Quick answer: RAIDing SSDs can provide increased performance and redundancy, but may not be necessary for many home users. The decision depends on your specific needs and setup.
RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) allows combining multiple drives together for increased performance or redundancy. There are different RAID levels with different benefits. RAID 0 stripes data across disks for better performance, but has no redundancy. RAID 1 mirrors disks for redundancy, but uses 50% storage. RAID 5 stripes data with distributed parity for redundancy.
SSDs (solid state drives) are much faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), but also more expensive per gigabyte. Consumer SSDs have continued dropping in price, making RAID more affordable. However, SSDs already provide great performance for most typical workloads.
For home users, RAID may provide diminishing returns and be overkill. But for power users, creative professionals, gamers, or small businesses with demanding storage needs, RAID SSDs can provide advantages.
Benefits of RAIDing SSDs
The main benefit of RAIDing SSDs is increased performance. Combining multiple drives increases total bandwidth and I/O (input/output operations per second). This can reduce bottlenecks and accelerate read/write speeds.
RAID 0 stripes data across all disks with no parity, allowing simultaneous reads/writes. This multiplies total throughput versus a single drive. 4 SATA SSDs in RAID 0 can reach over 2GB/s sequential reads and 1.5GB/s writes. On NVMe SSDs, bandwidth scales even higher.
For heavy workloads involving large files like video editing, RAID 0 SSDs can provide a real performance boost. The tradeoff is no redundancy – if one drive fails, all data is lost.
While RAID 0 is all about performance, RAID 1 and 5 provide redundancy by duplicating or distributing data across drives.
RAID 1 mirrors two identical drives, with all data copied to both. If one drive fails, the other contains a complete backup. RAID 1 roughly doubles read speeds, but writes stay equal to a single drive.
RAID 5 stripes data across three or more disks, with distributed parity information. If any one disk fails, the array can reconstruct the data from parity. RAID 5 provides good performance and redundancy.
Redundancy provides protection against drive failure. This is useful for mission critical data or uptime. And SSDs still have a failure rate, though fairly low. For home users, backups are likely sufficient vs RAID.
Combining multiple drives adds their capacities together in RAID 0. With 4 1TB SSDs, you’d get a 4TB volume with RAID 0. RAID 1 would only use half the total capacity for redundancy.
Bigger RAID arrays allow working with larger files and datasets. Large photos, 8K video, virtual machines, or databases can take advantage of bigger RAID SSD storage pools. For modest home usage, a single large SSD may be plenty. But power users with big storage needs can benefit from RAID capacity.
Drawbacks of RAIDing SSDs
Diminishing performance returns
While RAID 0 SSDs can hit incredible speeds, you may hit diminishing returns for real world usage before maxing out drive bandwidth.
On a SATA interface, most consumer SSDs can already saturate bandwidth. NVMe drives on PCIe 3.0 x4 are even faster – up to 3.5GB/s sequential reads and 3GB/s writes. Unless you frequently transfer huge single files, RAID may not provide a noticeable boost over an individual NVMe SSD for general tasks.
RAID 0 improves access concurrency by splitting I/O across drives. But modern SSDs already deliver tens of thousands of IOPS for small random I/O. Consumer workloads likely won’t see massive gains in responsiveness from RAID.
SSDs remain pricier than HDDs per gigabyte. A 1TB SATA SSD is around $80-100, while a 1TB HDD costs $40-50. NVMe drives are more – a 1TB NVMe SSD runs around $100-150.
Obviously, RAIDing drives multiplies the cost. Four 1TB SATA SSDs would total $320-400 just in storage cost. For home builds, a single large SSD likely provides the best bang for buck over RAID. Creative pros or power users may justify the premium for performance or capacity.
Configuring and managing RAID arrays requires additional complexity versus standalone drives:
– A RAID controller or motherboard with RAID support is required for hardware RAID. Most consumer motherboards include simple RAID support. For more advanced RAID, a dedicated hardware or HBA controller card is recommended.
