Highpoint Takes On Adaptec's SAS Controller

Adaptec RAID 5405

Six months ago, we looked at Adaptec’s 5-series SAS controller family, which provides excellent performance at reasonable cost. At that time, we examined the model 5805, which provides eight internal ports (two InfiniBand-type connectors) as well as Adaptec’s 1.2 GHz dual-core storage processor with lots of memory (512 MB DDR2). This time we received the entry-level model 5405, which is the cheapest way of getting an Adaptec storage adapter. It comes with a three-year warranty and we found it at prices of $350 and up.

Comprehensive Feature Set

The technical details here read similarly to those of Highpoint’s Rocket RAID 2640X4 card, but Adaptec offers more advanced features. There is a PCI Express interface as well, but Adaptec utilizes 8 lanes instead of 4, which can provide more bandwidth for high-end applications (though in everyday life, the difference should be rather small in the entry-level category). The RAID 5405 card comes with 256 MB DDR2 cache memory, which isn’t available on the Highpoint card at all. The same applies to the battery backup unit (BBU). There is one SFF-8487 internal connector that holds all four ports, but Adaptec includes a fan-out cable to let you attach four drives directly. Finally, Adaptec has the more comprehensive RAID support, offering RAID levels 0, 1, 1E, 5, 5EE, 10, 50 and 60 (E stands for spares). Both cards, of course, support JBOD.

 Slightly Better Performance

As mentioned in the evaluation of the Highpoint card, Adaptec offers slightly higher throughput and clearly better I/O performance. If you want your SAS controller to deliver maximum performance, there is no way around the Adaptec 5-series card.

 Power Management Works

We used the same Fujitsu drives to try the Intelligent Power Management feature, which according to Adaptec, can save up to 70% of power—clearly a bold statement. The power-down mode worked fine, switching off the drive’s spindle motor after a pre-set idle period, but the slow down mode didn’t work. According to Adaptec, the Fujitsu drives currently don’t support this mode. With that said, each drive went from 7.5 W to 4.8 W idle power in power-saving mode, which added to total system savings of 18 W when all four drives were spun down. This is nowhere near the 70% power savings claimed—maybe when looking at using peak power as the base—but if you add up the savings for hundreds or thousands of hard drives, the difference becomes significant. We’d definitely turn on such power saving mode for storage and backup servers that don’t have to be instantly available.

Drive Power Measurements
Total Idle Power (W)
Power Reduction Per Drive (W)
System Power
0. 448
0. 435
2. 2848
5. 2635
7. 5483
2. 6879
Power Down
0. 488
0. 196
2. 4888
2. 3716
4. 8604