Highpoint was one of the first companies to offer capable and flexible storage controllers for mainstream markets. These components found their way onto enthusiast class motherboards, which had lacked storage features until a few years ago. Or, they were sold on controller cards to enable professional RAID capabilities at an affordable cost. However, the consolidation of the storage market resulted in ample availability of storage connectivity, from Serial ATA (SATA) for the mainstream to Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) for servers and workstations. Storage vendors such as Highpoint now focus on offering a better value for business customers than the more entrenched companies like Adaptec. We analyze two entry-level SAS RAID controllers to see how they compared.
RAID Controller Options
It has become tough for storage vendors to come up with controller or host bus adapters that can offer significantly better features than those of existing products. Host-based RAID controllers such as the RAIDCore controllers offer maximum flexibility, but they depend on the performance of their host systems. The software layer called VST Pro has been available for use with 3rd party storage controller such as Intel on-board controllers for a while. Most mainstream on-board RAID solutions are considered host-based RAID as well, by the way. Software RAID, which is entirely executed on a host operating system, is not always the best choice, as the storage array’s performance depends on its host.
Many people consider hardware-assisted RAID controllers the only real option if you take your storage seriously. So-called hardware RAID utilizes a dedicated controller card, which often comes with its own firmware and management tools, an accelerator chip for parity operation (XOR engine) and a dedicated cache memory. These controllers work on most operating systems (with drivers required), but they don’t require a lot of resources, unlike the solutions mentioned above.
Is Budget RAID Good Enough?
Highpoint has been coming up with all sorts of unusual solutions, from small form factor host adapters (the Rocket RAID 2680 is only 3. 3 inches long) or SAS RAID controllers at SATA pricing. We decided to have a look at the Rocket RAID 2640X4, which is a sub-$150 4-port SAS controller with standard RAID capabilities for the PCI Express bus. Can it beat Adaptec’s entry-level 4-port SAS model RAID 5405, which costs roughly $350?