HighPoint RocketRAID 6Gb/s SATA/SAS 2720SGL Review Utilizing 8 Micron C400 6Gbps SSDs

Today we are testing a new controller from Highpoint that is taking a new approach to high end RAID.

The new approach is inexpensive high performance RAID which is not only for corporations and system builders, but also, the casual user as well. The casual user qualifies as anyone who uses a desktop computer, home server, or dedicated NAS. The trick is to pull off the performance, yet also to allow for the same reliability and features that one would expect from a larger, more robust and expensive enterprise class device.

INTRODUCTION

The HighPoint RocketRAID controller has a surprising amount of functionality for such a small controller, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50 and JBOD.

One of the things that jumps right out at us when looking over the specifications is RAID 6. Onboard RAID solutions do not offer RAID 6 functionality at all. Upon further reflection, you will also be hard pressed to find a RAID controller that supports RAID 6 for under 500 dollars!

A huge factor that is a big selling point is that this is a 6Gb/s capable controller. Many users today are clamoring for adapters that will allow them to reign in the performance of the newest 6Gb/s storage devices on previous generation motherboards, not to mention that some 6Gb/s implementations on X58 motherboards are severely hamstrung by bandwidth limitations.

A key test will the devices handling of the 6Gb/s solid state drives that we will be testing them with today, this being eight C400 256GB SSDs. These SSDs will afford us the power required to saturate, not only the speeds that this controller is capable of, but also the speed of the PCIe bus that it is connected to.

Hitting the low price point that HighPoint has set for this device is absolutely critical for these types of users looking to upgrade-in-place, gaining more power from their existing systems. Of course, the individuals not looking to upgrade the entire system tend to be budget conscious, so this could be an excellent solution for them if it delivers.

Some of the key consideration of this product are;

  1. Industry’s lowest cost RAID 6 capable controller at MSRP $170
  2. Best cost/performance controller in the industry.
  3. Good choice alternative to Hardware RAID6 controllers costing over $500

Today we will see if this device delivers upon those promises. First, lets take a look at the 27xx family of devices.

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ArntOlafMathiesen
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ArntOlafMathiesen

hi what driver di you use on the card i did get 3-600 MB/s on atto test whit old drivers (first ver) ther is a test on HW no that shows this card doing 4170 on atto

MRFS
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MRFS

That figure of “4170” — presumably Megabytes per second — overstates the upstream bandwidth of x8 PCIe 2.0 lanes: x8 @ 500 = 4,000 MBps. Thus, the extra “170” must be a residual result of some other factor, like OS caching. Highpoint’s readme.txt recommends downloading the latest driver and the latest bios for that card, particularly if one wants to DISABLE INT13 — Interrupt 13 — which must be ENABLED in order to boot from that card. Flashing a new bios can be done with a Windows program, so obviously one must be able to boot into Windows in order… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

The maximum results capable with any hardware raid solution over a single pcie 2.0 slot is roughly 2.7-2.8 GB/s. This is true of several different manufacturers. I would like to see a link with these results of anything near 4000 MB/s. According to posted pcie specs, that is impossible.
There is more communication going on with the device and the bus than just the data. There is an overhead with any specification. This is the effective limitation of these devices.

MRFS
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MRFS

I didn’t mean to imply that “throughput” could reach 4,000 with PCIe 2.0. I did refer to that number as “max bandwidth” i.e. x8 @ 500 MBps = 4,000 MBps. Nevertheless, each x1 PCIe 2.0 lane oscillates at 5 GHz; and the reason why that translates into 500 MBps is the 8b/10b “legacy frame” which adds one start bit and one stop big to each byte transmitted — hence 10 bits per transmitted byte: 5 GHz / 10 = 500 MBps The same legacy frame is also used in the current SATA-III standard, only the clock rate is 6 GHz… Read more »

Arntolafmathiesen
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Arntolafmathiesen
Anonymous
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Anonymous

