Adaptec RAID 5445 review

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After a busy period shedding all the extraneous products it acquired over a period of years, Adaptec has gone firmly back to its roots in RAID controllers – an area it has always excelled in. The RAID 5445 on review is one of Adaptec’s large family of Unified Serial controllers which have a firm focus on performance and offer virtually every port permutation you could possibly imagine.

Adaptec RAID 5445 review

The 5445 is a low-profile PCI-Express card so will fit easily in the vast majority of rackmount servers. It has internal and external four port connectors but with SAS expanders your hard disk count can go as high as 256 units. Processing power is higher than equivalent controllers from 3Ware and LSI as all Adaptec’s Unified Serial controllers are endowed with a fast dual-core 1.2GHz ROC (RAID on chip) processor, and for the 5445 this is partnered by a generous 512MB of DDR2 cache memory.

Cache memory is the 533MHz variety so it’s not quite as fast as LSI’s latest controllers which sport 667MHz DDR2 cache. It also can’t be upgraded but Adaptec does offer an optional battery backup unit for around £90. RAID array support is very extensive with dual drive redundant RAID6 on offer, and this can be improved further with RAID60. Adaptec adds a few of its own touches with RAID5EE, which distributes hot spare space within the array to improve performance, and RAID1E, which mirrors data stripes rather than physical drives allowing it to support an odd number of drives in a mirror.

To test the card we installed it in a Boston Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 server running Windows Server 2003 R2. For basic configuration you have the card’s BIOS menu but full management access is provided by the Adaptec Storage Manager; this provides a smart graphical interface that can be used to remotely manage and configure controllers in multiple systems.

The RAID 5445 has a four-drive fan-out cable for the internal interface and for performance testing we connected a quartet of the latest 1TB Western Digital GreenPower SATA drives. With the Iometer utility configured for 100% sequential read operations we saw it return an impressive 105MB/sec with one drive configured as a simple volume. We created a dual-drive stripe and this returned a top raw read speed of 365MB/sec and, with a four-drive stripe this jumped to an impressive 590MB/sec.

Adaptec certainly has the edge for performance but we noted that the WD GreenPower drives stayed as cool as cucumbers during our stress tests. The 5445 also introduces Adaptec’s own green power initiative as you can opt for two different power modes from within Storage Manager, where Standby mode reduces the drive’s RPM during periods of inactivity and Power-Off turns them off when not needed. However, note that although most SAS and SATA drives support the Power-Off mode, few currently work with the Standby mode and we recommend checking Adaptec’s compatibility chart first if you’re keen on this feature.

Adaptec’s Unified Serial controllers offer a number of advantages over the competition and not least in the performance stakes. RAID array support is also unbeatable and the 5445 comes with a range of power management tools making it particularly well suited to storage array duties.

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