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6 Gb/s SATA and SAS RAID Controller Card from LSI
From Network Computing Vol 18 No 05 September/October 2009
Leading the response to this new dynamic is LSI with its Mega RAID SAS 9260-8i RAID controller card. This product is designed to boost data throughput. It offers data transfer rates of up to 6Gb/s per port, double that of the previous SAS and SATA products, and comes with added data protection for internal storage systems, using up to 32 SATA or SAS hard drives.
The product has been built around a LSISAS2108 6Gb/s RAID-on-Chip, using an 800MHz PowerPC processor which, at the same frequency, has 512 Mbytes of DDRII cache memory. RAID Levels 0, 1, 5 and 6 are supported as are RAID Spans 10, 50 and 60. The device is constructed around a low profile 6.2 by 2.5, 6 inch MD2 chassis; it slots into a PC/Server that is based on Windows Vista/Server 2003/2000/XP and Linux variations, and offers eight internal 6Gb/s SATA+SAS ports, and two Mini-SAS internal connectors. There's also a useful optional battery backup module at the rear of the card situated behind the main heat sink.
In use, the first thing to mention is that the new 6 Gb/s controller is backward compatible with 3 Gb/s SATA and SAS disk drives. The significance of this is clear, and rather attractive: you don't have to deploy new disks to match the new controllers. For the purpose of this review, we used what could be described as 'standard' drives on a Dell PC, but it's only fair to say that optimum performance (LSI states that there is a maximum read speed of 2.875 GB/s and an maximum write speed of 1.8 GB/s) is delivered with 6 Gb/s drives.
Are such speeds absolutely necessary for day to day applications such as file storage, database management and email or web servers? Maybe, but the extra horsepower is definitely necessary for the other applications that LSI believes its new product is appropriate for. These include high throughput applications such as digital content archiving, medical imaging, video on demand, and video creation and editing, where time is literally money.
To address such applications, the product employs PCI Express 2.0 technology to boost signalling. During the review we ran a 3D model on Autodesk's 3D Studio Max 2009 digital content creation system. Typical for such an application the LSI performance was needed and for individual 3D Studio usage, throughput was more than satisfactory.
No storage system is complete without addressing the issues of security and compliance. That is to say making sure that data is protected from unauthorised access, and the internal threat can be as dangerous as the external one. To meet this requirement the controller offers the LSI SafeStore Encryption Services, which allow you to permanently remove data when repurposing or decommissioning selfencrypting drives (SEDs). Potentially the encryption solution can offer local key management, but this feature is not yet available from LSI. It would greatly simplify SED management, something that has a direct business benefit.
But the product does do what it claims. Throughput can be improved and essential efficiencies can be gained cost-effectively. These days IT departments can't ask for much more, so this new LSI controller card will be a welcome offer.NC
Product:LSI MegaRAID SAS 9260-8i - 6Gb/s SATA and SAS RAID controller card
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