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DriveHarmony Installation

I decided to load DriveHarmony, the data pooling add-in from DataCore, onto my WHS2011 RC virtual machine.  Read on for some feedback on this greatly anticipated tool.

Last week, Andrew told you that DriveHarmony is now available as a beta.  I downloaded and installed the beta onto my WHS2011 RC virtual machine.  Here’s a rundown of the machine that I used for testing:

My installation process was as follows:

At the end of this install, I expect to have a drive added to WHS2011 that is the size of the smaller IDE drive with RAID1 type mirroring configured.  I expect the process to be easy to implement with acceptable performance.  Could a relative newbie handle this installation and get the results expected, without being a RAID expert?  Let’s find out.

Before we begin, I need to give a shout-out to Nigel Wilks from MediaSmartServer.Net for his excellent guide to installing VMWare Server and WHS2011 on the VM.  Nigel, thanks for the help.  If you are interested in setting up a VM for free, give this tool a look and use Nigel’s guide to help you to implement it.  Now back to business!

Step 1: Add USB Drives to the HPE390t

Easy as pie: plug in the USB cables from each drive to the desktop, plug the power supplies into the power strip, fire up the desktop, and ensure that Windows 7 sees the drives.  I renamed them with the brand name of the related enclosure just to make sure that the names made sense to me.  Once the host system sees the drives, we can give them to the VM’s.

Step 2: Allocate the USB Drives to the Host Machine

First, I added the two USB drives to the VMWare Server host machine.  Bring up the VMWare Server home page and log into the web tool.  Under Inventory, click on the host machine.

Now click on Add Datastore. I provided the paths of H:\ and O:\ to let the USB drives that were added be found by VMWare Server.  Click on OK, and then ensure that they now show up under the Datastore section in the middle center of the screen.  If they show up here, they can be added to a VM.  Now that the dives are added to the host, time to add them to the VM.

Step 3: Add the USB Drives to the VM for Testing

Make sure that the VM is shut off. All major hardware changes should be performed with the VM shut down.  Select the target VM, and then click Add Hardware.

Click on Hard Disk. Select Create a New Virtual Disk.

Click Browse and find the drive that you added to the host. In this example, the RocketFish and ThermalTake USB drives are the ones that I added to the host.

Click OK and Finish and you’ve added the disk to your VM! Congratulations!  Now on to adding DriveHarmony!

Step 4: Install DriveHarmony

I downloaded DriveHarmony’s installation package to my EP-121 and moved it over to my MSS in the Software share.  In order to install it on this VM, I copied the EXE file called DriveHarmony.exe to the desktop of the WHS2011 RC server VM.  Of course, I read through the release notes included in the installer package.  One word of warning: this beta is a limited 30 day beta and there is no upgrade path, so test only and do not run this on a production box!  Once it expires, all data on the protected drives will be unreadable.

Once the exe file is on the server desktop, double click to invoke the installer package.

While this add-in does not use the MSI installer technology that other WHS2011 add-in’s use, the installer will be very familiar to anyone who’s installed software onto Windows systems before.  The installer asks for permission to install the drivers.  Click through acceptance responses to each challenge posed by the installer.  I accidentally clicked on the Don’t Install selection at one point; installation failed until I rebooted the server.  Otherwise, this was easy as pie.  Once the installation completes, reboot the server.  After the server reboots, open the Dashboard and you’ll see a DriveHarmony icon.  Very cool!

Step 5: Create a Protected Disk

Click on the DriveHarmony icon.

Select Create Protected Drive.

I added the two USB drives to a protected drive.

DriveHarmony formats the drives. Note that the protected drive will be as large as the smaller of the two drives. All extra space is lost, just like normal RAID1.

The protected drive showed up in my system as Protected Drive 1 and was assigned a drive letter of F.  Note that the size of this protected drive is 365GB, the formatted size of the smaller 400GB IDE drive that was used in the pair.  The excess space on the 500GB drive is lost.

It took 17 minutes to get to this point.

Step 6: Add Data to the Protected Drive

Awhile back, I added about 40GB of Entourage episodes in MP4 format and DVD resolution to my WHS2011 Videos folder to test streaming to my PlayStation 3’s.  I decided to move this data to the protected drive to see how it worked and to test the streaming performance.

On the Server tab in the Dashboard, I highlighted the Videos folder and clicked on Move the Folder.  The server warns me to make sure that the data is backed up before I perform this operation.  Being a radical guy, I ignored this warning. 

I clicked on Next.

The wizard asked me to choose a new location for the data.

I chose F, the drive letter for the protected drive.

The wizard started to move data onto the protected drive, even though it was synchronizing at the time.

Once the copy completed, the server reminded me to make sure that the new folder is configured to be backed up.  Still feeling radical, I ignored this suggestion. 

As you can see, my Videos server folder is now hosted on F:\.  Just as I wanted.  Cool!  I’ll test the streaming tomorrow when I have some time.

Initial Impressions

The installation was easy and painless.  A newbie could handle it easily.

Adding a protected drive to the system was also painless and easy.  Realize that the excess space on the larger of the two added drives is lost, just like on RAID1.

Adding discs to the protected drive is easy.  Click on the Extend Drive option.  You need to add disks two at a time, but extension of the drive pool should be pretty easy to accomplish here.

You can use USB drives with DriveHarmony, even old IDE ones.  I’m not sure that it makes sense in a production environment, but if you need to, you can.

You can add multiple protected drives.  There is no limit to the number of drive pools that can be created.  Having several drive pools for different data may make some sense, particularly if you intend to recycle some older drives in your WHS2011.  You can use drives up to and including 3TB in size and the total size of all pools, protected or unprotected, can be up to 32 TB in size.

The performance of the system that I am testing this on will be subpar since I am using USB drives on a VM and one of them is an IDE drive.  Even so, responsiveness was fine and there was no sluggishness in the dashboard while using this add-in.  While your mileage will vary, I expect very good performance in real-world hardware and software conditions.

Having seen the relative ease of adding RAID1 type protection, I am left wanting the ability to implement the more-efficient RAID5 protection with this tool.  If DataCore added that, I would be very happy and would be willing to pay a premium over the base offer if it was reasonable.

Pricing is still TBD.  I am willing to pay a reasonable amount for software that works, and this works.  I am very curious about pricing and will let you know as soon as I know.

Overall, this is a compelling solution to the drive pooling issue.  I’d buy it myself.  How about you?  Are you ready to give it a spin?

DriveHarmony Beta AnnouncementLink to DriveHarmony Beta SignupDataCore Technology

NOTE: This article was updated to clarify the size of usable drives and the maximum size of pools that can be managed with this tool.