– RAID management software is needed to configure arrays. This may require advanced knowledge of RAID types, settings, initialization, and maintenance.
– If a drive fails, repairing RAID arrays requires understanding the process to rebuild the data from parity or mirrored drives.
For home users less comfortable with technical RAID management, a single SSD avoids this complexity. But for power users, the configuration process is a reasonable tradeoff for RAID benefits.
Potential reduced lifespan
By combining multiple drives in RAID 0, the overall array has a shorter lifespan equal to the worst drive. With 4 SSDs, if one is near end of life, the array could fail soon. Rebuilding a RAID array also adds write wear.
SSD lifespans are very long today, minimizing this concern. But RAID does increase odds of failure versus a single drive. Proper backups are still recommended with any RAID.
When does RAIDing SSDs make sense?
For typical home PC usage, a single large SSD usually provides great performance on its own without RAID complexity. But RAID SSDs can benefit certain use cases:
Video editing & production – Large video files and scratch disks benefit from high RAID 0 bandwidth. RAID 5 adds redundancy for critical projects.
Graphics & 3D modeling – Similar to video production, large assets perform better on high-speed RAID 0 SSD arrays.
Virtualization – Virtual machines need both capacity and performance. RAID SSD pools can provide both.
Gaming – Enthusiasts may use RAID 0 SSDs for max game load times and level streaming.
Database servers – High performance plus redundancy is ideal for transactional databases. RAID 5/6 SSDs provide both.
Critical data – For maximum redundancy, RAID 1 SSD mirrors provide backups against drive failure.
Large storage pools – Combining multiple SSDs with RAID 0 can create a high-speed storage pool for managing large datasets.
For these demanding use cases, the benefits of RAID SSD storage justify the additional complexity and cost over standalone SSDs.
SSD RAID Performance Examples
Here are some real-world benchmarks of RAID SSD arrays to quantify potential performance gains:
|RAID Config||Sequential Read||Sequential Write|
|4x SATA SSD RAID 0||2120 MB/s||1510 MB/s|
|2x NVMe SSD RAID 0||6700 MB/s||3000 MB/s|
|4x NVMe SSD RAID 0||12,000 MB/s||11,000 MB/s|
Compared to around 500-550MB/s sequential reads and writes on a single SATA SSD, 4-drive RAID 0 arrays can provide 4X+ bandwidth. NVMe SSD RAID delivers incredible performance up to 12GB/s reads and 11GB/s writes. This requires the latest platforms and interfaces like PCIe 4.0 though.
For more random 4K performance, RAID 0 provides smaller gains:
|RAID Config||4K Random Read||4K Random Write|
|2x SATA SSD RAID 0||115,000 IOPS||260,000 IOPS|
|4x NVMe SSD RAID 0||730,000 IOPS||580,000 IOPS|
While not as dramatic as sequential transfers, random 4K performance still scales beyond a single SSD. This improves general responsiveness during everyday multitasking.
These benchmarks demonstrate RAID 0 SSD arrays can deliver multiplied bandwidth versus standalone SSDs in optimal scenarios. Real-world usage may not always fully utilize this performance, but for applications that access large files, the speedup can be substantial.
Ideal RAID SSD hardware
Building a high performance RAID SSD array requires the right supporting hardware:
RAID Controller – A dedicated RAID controller like an LSI MegaRAID card provides the best performance and features over motherboard RAID. High-end cards support more drives, faster bus speeds, and RAID 5/6 parity.
PCIe Lanes – For NVMe SSD RAIDs, having PCIe 4.0 or 5.0 slots provides maximum interface bandwidth. x8 or x16 slots can improve performance over x4 slots when RAIDing multiple SSDs.
Memory – Having adequate RAM capacity and speed prevents storage bottlenecks when accessing high-speed RAID arrays. 32-64GB DDR4 memory at 3000MHz+ speeds is recommended.
