Why we need our SAN RAID controllers to support logical drives

June 4, 2007

Not all SAN RAID controllers support the idea of logical disks, where you can make a bunch of drives into a storage pool and then carve the storage pool up into software-managed bits; some prefer the simpler and more straightforward approach of just exporting the pool itself and staying out of the space management business.

Unfortunately, we need logical drives. The problem (and the reason) is that logical drives are the only way to sensibly dynamically split the space on a RAID controller between multiple fileservers. This is because logical drives are the only way to split out relatively small amounts of the controller's disk space with any efficiency and ease.

If you can only split whole disks out to fileservers and you want protection against single drive failures, the minimum allocation to a fileserver is two disks (RAID-1, a 50% overhead). If you want less wasted space, you get to make significantly larger allocations. In addition, adding or removing disks from a RAID set is an expensive operation that requires shuffling a lot of data around. When it can be done at all (which is not guaranteed, especially for shrinking a RAID set), it's not going to be fast.

By contrast, logical drives can split off relatively small amounts of disk space, and they do it easily. Because they are carving free space out of a pool of it, no data has to be shuffled around; because they are using the pool, they are as efficient as the pool itself.

As a result, if you want to be able to shuffle unused disk space in your pool of space on the SAN between fileservers without having to plan it well in advance, you need the SAN RAID controllers to support logical drives. RAID controllers without logical drives are only really good for situations where you can statically allocate things at setup time, especially when you are not splitting up the space very much (otherwise the overhead eats you alive).

Written on 04 June 2007.
« Weekly spam summary on June 2nd, 2007
RAID-5 versus RAID-6 »

Page tools: View Source, Add Comment.
Login: Password:
Atom Syndication: Recent Comments.

Last modified: Mon Jun 4 00:47:06 2007
This dinky wiki is brought to you by the Insane Hackers Guild, Python sub-branch.