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  1. #1
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    How To Add More Drives To a Two-Drive Server Setup?

    Hi All;
    As said in my other post, I bought a PowerEdge 1950 III server (circa 2008) and a pair of Seagate300 GB Cheatah SAS drives in the proper sleds. It has a Perc 6/I RAID driver system. I was hoping to set this up as ahome network server of sorts.
    Only thing is I have not seen much available in the way of 15000 rpm SAS drives bigger than about 300 GB.
    I am figuring to use a RAID 1 system for starters, so all there will be is 300 GB of storage.
    So what would be the best way to add more drives to a two-drive server setup such as this?
    I understand the Perc 6/I driver can logically address up to 32 individual drives, but I don't know how you physically install them and hook them up.

    Thanks for any ideas,

    rstew


    Just wanted to add that I am aware from an earlier thread that SATA drives can be used with the Perc 6/I controller, and that there are compatible alternates such as nearline drives available, that are much larger than 300 GB.
    Last edited by rstew; 2015-10-21 at 18:56.

  2. #2
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    According to this Dell page the 6i is SAS only,
    You can add as many disks as the remaining slots allow, but you need a minimum of 3 for RAID 5. This will give you capacity of n-1 x individual drive size.

    cheers, Paul

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    Most RAID systems require matched drives. That means identical manufacturers, capacities, speeds, data interfaces, everything. If you cannot match up your drives then bad things happen, so don't go there. In fact server drives are often (significantly) more expensive, and part of the reason is that vendors will stock drives, years after the drive model and technology is obsolete. They do so in order to be able to replace failed drives and get customer's drive arrays back in production.

    The 300 GB, 15,000 RPM drives you mention are typical for enterprise arrays and I've seen lots of those in production. If you compare these to current consumer hard drives, these server drives have higher rotation rates and lower capacity. This would be true even by the standards of 2008 as well. Enterprise drives prioritize performance over capacity; the capacity thing seems nonsensical until you understand that such drives are nearly always used in groups. The RAID array becomes part of the mechanism by which larger capacities, much larger than any individual drive, are achieved.

    There's another factor you might want to know about. Flash based drives (SSDs) are eating away at the market for high rotational rate enterprise drives. An SSD can achieve much higher performance than the older, high performance rotational platter drives. Thus a new market segment has opened up for enterprise flash drives. The relevance to you is that availability for 15,000 RPM SAS drives may be dropping.

    I'm not sure where the market is with this transition exactly. However at some point it wouldn't be surprising to see vendors of these older enterprise drives, limiting their availability to customers they have ongoing support contracts with.

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    As for physical installation, that's easy.

    1). Do you have available drive bays? You can add as many drives as you have bays;
    2). Do you have the sleds or mounting rails? You'll need these to install properly into the bays. These come with the server typically, and not the drive;
    3). Hook the new drives up the same way your existing 2 drives are installed. At this point the "RAID requires identical drives" rule is your friend. Do everything exactly the same way for all drives;
    4). You'll run the RAID management interface, which is a BIOS level interface. You get prompted for a special keystroke to enter this interface while the server is booting up. Here you determine what drives form which arrays, select RAID levels, do any low-level formatting, etc.
    5). The next steps are Operating System steps. These are not much different than dealing with any hard drive.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by BHarder View Post
    As for physical installation, that's easy.

    1). Do you have available drive bays? You can add as many drives as you have bays;
    2). Do you have the sleds or mounting rails? You'll need these to install properly into the bays. These come with the server typically, and not the drive;
    3). Hook the new drives up the same way your existing 2 drives are installed. At this point the "RAID requires identical drives" rule is your friend. Do everything exactly the same way for all drives;
    4). You'll run the RAID management interface, which is a BIOS level interface. You get prompted for a special keystroke to enter this interface while the server is booting up. Here you determine what drives form which arrays, select RAID levels, do any low-level formatting, etc.
    5). The next steps are Operating System steps. These are not much different than dealing with any hard drive.
    Thanks for the info.
    This server has only two drive bays, being a 1U height device.
    This being the case, I am wondering what kind of a drive enclosure I need in order to add another 4 or maybe 6 drives. I understand perc 6/I card can address up to 32 physical drives, in any of the popular RAID array types. It is just a question of what to install them in and how to physically hook them up to the controller card?

