Cheap and Reliable RAID 5 Storage Compared

ICP Vortex 8546RZ

BIOS: 2.39.06-R06D


As far as speed of setup is concerned, the ICP controller is at the far end of the scale from the HighPoint. Initialization took several hours, during which the array remained usable, although slower.

ICP Vortex has put more thought into specifying its features and accessories than did the others in the group. Thanks to the positioning of the SATA ports, this low-profile card can be used in a 2U rack server without any problem - ICP even supplies a suitable slot bracket with the card.

The controller is supplied with four Ultra ATA-to-SATA adapters, allowing hard disks with the older Ultra ATA interface to be used. Like Adaptec, ICP Vortex has fitted SATA chips from Silicon Image (Sil3112), two of which are enough to control four hard drives. The same Intel XOR processor is also used.

The 64 bit interface with its 66 MHz bandwidth should also help to expand the PCI 133 Mbps bottleneck, although this is only important for those building a RAID 0 array, since RAID 5 does not come close to the maximum available PCI speed. The controller is fitted with a generous 128 MB of ECC memory, which is used as cache. The ICP is far better specified in this area than most of the others in the group. Finally, ICP Vortex provides RAID 4 in addition to levels 0, 1, 10 and 5.

It also supports online RAID level migration and online capacity expansion. The list of supported operating systems is agreeably long: Windows in all its flavors, Netware, SCO Unix, Linux (as binaries) and FreeBSD.

These adapters are supplied with the card. They allow conventional IDE drives to be used with the ICP Serial ATA controller. A good idea for those wishing to make the move to Serial ATA.