Question Can someone bring me up to speed on HBA vs. Raid controllers

boed

Senior member
Nov 19, 2009
472
7
81
Hello,

I've always used RAID controllers for servers and never looked at an HBA controllers. I run Windows - I do not run linux (and I'm unlikely to switch even though linux is a good OS). Can someone please tell me if you are doing something like RAID 5 or 5.1 if there is a difference with comparable products from the same company e.g. Microsemi or Broadcom -

In the performance / speed?

detection of failed drives?

Impact on the motherboard processor?



I admit I really have no idea when to use an HBA vs. a RAID controller.
 

Tech Junky

Diamond Member
Jan 27, 2022
3,586
1,204
106
Well, for the most part the controllers being used are either JMicron or ASM when it comes to HBA's.

There's one instance where a particular controller has an issue with - ASM1166 / z690 issue.


For the speed it depends on if you're going SSD or spinner though. Obviously if you go SSD there's a potential bottleneck based on which type / version of PCIE slot you end up putting the cards into. As well the controllers have some limitations as well. Also, once you go beyond 5 SATA ports you'll see additional controllers added to the board for the extra ports on the card.

JMB585 - 1700MB/s
ASM1064 - secondary controller - 985MB/s

This goes into the speeds / controllers a bit more extensively though. It also breaks down the speed changes when adding more than a single drive.

So, if you take the JMB585 and put 5 drives on it @ 200MB/s each you're well under the threshold for the controller. Now, if you put a couple of SSD's on it with a max of 3 you're going to potentially see a slight bottleneck since they each run up to 550MB/s.

As to the detection of failed drives that's mostly going to be SMART data or noticing your RAID is degraded.

The main difference between RAID cards and HBA cards is the CPU on the RAID cards which is meant to offload the calculations for the parity drive. Back in the day this was helpful when CPU's were not as powerful as they are today. This only comes into play when not using 0 or 1 versions such as 5 or 6 or even 3/4


Now, this all comes down to how you're using the storage. If it's highly active running DB's then a raid card might be better but, it's it just backups and reads then just running it off the OS / HBA would make more sense. I juts wouldn't want to spend $500 on a card that doesn't improve things significantly. Sure, the convenience of cable management using fan out cables might be appealing in a tight case but, if you're putting 16 drives into a case then space isn't an issue.

Depending on the board you go with and whether or not you want to use the onboard SATA ports or run all of the drives off HBA's is up to you though. There's a 1000 different ways to get the same results when dealing with storage. If it's basically going to be a NAS and nothing else then using all of the PCIE slots for HBA's isn't an issue. If it's going to be used for other things other than data then it might be an issue using those slots for other things like a quad port NIC or GPU or advanced sound card or a TB4 card for higher data throughput from portable drives.

When you move into SSD speeds though aggregating multiple drives trough a card might make more sense when you get beyond what the MOBO can handle alone. The other option would be up the capacity of the drives themselves to 18 or 20TB and consolidate things to use less ports and take advantage of the newer higher speed controllers used on spinners these days hitting upwards of 300MB/s. There's even a Seagate Mach.2 drive that has dual actuators and hits up to 500BM/s+ but, I haven't been able to find a source selling them at this point.
 
  • Like
Reactions: igor_kavinski

George Nasir

Member
Sep 20, 2022
26
1
16
The additional I/O interfaces on the RAID HBA card typically allow for higher system expandability, which is the biggest difference from the software RAID (adding more hard disc drives and more capacity). Even many RAID arrays have no negative effects on the host system's performance.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Shmee

Shmee

Memory & Storage, Graphics Cards Mod Elite Member
Super Moderator
Sep 13, 2008
7,577
2,564
146
HBA stands for host bus adapter, and to my knowledge hardware RAID cards are just a subset of various HBA cards. Now I am not really up to speed on all the different controllers and cards, but I do use a Dell PERC H310 in IT mode in a Truenas. It is a SAS HBA, which I have 4 MX500 SSDs connected to. Keep in mind this is not running hardware RAID, but uses ZFS instead.

I would say it depends on the drives you want to use, and of course the type of volume(s). You say you are using Windows, and you mention RAID 5, are you looking for hardware RAID or Windows software? Now I assume you have a pretty fast system, and the volume would be a non bootable storage volume.

Whether using HDDs or SSDs, if you are looking at adding an HBA, I would use a quality RAID card, even if you aren't using it in RAID mode, but decide on Windows software RAID. Reason for this, is many cheap HBA cards lack features and performance compared to better RAID cards, and even the chipset SATA ports on a quality motherboard.

If you are fine with Windows software RAID, and have the needed ports available on a good motherboard with a good CPU, this is also an option. I would probably not use motherboard fakeRAID or cheap HBAs though. I hope this helps a bit, but again, depends on your current hardware, intended use, and what drives.
 
  • Like
Reactions: George Nasir