By Mike Clements posted Aug 18th 2010
As a leading supplier of solid-state drives, such as the award winning Corsair® Force Series™ SSD's, Corsair would like to help you get the most out of your SSD-based system. In this brief how-to guide, we'd like to show you how to nearly double the performance of your SSD based disk subsystem by using RAID.
RAID is an acronym for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. We won't go into the many different types of RAID configurations here. The basic concept involves combining multiple storage drives in an array to gain performance, fault tolerance, or a blend of the two. One SSD is great, so two SSDs must be incredible, right? Right!
This article will focus on RAID-0, which is the most common RAID configuration utilized strictly for performance. Many enthusiast and desktop motherboards come equipped with onboard RAID controllers. These can be built into the chipset, such as the AMD south bridge, Intel® ICH / PCH controller hubs, or the NVIDIA® MCP. Some motherboard makers add a second RAID capable disk controller to the motherboard board to enable a second RAID array. Users can also add additional RAID functionality with a PCI or PCI-e RAID card.
Regardless of the controller used, the basic steps to set up a RAID array in the BIOS and configure the controller are very similar across these different brands and different implementations of controllers.
Each motherboard BIOS and RAID configuration utility will vary slightly so familiarizing yourself with the motherboard manual and the BIOS layout is always a good start. You may also want to familiarize yourself with basic RAID terminology as that will be helpful when navigating the RAID setup utilities. Once you have done that, you'll need to find the section of your BIOS that allows you to set up the disk controller modes.
Setting up RAID-0 on boards with Intel ICH and PCH controllers is fairly straightforward, as the steps are largely the same regardless of chip set version. The Intel ICH set up has been essentially the same for quite some time across their ICH7, ICH8, ICH9, and currently the ICH10-R controllers. The newer PCH set up is the same. Our example here shows the ICH10-R as implemented with the X58 chipset.
Setting Up a RAID-0 Array Using the Intel ICH10-R Controller
The EVGA® Classified motherboard in our example uses a Pheonix Technologies® AwardBIOS™ in tandem with the Intel ICH10-R disk controller. Other brands of BIOS will appear different but the basic steps are the same. Enter your BIOS and view the Standard CMOS Features page. We are using two Corsair Performance Series™ P128 SSDs in the example. NOTE: to configure RAID-0 you will want to use two identical drives of the same size.
In the BIOS screen below, you will see any drives attached to the ICH10-R. Once you enable the ICH10-R RAID mode, your drives will no longer show up on this page. This is normal.
Standard CMOS Features
Go back to the BIOS main screen and select the Integrated Peripherals section.
Onboard PATA/SATA Device
Select the Onboard PATA/SATA Device, which is the Intel ICH10-R controller.
Select RAID Mode
Now you'll need to specify the SATA mode wanted. Once this step is finished, save your changes and exit the BIOS. It's time to move on to using the Intel RAID configuration utility to create the RAID array.
After rebooting, the BIOS will prompt you to press CTRL-I to enter the RAID Configuration Utility.
Create a RAID Volume
This will bring you to the main menu. Select option 1 to create a RAID Volume.
Name the Volume
The first step is to name the volume followed by selecting the RAID level or type. Assign a name here and select "RAID0(Stripe)".
Select the Drives
When you select the third option, you'll be prompted to use the Space bar to select drives for the RAID array. Once you assign the drives, press Enter.
Select Stripe Size and Capacity
After you select the drives, you'll need to select the Stripe Size and Capacity. Note that Intel has provided typical stripe size values in the Help section.
After assigning stripe size and capacity, select the "Create Volume" option.
All Data Will Be Erased
And, this is the moment of truth. At this point you are asked if you are sure that you want to create this volume. All data on the selected disks will be lost.
Completed RAID-0 Array in Intel ICH10-R
At this point, your RAID-0 array is completed. The status of the array is indicated here.
ATTO Single Drive Performance Series P128 vs ATTO Two P128s in RAID-0
Be prepared for some astonishing drive performance. We tested this particular array with ATTO which is the most reliable tool to date for HD performance. The graph on the left is a single drive and the right side shows the performance of these two drives in RAID-0.
Reset RAID Data
In the event that you need to remove these disks from the RAID-0 array, be sure to use the Intel RAID utility and reset the RAID data.
In a recent SSD tech article from Anandtech, we found the following statement. "For the past several months I’ve been calling SSDs the single most noticeable upgrade you can do to your computer. Whether desktop or laptop, stick a good SSD in there and you’ll notice the difference." As you configure your SSD RAID, you will not just "notice" the upgrade — it will blow you away! The performance gain over old rotational drives is simply astonishing, and eliminates a long standing system performance bottleneck. So, raid your nearest retailer and get into the RAID-0 business with Corsair SSDs!