Raid, link aggregation... alloys and molecular structures

To get to the point of this post just skip to the Here’s What I Have Learned section.

I have been playing around with my EX4100 for the last few weeks and have things I would like to share. I am pretty good on computers but am more of a spert than an expert. I have built my own computers since 2006.
I purchased my EX4100 in February of 2017 and feel like it has been pretty reliable and trouble free. I had four 8TB drives running in raid 5 but a few months ago I realized that this system was reaching capacity. I can’t add any more drives. Buying four more 10 or 12 TB drives was pretty out of the question, so I started to look for other options.

I tried building a DIY NAS (FreeNas system) with old parts including a CPU and motherboard from my first 2006 build. With a DIY server i would not be limited to only 4 drives. It worked but had issues. The biggest downfall was how slow it was in read/writes. For you FreeNas types… I did set up a SSD raid 0 buffer. That helped, and I even setup this server, and my computer, with 10Gb NICs. That did speed things up but ultimately my 680i sli MB and lga775 cpu running freenas 24/7 was not reliable… IE crashed a lot which caused the FreeNas to want to check the parity disk constantly making it pretty unuseable. I think ultimately, to make this system work, it needed a modern CPU and motherboard. Expensive and in the end not very energy efficient compared to my EX4100.

So back to my EX4100. I thought about wiping it and setting the drives up in raid 0. That way I could use all 32TB of my drives. I have all my data backed up on hard drives that i store in my desk but the idea of reloading 22TB of data on that pokey 1 gig Nic sounded painful. Raid 0… Yeah! that would be cool though. Fast right? and maybe I could speed up my network connection. There are two 1Gg NICs on the back of this thing. Link aggregation right? I could get a managed switch and maybe get 2Gb data transfer speeds… Yeah!! wooo! …

So I did some research and got myself a Netgear managed switch (MS510TX) that can do link aggregation.

My new Netgear switch has two 10Gb ports, so one went into my computers new 10Gb NIC, no bottle neck at that end. I set the switch up for LAG on the two ports hooked up to the EX4100. On the EX4100 I went to Network Settings and set up Link Aggregation to 802.3ad… man this is exciting, yes?! All that there was left to do was run a file to or from my NAS and be amazed at the speed gains.

Here is what I have learned
:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Link Aggregation
With the EX4100, there are no speed gains running Link Aggregation through a managed switch. None! With one CAT6 cable run to one of the 1Gb NICs I got 113MB speed reads/writes. With two CAT6 cables run in Link Aggregation setup with a managed switch I got 113MB speed reads/writes… (have you seen the movie Fifth Element? there is a scene where Zorg gets a case of 4 stones from these pirate aliens. He is super excited to get the stones but when he opens the case the stones are missing. That is pretty much how i felt at this point). I am guessing that this is why there is no info on successful speed gains in Link Aggregation in the manual or in the forums. That Link Aggregation setting in the GUI is so tempting… just laying there for something interesting to happen, but no. I have played this out and am convinced that there is nothing there.

:money_mouth_face: Raid
With no speed improvements over the network there is no reason to run something as outrageous as raid 0. I can get the same realestate from disk spanning without the wear and tear from using Raid. I have some other thoughts on raid as well. My system ran fine on raid 5 but I have read that raid 5 is not always successful when rebuilding from a failed drive. If that is the case then raid 0 is cool because if you have to rebuild your raid anyway then raid 0 is faster on reads/writes and there is no redundant data so you get your full capacity on hard drives. I think that this is all true if you can utilize the speed gains from using raid. Raids down sides, besides losing all your data if a drive fails, is that there can be data degradation from raid striping. Im not entirely sure if i have experienced this, but there are some movies on my server that have glitches. These could have been from the recording and/or transfer of the movies to my NAS but it could be from raid degradation.

:upside_down_face: Epilog
so John, after all this what did you end up doing? I formatted the system and setup disk spanning and got my full 32TB of capacity to use. I can’t use raid 5, even if I had more faith in it, because i am at full capacity. There is no reason to use the speedy but dangerous raid 0 with the pokey 1Gb nic. I used disk spanning because I need to have all the data in one volume… so as not to upset my other half. Her primitive intellect wouldn’t understand alloys and compositions and things with molecular structures…
Anyway this was my rant, I think i have earned it. I am writing this as my backup disks are pumping video and photos back into my NAS. It has been few days so far and I have another 8TB or so to go. If you made it to this point you must have been interested in raid or lag. Like I said I am no expert and if you think i have made some error in setting up LAG on my system… that I can speed up my network connection to my WD4, lemme know. Also if you agree/disagree with me about my opinions on raid I would like to hear what you think.