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I want to put some RAID controllers in our Linux servers, for which I have a couple of requirements:

  1. Good Linux support. Not just the disk driver, but also the management and query tools, to report failure and such.
  2. Cross-model compatability. When a server dies, I'd like to be able to plug the disks in another server and start it.

I've been told 3Ware is a good option, but 3Ware has been bought by LSI and my experience with LSI is not good when it comes Linux support for the management software.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Areca are also very much worth looking at, although they are very much server grade equipment with a price tag to match.

Another good option (especially if you're using RAID for protection from hardware failure), is linux's mdadm based software raid, clearly not going to be as fast for stuff like raid5/6 but it does raid 0, 1 and 10 just fine, and you can't beat its portability.

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+1 for mdadm - it seriously rocks. No other RAID solution lets you pull a disk out of archive and plug it into your desktop via USB adapter to view the contents of the disk. – Andrew Jul 26 '10 at 8:51
I love MDadm and its portability, but there are drawbacks. For example, when disks are failing intermittent, you can still boot your machine from a broken disk. Or, when the primary disk fails, you can't boot if your bios doesn't support booting from a second disk. BTW, with the dmraid tool you can assemble raid member disks from a large variety of vendors into an array. Or, because RAID metadata is often stored at the end of the disk, you can just mount -o ro. However, mount nowadays checks for raid metadata and prevents mounting, and I have no idea how to bypass that... – Halfgaar Jul 26 '10 at 19:39
If you have a failed raid member in an array you can simply manually bring the array up in a degraded state, but the best option is to replace the failing disk and re-sync the array. I don't usually boot from mdadm arrays, they have issues with grub2 in modern linux os', i think that's more grubs fault though. – Aaron Tate Jul 28 '10 at 6:56

In my little experience, I didn't find 3ware so well behaving under linux.
If you want performance, Areca is one of the best. Never had problems, great performance, fair linux manageability.
Good controllers are those from HP, with great linux support, but i don't know which hardware you have.

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I agree with Pier that the HP ones are pretty great, as are the Adaptec ones. – Chopper3 Jul 26 '10 at 8:12
A whole variety of servers; custom made, dell, etc. I'll look into those HP ones. What exactly were your problems with 3ware in Linux? – Halfgaar Jul 26 '10 at 19:40
Since the server required a lot of IOPS, I discovered that 3ware is not able (or wasn't a that time, i don't know right now) to deliver enough performance. Instead with the same server, same disks but with areca controller i was getting much better performance. – Pier Jul 27 '10 at 6:28
Just to add some infos, this was exactly the card i had: Maybe someone with areca and 3ware cards can clarify how are the performance in these days – Pier Jul 27 '10 at 6:32

You should also consider using Linux software raid. As long as you have decent SATA controllers it will work fine (or one can say perfect). It almost certainly wins against not-so-perfect raid cards.

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