FlexRAID is a family of storage data protection products that provide great flexibility and various innovations.
The current product line includes:
- RAID over File System (RAID-F)
- Transparent RAID (tRAID)
Each product takes a different approach to data protection. As such, each product has a different set of advantages and disadvantages, and each is better suited for certain deployments.
The motivation behind FlexRAID
FlexRAID started as a simple idea with the key goals being simplicity and efficiency. It is easy to recognize that people are storing different type of data and that no one solution fits all data usage patterns. The storage industry has not yet recognized this aspect, and expensive and inefficient systems are being deployed all around.
FlexRAID is trying to change that by being a smarter storage data management stack which is transparent enough to support storages with mix provisioning
– Why can’t a storage pool combine devices for high IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second), devices for archival purposes, and everything else in between?
– Why can’t we be fluid enough to establish different levels of data protection on different data residing in the same data array?
What started as a simple neat idea layered with a good doze of out of the box thinking now has a unique placement in the storage industry.
United & Protected
FlexRAID is about Unifying & Organizing your data as well as Protecting & Recovering that data in case of disk failure.
Imagine a system with a number of disks as displayed here.
As you can see, it is a bit overwhelming from a usability standpoint.
Finding a file here requires browsing through multiple drives if one does not remember exactly which disk hosts what.
Additionally, this user has had to manually manage the free space across his disks.
Using FlexRAID, such a system can be cleaned up and properly protected.
In this transformation, FlexRAID took all the disks minus the OS disk and aggregated them into a single massive protected pool.
All your data under 1 unified and protected pool.
Works on your existing hardware
FlexRAID products transform anything from common household PCs to enterprise class storage JBODs into protected data pools. They enable you to Aggregate & Manage your data under a single Storage View while protecting that storage from data loss. All products include SMART Disk Monitoring such that you will be alerted either via email or SMS or both if anomalies are found.
FlexRAID offers you two products:
– A RAID over File System (RAID-F) solution that works above existing file systems to provide arbitrary data unit protection
– A Transparent RAID (tRAID) solution that transparently works underneath the file system at the block level to provide disk failure protection
Each takes a different approach to data protection in order to rip out particular benefits from each chosen protection strategy.
RAID over File System
RAID over File System is an extremely flexible and efficient system for large arrays of mostly static or semi-static data.
Rather than protecting disks, it only protects actual meaningful file data.
Because it is entirely agnostic to the storage medium, one can define the unit of risk to be practically anything including physical disks, unique file or set of files, folders, networks shares, removable media, etc.
A key feature of RAID over File System is its Snapshot RAID feature.
Snapshot RAID allows you to capture and protect data changes at scheduled times rather than at constant time. This allows for an extremely energy efficient system, in which only a single disk needs to be spinning during data access.
Whereas RAID over File System is not appropriate for storage arrays with dynamic data, Transparent RAID excels at protecting any type of data whether static or dynamic.
Transparent RAID provides real-time data protection with Live Data Reconstruction, Online RAID Expansion, RAID Contraction, Online Data Restoration, and Hot-Spare support.
Transparent RAID focuses on protecting whole physical disks and nothing else. It does so with efficiency and flexibility as its primary focuses.
Read operations in tRAID only need a single disk to spin while write operations requires at least two disks to spin. Slighly less as energy efficient as RAID-F, but vastly more efficient compared to standard RAID.
RAID over File System (RAID-F) is a highly scalable, amazingly flexible, and smart storage system that operates over existing file systems and turns independent hard drives of various sizes, makes, and models into one massive parity-protected storage pool.
Storage pools can in-turn be aggregated into a storage cloud.
RAID-F is primarily focused on Snapshot parity data protection with support for RAID4, RAID6, and RAIDX, where X is any number of tolerances desired. Parity data protection can be configured at the storage pool level and/or at the storage cloud level.
RAID-F also has experimental support for Real-Time data protection, which works well for a limited number of deployment scenarios but needs more work to support additional deployment profiles.
