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Opting for RAID Level Migration

Overview: Migration Options

RAID MigrationIntel P965/ICH8-RNvidia nForce 680i SLI
Single hard drive to RAID 0YesNo
Single hard drive to RAID 0+1YesNo
RAID 1 to RAID 0YesYes
RAID 0 to RAID 0+1NoYes
RAID 0 to RAID 5NoYes
RAID 10 to RAID 5YesYes
RAID 5 to RAID 0NoYes
RAID 5 to RAID 0+1NoYes
RAID 5 to RAID 5 (add drive)NoYes

Basically, Nvidia’s chipset enables you to perform any migration that is technically possible in order to have sufficient storage capacity to host existing data, as long as the migration has the requisite capacity. It is also possible to transform a RAID 5 with three hard drives into a RAID 5 with four hard drives. We only didn’t succeed in converting a single hard drive into a RAID array. However, Intel is able to do that. Besides, the ICH8-R can operate two different RAID arrays on one set of drives (Matrix RAID), which Nvidia does not offer.

Test Setups

System Hardware
Socket 775 ProcessorIntel Core 2 Extreme X6800 (Conroe 65 nm, 2.93 GHz, 4 MB L2 Cache)
Motherboard IIIGigabyte GA-965P-DQ6Chipset : Intel 965P, BIOS : F9
MotherboardEVGA nForce 680i SLI 775 MotherboardChipset : Nvidia nForce 680i SLI, BIOS : P24
Components
RAM2x 1024 MB DDR2-8000 (CL 4.0-4-4-12)Corsair CM2X1024-6400C3 XMS6403v1.1
Graphics CardHIS X1900XTX IceQ3GPU : ATI Radeon X1900XTX (650 MHz)RAM : 512 MB GDDR3 (1550 MHz)
Hard Drive I4x 150 GB 10.000 RPM, 8 MB Cache, SATA/150Western Digital WD1500ADFD
Hard Drive I4x 36 GB 10.000 RPM, 8 MB Cache, SATA/150Western Digital WD360GD
DVD-ROMGigabyte GO-D1600C (16x)
Software
Graphics DriverATI Catalyst Suite 7.2
Intel Platform DriverChipset Installation Utility 8.1.1.1010
Nvidia Platform DriverForceware 9.53
DirectXVersion : 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
OSWindows XP Professional, Build 2600 SP2

Conclusion

RAID-conscious users have a wide range of possibilities to setup, administer or modify RAID arrays - either with Intel’s t P965 and ICH8-R or with Nvidia’s nForce 680i SLI. If you go with Nvidia, you have to assign drives to be used in RAID arrays by using BIOS commands. Intel allows users to configure the drives with Windows.

At the beginning of the year, Intel showed clearly higher RAID performance in our tests. However, Nvidia is able to keep up when it comes to flexibility. Nivida’s migration options from one RAID array to another are by far better than the Intel chipset options. Managing the options is also much easier. On the other hand, Intel offers two unique features : You can migrate a single hard drive into a RAID array, and you can operate two different RAID arrays on the same two hard drives (Matrix RAID).

Finally, we found that Intel’s chipset offers more efficient RAID configurations, while Nvidia’s device has extensive migration options. However, there is no such thing as the perfect product that combines all options and possibilities. Only a device that would combine Intel and Nvidia’s best features would offer total flexibility for RAID storage. We hope Intel will take this to heart as it designs its next chipset generation ICH9.