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Thread: XFX and Netcell team up to create driverless RAID cards

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    HEXUS webmaster Steve's Avatar
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    XFX and Netcell team up to create driverless RAID cards

    We have looked at graphics cards from XFX in the past, but today I'd like to bring your attention to a range of storage adapters that XFX are producing in partnership with Netcell.

    Netcell are a semiconductor company who develops storage adapter silicon devices, so they are no strangers to storage technology. XFX know how to put together a good product, so we have a good partnership from the off.

    The new products use a technology called SyncRAID. SyncRAID was developed by Netcell to provide data protection at a strength similar to RAID 5 while also improving data throughput. The cards feature onboard cache and an on-the-fly XOR engine for keeping parity calculations nice and speedy.

    However, the best feature that SyncRAID boasts (in my opinion at least) has to be the driverless support to provides:
    The SyncRAID technology uses patented ATA protocol emulation techniques to make a full-parity stripe RAID drive set appear to any standard ATA or SATA device as one large drive. Users can create a 1.2-terabyte array based on the latest drive technology, creating a fully protected, plug-and-play storage solution without the complication of special host drivers or the performance degradation of CPU overhead.
    Hands up everybody who has ditched their floppy disk drive? Now, hands up everybody who has to find their floppy disk drive again when they need to reinstall Windows to allow the OS to see their hard drives? You'll get none of that with SyncRAID as the system will see the RAID entity as a standard hard drive.

    There looks to be some very clever technology at work here. Check out the original press release here, and have a look at the XFX/Netcell products available over at XFX's website.
    Last edited by Steve; 12-02-2005 at 09:28 PM.
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    at last no more floopy drive needed! from that nasty sata install!

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    This is a god send but I would like to see some figures on performance and raid rebuild time on drive failure etc. Also does it support SATA 2? pretty silly not to now though of course there are no drives out.

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    dak
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    PCI64 - why no PCI-E?

    Seems like a good step in the right direction generally, and the prices seem fair so far as well having a quick look around. However, for the 5-port SATA product, it seems a shame it has to be PCI64. I hope that they are successful enough with it to release PCI-Express compatible cards in the next few months. I don't want to invest in something like this unless I know I can take it with me for another generation of boards at least.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dak
    Seems like a good step in the right direction generally, and the prices seem fair so far as well having a quick look around. However, for the 5-port SATA product, it seems a shame it has to be PCI64. I hope that they are successful enough with it to release PCI-Express compatible cards in the next few months. I don't want to invest in something like this unless I know I can take it with me for another generation of boards at least.
    The only thing that concerns me is whether they'd need new silicon or a bridge chip.

    With the latest graphics card, a bridge chip turns PCIe signalling into AGP compatible signalling.

    I'm not exactly sure, but I'd imagine turning PCI signalling into PCIe would be pretty pointless as there wouldn't be any real performance benefit? Perhaps with PCI64 there would be.

    Nevertheless your point is valid. I myself have a RAID 5 card (not an XFX one I'm afraid) but am eagerly awaiting the release of its PCIe successor.
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    Senior Member SilentDeath's Avatar
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    PCI only has 133mb bandwidth.. not really adequate for 5 sata drives which probably use about 50mb each.

    PCI64 is only used because it has twice the bandwidth, 266mb/s. PCI-E 1x would give more than enough b/w for more than 5 ports.

    Only servers have pci64.. so they would need to make a pci-e version if they want people to use them in normal systems..

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    You don't need five hard drives for a RAID 5 array, as little as three will do. Obviously, the more hard drives the better in that the array will be faster and and less space is lost to the parity but as I say, as little as three hard drives will do it.

    266mb/s is the amount of bandwidth a 66MHz PCI slot will give you, not a 64bit one. A 64bit PCI slot running at 66MHz will give 533MB/s bandwidth while a 64bit PCI-X slot running at 133MHz will give 1066MB/s.

    I wouldn't say that "only servers have PCI64" either. There are plenty of PC workstations that have 64bit PCI slots and they've been standard in PowerMacs since the G3.

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    I have been using the Netcell Raid controller for several months.It works great.Windows XP boots in less than 10 seconds.Installing Windows went without a hitch.

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    I was not able to get the controller to work with SuSE or several other version of Linux.It only works with W2000 or XP.

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    If you really loath the idea of keeping a floppy drive in your system *just* to install windows on your sata/raid (like i do), then you can make your own customised WinXP cd with the drivers on the cd itself, have a look at http://unattended.msfn.org and http://nuhi.msfn.org.

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    dak
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    PCIe vs PCI64/X

    Thanks for the info folks, and the links. As I understand it, PCI64/33Mhz has an initial throughput of 266MB/s running up to 533MB/s for the 66Mhz PCI64/X products, compared to PCIe 1x of 500MB/s. I think that compares very favourably for a 'client' machine without the added expense of PCI-64/X on the motherboard. Otherwise it would force me down the Opteron route as although PCI-64/X slots aren't exclusive to workstation boards, they aren't easy to find with PCI-e 16x as well. Meanwhile, even for only 3 HDD's in an array, PCI @ 133MB/s isn't really up to the task. They work, but can't offer the kind of performance hike we are starting to look forward to with PCIe video, gigabit connections and manic processor speeds. I wouldn't want to be planning my next PC around it, put it that way.

    However, I figure such a discussion should be on another thread! For some basic info around the different bus formats out there now, try this:
    http://www.webconnexxion.com/raid/in...hp?pages_id=35

    I will welcome any product that can potentially offer affordable backup with potential for increased performance such as RAID5, particularly if it can do so with cheap SATA drives and offer some future-proofing in terms of its connection. I will look forward to seeing some real-world performance stats for these boards compared to a traditional RAID card, and will continue to hope that PCI-e is not far behind!

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