Only my storage admin has this memorized…


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 (mostlyproprietary). 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 comprises striping (but neither parity nor mirroring). This level provides no data redundancy nor fault tolerance, but improves performance through parallelism of read and write operations across multiple drives. RAID 0 has no error detection mechanism, so the failure of one disk causes the loss of all data on the array.[9]
RAID 1 comprises mirroring (without parity or striping). Data is written identically to two (or more) drives, thereby producing a “mirrored set”. The read request is serviced by any of the drives containing the requested data. This can improve performance if data is read from the disk with the least seek latency and rotational latency. Conversely, write performance can be degraded because all drives must be updated; thus the write performance is determined by the slowest drive. The array continues to operate as long as at least one drive is functioning.[9]
RAID 2 comprises bit-level striping with dedicated Hamming-code parity. All disk spindle rotation is synchronized and data is striped such that each sequential bit is on a different drive. Hamming-code parity is calculated across corresponding bits and stored on at least one parity drive.[9] This level is of historical significance only; although it was used on some early machines (for example, the Thinking Machines CM-2),[15]as of 2014 it is not used by any of the commercially available systems.[16]
RAID 3 comprises byte-level striping with dedicated parity. All disk spindle rotation is synchronized and data is striped such that each sequential byte is on a different drive. Parity is calculated across corresponding bytes and stored on a dedicated parity drive.[9] Although implementations exist,[17] RAID 3 is not commonly used in practice.
RAID 4 comprises block-level striping with dedicated parity. This level was previously used by NetApp, but has now been largely replaced by a proprietary implementation of RAID 4 with two parity disks, called RAID-DP.[18]
RAID 5 comprises block-level striping with distributed parity. Unlike in RAID 4, parity information is distributed among the drives. It requires that all drives but one 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.[9] RAID 5 is seriously affected by the general trends regarding array rebuild time and chance of failure during rebuild. In August 2012, Dell posted an advisory against the use of RAID 5 in any configuration and of RAID 50 with “Class 2 7200 RPM drives of 1 TB and higher capacity”.
RAID 6 comprises block-level striping with double distributed parity. Double parity provides fault tolerance up to two failed drives. This makes larger RAID groups more practical, especially for high-availability systems, as large-capacity drives take longer to restore. As with RAID 5, a single drive failure results in reduced performance of the entire array until the failed drive has been replaced. With a RAID 6 array, using drives from multiple sources and manufacturers, it is possible to mitigate most of the problems associated with RAID 5. The larger the drive capacities and the larger the array size, the more important it becomes to choose RAID 6 instead of RAID 5.[21] RAID 10 also minimizes these problems.

Nested (hybrid) RAID

Main article: Nested RAID levels

In what was originally termed hybrid RAID, many storage controllers allow RAID levels to be nested. The elements of a RAID may be either individual drives or arrays themselves. Arrays are rarely nested more than one level deep.

The final array is known as the top array. When the top array is RAID 0 (such as in RAID 1+0 and RAID 5+0), most vendors omit the “+” (yielding RAID 10 and RAID 50, respectively).

  • RAID 0+1: creates a second striped set to mirror a primary striped set. The array continues to operate with one or more drives failed in the same mirror set, but if drives fail on both sides of the mirror the data on the RAID system is lost.
  • RAID 1+0: creates a striped set from a series of mirrored drives. The array can sustain multiple drive losses so long as no mirror loses all its drives.
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