Four SAS 6 Gb/s RAID Controllers, Benchmarked And Reviewed

HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL

The HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL is a SAS RAID controller with eight internal SATA/SAS ports, each of which supports 6 Gb/s. According to the manufacturer, this low-profile card is targeted at the storage needs of SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and at workstations. The card shares its small dimensions and its eight-lane PCIe 2.0 interface with its competitors. Its core component is Marvell’s 9485 RAID controller.

Besides JBOD, the card supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, and 50.

Besides the model we're testing today, HighPoint's low-profile 2700 series features four other models, RocketRAID 2710, RocketRAID 2711, RocketRAID 2721, and RocketRAID 2722, which mostly differ with respect to port type (internal/external) and port count (four or eight). Our sample, the RocketRAID 2720SGL is the least-expensive RAID controller in this story, selling for about $170. Note that this model doesn't include any cables, though, which cost extra.

Performance

Sequentially reading/writing a RAID 0 array consisting of eight Fujitsu MBA3147RC disks, the HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL achieves an excellent read rate of 971 MB/s and is only beaten by LSI's MegaRAID 9265-8i. The write result of 697 MB/s isn't as impressive, however, barely exceeding the Adaptec RAID 6805's write speed. The RocketRAID 2720SGL turns in a number of mixed-bag results like that. In RAID 5 and 6 it tops the other cards, but at RAID 10, read speeds drops to 485 MB/s, the lowest value among the four test samples. The sequential write speed in RAID 10 is even worse, yielding a paltry 198 MB/s.

This controller clearly wasn’t built for SSDs. Its read rates max out at 332 MB/s and the writes peak at 273 MB/s. Even the Adaptec RAID 6805, which also doesn't showcase the performance of solid-state storage very well, yields two times the throughput. Understandably, then, the HighPoint controller has no chance at all against the two cards that do handle SSDs well: Areca's ARC-1880i and LSI's MegaRAID 9265-8i, which are about three times faster.

The best word we can use to describe the HighPoint card's I/O performance is probably adequate. As a result, the RocketRAID 2720SGL falls into last place in all four Iometer benchmarks. The HighPoint controller can almost keep up with the other cards in the Web server benchmark, but trails its competitors by a significant margin in the other three metrics. This becomes very evident in the SSD tests, where the RocketRAID 2720SGL demonstrates that it is not optimized for solid-state drives. It squanders the advantage inherent to SSDs in place of hard drives. For instance, the RocketRAID 2720SGL posts 17 378 IOPS in the database benchmark, while LSI's MegaRAID 9265-8i clocks in at more than four times that, 75 037 IOPS.

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46 comments
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  • americanherosandwich
    Great review! Though I would have like to see some RAID 1 and RAID 10 benchmarks. Don't usually see RAID 0 for expensive SAS RAID Controllers, and more RAID 10 configurations than RAID 5.
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  • purrcatian
    I just sold my HighPoint RocketRAID 2720 because of the terrible drivers. Not only do the drivers add about 60 seconds to the Windows boot, they also cause random BSODs. The support was a joke, and the driver that came on the disc caused the Windows 7 x64 setup to instantly BSOD even though the box had a Windows 7 compatible logo on it. I even RMAed the card and the new one was exactly the same.
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  • dealcorn
    Very cool, fast and expensive means not home server stuff. For that, try the IBM BR10I, 8port PCI-e SAS/SATA RAID controller, which is generally available on eBay for $40 with no bracket (I live for danger). You are stuck with 3 GB/sec per port, but if you add $34 for a pair of forward breakout cables you have 8 sata ports at a cost of under $10 per port. The card requires a PCIe X8 slot but if you only give it 4 lanes (the number of lanes offered by our Atom's NM10) if will give each port 1.5 Gb/sec. Cheap SAS makes software RAID 6 prudent in a home storage server.
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  • slicedtoad
    I have pretty much no use for anything other than raid 0 but it was still an interesting read. I think i prefer this type of article over the longer type with actual benchmarks thrown in (not for gpu or cpu reviews though).
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  • rebel1280
    Great read! Way better than rumors and junk, stick with this kind of stuff Toms!
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  • pxl9190
    Only wish this review had came earlier !

