It has been a while since we last had a Promise RAID controller for review, so we were particularly looking forward to see what the SuperTrak EX8350 could do.
The card comes with a PCI Express x4 interface, and thus requires a modern host system. (If you want to go with PCI-X 133, the EX8300 is the better choice.) Both cards are built around a SATA II controller by Marvell. The XOR processing core is a powerful Intel Xscale IOP333 processor (500 MHz), and is teamed up with 128 MB of DDR buffer memory. Speaking of buffers we don't want to overlook that there is an optional battery unit available for the EX8000 series as well.
There are again as many as eight Serial ATA II ports, supporting 300 MB/s bandwidth per port and all NCQ enabled. We read on Promise's website that four controllers are supported per system, but we don't have information on the limits regarding actual controller spanning arrays, maximum number of drives per array supported, maximum number of arrays, etc.
The RAID architecture obviously has matured quite a bit, now offering support for multiple, more flexible arrays across one set of drives. Support for hot spare drives, online capacity expansion and RAID level migration are mandatory in this product segment today.
Promise supports multiple Windows versions, as well as SuSe and Red Hat Linux, and it offers open source Linux drivers that you can compile for deployment to your Linux distribution.