What is FakeRAID?



  • There are two types of RAID, RAID that runs in hardware and RAID that runs purely from software. Hardware RAID is the more popular type, at least in terms of mindshare, with Hardware RAID controllers being nearly ubiquitous in PC platform servers. With Hardware RAID all RAID processing is handled by a dedicated RAID processor separate from the CPU with its own memory and often with its own cache. Software RAID handles RAID functions by using the system CPU and system memory to do the work and is generally either built into an operating system, part of a filesystem stack or available as a third party driver. Each type has its pros and cons (see the link for details) but far and away most people outside of the enterprise UNIX space with RISC platforms prefer hardware RAID for a variety of reliability and ease of use reasons.

    What then is FakeRAID? FakeRAID is an odd animal that is truly RAID, but is software RAID pretending to be hardware RAID. In many cases it will be marketed as "chipset RAID" to make it sound like hardware RAID without really saying it. What makes FakeRAID really deceptive is that there is a hardware component of it to present the appearance of the RAID existing before an OS is loaded or installed (the chipset component.) Generally this means that the FakeRAID interface will be presented via the system BIOS or a separate BIOS at boot time. This makes it extremely difficult to tell if this is FakeRAID or Hardware RAID unless the hardware itself is investigated. To even a keen observer it looks exactly like normal Hardware RAID.

    What FakeRAID does is use this BIOS functionality and interface purely to store settings in the BIOS that will be read by the Software RAID once it has loaded. But the Software RAID itself is just a driver that loads running on top of the operating system (and typically only Windows, there are no common examples of FakeRAID drivers working on non-Windows platforms.) So if something fails and the OS does not load or the driver fails, there is no RAID. And all RAID processing is done by the CPU and all RAID cache, if there is any, comes from system memory.

    Since every enterprise operating system comes with software RAID built in (even Windows desktops commonly offer basic RAID options today) what you get with FakeRAID is truly nothing. It is an attempt to sell nothing, and they often get away with it as it is so confusing that even people who use it every day often cannot tell that they have been duped unless they are experienced with true Hardware RAID, are aware that a scam like this can exist and experience a system failure or measure system utilization to see that something is awry.

    FakeRAID ends up being the worst possible scenario for RAID because it comes with all of the normal caveats of software RAID, adds in the obvious problems caused by confusion and misunderstanding by the system administrator(s) and has to do poor techniques in order to hide itself as a system driver which is the worst model for software RAID. With FakeRAID you lose the advantages that enterprise operating system software RAID can bring to the table and more. And, of course, because you are dealing with a product whose selling point is deceit or confusion you do not have a vendor with a focus on making a good product unlike the operating system vendors who have reputations to protect.

    FakeRAID adds additional risk because of the bad vendor relationship it implies. Vendors selling FakeRAID have a relationship with you based on deception. If they are willing to do it with RAID, you can assume that they will do it elsewhere. FakeRAID means you and your vendor do not have a cooperative relationship, but they are in an active position of trying to trick you and take advantage of the situation. Your vendor is not operating ethically, nor with a production mindset, something absolutely critical for an IT production environment. Vendors selling you FakeRAID don't see you as a real business.

    FakeRAID is sadly common and often hard to detect. FakeRAID vendors have a lot of incentive to hide the fact that their product does not do what it implies. In fact their whole business model rests on customers not figuring out that they are getting no functionality that they did not already have for free and that, worse yet, they are getting a worse version of what they already had for free!



  • How can you tell if you've been Fake RAID-ed?

    • When you are looking at RAID cards look for reputable, well known, enterprise hardware RAID vendors like LSI, Adaptec, PERC, SmartArray, etc.
    • Look for card specs. Real hardware RAID will normally disclose the RAID processor used, memory amounts, have battery backing or NVRAM options, etc.
    • Hardware RAID is not cheap. Normally you would expect to pay $200 or more for an entry level card and $600 or more for a serious one.
    • Load up another OS such as a Linux Live CD or FreeBSD. If any other system, or even the Windows system, ever sees "through" the RAID and sees the independent drives that should be in the RAID array, then you had software RAID and not hardware RAID. True hardware RAID encapsulates the disks and you will never be exposed directly to them once they are in a RAID array (and generally not even at other times.)
    • Intel RST is the most well known FakeRAID to show up in businesses. Intel's name has become synonymous with FakeRAID (and very unreliable FakeRAID at that.)
    • Essentially all desktops claiming RAID of any sort are FakeRAID. HP's dc5150 famously had an AMD hardware RAID chipset that could do RAID 0 and 1 and stands out as the only well known non-FakeRAID desktop.


  • very useful information, few people who know this
    people still have confusion between software and hardware RAID, hhhh
    thanks for sharing



  • Did this pop up again at SW?



  • @IT-ADMIN said:

    very useful information, few people who know this
    people still have confusion between software and hardware RAID, hhhh
    thanks for sharing

    Software RAID is not necessarily FakeRAID.



  • @JaredBusch said:

    @IT-ADMIN said:

    very useful information, few people who know this
    people still have confusion between software and hardware RAID, hhhh
    thanks for sharing

    Software RAID is not necessarily FakeRAID.

    yes i know that, i just said that people still confusing btw software and hardware RAID, doesn't mean in anyway that i said software RAID are fakeRAID !!!



  • @Dashrender said:

    Did this pop up again at SW?

    Yes, although it comes up regularly, so no surprise there. Someone was trying to cover up for Intel claiming that "chipset RAID" wasn't FakeRAID because it really RAIDed the disks (after the person had already lost their system because a disk had failed and the RAID was gone.) They were repeating the marketing mantra trying to make it seem like FakeRAID was not the culprit. Because it is "fake hardware" and not "fake RAID" that makes it FakeRAID it can be easy to convince people that something isn't FakeRAID - even though then there is nothing to be FakeRAID. Tricky.

    So I looked around and there wasn't a concise writeup on it and it wasn't a big topic so.... put it here 🙂



  • @Dashrender said in What is FakeRAID?:

    Did this pop up again at SW?

    Again today, too. Apparently Lenovo is selling FakeRAID on their "servers" now along with all of the other problems. Of course, if a machine has FakeRAID, it's not a server by any normal definition.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What is FakeRAID?:

    @Dashrender said in What is FakeRAID?:

    Did this pop up again at SW?

    Again today, too. Apparently Lenovo is selling FakeRAID on their "servers" now along with all of the other problems. Of course, if a machine has FakeRAID, it's not a server by any normal definition.

    WOW... just wow - as if they couldn't fall any further, and they find a way...