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Slow write performance FastTrak S150 TX4 RAID 1

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  • Slow write performance FastTrak S150 TX4 RAID 1

    Here is something that other readers might find interesting. We were trying to install a new RAID disk system on our server. We wanted RAID 1 (Disk mirroring) for security. We were thinking of writing a short review on RAID-1 benchmarks for this post, but it turned into more a RAID trouble shooting session.

    We decided to use a Promise FastTrak S150 TX4 SATA RAID controller and a couple of new Seagate drives. Seagate Barracuda ES 250GB ST3250620NS SATA-II Hard Drive with 16MB Cache & NCQ. These were all put into a HP xw8200 workstation running Windows server 2003 32bit. The FastTrak S150 was put into a 64bit PCI slot but Promise claim this is a valid config.

    This was not the boot drive. The boot drive was a separate 36GB 10K SCSI drive.

    The RAID install went fine. But when we tried to use the drive, the problems started.

    We were getting very very slow write speeds. With RAID 1, it is normal that we loose some write speed. But we were seeing speeds of between 1 and 3 MB/sec. Which is about twenty times slower than expected.

    Initially we blamed PerformanceTest for the low result. As surely the hardware couldn't be this bad for a sequential write. (In hindsight, we should have trusted our own software).

    We also did a lot of testing with the PerformanceTest advanced disk test, which reported the same poor write results (between 1 and 5MB/sec) as soon as the cache was off, or the cache's capacity was exceeded.

    So to confirm this result we used Windows Explorer to copy a few files onto the new mirror. The first few (small) files we copied, wrote very quickly (> 200MB/sec). But this was just the Windows cache in action.

    When we copied a large 4GB file we saw the awful truth.

    It was going to take almost 4 hours to write a 4GB file!!!

    Clearly there was something very wrong. We checked the controller BIOS version (1.00.37), check the driver revisions, checked the DMA settings (UDMA mode 6), etc... We couldn't find anything wrong.

    We have reported the problem to Promise and if we get an solution I'll post it here.

    In the meantime we'll be pulling out the Promise controller and try using the software RAID facility provided within Windows, which I have heard good things about.

    Update - Dec 06:
    We have been using software RAID (dynamic disks) on Window 2003 for 3 months now. It has been working well and in fact has some significant advantages over a hardware solution. You should consider this option, especially for RAID-1 on machines with dual CPUs (as software RAID takes a bit of extra CPU time).

  • #2
    I was wondering if you have readcache and write through on? I turned those options on on my supertrak 16650 and my write speed dropped greatly.. Seems like something with promise's write through option it doesn't like.. I've been trying to get my promise card to do better read and write speeds but max I can get is 160 either way. Thats with 6 WD RE3 drives in raid 5..


    • #3
      The answer is : Since I have a S150 TX2 with the same problem.

      1. Drivers are not Vista compatable, XP only.
      2. S150 means it doesn't support Sata II command set, so you have to set the jumpers on the sata drives to switch down to Sata 150 mode or disable sata II command set. (Promise call the original sata S150 and sata II they call it S300)
      3. They will not work correctly with drives over 750gig, it displays the CHS parameters on the post bios screen, use a calculator to add the figures and if it doesn't match your drive then that drive won't work safely with it.

      My machine is a AMD 64 x2 3800+ with Vista running I get speeds as low as 300kb/sec when running Vista, if I boot in to XP it runs fine but still nothing to write home about.

      If you want to a fast and cheap Sata II raid card that works in vista and supports Sata II drives and uses a PCI slot then PM me for the link to an Ebay store I bought several from now, These cards work really good. The Ebay store is located in Sydney and has localy stocks parts, not distributed from overseas.

      So your problem is most likely any of those 3 levels of incompatabilty.

      (PS: I had to re Register to post, did something happen to the user database)