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Review: HighPoint RocketRAID 2300 - Ready for take-off?

by Steve Kerrison on 22 August 2007, 08:37

Tags: RocketRAID 2300, HighPoint

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Shaking it up


In recent weeks and months we've examined a number of network-orientated RAID devices. Today, we're shaking things up a little.

Now it's time to go local and take a look at a RAID add-in board.

It's been a while since we last looked at any RAID AIBs - August 2006 in fact, when we took the LSI MegaRAID 8408E for a spin. And before that there was the XFX Revo 64.

Not a great deal has changed on the RAID front since then. There remain, more-or-less, three different types of RAID implementation.

First, you've got budget RAID - the kind you'll find built into an enthusiast motherboard or on a cheap add-in board. These solutions are, essentially, a SATA controller and a BIOS module, with all the work done by the CPU.

Then you've got middle of the road RAID cards. These add features such as enclosure-support, warning buzzers and, often, some more sophisticated management software. However, they're still not likely to do all of the RAID work themselves, even though they may take some of the burden away from the CPU.

Finally, there's the enterprise-class of RAID controller - the canine's cuddle conkers of storage cards. These puppies do the lot and don't give the CPU a look-in. This means they deliver the best performance by far in the majority of situations.

Today, the card on test - the HighPoint RocketRAID 2300 - straddles the first two groups. It's got quite a few features but still relies on the CPU and operating system to do a lot of the work for it.

Help or hindrance? Read on to find out.

HighPoint RocketRAID 2300

At the time of writing, the RocketRAID 2300 was priced at just under £90. That makes it a relatively low-cost offering. Even so, for that price HighPoint is providing a four-port, 3Gbps SATA connection over a one-lane PCIe interface.

A single lane of PCI-Express can signal at 2.5Gbps, full-duplex. That's 2.5Gbps in each direction, simultaneously. Data is 8B/10B encoded, which means only 80 per cent of the bits transmitted are actually data. So in 'real' terms, 1x PCIe works at somewhere below 2Gbps.

When four 3Gbps disks are attached, having just one lane of PCIe might be a limiting factor for the 2300 but we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, here's a rundown of the full spec sheet.

Feature Details
Bus interface PCI-Express 1x
Disk interface 4x SATA 3Gbps/1.5Gbps
RAID support RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD
Background/foreground (online/offline) initialisation
RAID expansion Online Capacity Expansion (OCE)
Online RAID Level Migration (ORLM)
Enclosure support SCSI Accessed Fault Tolerance Enclosures (SAF-TE)
Array capacity Multiple array support
64-bit LBA, >2TB supported
Array recovery Auto rebuild option
Disk monitoring SMART
Dynamic sector repair and re-mapping
Disk replacement Hot-swap and hot-spare support
Performance features Write-back/write-through cache
Native Command Queuing (NCQ)
Management software BIOS-level management
Web-based GUI
App-based GUI
Command-line (Linux/FreeBSD only)
Management features Activity/failure LEDs
Warning buzzer
E-mail alerts
Scheduled disk health checks
Operating system support Closed-source driver
Windows 2000 -> Vista, 32-bit/64-bit
Fedora, RedHat Enterprise, CentOS, SuSE, SLES
FreeBSD
Open-source driver
Linux 2.4/2.6
Warranty Three-year limited warranty

Not a bad features list there, considering the price. What we like the most is the broad support for different operating systems support, including an open-source driver. Other hardware developers take note: this is the way to do things - give users options!

If you care more about throughput than data protection, the RocketRAID 2300 supports RAID-0. If you don't like dead disks, RAID-5 is available. RAID-1 (mirroring), RAID-10 (RAID-1 and RAID-0 combined) and JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) are also supported, though that's true for most RAID cards.

HighPoint has certainly considered user requirements well and come up with a product that holds out a lot of promise - at least according to its spec sheet. Question is, can it deliver?