When used for Snapshot RAID, the Snapshot RAID protection can used independently of the Storage Pooling feature and vice versa.
Furthermore, RAID-F is not limited to hard disks as it can pool data from all accessible sources including removable media, external storage, network shares, LUNs, disk arrays, etc.
- The best RAID engines in the industry and the only solution to support RAID infinity
- Data centric, not Drive/Device centric (any data, any size, anywhere)
- Supports both Snapshot and Real-Time parity data protection
- Supports creating and expanding a storage pool with volumes/devices containing existing data
- Provides the greatest data safety possible and the lowest risk of data loss (*)
- Provides massive energy saving features (**)
- Multi-platforms support: RAID-F runs on Windows, Linux and WHS
(*) Failure beyond the tolerance level will result only in partial data loss unlike all other solutions in the market which would result in complete data loss
(**) Allows drives to spin down: only the drive/device containing the accessed data will need to be activated when reading/writing to a storage pool
Please read Understanding the limitations of Snapshot RAID for additional pertinent information.
- pooled into a larger volume
- and whatnot as you would normally do with a standard disk
Moreover, parity is computed transparently to enable data recovery in the event a drive failure. New drives being protected can be added while preserving their existing data. This makes it easy to add and remove a drive from the protective array. So, you get all of the protection benefit of RAID without actually running in RAID mode and none of the restrictions!
Unlike Snapshot RAID, Transparent RAID capture parity data in real-time. More importantly, Transparent RAID features live data reconstruction in the event of disk failure. That means that disk failures at or below the tolerance level will not disrupt the usage of the array.
When a drive is pulled from a Transparent RAID array, that drive can be read outside of the RAID and even in another system as the drive is kept all standard by the RAID system.
In essence, Transparent RAID gives you all the features of RAID without the typical limitations, restrictions, and drawbacks of common RAID implementations.
Please also read:
Most users should choose Transparent RAID (tRAID) over RAID over File System (RAID-F). This is because tRAID covers a much wider range of deployment scenarios than RAID-F. For the sake of discussion, we will dismiss the real-time feature of RAID-F since it is still experimental, and we will only focus on its Snapshot RAID feature. Snapshot RAID requires users to split their data and separate data that changes often from data that changes rarely. Over the years, we have found that users prefer a single aggregation system. That is, most want a system that will combine all of their data regardless of type, protect such data, and finally pool the data into a single volume for a unified data access. Transparent RAID better meets those criteria than RAID over File System.
That’s not to say RAID-F does not have its place. For users that can separate their static/semi-static data from data that changes frequently, a lot of efficiency can be gained from running a Snapshot array. If the bulk of your data is comprise of disc images, movies, music, pictures, zip archives and the likes, backup images, etc., it might make sense to create a Snapshot array that only hosts such data. Then, you could put your dynamic data on a RAID 1 array if it can fit on a single disk (if your data can fit on a single disk, the best protection is to simply mirror it) or on a tRAID array if it spans more than one disk.
Snapshot RAID is more efficient than any other RAID form simply because parity updates happen at scheduled times rather than in constant real-time. When you write to a disk that is part of a Snapshot array, only that disk is active. In contrast, in tRAID, both the disk being written to and the parity disk(s) will be active. Further, tRAID takes a hit in write speeds due to the overhead in real-time parity updates.
One would choose RAID-F over tRAID:
- When not protecting whole disks as only RAID-F can protect specific folders or files or network shares. Transparent RAID can only protect whole disks. RAID-F can protect data that resides over the network and can even excludes data on a disk from protection.
- When wanting to protect USB disks. Although USB disks can be made part of a transparent array, doing so is highly discouraged.
- When wanting to create a Storage Pool volume that is not strictly tied to the parity array. In RAID-F, one can create multiple Snapshot arrays and combine them under a single Storage Pool. Note that a RAID-F pool can include tRAID disks.
