Rich Fairbanks wrote:

Now, this is how I set up the array. I installed the card, popped in the
drives. The card bios found the drives and allowed me to setup in RAID 5.
Then, FreeBSD booted and found the "disk" as da0. I want the entire array to
be one big chunk of space. In other words, I don't need a bunch of slices or
partitions (or DO I? I'm still very new to the whole slice vs. partition

The default settings should actually work just about right for a general purpose file system with reasonably sized files. A RAID5 across 3x1TB drives will give you 2+ TB usable space -- that's within the capabilities of UFS2, so you should be OK there. However a 3 disk RAID5 is the worst performing RAID5 setup you can create. A larger number of smaller disks would probably have served you better.

I typed newfs /dev/da0 . A ton of numbers went across the screen, then I
mounted /dev/da0 at /usr/home/storage. It works, but perhaps I missed a step
that would have made things easier/perform better, etc.

The sort of changes you can make at newfs time mostly affect how efficient the storage is -- ie. tuning the system for particularly large or small files. While newfs and tunefs can affect performance, they aren't the first thing to look at here.
Besides creating the file system a different way, what would be an optimum
stripe size for the array? I will using this for storing, basically, a TON
of word documents and email messages, and a few large .pst files. So, the
average file size will be in the 25-100K range, but a few 1-2GB files.

Just take the default stripe size the array controller presents you with -- it will be appropriate for this sort of mixed file sizes.

The first thing to consider is what sort of IO caching strategy your
hardware is using.  Does your RAID controller have a battery backup
unit?  Probably not, as that tends to add a large whack onto the price.

If not, then your array controller will not report an IO operation as complete to the OS until the bits have been written to the disk[*]. With the BBU, the controller can report the operation as complete as soon as the data is stored in (battery backed) RAM on the controller. These modes are called 'write through' and 'write back' in some controllers, but I can't for the life of me remember which is which.

Given that you don't have a BBU, what is the status of write caching
on the individual hard drives? You'll have to use 3dm2 or the CLI equivalent to investigate this, as the RAID controller tends to hide that level of information from the OS. However, this setting is the same thing as controlled by the hw.ata.wc sysctl -- and like that it has a major effect on disk IO performance. Turning write caching off is the safe, conservative thing to do for maximum data security. Turning write caching on is the only way to get decent performance out of ordinary hard drives, but it leaves you open to data loss if the machine should crash or lose power suddenly. Most systems with ATA
or ordinary SATA drives default to using write caching.  SCSI and fast
SAS drives can be configured either way.

You'ld always turn disk level write caching off if you've got a BBU, because it's made redundant in that case by the controller memory cache.

If fiddling with write caching can't make things any better, then I'd reconsider using RAID5. Unfortunately 3 disks doesn't leave you with many options. Add another drive of the same size and you can make a 4 disk RAID10 with 2TB usable space. Or you can configure the RAID controller to act as a JBOD and try out ZFS -- the RAID-Z mode is the moral equivalent of RAID5 but quite different in operation.



[*] Some disks have been known to lie about completing IO transactions even when set to the most conservative mode. IMHO they aren't fit for purpose and should you be landed with such things you'ld be entitled to a refund from the vendor.

Dr Matthew J Seaman MA, D.Phil.                   7 Priory Courtyard
                                                 Flat 3
PGP:     Ramsgate
                                                 Kent, CT11 9PW

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