question Good SATA card?

Adcadet

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My motherboard (Asus P8P67 Pro) has run out of SATA slots. I'm wondering if anybody has have recommendations for a cheap but solid PCIe SATA controller. Few questions:

1. Any reason to use PCIe over PCI? I believe I've got both PCI and PCIe slots available (I only have a graphics card and a Xonar DS).
2. Any real reason to get a SATA III vs II card? Might run SSDs off it some day.
3. Are there any with a solid (reliable, hassle-free) RAID 0 (mainly for a single large volume) and RAID 1 implementation?
4. Will speed and CPU utilization be better/worse/similar to the ports already on my motherboard?

Thanks!
 

Stereodude

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1) If you're okay limiting your speed to under 100MB/sec PCI is fine. How far under depends on what else is on the PCI bus and the card you get.
4) Speed will be worse if you use PCI. PCI-E will depend on how many lanes the card uses, the PCI-E rev, and what you plug into it.
 

blakerwry

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I put a cheap Rosewill branded SI sata controller - something like this - in a PC a few years ago that didn't have SATA. Been working ever since in 24/7 video recording. They make RAID and non-RAID versions for about the same price ~$20. I would go PCIe if you can, but PCI should still perform dutifully, you just may not get > 80MB/sec on newer chipsets - meaning SSDs may not run at full performance.
 

ddrueding

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Even larger HDDs can saturate the real-world speed of a PCI card...I would only go that way if I had no choice.
 

sechs

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This doesn't sound like a server. Perhaps you should consider why you need all of these ports.
 

Adcadet

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This doesn't sound like a server. Perhaps you should consider why you need all of these ports.
Because I like hard drives :)

I shoot digital video and anticipate needing to expand my storage in the next year. I also like to keep a number of virtual machines around to play with. And I keep multiple backups.

I've considered setting up a dedicated file server, and I now have some extra hardware I could use. Haven't looked into NAS devices at all. I suppose for my infrequently used files, my gigabit network would probably be fine (what, about 100 MB/s real world throughput?).
 

snowhiker

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I'm also interested in a SATA card. I want to add another drive to my ancient box for backup and additional storage.

I understand the caveats (speed limitations) of the PCI bus.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007607 600022728&IsNodeId=1&Description=sata controller pci&bop=And&ShowDeactivatedMark=False&Order=PRICE&PageSize=20

Suggestions from the above list for the best supported and least crappy card/company/brand. Price not a real issue. I'd like the card to be bootable and support new HDDs and SSDs. XP support a must, 7 nice to have. Thanks.
 

CougTek

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LunarMist

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Some of the SIL-based cards are not supported correctly by the modern BIOS and drivers. I have a pile of various cards and after the XP era they are a crapshoot in late model systems.
 

CougTek

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Found a 4-port SATA 6Gbps card that fits in a PCI-E 4x if that speed grade is mandatory. No idea how good it is, but I've have relatively good experiences with Startech's products in the past. They are generally a bit expensive, but they get the job done.
 

LunarMist

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Correct. Most of the cheap cards will work for single drives, but I would not use them for RAID without extensive testing first.
 

sechs

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Because I like hard drives :)
And who here doesn't?

I shoot digital video and anticipate needing to expand my storage in the next year. I also like to keep a number of virtual machines around to play with.
If you need to keep more than 2TB locally, it's time to figure out where you are going wrong.

And I keep multiple backups.
Backups or versions? Neither of these generally needs to be local.

I've considered setting up a dedicated file server, and I now have some extra hardware I could use. Haven't looked into NAS devices at all. I suppose for my infrequently used files, my gigabit network would probably be fine (what, about 100 MB/s real world throughput?).
If you're afraid that bandwidth is a problem and wouldn't use network accessibility, you can always go with direct-attached storage, like an eSATA box.
 

blakerwry

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PCIe is no problem, I believe I have two unused PCIe 2.0 slots.

Any problem using something like this HighPoint controller? I seem to recall HighPoint having a horrible reputation a few years back.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816115072
I have a similar model HP RR used with an eSATA enclosure. I am using Redhat 5/6 with it and while the card description and manual listed Redhat/Linux as a supported OS, drivers didn't come natively.... and the drivers on the HP website actually only supported specific kernel versions ...that were several versions old. Fortunately, I was able to find 3rd party drivers that worked fine and have continued to work through kernel updates.

If the card wasn't free with the eSATA enclosure, I probably would have returned it. This may have no bearing on a win7 user, but if a company is willing to fudge its product descriptions in one area it may be doing it in others (for example, 32bit win7 support and not 64 bit , or supports hot plug sometimes, etc).
 

blakerwry

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FYI, I needed a non-RAID SAS controller to be able to test and manage individual SAS drives. I ended up buying an HP branded LSI SAS card for ~ $60 on ebay. Ebay availability of these cards is close to that of the Dell PERC branded LSI RAID cards.

