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I have a medium sized file storage website that allows people to backup their data online. A lot of these files are shared, and receive large amounts of traffic. I have several types of servers, and I have yet to find the "sweet spot" where I could utilize most of the hard drive space, without it hitting IO limits of the drives.

The most capable server that I have is 8 x 128Gb SSDs in raid5 4K blocks. Its peaks out at around 320MB/s of random reads, and it looks like it still has some room to push more. Then I have a 3 x 300GB 15k SAS raid0 box, that could barely do 45MB/s before it hit its io limit, and load skyrocketed.

When I look at various drive benchmarks, I see most modern SSDs can do ~ 50MB/s of random reads. Does that mean it scales more or less linearly? So if I had 12 of these in raid0, I could do around 600MB/s of random reads? How badly does raid5 decrease the performance?

Also I heard TRIM becomes disabled if RAID is used, so performance would degrade faster. I that true?

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I've got 4 x 5400rpm drives that do ~140MBps @ 1MB chunks. Your SSDs are under-performing unless the reads are very small. – Chris S Dec 8 '10 at 1:02
Is that random read? or sequential? – user11350 Dec 8 '10 at 1:04
Please define "medium sized". Medium compared to what? – John Gardeniers Dec 8 '10 at 4:02
Compared to and – user11350 Dec 8 '10 at 6:35
up vote 3 down vote accepted

If the SAS drives are a decent indicator of your IO patterns then it seems that your read IO size is about 64k - assuming the drives are OK and the pattern is mostly random. That makes sense for the type of use case you describe.

If the same applies to your SSD's then your only getting about 600IOPs per drive which is pretty poor for an SSD IMO. With a decent controller there should be very little overhead reading from a RAID 5 pack - there is data on all disks (the distributed parity thing) so reads should be able to be sent to all disks in parallel provided you have enough requests for the controller to do its thing. The problem might be that your controller can't handle either the overall IO loads or is maxing out at the data rate you are trying to push - what type of controller is it? The other thing is that if there are any writes going on at all then they will dramatically impact things - with RAID 5 your write IO capacity is a quarter of the read rate (with a good controller, worse with a bad one) and SSD writes are generally slower than reads so the write penalty for RAID 5 with SSD's is generally closer to 6x. If you're certain that writes aren't confusing the issue then you can discount that though.

Stripe sizing and partition alignment might be taking a sizeable chunk out of this if you haven't factored those in. You say you have the SSD's configured in RAID 5 with 4K Blocks - if that 4K is your stripe size then that's way off. The stripe size should be a multiple of the SSD read chunk size which will be much larger than 4K depending on the SSD the read chunk will be 64k/128k or maybe more. Try experimenting with the stripe size, without knowing the model of SSD and your controller I can't give you any recommendations on what might be a good size but remember to check whether your controller can actually scale past the IO rate and throughput numbers you are already seeing, if the controller is maxed out then that's the first bottleneck you need to fix.

The 50Meg/sec random read rate depends on IO size - for small reads (in the 4K range) on a decent SSD (Intel X-25E, 35k random read IOPs) you should see 140Meg/sec. Cheaper consumer grade drives will be a bit slower but your RAID pack is seriously underachieving no matter what drives it's using.

You are correct that TRIM can't be used with RAID at the moment - to do it right would require a mapping between what the OS sees as deleted data blocks and how that translates into blocks on the physical disks. That isn't available right now and I wouldn't hold my breath for it any time soon, it's a concern only if you are writing a lot to the drives and repeatedly filling then deleting the data. If your IO pattern is mostly reads and you are not repeatedly filling and deleting data then TRIM support is less of a concern for you.

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For the most part, the file sizes are quite big, 300-400mb being average. There isn't a lot of small files being served. There is very little write going on, and it usually comes in bursts, when a new upload is sent to the server from the master server. – user11350 Dec 8 '10 at 3:45

SSDs have very low access times, so they are very good at random I/O, which I believe is what you're trying to get at when you ask if they "scale linearly". The 15K spinning discs can only do 45MB/sec and then the load goes up because their average access time is 25 times higher than the SSDs (5ms versus 0.2ms). That's what makes them handle the higher loads better.

The 15K spinning discs also scale linearly, they just are scaling from a much smaller position.

RAID-5's overhead is mostly on writes, so if your load is read-heavy there will be little if any overhead compared to RAID-0.

Be aware of bus limitations though; if you are pushing 300MB/sec with 8 drives, 12 drives will get you closer to 500MB/sec. Make sure you have these spread out across an appropriate number of SATA/SAS buses and that the host adapters also have enough bus bandwidth on the motherboard/backplane.

I've also heard the same about TRIM and RAID, but I haven't had experience with it in practice. It really depends on the SSDs though, whether they need it. Particularly, enterprise drives are less of an issue with that. Also, if your application is read-mostly, it will be less of an issue because the drives will have time to "catch up" erasing blocks after you write data.

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