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Disk Partitioning and Volume Design

Best Practices for Windows Server 2000/2003

(by craig borysowich)

By: Craig Borysowich
Chief Technology Architect
Imagination Edge Inc.

This article is online from 3840 days and has been seen 3292 times

(*** download for full text ***)

This whitepaper addresses the need for a stable design of disk and volume layouts to ensure that a server is
robust and highly available. This paper discusses a series of industry Best Practices and advice on
designing a solution for proper installation that provides redundancy and fault tolerance, but maintains the
highest levels of performance.

Drive Types
There are wide ranges of drive types available, but the lion share of server hardware available leverages the
SCSI standard for providing local disk solutions. However, SATA, Ultra ATA, iSCSI, or SAN/NAS
solutions are also compatible. The one thing to keep in mind is that off-board disk will likely not perform
as well as on-board dedicated disk to the server. So it is recommended to have at least two local hard
drives for OS, logs etc. and then connect via iSCSI, Ethernet, or Fiber Channel to a SAN/NAS solution.
The higher the speed of the drives the better for performance as well. Taking 15000RPM drives over
10000 RPM drives is recommended for performance.
Software vs Hardware RAID
RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk and provides a methodology for combining large
numbers of disks into single contiguous partitions and/or providing heightened levels of data redundancy
within a disk partition. There are two possible ways to implement RAID: Hardware RAID and Software

Hardware RAID
The hardware-based system manages the RAID subsystem independently from the host and presents to the
host only a single disk per RAID array.
An example of a Hardware RAID device would be one that connects to a SCSI controller and presents the
RAID arrays as a single SCSI drive. An external RAID system moves all RAID handling "intelligence"
into a controller located in the external disk subsystem. The whole subsystem is connected to the host via a
normal SCSI controller and appears to the host as a single disk.
RAID controllers also come in the form of cards that act like a SCSI controller to the operating system but
handle all of the actual drive communications themselves. In these cases, you plug the drives into the RAID
controller just like you would a SCSI controller, but then you add them to the RAID controller's
configuration, and the operating system never knows the difference.

Software RAID
Software RAID implements the various RAID levels in the OS disk (block device) code. It offers the
cheapest possible solution, as expensive disk controller cards or hot-swap chassis are not required.
Software RAID also works with cheaper IDE and ATA disks as well as SCSI disks.
For optimum performance, it is recommended to go with the hardware RAID solution. As more volumes
are created and more advanced levels of RAID are implemented, the software-based RAID can consume a
lot of CPU and memory. The hardware RAID controller should also have a battery backed write Cache to
ensure that sudden power outages do not lose any data.
Note: Before you can use the software RAID in Windows Server 2003, you must convert basic disks to
dynamic disks. In addition, dynamic disks are not supported on cluster storage.

Raid Levels
There are various different levels or methods that can be used to implement RAID technology
Factors RAID-0 RAID-1 RAID-5 RAID-0+1

(*** download for full text ***)

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