- When needing to move disks freely from system to system without impacting the parity data. Since RAID-F only protects files rather than the disks the files are on, parity is compromised only when such protected files are edited. In contrast, if you access a tRAID disk outside of a tRAID array, the parity will be compromised as your OS will silently write to the disk.
- When the data to be protected is exclusively static or changes very rarely. In this particular case, Snapshot RAID is simply more efficient.
- When a better write throughput is desired. Transparent RAID takes in hit in write speed due to the real-time parity update overhead.
One would choose tRAID over RAID-F:
- When the data to be protected is a mix of data that changes frequently and static data. Snapshot RAID is not appropriate for data that changes frequently. Furthermore, the real-time feature of RAID-F is experimental and does not deal well with fragmented data. Transparent RAID has no such issue.
- When live data reconstruction is a must. When a drive fails in RAID-F, that data is unavailable until it is restored. In contrast, a disk failure is fully transparent in tRAID as the failed data is reconstructed live as if no drive had failed.
- When minimal maintenance is required. Snapshot RAID requires frequent parity sync to pick up data changes. Although this is automated through the scheduler, there is a greater consciousness in having to keep the parity data up to date and valid.
- When simplicity is desired. Transparent RAID is a much simpler platform.
- When centralized management of multiple systems is desired. Transparent RAID features a centralized management UI that can manage an unlimited number of host systems. This includes centralized SMART monitoring, task execution, and notification.
Ultimately, you should trial both RAID-F and tRAID to truly decide which one fits you best.
When you purchase a FlexRAID product, it takes up to 48 hours for that order to process.
If you are on a trial license and that trial runs out, you can extend your trial license while waiting for your order to process.
Please read: http://wiki.flexraid.com/2013/01/18/trial-license-extension-and-priority-order-processing/
Once your order has processed, you will receive an email in regard to your purchase containing your product activation information. Please take care to fully read that email.
The e-mail will talk of a “Purchase Code” and of a “Registration/Import passcode”.
The Purchase Code is all you need to activate your FlexRAID product.
As part of the e-commerce platform, there is a consumer portal that will let you manage your license.
In order to associate your Purchase Code to your consumer portal account, you use the “Registration/Import Passcode”.
The consumer portal is a self-service tool for you to administer your license including migrating it to a new installation.
So, the “Purchase Code” is used for license activation at your product installation and the “Registration/Import passcode” is used to register with the consumer portal for license management.
Perpetuity & Free Updates
Each license is perpetual (does not expire).
You will also receive free updates within a major release.
All FlexRAID products are license activated on a node lock basis. That is, each system you run a product on requires its own license.
License activations are also platform specific. You can switch between different OSes on the same platform. However, switching between Windows and Linux is restricted.
So, on Windows, you can switch between the different OSes (Vista, Win 7, Win 8, W2k8, W2k12, etc.) just fine.
Same thing on Linux – you can switch between the various distributions if supported (Ubuntu, Red Hat, Suse, etc.).
License Activation Transfer
License activation transfer from an originally activated system to a new system is allowed only as specified in this wiki post: http://wiki.flexraid.com/2012/05/04/licensing-hardware-changes-and-license-transfer/
Upgrading one or two components will usually not affect the activation and you won’t even need a license transfer.
However, users tend to upgrade the Mobo + CPU + RAM at once and effectively the whole computer. Once enough components are replaced, you will need to initiate a transfer, which is free and is just a way to update the information with the activation server.
If you go buy or build a completely new system with a new set of disks, you will need a separate license for it.
End User License Agreement (EULA)
Refer to the EULA during the product installation.
You can purchase a FlexRAID support contract at any time after your purchase.
Your purchased premium support contract starts on your purchase anniversary date and ends 365 days (or longer if multi-year support is purchased) following that date.
That is, if your purchased a FlexRAID product say on May 15, 2012 and then purchased a one year support contract January 1st, 2014 – your support contract would have started on May 15, 2013 (not 2012 nor 2014) and would end May 14th, 2014.