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stromdal 07-19-2007 08:29 AM

Will SATA RAID work on my Asus/VIA motherboard?
 
I am a photographer and I now want to set up a file server that will assure file safety for my photos. To this end I'm setting up a RAID 1 system using an Asus P5VD2-MX with two SATA HDDs. Backup will be done to an external USB2 HDD. I wish to use Slackware as server OS due to Slackware's ReiserFS support.

My question is: will this work? Does Slackware support the VIA VT8237A used on this particular MB för SATA control?

Should I use a different MB, a different OS or a different file system?

Regards
stromdal

Slackovado 07-19-2007 07:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by stromdal
I am a photographer and I now want to set up a file server that will assure file safety for my photos. To this end I'm setting up a RAID 1 system using an Asus P5VD2-MX with two SATA HDDs. Backup will be done to an external USB2 HDD. I wish to use Slackware as server OS due to Slackware's ReiserFS support.

My question is: will this work? Does Slackware support the VIA VT8237A used on this particular MB för SATA control?

Should I use a different MB, a different OS or a different file system?

Regards
stromdal

I'm far from qualified to post on this topic.
But last year I've set up a Slackware based server myself so I can make a couple comments on my experience.

When doing my own research about raid on Linux I ran into a lot of posts advising to use Linux software raid instead of the "fake" raid that these motherboards provide.
So I took the advice and set up a linux software raid1 using two drives to store all data on the server.
I used a third drive for the OS itself just to simplify management and I'm glad I did.
For filesystem I used XFS on all partitions.
I've become a big fan of XFS since then and use it exclusively on all my computers and all my partitions.
I used to use reiserfs before but since trying XFS I wouldn't think of using reiserfs ever again.

I'm sorry if I'm off topic with this. I know you're asking to set up a hardware raid using the raid controller on your motherboard.
Just an idea I'd like to run by you.
Your motherboard is not a server or even workstation class board.
Although it's a decent board and should be stable enough for a file server.
I'm using Asus P5B boards myself in some computers I've built recently,
But it most likely has a fake raid controller and being VIA based is enough to tell me it's a "cheepo chip".
So if you want real hardware based raid I would say buy a raid card that has a good reputation or use the linux software raid which will provide decent performance for a file server.
Also I'd use a small hard disk for the OS itself because it's simpler to manage that way and your data is separate and safer that way in case a mishap happens with the OS.
This way you can mount and unmount your raid drives at will without affecting the OS.
So if you decide to mess with you Slackware configuration you can unmount your raid and rest easy that it will not get messed up if something goes wrong.

Anyway, just a few ideas.
Don't know if it helps you but maybe someone else may find it usefull too.

P.S. I'll be upgrading my Slackware 10.2 server soon to Slacware 12 so I might document my experience and post it here if there is any interest.

onebuck 07-19-2007 11:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by stromdal
I am a photographer and I now want to set up a file server that will assure file safety for my photos. To this end I'm setting up a RAID 1 system using an Asus P5VD2-MX with two SATA HDDs. Backup will be done to an external USB2 HDD. I wish to use Slackware as server OS due to Slackware's ReiserFS support.

My question is: will this work? Does Slackware support the VIA VT8237A used on this particular MB för SATA control?

Should I use a different MB, a different OS or a different file system?

Regards
stromdal

Hi,

First, I've not used that Asus MB but have used other Asus with good results. What type of SATA HDD? Manufacture? Model? The idea of having a separate OS HDD is a good one to remember. Memory is another area of concern.

Do you have access to a Knoppix livecd? If not click on the link. Download Knoppix then burn the iso image after checking the md5 sum.

You can then use the Knoppix livecd to boot the system in question. You can then do a 'lspci -vv' from console to then see what the kernel recognizes to load the modules to support the device(s) on the motherboard. Save the information by; 'lspci -vv >mylspci_asus'. You should save the information on a common file space, media or flash device. Something that you can transport or have access to.

I would also do a 'lsmod >mylsmod_asus' to see what modules are used to support the devices by the Knoppix kernel.