The card I bought is an LSI SAS3442E model - http://www.ebay.com/itm/190686883081

SAS 8484(internal) to SATA/SAS break out cables can be purchased for an additional $24-$50.

If you're looking for a solid, yet affordable, controller, you can't beat LSI.
 

blakerwry

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Looks like if you plan on using sata, the LSI SAS3041E (same chipset as previous card) is available under $50 and has 4 SATA connectors. The controller supports SAS, but you'll need a SATA to SAS adapter for each SAS drive (if you ever need to use one).
 

Mercutio

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I've been advocating IBM M1015s. Same deal, a $50 LSI rebadge that supports SAS or SATA, expanders and drives larger than 3TB. There's a 30 second process for flashing the firmware to allow individual drive access if that's something you need. They don't seem to be as well known as the PERC cards but they're feature-complete as far as I'm concerned.
 

LiamC

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Thread necro. Zombie? I'm in a similar situation to Adcadet. I've got a board (Asrock 970 Pro3) with 6 fully populated sata ports, and need a couple of others. This box boots a Linux image, Windows XP and ESXi, depending on what I want to play with. The issue is that whenever I plug a Promise IDE controller or an ALi SATA/IDE card in, XP either will not boot or complains of not enough low memory. The culprit seems to be the on-board RAID controller, as when all drives are in IDE or AHCI mode, there doesn't appear to be an issue. Four drives are in RAID 10. So I was thinking either trying a Highpoint RocketRAID 4 port card or something like an Adaptec 6/8805E SAS card. Would there be any advantage to going with a SAS card if I wanted lot's of ports? Or should I save myself $100 bucks and go with the highpoint?

What would be the advantages of using a SAS card?
 

Mercutio

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SAS is also more likely to give you compatibility with expander cards, should you ever want to blow $200 on attaching 36 SATA ports to one HBA.
That setup does create performance bottlenecks, but for my application it's hardly an issue.
 

P5-133XL

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There is also the obvious: SAS controllers allows the use of either SAS or SATA drives while a SATA controller can only use SATA drives.
 

Mercutio

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Not every SAS adapter will actually negotiate a connection to a standard SATA drive. Or at least I've found that SATA drives aren't detected on the SAS ports found on some Intel and SuperMicro motherboards.
 

Stereodude

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Thread necro. Zombie? I'm in a similar situation to Adcadet. I've got a board (Asrock 970 Pro3) with 6 fully populated sata ports, and need a couple of others. This box boots a Linux image, Windows XP and ESXi, depending on what I want to play with. The issue is that whenever I plug a Promise IDE controller or an ALi SATA/IDE card in, XP either will not boot or complains of not enough low memory. The culprit seems to be the on-board RAID controller, as when all drives are in IDE or AHCI mode, there doesn't appear to be an issue. Four drives are in RAID 10. So I was thinking either trying a Highpoint RocketRAID 4 port card or something like an Adaptec 6/8805E SAS card. Would there be any advantage to going with a SAS card if I wanted lot's of ports? Or should I save myself $100 bucks and go with the highpoint?
Do you need RAID on the new card?
 

LiamC

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I need RAID 10. Whether the add-in card needs to support it or not I'm not too sure. The issue with using the the current IDE and SATA card is that when the on-board RAID is used, XP complains about not enough memory, or just stays at a black screen with blinking cursor. As soon as you remove the add-in cards, or switch to IDE/AHCI mode, the problem goes away. I think the safe option would be to go with a card with RAID 10 ability.
 

LiamC

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Further research leads me to believe that:

Software RAID (as on most motherboards) is done in a device driver loaded immediately post boot. Almost by definition, in the PC world, that would have to be in the first 640K of memory.
The same goes for bootable add-in cards that load their own BIOS.

Trying to load load two of them at the same time would cause not enough free low (<640KB) memory to be available to any PC operating system. Hence the issue with XP.

So what I would need is a hardware RAID card.

Question. Say I have six drives attached to a hardware RAID card, can I assign four drives to a RAID array and and have two as standalone - bootable drives? Or would I be better off just attaching them to the on-board SATA ports?
 

Stereodude

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I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion. I have at least one PC that is using two "soft" RAID-1 setup (Intel ICH + JMB) and I don't have any OS problems.

Real HW RAID cards don't usually support single drive pass through applications. You usually end up having to make a some sort of "array" even if it's only a 1 drive array so the OS can see them.
 

Bozo

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The 3Ware RAID cards I have dealt with will allow a RAID array with the leftovers set to JBOD. It is probably better to attach single drives to the motherboard though.
 

Chewy509

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Further research leads me to believe that:

Software RAID (as on most motherboards) is done in a device driver loaded immediately post boot. Almost by definition, in the PC world, that would have to be in the first 640K of memory.
The same goes for bootable add-in cards that load their own BIOS.

