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Serial ATA RAID Controllers - Promise, Silicon Image, Highpoint and nVidia

By: Shawn Baker | RAID/HBA in Storage | Posted: May 7, 2004 4:00 am

Native nVidia nForce 3 250


We couldn't stress enough the importance of native off-PCI devices in our recent nForce 3 250 review and if you haven't had the chance to look at it or you can't be bothered we will give you a better understanding of how native devices offer us better bandwidth.


- Benefits of Native


In the past and present network controllers, hard disk controllers and so on operate off the PCI bus. The PCI bus has a maximum transfer rate of 133MB/s which while was okay in the past is not so great these days due to Serial ATA drives in a non RAID situation having a maximum transfer rate of 150MB/s.


When you come to RAID'ing drives the maximum transfer rate then theoretically becomes 300MB/s and as you can figure out you are well and truly passing what the maximum bandwidth of the PCI Bus can produce just on the hard drive side of things



When something goes native, in this case the Serial ATA controller, it moves to the MCP chipset which is the central chip for everything on the motherboard. The bandwidth available here is much greater and for this reason you are removing a bottleneck that was previously offered in the limited PCI bus architecture.



When it comes to testing we should begin to see quite a large jump in hard drive performance over the PCI controller cards thanks to the native offering which has the big bandwidth pipe available to make full use of Serial ATA RAID. Apart from hard drive controllers being native the only other piece of hardware that is also making use of this technology to the mainstream market is Gigabit Networking. Due to the theoretical speed being so much greater then conventional 10/100 networking it had to be moved from the PCI bus for any advantage to be seen - just as nVidia was first to do with their nForce 3 250 chipset.


We will see in just a moment how native hard drive controllers pair against ones running through the PCI bus. We should see a jump in performance but at the moment we are simply just reading numbers that might not give us any real performance gain.


- BIOS Setup Photos


Finally we move onto the nForce 3 250 RAID setup. Let's see if onboard RAID is any easier to setup.



Here we select the RAID we want, Striping Block size and the drives we want to add.



Once that has been done you simply click F7 for finish and press Y so it clears any current array you have setup, if you have one setup.



That's it - two steps later and your RAID setup is ready to go. The easiest setup by far out of all the controllers, nVidia has done an excellent job with their setup utility.



You can continue to press enter on the RAID array to get a bit more information on the setup you are using.


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