    I had a hard time deciding between 9265-8i, 1880 and 6805 a month ago. I bought the 6805 and always wondered why RAID-10 was not as fast as I thought it should be. This reviewed proved my worries.

    I eventually went to RAID 6 with 6 Constellation ES 1TB disks. Here's where the adaptec really shines. This is for a photo/video storage/editing disk array.

    Admittedly if I have a choice again I would have picked the Areca after seeing the numbers. Adaptec was the cheapest among all of them so it's not too much of a regret.
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  • Anonymous
    Great review! As I am in the process of building a new home file server and always have a habit of going overboard in such situations, I will be referring back to this article many more times before purchasing.

    That said can you please talk more to the differences performance wise between SATA and SAS? I understand the reliability argument, however I wonder if for my purposes I would not be better served by using cheaper SATA disks over SAS disks?

    I would also love some direction with regard to a good enclosures/power supplies for a hard drive only enclosure. I realize I am quickly priced out of an enterprise solution in this arena, but have seen at least a couple cheaper options online such as the Sans Digital TR8M+B. (This enclosure is normally bundeled with some RocketRaid controller which I would probably discard in favor of either the Adaptec or LSI solution.)
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  • Anonymous
    You are missing a huge competitor in this space. Atto RAID Adapters are on par and I think the only other one out there, why are they not compared in this review?
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  • Marco925
    I bought the Highpoint, for it's money, it was incredible value at a little under $120
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  • stuckintexas
    I evaluated all but the Highpoint for work. What isn't shown, and would be unrealistic for a home user, is that the LSI destroys the competition when you throw on a SAS expander. With 24 15k SAS drives, the LSI card tops out at 3500MB/s, RAID0 sequential write, while the Areca is
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  • stuckintexas
    Sorry for the double post, comment system doesn't like the less than character.

    I evaluated all but the Highpoint for work. What isn't shown, and would be unrealistic for a home user, is that the LSI destroys the competition when you throw on a SAS expander. With 24 15k SAS drives, the LSI card tops out at 3500MB/s, RAID0 sequential write, while the Areca is less than 2500 and the Adaptec is less than 1800. The Areca also has a lot of issues with stuttering during writes, your average may be fine, but the throughput has some significant dropouts.
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  • fenwickc
    How do these cards compare with using the 6x SATA 2 connections on my motherboard, a couple of cheap $30 2 port SATA card (eg StarTEch PEXSAT32 2-Port PCI Express SATA 6 Gbps) and software RAID 6?

    I have more CPU that I can use (core i5) and want to use cheap 2 or 3 TB 7200 rpm SATA drives because I want lots of storage rather than maximum speed.
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  • marraco
    When we will have asymmetric RAID 0? A RAID controller capable of splitting data on different sizes parts, so the largest parts go to the fastest drives, and the shorter ones to the slower drives.
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  • jandabaer
    I'd also love to see a comparison between these controllers and software-RAID on the Intel Sandy-Bridge-E platform so see if we can believe Intel's marketing:

    http://intelstudios.edgesuite.net/idf/2010/sf/aep/STOS002/STOS002.html
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  • Anonymous
    Great review, however I would have liked to see more details around raid configuration for each card. Things such as:
    1. Supported raid features
    2. Raid rebuild rates, notification features, etc
    3. Gatcha's with each card, ie are JBOD disk interchangeable between different raid cards.

