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SAS 6 Gb/s HBAs: LSI First To Market

Next-Generation SAS: 6 Gb/s Storage Hits The Enterprise

MegaRAID 9260-8i

We received two SAS cards from LSI. The first was the MegaRAID 9260-8i, an eight-port internal x8 PCIe 2.0 RAID controller with an XOR engine for accelerating RAID. The second card was the 9210-8i, outfitted with similar specifications, but less-sophisticated features. 

The entire LSI 9200-series was announced on July 28, and the 9210-8i wasn't yet available at retail as of this writing (the 9260-8i is, however). There is technical information on the 9260/9280 (internal/external) on the LSI Web site. We used both cards and found performance to be impressive.

We planted both cards in our storage reference test system to power 16 Intel X25-E flash SSDs in an effort to break throughput records.The 9260-8i is less CPU dependent, offers reliable I/O performance combined with high throughput, and comes with an impressive feature set. RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 6, 50, and 60 are supported through the integrated RAID-on-Chip architecture.

LSI utilizes an 800 MHz PowerPC core, along with 512MB of DDR2-800 cache memory to help maximize performance across its x8 PCIe 2.0 interface. The manufacturer states a maximum throughput per card of 2,875 MB/s for reads and 1,800 MB/s for writes.

A battery backup unit is optional, but be aware that it reduces the maximum tolerable operating temperature from 60°C to 44.5°C, which may be reached quickly in high-performance servers or if air conditioning should fail.

MegaRAID 9210-8i

LSI’s second LSI 6 Gb/s card, the 9210-8i, is a host processor-driven HBA rather than a dedicated hardware storage controller. This is a simple RAID 0/1/0+1 card that offers slightly higher throughput using all of our 16 Intel X25-E flash SSDs. However, its I/O performance varies depending on CPU performance.

Unfortunately, the 9210-8i was not listed on LSI’s Web site when we completed this article, so there isn’t much we can say about it except that it also uses x8 PCI Express 2.0 and has eight internal ports located on two mini-SAS connectors.

Other SAS 6 Gb/s HBAs or RAID controllers have yet to arrive at our storage test lab, although storage experts such as Adaptec, Areca, Atto, and others are working on it.

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  • 0 Hide
    bunz_of_steel , August 31, 2009 1:17 PM
    Now I like this, can't wait to see it implemented on EMC & IBM platforms. And on the servers side I'd like to see some numbers on spec's and performance. Good article Patrick Schmid and Achim Roos! Next.... benchmark 2.5 vs 3.5 on enterprise systems and low budget small business ....yes???
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , August 31, 2009 3:32 PM
    SCSI is still not dead?!?!? :lol: 

    Joking aside, I wonder if any motherboard manufacture like ASUS will get this on their high end WS models (see P6T WS). And I wonder if they will make any SSDs using this for the server sector.
  • 0 Hide
    kittle , August 31, 2009 8:45 PM
    Shadow703793SCSI is still not dead?!?!? citation]
    no its not -- its a long death cause most scsi drives run forever. I have a bunch of scsi drives running on my systems at home and as much as Id like the performance boost of SAS or even Sata, the things just wont die.

    but 6g/b SAS looks to be the next upgrade step
  • -5 Hide
    falchard , August 31, 2009 10:07 PM
    6Gb for SAS is kind of pointless considering SAS drives only peak 100MB
  • 0 Hide
    rhodenator , September 1, 2009 7:11 PM
    On this page (,2392-8.html), I see that you stated "SAS 1.1 at 3 Gb/s (300 MB/s)"

    Well this has always confused me. If SAS 1.1 is 3 Gb/s, that would be 375 MB/sec (3 x 1000 to convert to 3000 Mb/sec and then 3000 \ 8 to convert to 375 MB/sec.)

    On the SAS Wiki site ( it shows 3 Gb/sec. However on the list of device speeds Wiki site ( it shows 2.4 Gb/sec with a 300MB/sec. The only maximum that appears to stay the same is MB, which is 300. So is it really 2.4 Gb/sec or is it 3.0 Gb/sec really for SAS 1.1?

  • 0 Hide
    jrst , September 2, 2009 4:12 AM
    @kittle -- Not to mention that SCSI is a protocol, not just a physical/electrical interface. SAS simply changes the physical/electrical interface, but the good old SCSI protocol is still in there (just like SATA still has ATA underneath).

    @falchard -- No, it's not pointless. A dedicated controller channel for every drive would be prohibitively expensive for large drive arrays (not to mention the cabling nightmare), which is why SAS (unlike SATA) allows for more complex topologies, not just point-to-point. When you put multiple drives/expanders on a channel, you can quickly hit SAS bus speed limits.

    @rhodenator -- SAS (like SATA) uses 8b/10b encoding. That is, 8 data bits end up as 10 bits on the wire (typical of high speed serial buses), so: 3.0Gbs wire * 8/10 encoding = 2.4Gbs data = 300MBs data.
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , September 2, 2009 4:35 PM
    I bet the hardcore gamers are drooling at the prospect of SAS 6Gb/sec. Too bad they'll have to wait.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2009 1:26 PM
    Actually, LSI was not 1st to market w/ 6g controllers. ATTO Tech was shipping their H6xx 6G HBAs months ago based on the PMC Sierra chip. Also HP has been shipping their 6G RAID controllers - P212 & P410 (also PMC Sierra chip) for a couple of months also. Granted LSI is the industry leader w/ SAS but has stumbled in execution of releasing 6G product.
  • 0 Hide
    s_a_r99 , September 3, 2009 1:59 PM
    Actually, LSI was not 1st to market w/ 6G SAS controllers. That distinction goes to ATTO Tech with their H6xx 6G HBA line up and HP for their 6G RAID controllers - P212 & P410. All of these are based on the PMC Sierra chipset. LSI has been stumbling to get 6G products out the door.
  • 0 Hide
    tygrus , September 7, 2009 4:28 AM
    re: rhodenator. As mentioned in the article; 8b/10b encoding means that 8bits data is encoded using 10bits accross the link. 3000Mb/10b = 300MB. Command and control overhead and processing delay further limits real world performance to about 270MB/s. I think someone managed over 580MB/s using the new 6Gb/s signalling and more data per transfer to reduce overhead (was that using SATA or SAS ?).

    re: falchard "..kind of pointless.." NO.
    "Build it and they will come". You have to start building the infrastructure and plan for the future otherwise it's pointless making the drives go faster. I want a server that in a few years time can take additional drives or replacements where performance boost is not nullified by slow IO bandwidth.

    It will take 12months after the standard's release to be more common as HBA, motherboard and drive designs are refreshed.

    SATA is no longer a 1-to-1 link and burst bandwidth is close to current limit.
    600MB/s means enough bandwidth to aggregate 4 of today's SAS HD per SAS port or maybe 2 SSD's. Within 2 years a single HD will exceed current limit and within 1 year SSD's will reach the new limit.