Integrated Controller/Southbridge History
|Southbridges/Storage Controllers||Year||PATA Ports||SATA Ports||RAID Levels||USB Ports|
|Promise FastTrak 20378||2002||1||2||0,1||-|
|Nvidia nForce 590||2006||1||6||0,1,0+1,5||10|
Clearly, the key player in integration of mass storage controllers and features into chipset components has been Intel. While its controller performance had already been slightly superior to that of Ali, SiS or VIA chipsets back in the late ’90s, Intel was the first chipset vendor to integrate Serial ATA controllers into its Southbridge parts. The firm found this feature important enough to make storage a key differentiator between different Southbridge variations. It was also the first to implement support for RAID 5 with parity (although this taxes the processor).
Today, Nvidia is on par with Intel, as the current nForce chipset family offers equally smooth usability. ATI has never dominated in the chipset market, but it is catching up. Although the SB600 Southbridge has no unique features, nor can it outperform the storage controllers from Intel and Nvidia, it is still suitable enough for the vast majority of users.
Why Migrate At All?
The answer is simple: many users have spent hours, if not days, setting up their Windows systems, installing drivers and applications, and finally customizing the system to their requirements. Reinstalling means losing the time required to do all of this over again. Obviously this is something most people want to avoid if their Windows setup is fully operational. Many people also cannot find the necessary additional storage capacity required to transfer all of their data from their existing RAID array.
"Why Didn’t You Try..."
There are more Southbridges and storage controllers than we could have possibly used, given the one week time frame for this project. Hence we picked the source and target platforms that we believed would provide the most testing value to a large number of our readers. We went back in time to 2003, but we limited our migration testing to three target controllers by AMD/ATI, Intel and Nvidia, because others are of little relevance to the enthusiast or administrator who would even consider migrating an existing RAID array. Also, utilizing stand-alone RAID controllers would have inflated this article, and according to our experience very few users actually purchase stand-alone RAID controllers to power RAID arrays in desktop PCs.
RAID Level Selection
We selected RAID 0 for our tests, because that’s the common measure for enthusiasts to accelerate their storage subsystem. A few cross-tests with RAID 1 showed that this would have worked equally well. Clearly, the storage controllers not only duplicate hard drive content, but they also write their signature on the drives. As a consequence, the target controller has to be able to understand the source controller’s signature.