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HighPoint SSD7101A-1 NVMe RAID Controller Review – Samsung and Toshiba M.2 SSDs Tested

When it comes to storage management, RAID configurations of some kind have proven to be top dog when it comes to performance.  This was initially shown in our report of the Intel 910 PCIe SSD way back in 2012 and, more recently, with the Kingston DCP1000 NVMe SSD that reached 7GB/s throughput and over 1 million IOPS.  The Kingston DCP1000 is still top dog on the market and we have shown it off in enthusiast, enterprise and even a Dual DCP1000 RAID Report where the DCP1000 hit 14GB/s and 2 million IOPS.   Today, we are following that same direction with the Highpoint SSD7101 NVMe SSD Raid Controller but for one thing, you select and install the M.2 storage that you want to include in the device.121A0791

This is the HighPoint SSD7101 NVme RAID controller as you would buy it and without its black aluminum heatsink casing.  It will hold 4 x 2280 M.2 NVMe SSDs, the brand of which are the choice of the user (although only Samsung 960 Pro and Evo are presently validated by HighPoint).  It is a PCIe 3.0 x16 device that provides PCIe 3.0 X4 for each SSD. The SSDs are fed through the PLX PEX 8747 PCIe switch shown here:

HighPoint SSD7101a-1 RAID Controller PLX PEX8747 switch

The PLX PEX 8747 is a 48 lane, 5-port PCIe Gen 3 switch that can control as many as four X8 devices and move them to the PC or server through a PCIe 3.0 X16 channel. For this device, we can utilize up to four NVMe M.2 SSDs at PCIe 3.0 x4, each in a JBOD or RAID configuration at the OS, or through the HighPoint NVMe Manager which allows us to create RAID 0, 1, 5, or 10 configurations from the card itself.  

HighPoint SSD7101A-1 NVMe SSD RAID Controller

This card is available now for as low as $400 which is great, but any consumer looking to purchase such needs to remember that it is a 16 lane device, although it will work at X8.   In our testing on our Z270 system, we had to use integrated graphics to get the card to work at X16.  When we bumped up to the newest X299 with Intel i9-7900X CPU, we were able to get the SSD7101A-1 working at X16 from PCIe slot 3 with a single graphics card also working at X16 in slot 1.  This was only because of the additional lanes provided by this i9-7900x.

HighPoint SSD7101a-1 SSD RAID Controller

This is the HighPoint SSD7101A-1 NVMe SSD RAID Controller with the heat shield attached,  The exterior is a thick aluminum casing which has thermal tape inside to ensure contact with the SSDs and PLX controller.  Heat then dissipates from the SSDs and controller to exterior surface.  To assist with this, there is also a 50x50mm fan which creates ab air flow through the device and provides for active cooling.  In a typical PC, the fan is louder than other fans but not so loud as to annoy the user. 

  • frjoethesecond

    I wonder if a Threadripper build could run this with dual GPUs?

    • Waiting for it to arrive. I am told it can…and then some.

      • roadkill612

        I heard only intel boards are listed as supported at their site?

      • roadkill612

        Wow, I look forward to your piece on it.

        Comparing this w/ the native TR raid drivers coming soon.

        I nurse a hope that amdS lanes are cleaner than intels. Certainly there are a lot of ifs and buts attached to pre x299 mobo pcie3 x16 slots.

        The normal spec for TR is 3x native m.2 ports on the mobo, so 3x ssd in raid on TR is very democratic – available to most wise TR buyers if u boot on sata ssd – no expensive controller needed.

        From raid benches i have seen, 3x raid 0 seems a sweet spot in the diminishing returns table.

    • roadkill612

      No it wont. TR is limited to 2x 16 lane cards sadly.

  • pathfindercod

    Hey! Great review. So this unit is suppose to be bootable? Just possible issues with your particular motherboard?

  • lorki

    Nice review! Could also review the native nvme raid on threadripper with the drivers that will be released on 25th of September. Amd claims that it supports up to 7 nvme drives on raid.

  • roadkill612

    I dont recall details as of no use to me, but i did research bootable raid on the net, & the upshot is u can boot on anything, there is just an arcane procedure to set it up – like a clean install of win from a flash stick onto a suitably pre-configured array ~.

  • roadkill612

    I gather from comments the article hasnt clarified that only intels are listed in the supported moboS, or so I hear.

    It seems odd, as its perfect for lane rich TR/epyc, bar the high cost & possibly superfluous raid capabilities (tr & epyc can perform raid unaided by controller)

  • roadkill612

    The usual frustrating refrain re raid nvme is “its already so fast, u wont notice the difference” – true, but your system will, and u will notice that.

    To me the exciting concept is virtual memory. For the first time ever, the boundaries between ram and storage are getting blurred by such arrays.

    For discerning parts of this virtualising process (as we see here, iops are no better on raid), intelligent 8GB/s paging/juggling of big slabs of contiguous data from such storage arrays up and down the speed hierarchy of the cache pool, could be extremely useful.

    As a sign of things to come, we see the radeon vega pro ssg, with 2TB of raid nvme attached tot the gpu card – a snip at $7kus. The onboard nvme raid can be used as a cache extender for the gpu onboard 16GB hbm2 ram.