CPU – Fast processors like 8-core or higher AMD Ryzen or Intel Core i9 CPUs provide compute for RAID storage I/O and throughput, especially with parity RAID.
Operating System – Modern Windows 10 or Linux distributions include RAID drivers and good SSD support. Older versions may lack optimizations.
The goal is eliminating other system bottlenecks that could limit realizing the full speed of RAID SSD arrays. Balanced high-end components get the most from NVMe SSD RAID performance.
RAID Level Pros and Cons
There are various RAID levels to choose from, each with different strengths:
– Maximum performance and throughput
– Full array capacity utilization
– 100% redundancy for data protection
– Improved read speeds vs. single disk
– Good performance plus redundancy
– Efficient use of capacity
– Double distributed parity for better protection
The right RAID level depends on your priorities between performance, redundancy, and efficient capacity use. Most consumer RAID SSD usage focuses on RAID 0 for speed or RAID 1 for redundancy. RAID 5 offers a balanced option, while RAID 6 prioritizes maximum fault tolerance.
Software vs Hardware RAID
SSD RAID arrays can be configured in either hardware or software:
– Performs RAID processing on a dedicated controller card
– Offloads RAID overhead from main CPU
– Requires RAID controller card
– Typically offers more advanced features
– Uses CPU and OS RAID drivers
– No extra hardware needed
– Limited to motherboard connectivity
– Lower complexity but also fewer features
Hardware RAID will provide better performance, especially for parity calculations on RAID 5/6. But software RAID can still deliver great SSD RAID speeds at lower cost. This makes software RAID a good budget option.
For advanced SSD RAID, hardware RAID cards like those from LSI or HighPoint are recommended. But motherboard software RAID works fine for basic SSD RAID 0 or 1.
RAIDing NVMe vs SATA SSDs
For the fastest SSD RAID performance, NVMe drives are preferred. But SATA SSD RAID still provides a speedup:
NVMe SSD RAID
– Utilizes fast PCIe interface for massive bandwidth
– Capable of sequential speeds up to 12 GB/s
– Works best with x8/x16 PCIe 4.0/5.0 slots
– Needs NVMe RAID driver support
SATA SSD RAID
– Limited to SATA 6Gb/s interface speeds
– Good budget option under $300 for 1TB
– Supported by all SATA RAID controllers
– Still big improvement over single SATA SSD
Ideally for top speed, use NVMe drives on a PCIe 4.0 RAID controller and motherboard. This requires newer and more expensive hardware. SATA SSD RAID provides great performance per dollar, but maxes out around 2GB/s.
SSD RAID Cache for HDDs
For mass storage, large HDDs are much cheaper per terabyte than SSDs. An alternative to RAIDing all SSDs is using SSDs as a RAID cache for HDD storage:
– Primary data is stored on high capacity HDD volumes
– Frequently accessed “hot” data is cached on SSD RAID 0 for faster access
– Special caching software automatically moves hot data to SSDs
– Provides both fast access and huge affordable capacity
This hybrid setup combines the speed of RAID SSD caching with the capacity of RAID HDDs for mass storage. It’s popular for NAS enclosures and servers that need both performance and bulk storage.
While SSD RAID has benefits for certain use cases, it is overkill for many home users. A single large SSD often provides sufficient performance for mainstream desktops and gaming PCs without the added complexity and cost of RAID.
RAID SSD configurations start to make more sense for creative workloads like video production that access large files. Combining multiple NVMe SSDs can deliver incredible read/write speeds and IOPS to accelerate workflow. Redundancy and drive failure protection also become more important for business or professional usage.
For most consumers though, a standalone 1-2TB SATA or NVMe SSD offers plenty of speed for typical usage. Desktop PC and gaming performance is more often limited by the CPU, RAM, and GPU before storage. Only for specialized high-end builds does RAID SSD storage provide advantages worth the tradeoffs. Carefully consider your specific needs and workload before deciding if RAID SSDs are worthwhile.