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Adaptec's new cards are awesome

One card, 28 hard drives... or 256, if you really want...
We like Adaptec here at Atomic, because its epic 31605 card powered the epic Big Willy.

the spirit of celebrating systems that are deliciously large and powerful, the Adaptec engineers dropped by our offices last week to demonstrate their new range of SAS/SATA RAID cards. The top of the line one is called the 52445, and it’s the first card in the world that will directly support 28 hard drives, regardless of SAS or SATA connection.

It can support more than that indirectly, thanks to the joy of SAS expanders. Basically you hook up a cable from the card and hook it into an enclosure next to your server. Inside that enclosure is an expander that connects all the hard drives to the card through that one cable. Your card can then talk to every drive in the system. You can connect up to 256 drives to a card, and it doesn’t matter if those drives are SAS, SATA or both.

The biggest change from the old series is that the brains of the operation is now Intel’s IOP348 I/O processor -- the 1.2GHz RAID on Chip formerly known as Sunrise Lake. The processor and controller in the older series used to comprise two large and chips that took up a lot of PCB real estate, but now that they’ve been replaced by one chip, there’s enough room to fit six internal Mini SAS connectors (each of which fans out into four SAS connectors) onto a PCB the size of a sound card.

The cool thing about all this is that every card in the new series is based on the RAID on Chip processor, and there are plenty of versions available that support various numbers of drives. They all run through 8X PCI-e and all have 512MB of memory (except the baby internal 4 port card which only needs 256MB). They all have drilled backplanes so the passive airflow you get over the card can flow out the back of the case.

It was interesting chatting with the engineers, because we found out that there are a lot more SATA drives being used in the server world than we had expected. After pontificating, we concluded that it’s the media heavy internet that is responsible for this. SAS drives are fantastic for databases where lots of data is read and written randomly at speed, but SATA drives are much cheaper and perform well for sequential reads, making them more cost effective for storage hungry and read heavy tasks.

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