As for the file system, that is an on going debate. I use ext3 which is journaled and reliable standard for most of my systems. If you want some speed with large file transfer/reads/writes then XFS can meet the criteria. Some say the same for ReiserFS but still that can be a biased opinion. Do a search for filesystems on LQ, google or any forum for that matter and you will get all kinds of feedback.

You could also reference 'Slackware-Links' which was compiled from 'Slackware LQ Suggestions Links!' for some good online reference that will help you.

stromdal 07-20-2007 07:12 AM

Thank you for answering
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Slackovado
When doing my own research about raid on Linux I ran into a lot of posts advising to use Linux software raid instead of the "fake" raid that these motherboards provide.

Others have adviced me NOT to use SW RAID. This page, for instance, lists the pros and cons of SW and HW RAID: http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/perf/...oftware-c.html. Ofcourse, if the VIA VT8237A controller isn't a "real" raid controller I can see your point. But how is it "fake", and how do I find out?

From the VIA VT8237A propaganda page:

"The advanced VIA DriveStation™ V-RAID Controller is the first full-featured native Serial RAID solution to be integrated into a PC core logic chipset architecture. It enables users to benefit from all the incredible performance and rock solid data security benefits of a high-end RAID system, but without the complicated setup procedures that are normally found in server and workstation products and at a much more affordable price."

Further:

"Users can configure RAID arrays can do so from within their Windows® or Linux operating system in a few easy steps, without having to use the RAID BIOS."

Calling it "V-RAID" could indicate "Virtual RAID", but I guess it could also be "VIA RAID" (there's also V-Link, V-Map, etc). The term is never explained on the page (or even on the site, as far as I can find).

Appart from the name, everything in the text seems promising.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Slackovado
I used to use reiserfs before but since trying XFS I wouldn't think of using reiserfs ever again.

I will certainly read up on XFS. Why do you perfer XFS to RFS?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Slackovado
Your motherboard is not a server or even workstation class board. Although it's a decent board and should be stable enough for a file server.

Since cost is an issue, I cannot afford a server MB or a separate HW RAID controller, but if you can advise me of a better low-cost (that is, only slightly more expensive than the dirt-cheap P5VD2-MX) MB with SATA RAID, please do. If a few extra $$ will get me significantly better equipment I will certainly take your advice.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Slackovado
Also I'd use a small hard disk for the OS itself because it's simpler to manage that way and your data is separate and safer that way in case a mishap happens with the OS.

True, and I was planning on using an old PATA disk for the OS (20-30GB IBM drive). Even if NOT using SW RAID, I thought it best to keep the OS and data drives separate.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Slackovado
So if you decide to mess with you Slackware configuration you can unmount your raid and rest easy that it will not get messed up if something goes wrong.

Excellent advice, thanks! I'll keep that in mind. Being new to Linux, the whole mount/unmount thing constantly slips my mind.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Slackovado
P.S. I'll be upgrading my Slackware 10.2 server soon to Slacware 12 so I might document my experience and post it here if there is any interest.

Please do. I won't be buying this system for a month or so, so any advice in the mean time is much appreciated.

Quote:

Originally Posted by onebuck
What type of SATA HDD? Manufacture? Model?

Maxtor, Seagate, Hitachi, Samsung, Western Digital? I haven't decided yet, so if you have any advice I am open to suggestion. The size should be 300-400GB.

Quote:

Originally Posted by onebuck
You can then use the Knoppix livecd to boot the system in question. You can then do a 'lspci -vv' from console to then see what the kernel recognizes to load the modules to support the device(s) on the motherboard.

Great advice, thank you, but the problem is that I'd have to buy the system before testing it. If I bought the system I might as well install the full Slackware system to test functionality - whether or not to install on a HDD is not the issue; buying the MB/processor is...

Quote:

Originally Posted by onebuck
I use ext3 which is journaled and reliable standard for most of my systems. If you want some speed with large file transfer/reads/writes then XFS can meet the criteria. Some say the same for ReiserFS but still that can be a biased opinion.