    All vega cards can use hbcc to do same cache extending, only via the more handicapped pcie3 bus to system resources like these arrays or spare system memory.

    This auto expand and contract of cache at system level is a revolution for coders. They can simply assume ~unlimited gpu cache, and let the system handle the details.

    AMD “slides” on hbcc claim a bump in gpu ram of 2-3x can be simulated, un-noticed by users, by adding spare system ram to the hbcc vega gpu cache pool.

  • roadkill612

    I posted thoughts on what boil down to – add a small fast non boot array to your system, and soon a use will come along & u will be glad u did.

    So here is what i figure for a cheap rig to test the water.

    Get a TR w/ 3x nvme ports. preserve these precious native raid supported ports for your raid and find another way of booting.

    factors are:
    the drives are dear. u have been generous with ports/lanes, nand improves fast, u dont need space (multiples of existing ram are nothing vs ssd array capacities), only speed,…

    If the progression in specs from the 950 pro to the now oldish 960 pro are any guide, we will soon see nvmeS which saturate their allotted 4GB/s pcie3 bandwidth – in both read and write.

    at that point, you can get the most from your 3x array, so its tempting to go cheap til then.

    while the samsung 960 pro 500GB ssd is the current king for this, 3x ~$370us? is a lot, and still well shy of the magic 4GB/s at ~3.2 GB/s SeqRead & 2.2GB/s SW.

    The samsung evo retail range are good, slower and cheaper, and also come in much cheaper 256GB size, and may stripe to some very respectable speeds, yet keep outlays minimal until the really cool ssdS arrive, at which point, you have 3 x very salable 256GB ssd ~desktop boot drives.

    then we come to the matter of oem versions of these same drives, which are available out there even cheaper.

    Really cheap? There are even such panasonic 128GB nvme ssdS – dunno, some say they lack sufficient cache, oth, maybe raid 0 has the effect of tripling the apparent cache?

    NB I am not suggesting u rely on this storage. I am suggesting it as a scratch workspace for temp files and virtual page files as above. Its like volatile dram, if suddenly lost, the job can be recovered. This is the coding norm for such files. Debate on possible failure rates (~anachronism from hdd days imo) is beside my point.

    So yeah,w/ a 3 x nvme port TR w/16GB & even a future 4GB VEGA card, the above array could realistically provide ~12GB/s read and write in a year or so, 9 & 5.25 GB/s now w/ 960 pro, & for not much money (compared to large ram certainly), 256GB panasonics should yield 7GB & 4.5GB/s.

    (remember sata ssdS are ~500MB/s & HDD is about 120MB/s when they finally find the file)

    In perspective, most agree,few games suffer from using 8 lanes vs 16 lanes for demanding gaming, and 8 lanes equates to 8GB/s, so an 8GB array is like system memory bandwidth to a gpu card.

    Apart from the drives, it wont cost a nickel extra on your planned TR, maybe even a smaller spend on “precautionary” memory.

    There are those who slag off bios raid & some who praise/slag off software raid. Dunno. Its hard to trust anything when so many attitudes seem remnants of another era.

    A curious one is some round on windows software raid for the huge? overheads it introduces, which begs the question, does it matter when we now we all 🙂 have cores doing nothing.

    It puzzles me that there is a huge demand for such cards as these, but they almost dont exist. You can get a pcie3 x4 lane adaptor for a single nvme ssd cheap as chips ($15) anywhere, but ~nothing bigger exists i can find, even lacking raid.

    Why is it so simple to make a dumb 1x adaptor, and so hard to make a dumb 2x (8 pcie3 lane) or 4x (16 lane) adaptor? Thats all thats needed for AMDs bios raid or MS software raid.

  • roadkill612

    fyi

    comparison results on an x99? intel mobo, 6x 960 pro 1GB invarious raid arrays

    http://imgur.com/a/a68Sd

    There always seem to be some glitches in all of them, but patterns emerge, raw numbers aside.

    The table gives a good idea of the sort of multiple in raw speed that can be expected i the eco system can handle these radical bandwidths.

    one pattern is there seems to be a big drop of in read gains for the fourth drive in an array – ?, maybe its just me?

    another pattern that stands out, is write speeds, as alluded to in the article.

    In some apps, fast read may be meaningless if writes are slow, and writes lag seriously on single ssdS.

    The numbers show tho, that writes profit far more from striping than read speeds, and it may pay a user to keep adding drives to the array, even when write gains are dropping off.

    another curiosity I noticed elsewhere, was they tested the arrays 4x 960 pro individually, and the variance was quite extreme – ~2800MB/s vs 3200MB/s read? Its very damaging to add sub par drives to an array, asthe lowest speed drive dictates the pace for the whole array.

  • crion

    This card is passe now on the TR4 platform as you get FREE RAID from AMD:

    Der8auer hits 28GB/s on TR4 in I/O meter and 8xNVMe Samsung 960 Pro!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CoAyjzJWfw

    ASUS Hyper M.2 x16 Card (less than 100$)
    https://www.komplett.se/product/945185/datorutrustning/lagring/haarddisk/ssd-pci-express/asus-hyper-m2-x16-card

    ASUS X399 Rog Zenith
    Change the PCI slot into 4x4x4x4x mode from original 16x mode.

    1900X can push 64 pci-lanes.

    Done.

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