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17.2. RAID Levels and Linear Support
RAID supports various configurations, including levels 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, 10, and linear. These RAID types are defined as follows:
- Level 0
- RAID level 0, often called "striping," is a performance-oriented striped data mapping technique. This means the data being written to the array is broken down into strips and written across the member disks of the array, allowing high I/O performance at low inherent cost but provides no redundancy.Many RAID level 0 implementations will only stripe the data across the member devices up to the size of the smallest device in the array. This means that if you have multiple devices with slightly different sizes, each device will get treated as though it is the same size as the smallest drive. Therefore, the common storage capacity of a level 0 array is equal to the capacity of the smallest member disk in a Hardware RAID or the capacity of smallest member partition in a Software RAID multiplied by the number of disks or partitions in the array.
- Level 1
- RAID level 1, or "mirroring," has been used longer than any other form of RAID. Level 1 provides redundancy by writing identical data to each member disk of the array, leaving a "mirrored" copy on each disk. Mirroring remains popular due to its simplicity and high level of data availability. Level 1 operates with two or more disks, and provides very good data reliability and improves performance for read-intensive applications but at a relatively high cost. The storage capacity of the level 1 array is equal to the capacity of the smallest mirrored hard disk in a Hardware RAID or the smallest mirrored partition in a Software RAID. Level 1 redundancy is the highest possible among all RAID types, with the array being able to operate with only a single disk present.
- Level 4
- Level 4 uses parity  concentrated on a single disk drive to protect data. Because the dedicated parity disk represents an inherent bottleneck on all write transactions to the RAID array, level 4 is seldom used without accompanying technologies such as write-back caching, or in specific circumstances where the system administrator is intentionally designing the software RAID device with this bottleneck in mind (such as an array that will have little to no write transactions once the array is populated with data). RAID level 4 is so rarely used that it is not available as an option in Anaconda. However, it could be created manually by the user if truly needed.The storage capacity of Hardware RAID level 4 is equal to the capacity of the smallest member partition multiplied by the number of partitions minus one. Performance of a RAID level 4 array will always be asymmetrical, meaning reads will outperform writes. This is because writes consume extra CPU and main memory bandwidth when generating parity, and then also consume extra bus bandwidth when writing the actual data to disks because you are writing not only the data, but also the parity. Reads need only read the data and not the parity unless the array is in a degraded state. As a result, reads generate less traffic to the drives and across the busses of the computer for the same amount of data transfer under normal operating conditions.
- Level 5
- This is the most common type of RAID. By distributing parity across all of an array's member disk drives, RAID level 5 eliminates the write bottleneck inherent in level 4. The only performance bottleneck is the parity calculation process itself. With modern CPUs and Software RAID, that is usually not a bottleneck at all since modern CPUs can generate parity very fast. However, if you have a sufficiently large number of member devices in a software RAID5 array such that the combined aggregate data transfer speed across all devices is high enough, then this bottleneck can start to come into play.As with level 4, level 5 has asymmetrical performance, with reads substantially outperforming writes. The storage capacity of RAID level 5 is calculated the same way as with level 4.
- Level 6
- This is a common level of RAID when data redundancy and preservation, and not performance, are the paramount concerns, but where the space inefficiency of level 1 is not acceptable. Level 6 uses a complex parity scheme to be able to recover from the loss of any two drives in the array. This complex parity scheme creates a significantly higher CPU burden on software RAID devices and also imposes an increased burden during write transactions. As such, level 6 is considerably more asymmetrical in performance than levels 4 and 5.The total capacity of a RAID level 6 array is calculated similarly to RAID level 5 and 4, except that you must subtract 2 devices (instead of 1) from the device count for the extra parity storage space.
- Level 10
- This RAID level attempts to combine the performance advantages of level 0 with the redundancy of level 1. It also helps to alleviate some of the space wasted in level 1 arrays with more than 2 devices. With level 10, it is possible to create a 3-drive array configured to store only 2 copies of each piece of data, which then allows the overall array size to be 1.5 times the size of the smallest devices instead of only equal to the smallest device (like it would be with a 3-device, level 1 array).The number of options available when creating level 10 arrays (as well as the complexity of selecting the right options for a specific use case) make it impractical to create during installation. It is possible to create one manually using the command line
mdadmtool. For details on the options and their respective performance trade-offs, refer to
- Linear RAID
- Linear RAID is a simple grouping of drives to create a larger virtual drive. In linear RAID, the chunks are allocated sequentially from one member drive, going to the next drive only when the first is completely filled. This grouping provides no performance benefit, as it is unlikely that any I/O operations will be split between member drives. Linear RAID also offers no redundancy and, in fact, decreases reliability — if any one member drive fails, the entire array cannot be used. The capacity is the total of all member disks.
 RAID level 1 comes at a high cost because you write the same information to all of the disks in the array, provides data reliability, but in a much less space-efficient manner than parity based RAID levels such as level 5. However, this space inefficiency comes with a performance benefit: parity-based RAID levels consume considerably more CPU power in order to generate the parity while RAID level 1 simply writes the same data more than once to the multiple RAID members with very little CPU overhead. As such, RAID level 1 can outperform the parity-based RAID levels on machines where software RAID is employed and CPU resources on the machine are consistently taxed with operations other than RAID activities.
 Parity information is calculated based on the contents of the rest of the member disks in the array. This information can then be used to reconstruct data when one disk in the array fails. The reconstructed data can then be used to satisfy I/O requests to the failed disk before it is replaced and to repopulate the failed disk after it has been replaced.