Safer 6 for RAID Controllers

Conclusion: Areca

Let us summarize the good news first: Adaptec, Areca and Promise all offer upper class eight channel RAID controllers for either PCI Express x4 or PCI-X 133. They come with all the features an advanced user or administrator requires for setting up a solid, fast and secure storage subsystem. We were able to set up our test arrays, crash them by removing SATA or power cables and then watch the rebuild process quite painlessly. Driver support is decent, though not yet comprehensive, and performance levels are good enough to run somewhat demanding business applications.

It is pretty obvious that Adaptec, in particular, takes the Serial ATA market more seriously than it did a few years ago. The 2820SA has a feature set that matches the company's offerings in the SCSI segment. RAID 6, for example, has not even been made available for any of the Adaptec SCSI RAID cards so far. Yet the RAID 6 option has to be purchased separately here, which we can't endorse at an investment of $500 for the bare controller. Promise offers better performance at a lower price point, and managed to put together a pretty convincing package.

However, the high achiever of this roundup is Areca with its 'good old' ARC-1220. Although the card has been around for months and its management software is not quite spruced up, it clearly offers the best RAID 6 performance numbers in all benchmarks. In addition to that, Areca is best when it comes to sustained high performance levels with one or even two faulty drives in a RAID 6 array setup.

Feature Table

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Product2820SAARC 1220Supertrak EX8350
Driver usedv5.1.83601.02v2.8.0.14
SATA II ports888
Cache128 (256 Optional) MB ECC128 MB DDR333 ECC128 MB DDR333 ECC
InterfacePCI-XPCI Express x4PCI Express x4
Optional versions4 ports4, 8, 12 portsPCI-X 4 ports
Multiple card supportnoyesyes
Card Formatstandardlow profile (connectors on the top)low profile (connectors on the top)
XOR EngineAIC-8210 SATA RAID-on-Chip (ROC) ASICIntel IOP332IOP333 (500 MHz)
RAID Level Migrationyesyesyes
Online Capacity Expansionyesyesyes
Multiple RAID Arraysyesyesyes
Staggered Spin-upyesyesyes
Hot Spare Supportyesyesyes
Battery Backup Unitoptionaloptionaloptional
OS SupportWindows, Linux, Netware, FreeBSDWindows 2000/XP/2003, RedHat, SuSe, FreeBSDWindows 2000/XP/2003, RedHat, SuSe, Linux open source driver
OtherRAID 6 support, command line interface, alarm buzzer, SNMP support, 64 Bit LBARAID 6 support, command line interface, alarm buzzer, SNMP support, drive activity LED, 64 Bit LBARAID 6 support, command line interface, alarm buzzer, SNMP support, drive activity LED, 64 Bit LBA
Estimated Price (US $)530600415
Warranty3 yearsunknown3 years