Adaptec SCSI RAID 2230SLP review
The appetite for rack servers is clearly driving a strong market for low-profile PCI adaptors. RAID has always been a high-priority application for 1U servers, and Adaptec’s latest SCSI controllers offer a choice of single or dual Ultra320 channels on small-form-factor cards. The cards are aimed at general entry-level and mid-range rack and pedestal servers. The price tag also makes them highly suited to high-end workstation usage.
The 2230SLP on review is the dual-port version and offers a 64-bit/133MHz bus. Two 68-pin connectors are provided on the card along with a pair of 68-pin VHDCI (very high density connector interfaces) on the backplate for adding external devices. For such a small card, there’s plenty packed in on its surface. RAID is integrated on Adaptec’s single chip, and a proprietary socket takes an optional battery backup pack. The card comes with 128MB of embedded cache memory, although note that this can’t be upgraded. The 2230SLP supports the full gamut of RAID arrays along with hot-standby drives plus hot-swap and automatic array rebuild.
Testing was conducted using the 3GHz Xeon Acer Altos G710 server running Windows Server 2003 and sporting an embedded LSI MegaRAID controller managing three Ultra320 drives in a RAID5 array. To test the 2230SLP, we connected three high-performance Seagate Cheetah 15K.4 Ultra320 hard disks and used them purely as data drives to reduce any OS-related overheads. We used the open-source Iometer utility configured with two disk workers, 64KB transfer request sizes and 100 per cent sequential read operations. With one disk configured as a simple volume, we saw Iometer report an average throughput of 90MB/sec. We then took all three disks, reconfigured them as a RAID5 array and saw Iometer return an average of 131MB/sec. For comparison, we installed LSI’s latest single-channel MegaRAID 320-1 adaptor card and moved the Seagate disks over to this controller. For the simple disk test, Iometer returned a marginally higher 92MB/sec transfer rate, while the RAID5 array saw this increase to 136MB/sec.
Overall, there’s little between these two manufacturers for performance. However, when it comes to management facilities, Adaptec wins hands-down. LSI’s clunky MegaRAID Power Console Plus regularly comes in for criticism in PC Pro Enterprise, as it’s been in need of a serious revamp for some time now. The utility can be used to manage local and remote controllers, but the interface looks dated and is cumbersome to operate. LSI also falls down on its lack of fault-notification features. Email alerts still aren’t supported, so all you can do is sound the card’s beeper if an array member fails.
Although Adaptec’s latest Storage Manager utility provides similar levels of access and plenty of wizard-based help, it looks much slicker and has benefited from regular improvements. Alerting options are far superior. Adaptec’s Notification Manager allows warnings to be added to the system log and broadcast to selected remote workstations. Email alerts can be sent to any number of recipients, and you’re able to decide on the level of information sent to each one.
The 2230SLP delivers good performance that’s on a par with LSI, but if remote management facilities are also at the top of the storage agenda then Adaptec is the best choice.