From Wikipedia: "Although [ext3's] performance (speed) and scalability is less attractive than competitors such as JFS2, ReiserFS and XFS, it does have the significant advantage that it allows in-place upgrades from the popular ext2 file system without having to backup and restore data as well as requiring lower CPU consumption[1] than ReiserFS and XFS."

Since I'm not upgrading (from ext2), and the system IS a file server - so the CPU is dedicated to file operations - I thought ReiserFS would be a better choice. I will read up on XFS, though.

On a side note, I found that Ubuntu supports ReiserFS (and probably XFS?), so maybe Ubuntu Server (perhaps 6.06 LTS) would be a better choice?

Anyway, thank you both so much for providing insight and taking the time to answer my questions.

Regards
stromdal

lord-fu 07-20-2007 07:37 AM

Hi I believe what is meant between true hardware raid and fake raid is that the raid controller does all the processing on the card itself and does not offload any of the work onto the cpu. And in fake raid or software raid the workload is handed off to the cpu eating up resources. Apologies if I am wrong.

If your raid controller is an on board card, I am not 1005 sure, but I believe this would be a "fake raid", although this doesn't mean it is "bad". I had a few bad experiences with on board raid controllers that I had to disable in order to be able to boot my operating system.

For a true hardware raid card you are looking at a large cost, I believe last time I looked I found a decent 3ware sata raid card for almost 500 usd. This was a true hardware raid card, I also believe that was the low end of the spectrum too.

stromdal 07-20-2007 08:52 AM

According to this page, the VIA chipset does not provide "true" HW RAID control.

The site doesn't contain much useful information for those of us new to RAID, but it would appear that the VIA controller is not a "real" HW RAID controller, so I guess I'll keep on reading. Perhaps it will be a SW RAID in the end anyway. When reading through the list of SW RAID cons I found that most of the cons didn't really apply to my situation, so I guess a SW solution isn't such a bad idea after all.

nass 07-20-2007 10:04 AM

i would like to make a few points in this discussion too, having some experience at this point with a file server too, which i set up about 2 months ago;

i did use a single, small (40G) and fast (WD raptor @ 10k rpm, 16MB buffer) HD for the OS. according to tom's hardware hd benchmarks at the time, the raptor scored quite high.

then i raided5 4x320GB of other WD drives for my data (for me its mostly music and sample files). This is for my data obviously.

i used software raid only - at the time and being rather new to the whole RAID in linux, i felt rather uncomfortable to add a fake raid, let alone the fact that i never managed to find out EXACTLY what the fake RAID 'gives' to the HW to do, and what remains for the SW... so i went ahead with the software (SW) RAID solution. - i let raidtools and mdadm handle my raid. all went smoothly. and the system for the file server that it is, works fine.

i was somewhat hasty though, i 'wanted' (and need for space restrictions in my 120GB 'old' data drive) to quickly set up my server and move my files there. i URGE you to be patient. setting up the linux server and depending on your level of expertise in linux (personally i had been introduced to linux 1 year before setting up the server, and i have been using the linux OS entirely for developing some applications and drivers, i also know how to make my own kernel - smth you'll probably have to deal with too)...
so to come back to the subject, be patient and take it slow:

-start by setting up a slackware OS with a single drive - i use slack11 cause it was the latest stable at the time. If you 're planning to use 12 keep in mind there is some important features that have been integrated in this version.

-once you have a STABLE system, with network running, etcetc USE IT exclusively if you must for a week or 2 just as a normal home pc doing simple stuff like surfing the net and dling and saving some files. (i had huge problem for 2 weeks not knowing what caused the numerous crashes kernel 'oops' messages i kept getting.. i was mislead to think that the hard drives where faulty (or the network card) because the crashes would occur everytime i was trying to save some files from the internet or the network. imagine having just set up a raid5 and getting this crashes.. you can't possibly assume that the problem is with the network crad driver instead with your limited knowledge of linux RAID :)... so to sum up, enjoy this pc as a simple home pc for 1-2 weeks to verify it is STABLE.

