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Battle of the Titans: Promise SuperTrak 100 vs. 3Ware Escalade 6400 PayPal Donations

Battle of the Titans: Promise SuperTrak 100 vs. 3Ware Escalade 6400
  February 14, 2001 Author: Terry Baranski  

Confused? The RAID Guide explains all!


From a performance standpoint, the SuperTrak is a huge disappointment. Given both the card's price and extensive feature set, we expected much, much better performance. What we found, however, was performance significantly worse than that of a single drive in RAID levels 3-5. In RAID levels 0/1/01, scores improved, though not nearly as much as expected.

It goes without saying that the SuperTrak doesn't live up to a lot of people's expectations. We sought some comments from Promise on the issue. Billy Harrison, a Test Engineer at Promise, was kind enough to discuss the SuperTrak's performance as well as answer some questions about Promise's future ATA RAID cards.

When asked about the SuperTrak's lackluster performance, Billy pointed out that there is heavy overhead involved with the use of the I2O architecture, and that the 80960RD Processor on the card is "now slow in comparison to Intel's Latest and Greatest." He also said that Promise had compared the SuperTrak to an AMI MegaRAID SCSI RAID controller, and RAID 5 results for both cards were lower than that of a single drive. (Note, however, that we cannot verify these results.) He then added that the SuperTrak is not for those who are concerned with speed; the FastTrak would be a better choice in this case. According to Harrison, "The ST100 is positioned as a mass storage, fault-tolerant device, for someone more concerned about protecting their data from a hard disk failure than with blindingly fast speed."

That being the case, we wanted to know if Promise had a performance-oriented RAID 5 card on the horizon. As it turns out, they do indeed have a "new and improved" version of the SuperTrak-100 on the horizon. It's called the SuperTrak-100SX6, and here's what Harrison says about it:

"The SuperTrak100SX6 is a 6 Channel 32 bit 33 MHZ RAID 5 Caching Controller that will feature Intel's 80960RM I/O Processor. The 80960RM boasts XOR Accelerator Software, 100 MHZ Core Speed, and 66 MHz Memory Speed. The use of the 80960 allows Promise to move the SuperTrak100 from 72 pin EDO Fast page memory to 168 pin SDRAM with ECC memory checking. The end result will be a new and improved SuperTrak100."

Also on the horizon is the FastTrak100SX4:

"The FastTrak100 TX4 will be the worlds first 4 channel 32 bit 66 MHZ ATA RAID Controller. The Controller features 4 Master Channels that result in Instant Throughput from each and every drive in an Array. For instance, we have achieved 140 Megabyte Sequential Reads (64 kb data transfers) and 105 Megabyte Sequential Writes (64 kb data transfers) from a RAID 0 Array that has been configured with 4 IBM U100 (Telesto Series 15 gig platter) Drives running on a 66 MHZ PCI BUS using Intel's IOMeter 1999.10.20".

Expect the FastTrak-100TX4 in late March or April, with the SuperTrak-100SX6 following sometime in late Q2. We hope to evaluate both of these cards and look forward to any performance increases that they may bring.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Escalade 6400's performance is very impressive. In addition to delivering a staggering 103 MB/sec of sequential performance, the Escalade features nicely scaling random I/O performance. TwinStor, in addition, delivered nice, unconventional performance increases- the performance of mirrored arrays was equally remarkable. Overall, we're quite impressed with the 6400.

The Escalade's performance should put to rest the false impression many folks carry about ATA RAID; that it provides no real-world performance increase. The Escalade's performance proves this notion false.

Thus ends's first ATA RAID review in over 2 years. We're aware that these reviews are long overdue and appreciate everyone's patience. There's much more coming soon, both ATA, and SCSI. Stay tuned...

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