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Using multiple USB flash drives as a RAID drive?

Hello.

Has anyone done this before? Is it fast and reliable? Just wondering 
since I have a bunch of old USB flash drives (256 MB to 1 GB).

Thank you in advance. :)
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Ant
10/4/2012 4:01:25 AM
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Ant <ant@zimage.comant> wrote:
> Hello.

> Has anyone done this before? Is it fast and reliable? Just wondering 
> since I have a bunch of old USB flash drives (256 MB to 1 GB).

> Thank you in advance. :)

I have done it, at least Linux does not care. I also had
an USB flash drive long-term mounted when I did the 
overwrite-until-fail tests. There were problems with
USB disconnects every few days. That was a while ago, but 
USB might still not be as reliable as SATA.

Also, most USB flash is dreadfully slow. 

Arno
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0
Arno
10/4/2012 7:37:36 AM
On 04/10/2012 06:01, Ant wrote:
> Hello.
>
> Has anyone done this before? Is it fast and reliable? Just wondering
> since I have a bunch of old USB flash drives (256 MB to 1 GB).
>
> Thank you in advance. :)

Assuming you are using Linux, then you certainly /can/ use these for 
raid - you can do all sorts of things with Linux software raid, 
including layering things enough to make almost any storage reliable 
(albeit at the cost of storage space and perhaps performance).

Old flash drives like this are so slow (especially for writing) that you 
are going to need an awful lot of them to get anything close to "fast". 
  And even then it is going to depend highly on the load - striped raid 
(raid0/5/6) can help for large streaming accesses, but are often poor 
for smaller accesses.

Such drives are usually not too bad in reliability, but they can 
certainly fail unexpectedly and you also have the risk of the drives 
being pulled out or falling out.

Other issues are wear - while modern SSDs are now pretty much unaffected 
by wear, USB flash drives (especially smaller and older ones) suffer 
badly.  They have very limited erase/write cycles, and simplistic 
garbage collection and wear levelling.  They work particularly badly 
with file systems like FAT32 that have very concentrated access on a 
small number of blocks.

You also need to consider access patterns and the bandwidth and latency 
limitations of the USB buses and hubs.

Generally speaking, I'd set these up as raid1 pairs, with each half of 
the pair put on a different hub on a different USB bus.  How these pairs 
are then connected together depends on your load.  If you want extra 
security at the cost of speed (especially for small writes), use raid5 
(raid6 is overkill when you already have raid1 lower down).   If you 
want top streaming speeds, use raid0.  If you want fast parallel access 
to lots of files, use a linear concatenation and XFS as the filesystem.

Have fun, but keep a backup of the data!

0
David
10/4/2012 7:53:10 AM
Reply:

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