-then comes the time for the additional drives. plug them in, see if they appear nicely. fdisk their partition tables, and use mdadm or raidtools for setting them up. once this is done again spend 3-4 days of using the raided space as a temporary saving space and go download the whole internet:) make sure it works - we are talkin about your life's data here:).. once you are sure it works spend some time implementating destruction scenarios. ie do test aabout 1 drive failing and so use mdadm to remove it from the raid safely... then format it and add it back.. VERIFY that the raid will reconstruct the mirror (if you will use RAID1) on it. (there is a very nice HOW TO implement RAID in LINUX, so look for it in google, im too much of a slacker to go find it myself :)

-if thats done then you can finally COPY (not move yet) your data from your current data drive(s). switch to using the raided data at this point. but keep the old stuff intact for 1 more month or so.

meanwhile you might wanna start using some servers.. samba, ftp, apache, vpn or whatever other 'language' (=protocol) you would like your server to sing in...

finally you can use some backup utility like svn, rsync or other ( i think there are some more appropriate backup utilities for larger files, such as mp3 and photos are) to back up you raided data to your USB2 external HD....

at this point your should be fine, but depending on your level of expertise and the time you have available to set the server up you shouldn't try to get the file server up an running in 1 afternoon (more like a month :) .. remember it's your life's work.


after 2 months i'm still 'setting' up stuff in my slack11 linux file server...

that's all for now
good luck with the project:) anyway we can help, we are here:)

ps. have a linux in the linux server and perhaps linux hardware discussion forums too. in the former you'll find some info or how to set things up and in the later what does practically mean fake and what software RAID.

Slackovado 07-20-2007 11:12 AM

Ok, I'll try to answer some of your questins.
As for XFS versus Reiser. I never had any problems with Reiser. I had partitions several years old full of data formated with Reiser and never a problem.
But when I tried XFS, I noticed it was a lot smoother, less disk trashing, less cpu use.
It's mostly very fast although some operations, like deleting directories are slower than Reiser.
But it has some nice features, like defragmenting utility, dump and restore etc.
Read up on it on Wikipedia.
But the fact is that as many people you ask for filesystem recommendation you get as many different answers.

As for the mainboard.
I made a mistake. I misread the model.
What you're planning on getting is a real cheapo mobo.
It's like a $50 motherboard.
I mostly buy boards in the $120-160 range.
The other thing is it's a VIA based board, not just the raid, but also the board chipset itself.
I'm sure many will disagree with me but when it comes to chipsets, I'm an Intel guy.
I will not touch a VIA board. In my opinion they are junk.
I hate to generalize but from my experience vast majority of the VIA boards I used were troublesome.
And you will not find a real raid chip on a $50 motherboard.
Unfortunately if cost is an issue then your choices are limited.
Well, at least stay with a reputable motherboard manufacturer like Asus and avoid junk like ECS, PC Chips, and PC Partner among many others.
You might get some good recommendations in the hardware forum though on this topic.

As for hard disk.
Same deal, different people will recommend different brands.
From my experience they are pretty much all the same.
But I would avoid PATA drive, try to find the budget to get a new 80Gb or 160Gb SATA drive. They use only one platter now so run quiet, cool and should last longer than old PATA technology. They are also faster and "multitask" better than PATA.
And they've gotten real cheap lately.

Slackware makes an excellent server.
I'm sure Ubuntu server is fine too and the Ubuntu has a great community and support forum which is invaluable.
But best is to use what you know and what you're comfortable with.
If you're just starting then you'll have to make a choice and stick with it for a while.
Also onebuck and nass posts provide you with some good info.
But do ask more questions in the hardware forum and do search for raid on LQ and read.
Linux software raid is not easy and most of the how-to's are outdated but if you look you'll find all the info you need.
As I understand it, mdadm is the current raid tool. Raidtools are now deprecated.
Also have a look at LVM (linux volume manager) as it might be beneficial if you're building a file server.

mRgOBLIN 07-20-2007 08:48 PM

Yes I'd certainly advise using Linux Software raid over the on-board fake-raid on this motherboard.

If you need some instructions for setting up raid1 on slackware-12 you can take a look at my howto.

http://www.userlocal.com/articles/ra...ackware-12.php


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