Trying to load load two of them at the same time would cause not enough free low (<640KB) memory to be available to any PC operating system. Hence the issue with XP.

So what I would need is a hardware RAID card.

Question. Say I have six drives attached to a hardware RAID card, can I assign four drives to a RAID array and and have two as standalone - bootable drives? Or would I be better off just attaching them to the on-board SATA ports?
Actually, the issue is a little more subtle than you realise. (You're mostly there though).

With a traditional IBM based x86 BIOS, you only have approx 160KB for BIOS ROM space, as the first 1MB memory map is:
0x00000 - 0x9FFFFF - 640KB RAM.
0xA0000 - 0xAFFFFF - 64KB VGA Video framebuffer.
0xB0000 - 0xBFFFFF - 64KB Text mode framebuffers.
0xC0000 - 0xc7FFF - 32KB VGA option ROM. (approx - VESA cards typically use 64KB).
0xC8000 - 0xDFFFF - 160KB Option ROM space.
0xEFFFF - 0xFFFFF - 64KB BIOS ROM.

So you're got between 160KB and 128KB of ROM space for *any* add-in cards, and this space can also to be used by VGA cards, or the main BIOS (eg legacy USB support, etc), or any network cards, or any audio cards (even on motherboard audio will use this space). So on a modern BIOS based motherboard (UEFI based boards are a lot different), you may only have 64KB or less for any add-on card ROMs. IIRC blocks are allocated in either 8KB or 16KB blocks.

Stick in a PCI IDE RAID card, and it's used an additional 48KB of this space, and try to add in something else, say PXE boot support on your LAN adapter and you just run out of BIOS ROM space for any other cards. (With BIOS ROMs in the legacy x86 sense, it was all in KBs, hence why UEFI was a god-send for card manufacturers, pity it took sooo long to get into the x86 area). Also, for onboard drive controllers, the mode (AHCI, IDE, RAID) will also effect the amount of free ROM space you have as well (IDE having the smallest footprint (typically), and RAID having the largest due to having to support the RAID levels during the boot sequence).

Now, a software RAID or hardware RAID card will make zero difference in this regard, the code/ROM that accesses the card during boot (hooking int 13h) will have to be somewhere in that 160KB of space. What a hardware RAID card will give you is:
1. true multi-OS support, as most of the "driver" code is actually ROM firmware and runs independently of the systems CPUs (most of the time).
2. accelerated parity for RAID 3/4/5/6.
3. And more device options, eg SAS, more ports, options for port expanders, etc.

What I would do:
1. disable as many onboard items or features/functions as possible to free up the option ROM space. See if this helps with the current hardware.
2. Buy a drive controller that supports the number and types of drives you need. (even go as far as disabling the onboard ICH drive controller or setting it to AHCI mode if possible).
3. Have everything on the one drive controller if possible... like Merc mentions, you can use port expanders to get more drives on a SAS card. (I have seen up to 32 devices on a single card, but the theoretical limit is 65356 devices).

Also hardware RAID cards are mixed bag in what they support, but all decent ones do support JBOD with a single disk in the array so that will get around your issue. Also if you are not booting from the RAID array, why not use the OS provided RAID levels? (eg Dynamic Disks on Windows or LVM on Linux or ZFS on BSD/Solaris). That way, you don't need RAID support on the controller (allowing you to use what you have), or attempt to simplify your setup... (or ESXi the issue here)?

Now with UEFI systems (and UEFI compatible cards), IIRC the option ROM limit "per card" is 1MB, and IIRC 32-64MB is reserved for option ROMs. (but be aware the option ROMs in UEFI have to a do a lot more than with x86 legacy BIOSes).

PS. with the drive controllers, be careful with ESXi, it doesn't support everything out there (but I'm sure you were aware of this).
 

LiamC

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I second what Merc said Chewy.

It might be the two extra NICs, plus the addon IDE card in the machine that's causing me the grief. I'll play around a little more.
 

Stereodude

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FWIW...

My Haswell box has the Intel controller in RAID mode, two ASMedia controllers (soldered on the mobo), a PCIe IDE controller, and a PCIe SATA card. All are enabled and it works fine.

My Sandybridge has the Intel controller in RAID mode, a PCIe IDE controller, and a PCIe SATA card. It also works fine.
 

LiamC

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Removed one of the PCI-e NICs, and the machine boots fine with an old promise IDE card. Only two NICs, but I can live with that. Thanks Chewie for the refresher that enabled this to be tracked down. The only bad thing is, now I don't have an excuse to buy more hardware...
 

LiamC

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Not so fast... :) Can anyone recommend a 4 or 8 port (it seems there is not much difference in price) SATA or SAS card that can do hardware RAID 10 (not soft RAID or Hardware assisted)? PCI-e x1 or x4 preferred, but will settle for x8. Compatible with ESXi 5/5.1 as well.
 
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