Highpoint Takes On Adaptec's SAS Controller

Highpoint Rocket RAID 2640X4

The Rocket RAID 2640X4 is Highpoint’s PCI Express SAS RAID controller card with four internal ports. Model number 2642 offers two internal and two external ports, while model 2644 was designed with four external ports; there is also a Rocket RAID 2680 card with eight internal ports. All of these products are based on four-lane PCI Express interfaces, but they may also be operated on x1 PCI Express connections at reduced performance. The Rocket RAID 2640X4, which we received for review, is a low profile card that is based on a Marvell controller and four individual SFF-8482ports. The most interesting detail about this storage controller is its price tag of less than $150. It even comes with a three-year warranty.

Highpoint supports the common RAID levels 0, 1, 10 and 5, native command queuing, multiple arrays per controller, array roaming for easy transfer to other Highpoint RAID controllers, online capacity expansion, RAID-level migration on the fly, email notification, and I2C-based enclosure management. The feature list is as long as the lineup of supported operating systems, including Windows 2000 and up, the major Linux distributions such as Fedora, RedHat and Suse, Free BSD and Mac OS 10. 4+. However, you have to pick a Rocket RAID 4000 series card to get RAID 6 support with double parity.

 The Green Feature

Although Highpoint doesn’t make a big fuss about it, the company now offers a green feature as well, which is meant to stop all the drives’ spindle motors to save power when they are idle. While such a feature doesn’t make sense for performance systems to ensure storage availability, home servers or small business storage systems may very well work in green mode outside office hours.

We knew about the feature, but we couldn’t find it on the management console. As Highpoint told us, it has only been implemented on the Web GUI, where we were able to turn it on. However, our Fujitsu MBA-3174RC drives would not spin down at all, so we contacted Highpoint again. We were told to use Seagate drives, as these were validated for the feature; we grabbed two Seagate Cheetah 15K. 6 drives and quickly created a RAID 0 array, but the drives again would not spin down. Unfortunately, the feature doesn’t seem to be working at all and we cannot vouch for its functionality at this time.


We ran our standard benchmark suite, which we use to test all sorts of storage controllers. In the streaming read/write tests, the Rocket RAID 2640X4 does very well in RAID 0, where it delivered the same ~470 MB/s sequential read throughput as the Adaptec 5405 card. Writes were only marginally slower, and RAID 5 performance was even superior to the numbers we received from the Adaptec controller. In RAID 10 mode, however, Adaptec implemented a more efficient read algorithm that delivers almost 450 MB/s, while Highpoint starts at 230 MB/s throughput and speeds up to 420 MB /s as queue depths increase. RAID 10 write performance is similar again.

Clearly, Highpoint can match Adaptec’s performance using four 15,000 RPM Fujitsu MBA3174RC drives. However, sequential throughput is only one half of the performance evaluation—we also have to analyze I/O performance. Whether we look at the database, file server, Web server or workstation benchmarks, Adaptec’s 5404 always provides 5% to 15% more I/O operations per second than the Highpoint Rocket RAID 2640X4. Clearly, the missing cache memory has an impact.