Safer 6 for RAID Controllers

Conclusion: Areca

Let us summarize the good news first: Adaptec, Areca and Promise all offer upper class eight channel RAID controllers for either PCI Express x4 or PCI-X 133. They come with all the features an advanced user or administrator requires for setting up a solid, fast and secure storage subsystem. We were able to set up our test arrays, crash them by removing SATA or power cables and then watch the rebuild process quite painlessly. Driver support is decent, though not yet comprehensive, and performance levels are good enough to run somewhat demanding business applications.

It is pretty obvious that Adaptec, in particular, takes the Serial ATA market more seriously than it did a few years ago. The 2820SA has a feature set that matches the company's offerings in the SCSI segment. RAID 6, for example, has not even been made available for any of the Adaptec SCSI RAID cards so far. Yet the RAID 6 option has to be purchased separately here, which we can't endorse at an investment of $500 for the bare controller. Promise offers better performance at a lower price point, and managed to put together a pretty convincing package.

However, the high achiever of this roundup is Areca with its 'good old' ARC-1220. Although the card has been around for months and its management software is not quite spruced up, it clearly offers the best RAID 6 performance numbers in all benchmarks. In addition to that, Areca is best when it comes to sustained high performance levels with one or even two faulty drives in a RAID 6 array setup.

Feature Table

Manufacturer Adaptec Areca Promise
Product 2820SA ARC 1220 Supertrak EX8350
Firmware 5.1.0(b8364) 1.36 v2.9.0.10
Driver used v5.1.8360 1.02 v2.8.0.14
SATA II ports 8 8 8
Cache 128 (256 Optional) MB ECC 128 MB DDR333 ECC 128 MB DDR333 ECC
Interface PCI-X PCI Express x4 PCI Express x4
Optional versions 4 ports 4, 8, 12 ports PCI-X 4 ports
Multiple card support no yes yes
Card Format standard low profile (connectors on the top) low profile (connectors on the top)
XOR Engine AIC-8210 SATA RAID-on-Chip (ROC) ASIC Intel IOP332 IOP333 (500 MHz)
RAID Level Migration yes yes yes
Online Capacity Expansion yes yes yes
Multiple RAID Arrays yes yes yes
Staggered Spin-up yes yes yes
Hot Spare Support yes yes yes
Battery Backup Unit optional optional optional
OS Support Windows, Linux, Netware, FreeBSD Windows 2000/XP/2003, RedHat, SuSe, FreeBSD Windows 2000/XP/2003, RedHat, SuSe, Linux open source driver
Other RAID 6 support, command line interface, alarm buzzer, SNMP support, 64 Bit LBA RAID 6 support, command line interface, alarm buzzer, SNMP support, drive activity LED, 64 Bit LBA RAID 6 support, command line interface, alarm buzzer, SNMP support, drive activity LED, 64 Bit LBA
Estimated Price (US $) 530 600 415
Warranty 3 years unknown 3 years
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