can't get into the system to get the exact models/numbers etc. b/c it is formatting but there is an ethernet card with wireless capability, an NVidia Graphics card with dual monitor input, a C-843 Motor Controller card for a camera stage, an X64-CL camera DAQ card, and of course the RAID PCI card. Once I have finished formatting, checked the drives inidividually, etc. I will try hooking up the PCI RAID again but this time without the other cards attached.

If the other cards are not in use (such as the camera and camera stage controllers) while trying to write to the drives, will this still degrade performance by simply being connected?
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#11
gerryf

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specifically, I was wonderng what is in what pci slot? And are the jumpers properly configured.

That is a pci32 bit card, not pci64, right?--it will just work in both, but does not benefit from being in a 64-bit slot.
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#12
astrophysicist

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Jumper settings, to my knowledge, seem to be properly configured. You are correct, the card is a 32bit card, but it is in the 64bit 66MHz PCI-X slot. The other 64bit slot houses the camera DAQ card. The other three cards are in 32bit 33MHz slots
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#13
gerryf

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I'd still remove that other card for the moment, switch things around and see what happens....

out of curiousity, have you tried this card in a different machine?
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#14
astrophysicist

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Nope, not yet. That was one of the things I was going to try after I finish this current list of tasks to try. The only problem is, I'm not sure I have another PC which can house an additional 4 HDDs (or any additional HDDs for that matter) at the moment.

Im about 15% done with formatting the last drive then going to test them individually, then unhook other cards and test RAID with just that card in.
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#15
astrophysicist

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Ok, so far...

I tested the drives individually. The write speed of these drives is found to be 37.34 +/- 0.23 MB/s. The standard deviation is small => all drives are behaving similarly. Therefore, I don't think I have a bad drive in the array.

Secondly, I set up the RAID through the PCI controller plugged into a 64 bit slot. The only other slots that were occupied were by an ethernet card and video card both of which were in 32bit slots. I chose my stripe size and NTFS cluster size based off of my best results from previous calculations (128k and 16k respectively). I found the speed to be 48.56 +/- 0.56 which is almost identical to before (when all slots were filled).

Lastly, I have set it up again but with the card in a 32 bit slot along with the ethernet and video cards. Same stripe and cluster size. The write speed this time was 60.82 +/- 0.66!

Ok, now we are getting somewhere. I don't see why switching to a slower PCI slot would increase performance though. Any ideas?? I'm going to re-install the other cards and see how the performance compares.
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