Reviews Leaderboard Database Reference Search StorageReview Discussion Reliability Survey Search About StorageReview.com Contents

The Promise FastTrack, Caviar Style

  May 10, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  
Promise FastTrack ATA RAID controller supplied by Promise Technology, Inc.
See also: Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller

Recently, the Storage Review took a look at the Promise FastTrack ATA RAID controller using a pair of Maxtor DiamondMax 2880 drives. The 2880 was chosen for its outstanding performance in a single-drive configuration. The setup churned out some strange results, however. WinBench 98 results under Windows 95 for a pair of drives turned out to be no greater and in some cases actually a bit -lower- than the results posted by a single drive. Conversely, ThreadMark 2.0 scores blew through the roof. ThreadMark scores were doubly suspect since the pair of Maxtors in a mirrored configuration managed to outperform a striped setup.

Western Digital Caviar Soon after the original results were posted, a test engineer from Promise contacted us, offering feedback on the results and suggesting a retest using a larger 64k stripe block size rather than the 8k recommended by the manual. We've been waiting for delivery of another pair of DiamondMax's; since we haven't yet received them, we've decided to proceed with another test changing yet another variable- the pair of drives. We purchased two Western Digital AC36400's and decided to put the FastTrack through its paces once more.

The engineer also suggested the use of "v1.10" drivers, dated 3-31-98. In the initial tests, we were using drivers dated 3-23-98, though I was under the impression that these also were revision 1.10. This time around, the tested card had a v1.03 bios, as opposed to the v1.02 chip used in the original review. Needless to say, we have many variables changing here, so control has gone out the window. As soon as we receive them we still plan to take a look at the changes using the original drives.

Installation of the controller itself was quite smooth this second time around, marred only by two consecutive defective Caviars. We did notice that the v1.03 bios seems to take much longer to initialize, perhaps 10 seconds vs the 3 seconds that one waited with v1.02. The newer bios also makes copying the contents of one drive to another when seting up a mirrored pair an option rather than an automatic process, a slight time saver.

We configured the Western Digital drives as a striped pair, yielding a single large 12.8 gig volume. The averages of five trials from ZD's WinBench 98 and Adaptec's ThreadMark 2.0 under Windows 95 are presented below. Data from tests on a single Western Digital 6.4GB disk driven from the PIIX4 controller on the Abit LX6 is provided for comparison.

Test Bed - Hardware
Motherboard Abit LX6, v1.1, Bios vC7Q
Processor Intel Pentium II 266MHz, 512k cache
Memory 64MB 10ns SDRAM DIMM
Boot Drive Western Digital AC31600
ATA RAID Controller Card Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
Video Card Matrox Millennium II PCI, 4 MB
Test Bed - Operating System Configurations
Operating System Windows 95, OSR 2.1 Windows NT Workstation 4.0
File System FAT 32 NTFS
Patches Applied 82371xB INF Update
REMIDEUP.EXE fix
Service Pack 3
IDEFIX-I.EXE
Display Driver MGA PowerDesk v3.80
1024x768, 24-bit color, 85 Hz, Small Fonts
MGA PowerDesk v3.31
1024x768, 24-bit color, 85 Hz, Small Fonts
Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
w/ Dual Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drives
RAID 0 (striped) Configuration
Windows 95 OSR 2.1, FAT 32
Business Disk WinMark 98 1384 KB/sec
SS/Database 1250 KB/sec
WP 1646 KB/sec
Publishing 1292 KB/sec
Browsers 1516 KB/sec
Task Switching 2150 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3998 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2352 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3262 KB/sec
Microstation 95 6990 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 3674 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 7268 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2832 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8840 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 16.4 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 18180 KB/sec
End 12100 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 11.70%
Transfer Rate 12700 KB/sec
Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Abit LX6, 82440LX, PIIX4 "Southbridge"
Single Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drive
 
Windows 95 OSR 2.1, FAT 32
Business Disk WinMark 98 1218 KB/sec
SS/Database 1042 KB/sec
WP 1488 KB/sec
Publishing 1162 KB/sec
Browsers 1384 KB/sec
Task Switching 1628 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3532 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2192 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 2880 KB/sec
Microstation 95 6738 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2710 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6562 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2664 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 7456 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 16.5 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 10300 KB/sec
End 6110 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.21%
Transfer Rate 10288 KB/sec
Adaptec ThreadMark 2.0 - Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
w/ Dual Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drives
RAID 0 (striped) Configuration
Windows 95 OSR 2.1, FAT 32
Data Transfer Rate 8.13 MB/sec
Average CPU Utilization 30.13%
Adaptec ThreadMark 2.0 - Abit LX6, 82440LX, PIIX4 "Southbridge"
Single Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drive
 
Windows 95 OSR 2.1, FAT 32
Data Transfer Rate 4.61 MB/sec
Average CPU Utilization 17.05%

Something's definitely different here. The striped pair of drives, unlike before, outdistanced the single unit by 13% on both the Business and High-End Disk WinMarks, a definitive improvement. Curiously, however, the transfer rate achieved by the pair when being tested by WinBench's CPU utilization was only 12.7 MB/sec, well below the 18MB/sec that the setup was able to deliver on the outermost tracks. CPU utilization in this case is still rather lofty. ThreadMark scores continued to be astonishing, posting a stratospheric 76% gain when going to a striped pair from a single drive.

