Multi-channel RAID for SATA: 3Ware, Highpoint and Raidcore/Broadcom


The bottom line is that 3Ware and Raidcore remain head to head in applications, while the range of functions that Raidcore/Broadcom offers remains the reference point. This status quo is not surprising since the Fulcrum architecture had been trimmed from the outset for maximum flexibility, and can be used irrespective of the hardware. For example, it remains compatible with SAS devices and smaller on-board RAID controllers on workstation motherboards. The only disadvantage is that high access load also means high processor load.

The ideal environment comprises an appropriately powerful basic configuration and dedicated systems for a specific application. For example, both Raidcore controllers (four and eight channels) are well suited for rack two-unit high (2U) rack servers. While Highpoint has taken this factor into account, 3Ware only offers the administrator 2U model with four ports - the high number of components makes any more ports impossible with 3Ware.

With eight and 12 drives, the Raidcore/Broadcom controllers in RAID 0 achieve by far the best throughput, which is expected due to the PCI-X interface, which we operated at 100 MHz. This is of interest for temporary working areas on heavily frequented file servers, or for editing HD audio or HDTV video on workstations. Good-value SATA hard disks can thus be used to create extremely fast drive arrays. Reliability is another factor that needs to be taken into account, as the small number of complex components compiles a MTBF grading of 3.5 million hours. In exchange, there is no hardware XOR engine and no onboard cache.

In practice, however, a neck-and-neck race emerges and the winner of which can only be decided according to the application. As our benchmarks indicate, which simulate typical load profiles of file servers, Web servers, database servers and workstations, Raidcore slightly dominates at small queue depths. With increasing queues, 3ware comes out on top with its 9500S-12. However, pushing Raidcore's BC4000 to the edge requires a carefully choice of the fastest PCI-X slot(s) available. Provided that your server is based on top-notch hardware, Raidcore takes the lead, but the price of such a system may easily eat up the cost advantages initially offered by Raidcore.

The software is intuitive in operation. Highpoint, for example, is only able to translate the advantage it has, as a result of command queuing, into results for the Web server benchmark test, and is in all other respects just slightly inferior to its two famous competitors. However, insofar as performance is not the most important factor, the RocketRAID 1820A can also be recommended, because it is by far the most competitively priced.