SMB RAID for $49: Ciprico VST Pro

Analysis and Conclusion

Clearly, the Ciprico VST Pro 2008 software adds a whole new level of functionality to simple, mainstream motherboard controllers like Intel’s ICH10R. The $49 price tag will provide you with a solution that can turn any mainstream Intel platform based on the ICH7 southbridge or later into a powerful storage solution that smokes many professional SATA controllers.

SAS controllers still provide more flexibility and performance and a better feature set, albeit at much higher cost. And standalone controller cards don’t suffer from performance limitations like the ICH10R does when running RAID 5. However, you can easily upgrade a VST Pro 2008 installation to be SAS-capable by purchasing a Ciprico SAS RAID controller at $149 (four ports) or $359 (eight ports).

Where VST Pro Makes Real Sense…

As a matter of fact, Intel’s ICH10R chipset including Matrix Storage technology is already quite a powerful option for home and certain SMB users, as it has made it possible to create various arrays, or to create two arrays across the same set of hard drives. But the Intel solution is far from the comprehensive feature set that is offered by Ciprico, and is less flexible as well when you have to deal with the worst case scenario and replace a faulty hard drive.

We believe that VST Pro 2008 makes a lot of sense for people who need to create a storage solution under a lot of time pressure, while keeping an upgrade path in mind. VST Pro 2008 allows you to recycle an older desktop PC (with an Intel chipset) by simply installing the software and creating the RAID arrays you require. Once your system is up and running, you can upgrade hard drives, add a RAIDCore controller card with high-performance SAS drives, add SATA drives for extra capacity, or even move the entire storage array to another host system. Thanks to the drive roaming feature, you don’t even need to remember the exact port to which each drive was connected.

… and Where it Doesn’t

However, VST Pro 2008 does not make sense if you have very specific requirements, or if you know that your storage requirements won’t increase any time soon. If you can live with up to six hard drives, or if you know that you probably will never change the RAID level, add drives or need more performance, then integrated chipset features will suffice. And you will probably go for a full-blown RAID controller right away if there is a performance profile you have to match.