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nForce 430 Mirror Raid (1) Poor Performance

Discussion in 'Storage Drives' started by nathanc, 15 Apr 2010.

  1. nathanc

    Gangster

    Joined: 15 Sep 2003

    Posts: 224

    Location: Surrey

    Summary
    I have replaced two Seagate PATA 160 drives with new WD 2TB Green drives on my server and am seeing really poor performance writing to the array.

    Configuration
    The hardware consists of an ASrock 939NF6G with the nForce 430 providing 4 SATA-2 ports with RAID support. There is 2GB of DDR-333 over 4 sticks and the processor is an Athlon 64 3500 (1mb cache) - Cool 'n Quiet is enabled. The O/S is Windows 2003 Server 32bit. Of the two PATA drives, the newest (a 7th Gen) 160gb drive replaces an old WD 36gb Raptor as the Boot drive.

    I configured the array with a 64k block size and think I formatted it with NTFS and a 4096 bytes allocation size.

    The drives are the new EARS drives with 4k sectors.

    Problem in detail
    I have tried writing a batch of, approximately, 4gb ISO files across both WIFI/G at around 100mb/s or 1000T wired Ethernet from my Windows 7 Media Center. Windows told me the files were being written at around 5mb per second!

    I then thought I'd try writing the same files to the Seagate boot drive and it wrote the same files at around 60mb per second.... there is something very wrong here!

    I would expect the new drives to be MUCH faster than they are - at least equal to an old 7th gen Seagate! I appreciate the a Mirror RAID array slows down writes since each byte is written to two drives at the same time but not this much slower - what have I done wrong?

    Also I appreciate that the NVRaid is operates at CPU/Driver level but whilst the CPU is not the most powerful, the machine is still idle when the files are being written... cpu usage barely peeks over 5% and the clock speed stays pegged at 1ghz due to cool 'n quiet/power now - is this the cause?

    Is it the RAID block size or the allocation size? I'm sure the allocation size is appropriate for the new drives since the sector size matches the O/S allocation size.

    Maybe it's the drivers? For the server O/S I had to use the XP drivers which are the Nvidia 1107 all-in-one driver set from the ASRock web site.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. rpstewart

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 11 Mar 2003

    Posts: 10,746

    Location: Greenock, Scotland

    Couple of things that I'd be looking at trying:

    1) Are these the new EARS model advanced format drives? I'm not 100% sure how they deal with RAID but for Server 2003 you'll probably need to tweak them with WD Align or set a jumper on the back of the drive.

    2) I'd be checking each drive individually as well. If you get a trial copy of HDTune Pro it'll benchmark write speeds as well as reads.
     
  3. nathanc

    Gangster

    Joined: 15 Sep 2003

    Posts: 224

    Location: Surrey

    I just did a Google search and yes, the drives are advanced format drives.
    I suspect because I am using XP drivers I may need to run WD Align.

    Thanks for that suggestion.. if WD Align doesn't help, i'll move the data off the drives and test them individually with HD Tach to ensure the drives are okay.

    Perhaps I should be upgrading my server to Windows 2008 Server!
     
  4. Temi_D

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 31 Jul 2009

    Posts: 2,177

    Location: 127.0.0.1

    One thing to note about RAID 1: The read speed is much faster than a single drive but the write speed is slower than a single drive
     
  5. thingemajib

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 18 Feb 2009

    Posts: 2,466

    Location: Behind you

    if its the 4k sector thing, then i thought that only worked properly with w7/server 2008.

    doesnt XP have some kinda virtualisation path for it, but only works pretty slowly?
     
  6. somewhatdamaged

    Hitman

    Joined: 24 Aug 2007

    Posts: 536

    funny you mention 5 mb/s write speed, when i copy anything to my 1.5TB Samsung Ecogreen drive thats the maximum speed i get as well

    perhaps these 5400 drives are just dog slow?
     
  7. nathanc

    Gangster

    Joined: 15 Sep 2003

    Posts: 224

    Location: Surrey

    Initially I rather wrongly assumed that Win 2003 Server was based on Vista... the requirement for XP drivers soon put an end to that idea!

    I think you are right though.. but from what I have now read, the WD Align utility should fix the problems.

    In the longer term I will need to move to server 2008 but I don't think the core spec is really good enough.
     
  8. thingemajib

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 18 Feb 2009

    Posts: 2,466

    Location: Behind you

    well im pretty sure xp doesnt support 4k sectors, and this patch or whatever it is will mean the performance is always gonna be affected on XP no matter what you try
     
  9. nathanc

    Gangster

    Joined: 15 Sep 2003

    Posts: 224

    Location: Surrey

    I tried to use WD Align last night.

    Despite having to use XP drivers, the utility reports that it cannot run under the O/S.

    I will have to blank the drives, set the jumper and hope that fixes it.

    Otherwise I'm stuck with dreadful write performance until I install Server 2008!
     
  10. nathanc

    Gangster

    Joined: 15 Sep 2003

    Posts: 224

    Location: Surrey

    I have installed Server 2008 R2 but I am still having issues.

    Firstly, however I create the RAID array, Disk Management cannot see the drive:
    - RAID BIOS, nothing appears in Disk Management or Nvidia utility
    - Nvidia utility, mirrored array appears broken and nothing appears in Disk Management

    I tried Server 2008 and the same thing happened. Then I decided to try a Stripe Array which worked better however I was unable to format a 3.8tb partition it would only create a 2TB and 1.8TB!

    I have now gone back to R2 but turned off the SATA RAID support in the bios and set up the RAID in Disk Management (and formatted with a 64k allocation size).

    So far, I have only copied small files but it didn't look good.. peaking at 2.5mb/s!

    I'll try copying ISO images again tonight and see if there is any improvement.

    Nightmare! I wonder if my problems are because they are EAR drives or 2TB drives?
     
  11. nathanc

    Gangster

    Joined: 15 Sep 2003

    Posts: 224

    Location: Surrey

    I suspect the Nvidia SATA drivers just don't like 2TB drives very much.
    Time for a new RAID card me thinks...
     
  12. Arthalen

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 20 Apr 2006

    Posts: 2,029

    Location: Leeds, UK

    The basic problems here are twofold in my experience:

    1) Windows MBR Partitions are limited to 2TB in size. You'll need to use GPT disks to get a single partition over the 2TB size limit.

    2) The Nforce 430 RAID Controller ... sucks. Its performance is neglibly better than software RAID, and then its probably best at RAID 0 only, not RAID 1 and I don't think its even capable of RAID 5.

    Suggestions

    Forget the RAID for the moment. Split the disks and use a single disk only, and see what your transfer speeds are like. Benchtest it and ensure your getting single speed writesat the kind of speeds you would expect. If your not getting the correct speeds with a single disk, you have either driver or hardware issues.

    Secondly, if this is a server and data loss is to be avoided, then I would suggest a hardware RAID Card, another Drive and a RAID 5 setup instead. RAID 5 has many benefits, you gain read performance due to striping, can suffer a single disk failure and keep the array alive and working and the write performance isn't as bad as RAID 1 in my experience.