Parallelism has been a topic of interest within the PC technology industry ever since its inception. The basic principle of computing is to accomplish incredibly large and complicated tasks through the completion of smaller individual tasks, which in some cases, can be executed concurrently to maximize performance. We've seen examples of exploiting parallelism in computing with technologies such as multiprocessor systems, Hyper Threading and, of course, the long-missed Voodoo2 SLI.

The benefits of parallelism vary depending on the application. For example, the impact of dual processors or a Hyper Threading enabled CPU can be as little as 5% for a normal desktop user, but as much as 50% for a server system. Graphics rendering is virtually infinitely parallelizable, with a doubling in raw GPU power resulting in close to a doubling of performance. But what about hard drive performance? Are two drives better than one?

Of course, the technology that we are talking about is RAID, standing for Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks. As the name implies, the technology was introduced for redundancy, but has morphed into a cheap way to add performance to your system. With the introduction of their 875P/865 chipsets, Intel brought the two simplest forms of RAID to desktop users for free: RAID 0 and RAID 1. With the majority of Intel's chipset shipments featuring RAID support, desktop users are beginning to experiment, now more than ever, with RAID as a method of increasing performance.

On paper, RAID can provide dramatic increases in performance. But as we've shown in our other hard drive reviews, the real world often differs greatly from the realm of synthetic disk benchmarks. So, what happens when you measure the real-world impact of RAID on today's fastest, most disk limited systems? Should we all start buying two hard drives instead of one? Or should RAID still be used for redundancy and not for performance when it comes to the average desktop user?

Let's find out...

Doubling Theoretical Performance: RAID-0
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  • TheCimmerian - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    ...Anyone have any thoughts on RAID0 for DV capture/editing/rendering?...

    Reply
  • masher - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    #71, the statistics and applicability for MTBF and MTTF are a bit complex...so much so that most drive manufacturers themselves usually don't apply them properly (or intentionally mislead people).

    Technically, you're correct...RAID0 doesn't halve MTBF. However, for what the average user means by "chance of failure", a two-disk Raid0 array does indeed double your chance of a failure.

    As to your comment of Raid-0 loading maps faster...true if its a large file (10MB+) and probably not discernably noticeable till you're in the 20-40MB range. For tiny files or heavily fragmented ones, it may even be slower.
    Reply
  • Z80 - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    This article was very informative. However, the statements that RAID0 cuts MTBF in half and that RAID1 doubles MTBF are statistically incorrect. Also, RAID0 does improve game performance especially when large game maps are involved (i.e., BF1942, BF Vietnam, Far Cry). It definitely provides an advantage in online FPS games by loading large maps faster and giving RAIDO equipped players an advantage in first choice for weapons and position. Your tests probably didn't measure map loading times. Reply
  • GokieKS - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    "What's the difference between losing one 74gig Raptor in RAID-0 array or one 160gig stand-alone drive? THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE!"

    There is. The chance of you getting a HDD failure increases with every drive you add. A 2 disk RAID-0 array will have the same chance at failure as 2 independent non-RAIDed drives. The difference is, with the independent drives, you lose one drive's worth of data when it fails. With the RAID-0 array, you lose two.

    ~KS
    Reply
  • sparky123321 - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    I keep hearing about double the cost and the additional risk associated with a RAID-0 array.

    First off, double the price gets you DOUBLE the capacity of a single drive. It's a wash price wise. On top of that, you increase disk performance by up to 20+%. Normally, there tends to be a decrease in performance as capacity increases when comparing similar generation drives.

    Secondly, with regard to risk. What's the difference between losing one 74gig Raptor in RAID-0 array or one 160gig stand-alone drive? THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE! If you don't have a recent backup, you've lost everything. Just spend an additional $90 to buy a backup 160gig 7200rpm IDE and use Acronis to do a complete disk mirror every week or two. If you lose a RAID-0 drive, you can just boot off of the backup drive and be up and running in a matter of minutes. Worst case, you've lost you're most recent work only.

    Power to the Raptors and I think I'll stick with my RAID-0 array!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • abocz - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    I think #63 summed it up pretty well. For most real world usage the RAID0 setup never gets to shine because of the ratio of seek times/data transfers. Lower (7200) RPM drives will only compound the situation since their seek times are worse. Finally, add to this phenomenon the fact that the ratio of seeks will increase over time as fragmentation increases.

    Which begs the question of how well defraggers work in a RAID 0 setup? Anybody know?
    Reply
  • Inferno - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    Maybe you should try this test with some lesser drive. The raptors are kind of the be all end all drives. Maybe a pair of midrange Maxtors. Reply
  • binger - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    #61, jvrobert is right in saying that the advantages of a raptor-raid0 are restricted to faster boot-up times and smoother handling of very large files, eg when it comes to dv.

    although i have heard similar statements before, whether a raid0-array of two 160gb samsung drives comes close to the performance of a single 74gb raptor drive, i don't know - i would surely appreciate being pointed to an appropriate review or at least a couple of significant benchmark results.
    Reply
  • jvrobert - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    Two points:

    First, it doesn't matter much what card you use for RAID 0. There's no parity calculation, so onboard hardware won't help much. Probably Windows striping, Intel RAID, VIA RAID, Highpoint RAID, etc.. are within 1 percent of eachother.

    Second, this is a limited test that comes to an overgeneralized conclusion. As some have mentioned - these are raptors. I have a single raptor as my OS disk. Where RAID helps is with slower drives - you can get a "virtual" raptor of e.g. 360GB by buying 2 cheap, quiet, cool Samsung spinpoints.

    Third (OK, 3 points) - it only tests games (which don't use much hard disk IO) and business (again, disk speed doesn't matter much). I'm getting into video now, and RAID 0 will certainly improve performance there. It will also help with load times of the OS and of large applications.

    So the article comes to an over-general conclusion limited on a few quick tests.
    Reply
  • RyanVM - Friday, July 02, 2004 - link

    Let's not forget the target audience of this article: home users. The point of this article was that a two disk RAID0 array has little to no benefit whatsoever for the home user and/or gamer, which is exactly the primary consumer who'd make use of Intel's onboard RAID controller.

    Power users with multiple-disk RAID setups would be VERY unlikely to use an onboard RAID controller, opting instead for a dedicated RAID controller with onboard cache, processor offloading, etc.

    And as others said, the controller makes very little difference in a two-disk RAID array. It's only with multiple disks (4+) that the controller starts showing its importance by managing read/write requests, caching data, etc.

    In summary, for those of you who were expecting a full blown RAID review, go over to Storage Review where they specialize in those types of tests. This article was simply showing that onboard RAID is really quite useless for its target audience.
    Reply

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