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HighPoint RocketRAID 3520 SATA Raid Controller


Author:  Jason Jacobs
Date:  2008.01.28
Topic:  Storage
Provider:  HighPoint
Manufacturer:  HighPoint






HighPoint RocketRAID 3520 SATA Raid Controller

Why RAID?

First off RAID stands for redundant array of independant disks, and the technology is present in most servers and many home users PC's. RAID technology has been around for many years and has been used with almost every type of hard drive made. This would include IDE, SATA, SCSI, and the new SAS types of drives. So why would a home user need RAID? Two easy words can explain, Performance and Protection.

RAID not only allows for the real time backup of data, known as fault tolerance, but can also significantly improve performance. How much you ask? We are talking double, triple, or more in terms of speed and data access. There are several types of RAID but the most common used are 0 and 1. RAID 0 is pure performance with no fault tolerance while RAID 1 is fault tolerance at the cost of a bit of performance, and yes you can combine the two into whats known as RAID 0+1. Now I know you're all interested in the performance aspect so let's talk about RAID 0 for a second. Here's a quick explanation:

Your hard drive is a collectionof files and folders. Think of it as if it were a giant book. When you double click on a file you have given a command to the hard drive to search for and open that file. Think of it as telling the librarian to open the book and find a single page. Lets say it takes the librarian 10 seconds to find that page you asked for. RAID 0 tears the book in two or more parts and has several people searching for the single page all at the same time. The work gets done quicker, much quicker. Theoretically the more hard drives you add to the RAID 0 the faster the performance, in reality you will reach a point of diminishing returns after too many hard drives. That point depends on the controller, the technology, and several other factors including sector size. Most common users won't go beyond 4 hard dirves in the typical array with the most common being two. In this review we took the HighPoint RocketRAID 3520 for a spin and outfit it with eight 500GB Maxtor SATA II Hard drives. Yes this is overkill, and we will get to some of the issues we encountered later, but for the number conscious this means we could have created a 4TB array. Thats a lot of storage space!

HighPoint RocketRAID 3520

At the high end of HighPoints SATA lineup of controller cards the 3520 has a grocery list of features and its specifications are as follows:

RocketRAID 3000 Series
 

Model

RocketRAID 3520

RocketRAID 3510

RocketRAID 3320

Number of Channels

8

4

8

Bus Type

PCI-e x8 (x16 slot compatible)

PCI-e x8 (x16 slot compatible)

PCI-e x8 (x16 slot compatible)

IOP Type

Intel 341
800MHz

Intel 341
800MHz

Intel 333
500MHz

Onboard Memory

256MB DDR-II ECC 533MHz

256MB DDR-II ECC 533MHz

256MB DDR-II ECC 400MHz

Connector Type

Internal
mini-SAS

Internal
mini-SAS

SATA
(point to point)

Hard Disk Support

Up to 8 SATA II

Up to 4 SATA II

Up to 8 SATA II

BBU Support

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Model

RocketRAID 3220

RocketRAID 3120

Number of Channels

8

2

Bus Type

PCI-X 64bit@133Mhz (32bit@33Mhz compatible)

PCI-e x1 (x4,x8,x16 slot compatible)

IOP Type

Intel 331 500MHz

Marvell 5182 400MHz

Onboard Memory

128MB DDR II ECC 333MHz

128 DDR II
400MHz

Connector Type

Internal mini-SAS

SATA (point to point)

Hard Disk Support

Up to 8 SATA II

Up to 2

BBU Support

No

No

As you can see the 3520 is the big daddy of the group supporting a totoal of 8 drives and having 256MB of DDR-II ECC Ram onboard. Those familiar with the technology will notice the ECC ram instead of a normal buffer for extra protection when processing your data.

Specifications:

Host Adapter Architecture

• TerabyteStream™ for Blazing Performance
• Intel IOP 81341(800MHz)
• PCI -Express x8 (x16 slot compatible)
• 256 MB of DDR II memory with ECC protection
• Write through and write back cache
• 8 SATA II channels at 3Gb/s per port
• Multi -adapter support up to 4 adapters
• BIOS booting support
• BIOS PnP and BBS (BIOS boot specification)support
• Intel RAID 6 Engine for large capacity RAID arrays
• Battery Backup Unit (BBU) Optional
• RoHS compliant

Advanced Raid Features

• Support RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50 and JBOD
• Multiple RAID support
• Multiple Logical Drive Support
• Online array roaming
• Online capacity expansion (OCE) and Online RAID level
migration (ORLM)
• Quick and Background initialization for instant RAID
configuration
• Automatic drive insertion / removal detection and rebuild
• 64bit LBA support greater than 2TB per volume
• S.M.A.R.T monitoring hard drive status for reliability
• Staggered Spinup with user selection in BIOS
• (MAID) spin down drives in array is idle

Array Monitors, Alerts and Indicators

• Active/Failed LED
• SMTP for email notification
• SAF -TE (I2C) enclosure management
• Alarm / Buzzer alerts for array activity

Operating System Support

• Windows (2000, XP, 2003 Server)
• WHQL Certified for Windows ( Vista and Windows 2003)
• Linux
• Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and 10.5 (Leopard)
• FreeBSD
• Open Source Driver (GPL Licensed) into Linux kernel

RAID Management

• TerabyteSaver™ and TerabyteGuard™ for Data
Protection and Reliability
• Firmware update in the Operating System
• Hot key (ctrl-h) boot-up RAID manager via BIOS
• API library for customizing AP
• Command Line Interface (CLI)
• Web browser-base RAID management software
• Disk scrubbing to prevent degraded RAID arrays
• Bad sector repair and remapping to reduce dropped
drives
• ATA pass-through mode support

As we stated earlier the 3520 has a grocery list of advanced features and support that firmly places it at the high end of RAID controllers. The big change in the High Point controllers is the addition of a dedicated XOR processor in the 3000 series cards which means less CPU overhead and no cpu involvement during writing to the disk(s).

 

Now let's take a closer look at the controller and our test setup.

 



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Test Setup, Installation, Results »


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