It would be an understatement to say that the popularity of RAID has increased over the last few years. It wasn't long ago that those wishing to implement RAID had to go with SCSI drives and controllers. The relatively high cost of SCSI limited RAID, for the most part, to the server arena.
Then, in 1997, Promise Technologies introduced the first ever ATA RAID card: the FastTrak (now called the FastTrak-33). The floodgates opened with this introduction... even folks who barely knew what RAID was knew that they wanted it. It had never before been possible to configure a RAID array in such a cost-effective fashion: the FastTrak debuted with a pleasant sub-$200 price tag and the ATA drives, of course, were significantly less expensive than their SCSI counterparts.
As the price of ATA drives plummeted, the popularity of ATA RAID grew. Promise followed up on the FastTrak with the FastTrak-66 and FastTrak-100. Other manufacturers - such as Iwill, AMI, and HighPoint - recognized the exploding ATA market and introduced their own cards accordingly. It wasn't long afterwards that motherboards started to integrate ATA RAID chips from these very companies.
Not everything was rosy in the land of ATA RAID, however. The FastTrak series of controllers - as well as offerings from Iwill, AMI, and HighPoint - strove for low cost in an effort to appeal to the desktop market. As a result, it's no surprise that performance issues have been at the forefront of discussion. Some claim that these low-end ATA RAID cards do little for real-world performance, while others insist that significant performance gains are indeed realizable. Furthermore, whether or not these cards are even "true" hardware RAID also continues to be a cause of much debate -- some say that a card must have an on-board RISC processor to be considered a hardware implementation.
With all of the above in mind, the introduction of undeniably "true" hardware controllers - complete with on-board processors, several independent ATA channels, a higher price tag, and, in some cases, on-board cache - was inevitable. Indeed, Promise, 3Ware, and Adaptec have since introduced their own line of hardware-based ATA RAID controllers.
The SuperTrak 100...