    Thanks,
    rstew

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    RAID drives do not have to be identical, it's only equivalent performance that matters as the array will only be as fast as the slowest drive.

    A 1U server can be expanded in 2 ways.
    1. An external housing connected to the external disk connector, assuming you have one. This is never a cheap option for the home user, unless you can find a second hand bargain.
    2. A NAS. You can buy one or make one from an old PC with FreeNAS or similar.

    cheers, Paul

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    Thanks for the info.
    I think the easiest route is to track down a used multi-bay server such as a PowerEdge 2950.
    That will provide lots more options as far as drives goes.

    The best,
    rstew

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    Why are you so keen to have server hardware? A standard PC with a couple of large internal drives would surely be cheaper.

    cheers, Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul T View Post
    Why are you so keen to have server hardware? A standard PC with a couple of large internal drives would surely be cheaper.

    cheers, Paul
    Good question Paul. Call it morbid curiosity I guess, or just the challenge of the unknown. Having fooled around with quite a few system rebuilds and new builds lately, I just figured it was time to plunge into serverland, just because it is unknown turf to me.
    Once I get tired of it I will just sell the equipment off and head in another direction. It's not like I desperately need a whopping big fancy server for my modest home data needs!!
    Cheers,
    rstew

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    ANOTHER UPDATE:
    I just managed to pick up a nice used 2950 U2 server from the local electronics recycling outfit for pretty cheap.
    It posts and looks like it operates just fine, and it has 6 internal 3.5" drive bays, either SATA or SAS. Drive card is again a PERC 6/I system.
    So here is another question regarding drives:
    If I set it up now with two SATA drives in a RAID 1 configuration and load the OS, is it possible to add more drives later in another RAID configuration without having to reconfigure the virtual drive arrangement and reload everything? Or do you have to start off with as many drives as you are going to ever need?

    Thanks,
    rstew

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    The rule is that if you introduce additional drives into a single RAID pool, you have to re-stripe everything. Which implies total data loss and restoring from backup, or reinstalling from scratch.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by BHarder View Post
    The rule is that if you introduce additional drives into a single RAID pool, you have to re-stripe everything. Which implies total data loss and restoring from backup, or reinstalling from scratch.
    Ouch; I was afraid of that.
    Well good to know anyway.

    Thanks,
    rstew

  13. #13
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    Not so, you can add or remove arrays as you want as long as you don't mess with the OS drive too much.
    As an example:
    1. Create a RAID 1 array and install the OS with default settings. You now have a single C: drive.
    2. Install the RAID management software.
    3. Plug 4 extra drives in and create 2 RAID 1 arrays. You now have 3 disks for the OS to work with.
    4. Delete the additional RAID arrays from step 3.
    5. Create a RAID 5 array from 3 disks and copy some data to it. You now have C: and D:.
    6. Add the 6th disk to the existing RAID 5 array using the array management software. Let the array expand - not fast.
    7. Using Windows Disk Manger expand D: to fill the array.

    cheers, Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul T View Post
    Not so, you can add or remove arrays as you want as long as you don't mess with the OS drive too much.
    As an example:
    1. Create a RAID 1 array and install the OS with default settings. You now have a single C: drive.
    2. Install the RAID management software.
    3. Plug 4 extra drives in and create 2 RAID 1 arrays. You now have 3 disks for the OS to work with.
    4. Delete the additional RAID arrays from step 3.
    5. Create a RAID 5 array from 3 disks and copy some data to it. You now have C: and D:.
    6. Add the 6th disk to the existing RAID 5 array using the array management software. Let the array expand - not fast.
    7. Using Windows Disk Manger expand D: to fill the array.

    cheers, Paul
    Wow thanks for that info Paul!
    That is pretty complex but it looks doable.
    At present I have two drive trays with 1TB drives installed. They are configured in a Raid 1 setup.
    I think it would be best to scare up (no Halloween pun intended) another drive tray and configure a 3drive Raid 5 setup initially.
    The two current drives are SATA and work fine in the Raid 1 configuration, so that confirms that SATA drives will work with Perc 6/I. They install and plug into the SAS backplane just fine, but there is a different drive tray used with them.

    On another matter, does anyone know where I might be able to find an install DVD for Windows Server 2008? the original product key sticker came with the server, but of course I don't have the software.

    Thanks,
    rstew

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