Thursday, 12 April 2012

I'll just be a minute dear....

This should have been easy!

Some things are supposed to be easy but are not. This is one of those things!

My task was to extend my storage pool on Windows Server 8. What should have been a 5 minute operation turned into days of hacking and frustration. But I got there in the end.

My motherboard provides 6x SATA connectors on the board itself along with a single (2 channel) PATA connector and some free PCIe slots.

To get the server up and running, I had connected 3x 1TB drives to the onboard SATA ports and had configured them in a Storage Pool. The OS was installed to a 500GB IDE drive and a DVD ROM was also on the IDE channel.

This ran great but when I set about adding drives to extend the storage pool, things started going seriously downhill.

Now, in fairness, this turned out to be as much about my motherboard as Server 8.

The first thing I did was pop 3 more 1TB drives into the free hot-swap caddies on my GS1000 case. After many many restarts and BIOS reconfiguration, I've discovered that my motherboard has an issue with detecting IDE drives if all SATA ports are in use.

So, with 6x 1TB drives configured in ACHI mode, the IDE bus would not show up at all so I could not boot the system. It turns out that the only way I could get all drives recognized by BIOS was to configure the SATA drives as IDE Compatible (even IDE enhanced would not work).

Finally, finally, finally I got the system to boot the OS from the IDE drive with 6x SATA drives installed.

Next, I attempted to extend the Storage Pool to include the new drives. Windows wouldn't do it. I could add one or more drives to the pool successfully but could find no way of extending the virtual disk to use these drives. 

I think my mistake was originally configuring the Virtual Disk with Fixed provisioning. That is to say, I had 3TB of storage so I set the size of the virtual disk to be 2TB (largest possible with parity protection). When I came to expand that virtual disk, Server 8 simply would not let me.

volume properties
My solution therefore was to configure my three new disks in a separate storage pool, assign a thinly provisioned virtual disk (10TB), free up my first three disks by deleting shares/volumes/disks/pool and reassigning the devices to the new pool. With this done, I could then easily extend my virtual disk and the new drives were incorporated into my storage.

Of course, I had about 1.5TB of data across the first three disks and had to copy that across first and that took a long time. Windows copy window showed an average speed of about 35 MB/s but when I did the calculations of the data size and time it took, the actual data rate turned out to be about 20 MB/s. This was copying data from one parity protected storage space to another. 

So now I have my 6x 1TB drives configured in a single pool with a 10TB thinly provisioned virtual disk containing a single 10TB volume on which there are two media shares (one for music and one for video).
Volume, Share & Storage Pool info

This Storage Pool -> Virtual Drive -> Volume -> Share hierarchy takes a bit of getting used to but I think I'm almost there now.

After all of this, I added a PCIe 2xSATA adapter and added a couple of drives to that. I'm configuring these as standalone drives to be used for storing work files (which will be backed up to the storage spaces using Server Backup) and for providing TimeMachine storage for my Macs. 

I'm a little concerned that my drives are operating in IDE Compatible mode and wonder if I'm losing any performance there. I'm also wondering what will happen when I need to expand my 10TB thinly provisioned virtual drive. Will that be allowed?

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