Windows Server 2019 has an interesting feature that allows you to group your drives together and create Storage Pools. It even allows you to create tiered storage (that is, specify which drives are fast (SSD) vs slow (HDD)). I've always built my RAIDs using hardware (Dell PERC). So why would someone use Storage spaces in Windows Server? What's the benefit? Would you still create a hardware RAID and then also implement Storage Pools?

  • I spent all last Friday-Sunday at work trying to rebuild a W2016 SS tiered volume that just spontaneously died after several years working fine. I no longer trust it. – Chopper3 Feb 21 '20 at 19:33
  • And this, of course is a problem: Any storage system can fail, but we can only objectively discourage use of one if it's a common problem. But sure: I too know of storage implementations whose use I will subjectively discourage based on personal experience. – Mikael H Feb 22 '20 at 11:12
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    @Chopper3 Can I ask you what happened and how did you solve it? I am genuinely curious. If this in not the appropriate place, feel free to write me in chat. As a side note, I 100% agree on your feelings on Storage Spaces. Thanks. – shodanshok Feb 22 '20 at 12:03
  • @shodanshok We didn't, we ran out of time, we just created a W2019 VM with a very big second disk and restored from backup. – Chopper3 Feb 22 '20 at 12:34
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    @Chopper3 Ouch, I can feel the pain. Thanks for reporting! – shodanshok Feb 22 '20 at 13:33

Generally speaking you will want to keep hardware- and software based storage solutions separate: Both want direct access to the disks to do their job properly, and there's a high chance they'll trip each other up if combined. The general recommendation is to use an HBA rather than a RAID controller for software driven storage.

A - or rather the - benefit of hardware RAID is that a decent controller offloads work from the CPU.

This, of course, is a lot less of a problem with today's multi-core, multi-GHz CPUs than it was when server CPUs had single cores and operated in the tens or hundreds of MHz. In fact, companies like VMware and Proxmox actively encourage the use of software storage solutions for many workloads, and there are companies like Backblaze that make their entire living off storage which doesn't use hardware RAID controllers.

From what I gather, Storage Spaces plus ReFS have matured a lot in the last few years, and Microsoft's sales pitch for it looks very similar to, for example, that of VMware's for vSAN. Be aware that this solution doesn't seem to be marketed as a general purpose file system yet: it still lacks features you'll likely miss compared to NTFS.

  • thanks for the explanation. I am starting to see the appeal of software-based RAID. After all, a hardware RAID controller is just one more physical thing that can break in your datacenter, causing hard down-time until it physically gets replaced. Compared to software that (in most cases) can just be restored or reconfigured. And if servers are fast enough to handle this additional responsibility then it seems like the way to go. – E C Feb 27 '20 at 16:44

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