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Raid 5?

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Julian Crespi
Raid 5?
on May 10, 2011 at 9:57:20 pm

i’m trying to buy a new computer, a HPZ800. But I’m stuck in choosing wich RAID configuration.
The main use for the PC will be for 3dsmax work, general simulations (fumefx, realflow, etc), rendering and a heavy use of After Effects and HD rendering.
So the idea is to have a PC that can take on all of that.. I’m thinking something like this:
2x Intel Xeon 2.4ghz 6 cores
NVIDIA Quadro 4000
16gb ram DDR3-1333
But I don’t know which is better, if RAID 1 or 5 (0 is too risky for this project).
I’m thinking RAID 5 like this:
1x Boot HDD: 300gb 10k rpm
4x RAID 5 HDDs: 500gb 7200 rpm
So.. if i’ve got 4x 500gb, the usable gb will be 1500gb? (1 hdd goes to parity right?)
So my question is if this is the way to go, I think I need to read fast but the writing can be a little slower, due to rendering/simulation time
And the other thing is, will I get better performance if I add another HDD to the raid?
Thanks for your insights!

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Walter Soyka
Re: Raid 5?
on May 10, 2011 at 10:56:57 pm

Your bottleneck in this system (from an AE perspective) is the RAM. 16 GB is enough for 4 cores, not 12 (or 24, if you count hyperthreading). Add as much RAM as you can afford.

You might consider an external RAID system. Many of the COW's sponsors sell good ones -- CalDigit, MAXX Digital, Dulce Systems, etc. RAID 5 is a great idea, but 1.5 TB goes pretty quickly if you're working with uncompressed HD or image sequences.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events

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jeremy minton
Re: Raid 5?
on May 11, 2011 at 12:19:53 am

Though I am not a RAID expert, I have been a RAID user for over a decade and perhaps the recent death of my external 4TB RAID 0 media drive will be of help.

First my Q's,

I didn't see a raid card mentioned, will the raid be supplied from the motherboard? or are you planning software raid? Also is this for your workstation at a company? or a work from home computer. Are you responsible for the reliability of the data stored? Are you the one who will have to fix it if the drives fail?
If so are you ready to be a RAID expert.

I have recently been daydreaming about RAID 5 for my own system. The idea of having a system that magically rebuilds my data sounds awesome. But then I read the following link from a forum of server admins. Make sure you read all the comments lots of interesting opinions.

Basically I learned:

RAID 10 is superior to RAID 5. (But for me, seems to break the rule of keep it simple.)
And the down falls of RAID 5 are; When theres is a drive failure Raid 5 has to be rebuilt, this can take a while (there is computation involved), and a chance that the rebuild could fail, especially if there were multiple problems with your disk. So you may end up with nothing except tears. They also talk about the pitfalls of using motherboard RAID chips, and how the amount of money you throw at the solution tends to dictate how successful your RAID recovery will be.

Personally I have given up the dream of magically repaired RAID arrays.

Currently my drive system on my home workstation looks like this:

1 TB System drive,
1 TB Project Drive (All non moving images) backed up to 1 TB Scheduled with sync software twice a day.
1 TB Personal Drive, Scheduled with sync software twice a week.

2TB Drive, Partitioned into 2 1TB drives, For System back up (Mac Time machine), and Personal Drive.

Caldigit VR 4TB RAID 0 (Video Drive), Backed up to External drives with sync software twice a day.

When the VR drive just recently failed, I just copied my back up drive to a new drive and kept editing and designing. I had to relink to a few files and lost a few renders, but nothing 12 threads of processing couldn't take care of quickly.

I'm sure there are lots of RAID 5 success stories, so I guess it depends on your technical comfort level and the quality of the RAID System.

BTW. Looks like an awesome system.


MacPro, 3.33 6-Core Intel Xeon, 24 GB RAM
ATI Radeon HD 5770
2 x DELL U2410 via displayport.
NewerTech MAXPower eSATA 6G PCIe 2.0 Controller Card
Matrox MXO2 Mini
CalDigit VR 4TB RAID 0,(with external back up)
Mackie Onyx Satellite FW
Yamaha HS50M monitors


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Walter Soyka
Re: Raid 5?
on May 11, 2011 at 1:30:46 am

RAID 10 is very nice, but I think it's overkill for a single workstation. Also, this article is written about large production databases, who generally require more individual transactions per second than video does.

RAID 10 (really RAID 1+0, or a stripe of mirrors) is not necessarily safer than RAID 5, especially for a 4-disk configuration. A 4-disk RAID 10 is two sets of mirrored drives striped together. A 4-disk RAID 10 can tolerate the failure of two drives if and only if one drive from each set of mirrors fails. If both failures are in the same mirrored set, all data on the array is lost. I don't think this offers significantly more protection than a 4-disk RAID 5, as in either case, two back-to-back disk failures can ruin your day. Hot spares for either either level are a good idea, but offer no guarantees.

RAID 5 is a lot more cost-efficient, and the price difference could go to more RAM, which will have a bigger impact on AE and simulations than disk speed anyway.

I absolutely agree with your point that a discrete hardware RAID controller is a must.

No matter what RAID level you choose, this conversation highlights a critical point: RAID is not backup.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events

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Jon Bagge
Re: Raid 5?
on May 11, 2011 at 3:48:17 pm

I have 5 disks in my computer, and they're set up as 1 boot drive and the other 4 are in a RAID5 configuration. I think this is a pretty sensible setup.

As the others have mentioned, if you want RAID5 you need a separate RAID controller, you can't do RAID5 in software (or maybe you can but it's not recommended).

Also considering the price of these cards, and the price of a whole workstation, you should consider 4x 2TB drives. That will give you about 6TB useable space, and 2TB drives are pretty cheap now.
If you work in HD and want to use high quality (uncompressed or low compression) intermediates in your work, the terabytes will just fly away and you'll be looking at external drives to compliment your 6TB soon enough... :)

Jon Bagge - Editor - London, UK
Avid - FCP - After Effects

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