    I am not surprise to see the HighPoint's card at the bottom of the list. You really get what you pay for with these cards, poor performance and even poorer support. I have a RocketRaid 2320 which has horrible drivers and sucks in every category. Will never use another HighPoint card due to the mounting issues I have encountered.
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  • palladin9479
    A slight correct to the Article about FC controllers. You don't use FC for raw speed you use it for redundancy and multi-pathing. A single FC drive will connect to two different channels, each channel can go back to the same HBA on two different channels or to two completely separate HBAs. This way each drive has at least two channels to reach the host system. Also FC comes in 2, 4, 8 and 10 Gbps flavors, kinda crush's SAS-6 in raw bandwidth. Although honestly you won't see faster then 4 or 8 on the inside of a system, 10 is usually reserved for between SAN drive arrays and SAN fabric switchs. With multi-pathing not only are you getting redundant connections, you can mux the two path's to combine their bandwidth. A system sporting two dual 8Gbps HBAs would be communicating to the SAN at 32Gbps across four connections to two different switches.

    Which brings up the last point, FC's expandability is beyond SAS and FIS PM/PE's. PM/PE was designed for BBC connections where you have a single channel to a back plane with four to eight hot swap SAS connectors. And while they left room for you to implement 255 ID's per channel, there isn't a single vendor who provides that solution. FC on the other hand is as expandable as Ethernet. you can just keep adding more drive arrays, as many as you want. Each storage processor has it's own limit, usually around 255 disks, but you can just add more storage processors.

    That all being said, FC is for enterprise class storage networks. Its the absolute best protocol for that due to its expandability and scalability (disks + bandwidth). SAS is for local system disks on small to medium business servers. Any enterprise worth it's salt will be using VM technology with the VM's being stored on the SAN for availability / redundancy purposes.
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  • mras
    "Aside from their performance characteristics, they stand apart by offering handy features like mixed-environment SAS and SATA support, along with scalability via SAS expanders."
    Can't you test those statements in a upcoming article?
    My personal experiences says that the HP Sas expander, works flawless with the LSI and Acera card you tested, with both single and dual linking.
    However, the Adaptec only seems to understand single linking, while the Highpoint doesnt work at all with it.
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  • g00ey
    With my experience of losing a lot of data due to failing hard drives one motive to build a storage cluster on a dedicated controller is reliability.

    I myself have built a storage pool using ZFS operating the SAS controller in IT-mode (Initiator-Target mode which means that all RAID functionality is turned off which it should be when using ZFS). So you don't buy an expensive hardware RAID card for that, instead you buy a cheaper card with lower RAID functionality. The RAID is instead taken care of by the software which has shown to be a lot more reliable than hardware RAID solutions. The IT-people at CERN who process petabytes of data every day can testify to that when they operated a huge storage cluster built on Areca cards; In short, the hardware RAID wasn't as reliable as promised whereas the ZFS software RAID solution was.

    When using an operating system such as Solaris or OpenIndiana, one really important property of the controller is the platform compatibility. There are currently only two brands that can hold up to compatibility and that is LSI and Intel. LSI are known to be especially reliable and most thoroughly tested as most operating system vendors provide native drivers for use of LSI hardware in server environments and they have been used in such environments for years by now.

    Brands such as 3Ware and OEMS such as Dell, IBM, Intel, HP, Fujitsu-Siemens, Cisco et al build SAS cards that are mostly based on LSI chips (look for MegaRAID 1068e/1078e or 2008e/2108e chips in the specs).

    From a compatibility standpoint the Highpoint cards is the last brand I would recommend and from a reliability standpoint I would certainly recommend people to stay away from anything that comes from JMicron.
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  • scrianinoff
    Interesting review! What I find really disturbing is that results obtained by others using the Highpoint 2720 are much better while being consistent with each other, such as here:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheBenzoEnzo#p/a/u/0/yUYZx1zj9UA
    and here:
    http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/4306/highpoint_rocketraid_2720sgl_sata_6g_raid_controller_review/index7.html
    Are the others lying, have they done it all wrong, or was there something wrong with Tomshardware's setup or drivers?
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  • scrianinoff
    Now with working links, sorry for the double post:

    Interesting review! What I find really disturbing is that results obtained by others using the Highpoint 2720 are much better while being consistent with each other, such as here:

    and here:

    Are the others lying, have they done it all wrong, or was there something wrong with Tomshardware's setup or drivers?
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