RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks or Drives, or Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a data storage virtualization technology that combines multiple physical disk drive components into one or more logical units for the purposes of data redundancy, performance improvement, or both. This was in contrast to the previous concept of highly reliable mainframe disk drives referred to as “single large expensive disk” (SLED).
Data is distributed across the drives in one of several ways, referred to as RAID levels, depending on the required level of redundancy and performance. The different schemes, or data distribution layouts, are named by the word “RAID” followed by a number, for example RAID 0 or RAID 1. Each scheme, or RAID level, provides a different balance among the key goals: reliability, availability, performance, and capacity. RAID levels greater than RAID 0 provide protection against unrecoverable sector read errors, as well as against failures of whole physical drives.
A number of standard schemes have evolved. These are called levels. Originally, there were five RAID levels, but many variations have evolved, notably several nested levels and many non-standard levels (mostly proprietary). RAID levels and their associated data formats are standardized by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) in the Common RAID Disk Drive Format (DDF) standard:
RAID 0 consists of striping, but no mirroring or parity. Compared to a spanned volume, the capacity of a RAID 0 volume is the same; it is the sum of the capacities of the disks in the set. But because striping distributes the contents of each file among all disks in the set, the failure of any disk causes all files, the entire RAID 0 volume, to be lost. A broken spanned volume at least preserves the files on the unfailing disks. The benefit of RAID 0 is that the throughput of read and write operations to any file is multiplied by the number of disks because, unlike spanned volumes, reads and writes are done concurrently, and the cost is complete vulnerability to drive failures.
RAID 1 consists of data mirroring, without parity or striping. Data is written identically to two drives, thereby producing a “mirrored set” of drives. Thus, any read request can be serviced by any drive in the set. If a request is broadcast to every drive in the set, it can be serviced by the drive that accesses the data first (depending on its seek time and rotational latency), improving performance. Sustained read throughput, if the controller or software is optimized for it, approaches the sum of throughputs of every drive in the set, just as for RAID 0. Actual read throughput of most RAID 1 implementations is slower than the fastest drive. Write throughput is always slower because every drive must be updated, and the slowest drive limits the write performance. The array continues to operate as long as at least one drive is functioning.
RAID 5 consists of block-level striping with distributed parity. Unlike RAID 4, parity information is distributed among the drives, requiring all drives but one to be present to operate. Upon failure of a single drive, subsequent reads can be calculated from the distributed parity such that no data is lost. RAID 5 requires at least three disks. Like all single-parity concepts, large RAID 5 implementations are susceptible to system failures because of trends regarding array rebuild time and the chance of drive failure during rebuild (see “Increasing rebuild time and failure probability” section, below). Rebuilding an array requires reading all data from all disks, opening a chance for a second drive failure and the loss of the entire array. In August 2012, Dell posted an advisory against the use of RAID 5 in any configuration on Dell EqualLogic arrays and RAID 50 with “Class 2 7200 RPM drives of 1 TB and higher capacity” for business-critical data.
RAID 10 (1+0)
RAID 10, also called RAID 1+0 and sometimes RAID 1&0, is similar to RAID 01 with an exception that two used standard RAID levels are layered in the opposite order; thus, RAID 10 is a stripe of mirrors.
RAID 10, as recognized by the storage industry association and as generally implemented by RAID controllers, is a RAID 0 array of mirrors, which may be two- or three-way mirrors, and requires a minimum of four drives. However, a nonstandard definition of “RAID 10” was created for the Linux MD driver; Linux “RAID 10” can be implemented with as few as two disks. Implementations supporting two disks such as Linux RAID 10 offer a choice of layouts. Arrays of more than four disks are also possible.
According to manufacturer specifications and official independent benchmarks, in most cases RAID 10 provides better throughput and latency than all other RAID levels except RAID 0 (which wins in throughput). Thus, it is the preferable RAID level for I/O-intensive applications such as database, email, and web servers, as well as for any other use requiring high disk performance.