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
w/ Dual Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drives
RAID 0 (striped) Configuration
Windows NT 4.0, NTFS
Business Disk WinMark 98 1726 KB/sec
SS/Database 1468 KB/sec
WP 1974 KB/sec
Publishing 1670 KB/sec
Browsers 2322 KB/sec
Task Switching 2378 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 4522 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2694 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3810 KB/sec
Microstation 95 8992 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 3416 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 8100 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 3632 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 9038 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 9.6 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 20440 KB/sec
End 12000 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 10.10%
Transfer Rate 20256 KB/sec
Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Abit LX6, 82440LX, PIIX4 "Southbridge"
Single Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drive
 
Windows NT 4.0, NTFS
Business Disk WinMark 98 1468 KB/sec
SS/Database 1180 KB/sec
WP 1690 KB/sec
Publishing 1476 KB/sec
Browsers 2128 KB/sec
Task Switching 1560 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3510 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2228 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 2812 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7712 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2116 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6546 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 3294 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8004 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 15.2 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 10300 KB/sec
End 6060 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 4.06%
Transfer Rate 10259 KB/sec
Adaptec ThreadMark 2.0 - Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
w/ Dual Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drives
RAID 0 (striped) Configuration
Windows NT 4.0, NTFS
Data Transfer Rate 10.58 MB/sec
Average CPU Utilization 18.17%
Adaptec ThreadMark 2.0 - Abit LX6, 82440LX, PIIX4 "Southbridge"
Single Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drive
 
Windows NT 4.0, NTFS
Data Transfer Rate 5.77 MB/sec
Average CPU Utilization 9.96%

Striped-pair gains are even more impressive under Windows NT, a respective 18% and 27% increase in the Business and High-End WinMarks. This time around, CPU utilization and outer track transfer rates match, both being 20 MB/sec. Under NT, its clear that Promise has trimmed down striped CPU utilization considerably, eliminating a glaring problem using the earlier driver. ThreadMark results were as amazing as ever: An 83% increase.

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
w/ Dual Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drives
RAID 1 (mirrored) Configuration
Windows 95 OSR 2.1, FAT 32
Business Disk WinMark 98 1296 KB/sec
SS/Database 1114 KB/sec
WP 1564 KB/sec
Publishing 1220 KB/sec
Browsers 1594 KB/sec
Task Switching 1728 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3582 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2246 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 2974 KB/sec
Microstation 95 6902 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2724 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6982 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2570 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 7842 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 13.8 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 10300 KB/sec
End 6094 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 6.03%
Transfer Rate 10257 KB/sec
Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
w/ Dual Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drives
RAID 1 (mirrored) Configuration
Windows NT 4.0, NTFS
Business Disk WinMark 98 1626 KB/sec
SS/Database 1334 KB/sec
WP 1846 KB/sec
Publishing 1644 KB/sec
Browsers 2260 KB/sec
Task Switching 1926 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3800 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2476 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3096 KB/sec
Microstation 95 8300 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2136 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 7784 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 3622 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8480 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 8.0 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 10140 KB/sec
End 6090 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 4.74%
Transfer Rate 10184 KB/sec
Adaptec ThreadMark 2.0 - Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
w/ Dual Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drives
RAID 1 (mirrored) Configuration
Windows 95 OSR 2.1, FAT 32
Data Transfer Rate 9.44 MB/sec
Average CPU Utilization 37.76%
Adaptec ThreadMark 2.0 - Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
w/ Dual Western Digital Caviar AC36400 drives
RAID 1 (mirrored) Configuration
Windows NT 4.0, NTFS
Data Transfer Rate 9.78 MB/sec
Average CPU Utilization 17.06%

This time around WinBench 98 reports that the gains provided from a mirrored pair are not as great as those yielded by a striped pair, which certainly makes sense. The mirror configuration provides a 1-10% increase over a single drive. Once again, however, ThreadMark refuses to correlate. Under Windows 95 the mirror bests the striped pair while under NT the situation reverses.

Though the ThreadMark results are still quite strange, WinBench 98 reports a clear increase in speed across the board using two drives as a striped or mirrored pair. Again, its difficult to pinpoint exactly what to attribute the changes to until we take a third look using the original Maxtor 5.7's. As it stands here, though, the FastTrack delivers real gains with a pair of Western Digitals- we'll see if the results carry over to the Maxtor's with the newer bios/drivers and larger block size.

Promise FastTrack ATA RAID Controller
Estimated Price: $149
Specifications
Western Digital Caviar AC36400
Estimated Price: $280
Specifications

* Note: All reported test results are the average of five trials.


HOME | ARTICLES | LEADERBOARD | PERFORMANCE DATABASE | REFERENCE GUIDE
COMMUNITY | RELIABILITY SURVEY | SUPPORT SR! | ABOUT SR |

Copyright © 1998-2005 StorageReview.com, Inc. All rights reserved.
Write: Webmaster