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Unified Serial RAID Controllers for PCIe

Adaptec RAID 3805

Firmware used: 5.2.0 Build 12415

The first RAID controller card in this roundup is Adaptec’s RAID 3805. The firm differentiates between entry-level, value and performance products, but the model numbering requires some explanation. Every product that begins with a 3, such as this one, is a current unified serial product that supports 3 Gbit/s transfers for SAS and SATA. The second digit determines the total number of drive ports, e.g. eight for the RAID 3805, or 16 for the RAID 31605. If there is a 0 in front of the drive count, the controller is designed for external drive appliances. The last digit can either be a 0 or a 5, where 0 mains host-based RAID and 5 describes hardware-accelerated RAID 5 and RAID 6 support. All unified serial products are PCI Express based; there are no new PCI-X products anymore. Incidentally, don’t confuse the RAID 3805 and RAID 3085, the latter of which is the external card with a faster IOP unit.

The RAID 3805 is a current product with eight SAS ports and hardware-accelerated RAID for PCI Express. It is an entry-level to mid-range product and can be used on a variety of operating systems, including all versions of Windows starting with Windows 2000, Red Hat and SuSe Linux, Novell Netware, SCO Open Server, Sun Solaris, FreeBSD, UnixWare and VMware ESX Server. It runs an Intel 80333 processor at 500 MHz for XOR calculations, and it has 128 MB of DDR2 memory with ECC. Thanks to the low-profile form factor and two SFF 8487 connectors that merge four ports into one physical connection, the RAID 3805 can be deployed into compact 1U rackmount servers that offer an x4 PCI Express slot.

Adaptec supports RAID modes 0, 1, 1E (equals RAID 10), 5, 5EE (with hot spare), 6, 10, 50, 60 and JBOD, which should give administrators quite some flexibility. Feature wise you will notice a pretty long list, including RAID features such as online capacity expansion, RAID level migration, quick/background initialization, native command queuing support (NCQ), variably assignable hot spares (global/dedicated/pooled), enclosure management support via SCSI-accessed Fault-Tolerant Enclosure (SAFTE), staggered drive spin-up, hot plugging, redundant path failover and even more. One interesting feature is support for a so-called "copyback hot spare", which turns the hot spare back into a hot spare once the failed drive has been replaced and reconstructed. This way you don’t have to change the labels on your drive enclosure. Be sure to look at our feature table to compare the three controllers.

The box includes the controller, a low-profile slot bracket, a short installation guide in several languages, a software CD, and two Mini SAS to SATA fanout cables based on the SFF 8487 and SFF 8484 standards. There is an optional battery backup module, which I used to keep cached data alive in case the system loses power. While the company has abandoned its approach of selling its Advanced Data Protection software (RAID 6 support and additional features) as an optional upgrade, snapshot backups will only work if you purchase a registration key. There is a three-year warranty for the RAID controller.