Although Adaptec is known more for SCSI adapters than anything else, their product line is far more diverse. Included in the diversity is a fairly extensive line of RAID cards - ATA, SCSI, and even Fibre Channel RAID. This article takes a look at one of two recently announced additions to Adaptec's ATA RAID product line: the ATA RAID 2400A. The 2400A falls into the "high-end" category, while the ATA RAID 1200A (the second recently announced RAID card from Adaptec- expect a review soon) is more of a low-cost solution.
Adaptec positions this adapter to compete with the likes of Promise's SuperTrak100 and 3ware's Escalade series. With a RISC processor, RAID 5 support, and 32MB of cache (up to 128MB supported), it's certainly a formidable competitor on paper. Below are the card's specs in more detail:
- RAID levels 0, 1, 01, 5, and JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks)
- i960RS based
- Four ATA-100 channels (1 drive per channel)
- Hot swap and hot spare support
- Stripe size selectable from 8K to 256K
- 32MB of cache (up to 128 supported)
- 32-bit/33MHz PCI
- Online capacity expansion
- Windows NT 4.0, Windows 95/98/Me, Windows 2000, Red Hat Linux, SuSE 6.4 & 7.0, Novell NetWare, FreeBSD, and SCO Unix support
- 3-year warranty
Included with the adapter are the following items:
- Four single-connector ATA cables
- Driver/utility CD
- User manual
As is becoming standard with high-end ATA RAID cards, the 2400A is a full-length PCI card. On the adapter itself reside four ATA connectors, two HighPoint HPT370 ATA-100 RAID chips, a 32MB SDRAM module (ECC PC100, CL2), an Intel i960RS processor, and a total of eleven LED's that illuminate the entire bottom-half of the case when lit.
It's worth pointing out that the ATA RAID 2400A is the first ATA unit to support online capacity expansion. This feature allows drives to be non-destructively added to an existing array. For example, a 4th drive could be added to a 3-drive RAID 5 array to increase capacity.
Another notable feature of the 2400A is the ability to non-destructively create a RAID 1 array using a drive that already has data on it (an OS installation, for example). Though featured on adapters such as the Escalade and MegaRAID IDE 100, this feature merits a mention since, as yours truly learned the hard way at work a couple weeks ago, it's a feature that even some very expensive SCSI RAID cards lack.
The ATA RAID 2400A comes with several software tools to facilitate array management. The primary piece of software - Storage Manager Pro - is a GUI that allows arrays to be managed from within Windows, Netware, or RedHat Linux. With Storage Manager Pro, a plethora of configuration and management functions may be performed both locally and remotely. Arrays may be created, destroyed, expanded, and reconfigured. Event notification settings may be configured to email and/or page the appropriate person when, for example, a drive failure occurs. Several controller settings such as task priority and write cache configuration are also present.
In addition to Storage Manager Pro, the package includes Storage Manager, which, according to Adaptec, provides the same basic functionality but also supports SuSE Linux, SCO UNIX, and FreeBSD. Another utility - RAIDUTIL - is a scriptable command-line version of Storage Manager. This comes in handy when a GUI is not available. Finally, the card's BIOS utility (called SMOR; short for Storage Manager On ROM) allows for standard functions such as array creation, deletion, and rebuilding.