You must read those results with care. something is amiss. Those controllers, and i mean NONE of them, are rated for those speeds. not one of them claim to be able to reach those speeds, simply because they cannot. 9265-8i and 9260-8i are rated at 2.7-2.8 MAX. Also, when they run Anvils benchmark, which i am extremely familiar with, they are also not receiving anything near what they are claiming with the graphs that they made. Also, even though they are running Anvil, they should be getting much higher results. they have it configured to a 1GB test file that… Read more »

MRFS
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MRFS

Paul, I’m sure you are correct: there is NO WAY that x8 PCIe 2.0 lanes can deliver more then 4 GB/second. Here’s why: x8 PCIe 2.0 lanes @ 5 GHz / 10 = 4,000 MB/second MAX!! (I’ve done that calculation literally dozens of times — on paper, in my head, and at numerous Forums.) However, their measuring tool may be watching ONLY traffic between those controllers and 8 x Samsung 830 SSDs (as shown in one of their photos), then: 8 x SSDs @ ~520 = 4,160 MB/second http://prisguide.hardware.no/produkt/samsung-ssd-830-series-64gb-151501 The latter rate is very close to what I see reported… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I have a friend, actually anvil himself, who is the maker of the Anvil Utilities bench. He is norwegian, and is very active on that very site that contains said review. I am sending him a quick email to get his thoughts, he natively speaks the language needed to read over the article. he is very knowledgeable, and like myself, owns every controller used in that very review.
I will report back when he replies 🙂

MRFS
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MRFS

On the other hand, if their test file does fit entirely within the 8 SSD caches which are additive in RAID 0 mode, this is the kind of test that demonstrates how the upstream bandwidth may ultimately emerge as the real limiting factor. I remember commenting, several years ago, how RAID cards were very slow to exploit all x16 PCIe lanes, whereas video cards did so very early after PCI Express first became available. In order to supply an upstream bandwidth that exceeds 4,000 MB/second, either: (1) a RAID controller with a full x16 edge connector must be installed; -or-… Read more »

Christopher
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Christopher

Do the C400s not get the 0009FW? or are they still on 0002?

MRFS
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MRFS

> There is definitely a notable step down in performance when the controller is handling the load.

I’m really glad to see this permutation measured in an apples-to-apples comparison.

With the proliferation of multi-core CPUs, it seemed rather obvious to exploit one or more idle cores to do the I/O processing, that would otherwise be done by a dedicated IOP on a more expensive RAID controller.

Here, we see that general-purpose CPU cores do a much better job of exploiting PCIe bandwidth, than the 2720SGL’s own on-board hardware can deliver.

Very interesting!

MRFS

MRFS
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MRFS

Now, just as the Windows 7 scheduler was recently modified better to exploit AMD’s Bulldozer architecture, it may be worthwhile to distribute software RAID queuing across multiple cores of a multi-core CPU. In the Forums here, we’ve already discussed how Windows may assign all RAID queuing to a single CPU core e.g. like “set affinity” in Windows Task Manager, regardless of the number of RAID members. As such, this single CPU core ends up being a big I/O bottleneck. With 8 x SSDs like those assembled in this review, it would make sense to distribute queuing across 2 or more… Read more »

MRFS
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MRFS

> The Micron C400 6Gb/s SSDs boast a sequential read speed of 415 MB/s and 260 MB/s write speed. > we were able to reach our highest throughput at 2.7 Gb/s with the Software RAID. This is effectively the maximum practical limit of the PCIe 2.0 x8 bus. I don’t think the card is the only bottleneck here: Let’s do a simple parametric analysis: x8 PCIe lanes @ 500 MBps = 4,000 MBps max bandwidth 8 x C400 @ 415 = 3,320 MBps max throughput (perfect scaling) 2,742 / 3,320 = 0.826 –> 17.4% overhead (realistic scaling) My limited measurements… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I believe that in order for the device to take advantage of the jumbo frame the device itself would have to be pcie 3.0 compliant.
Even the highest performing solutions currently available, the 9260 and 9265, can only peak at around 2.7-2.8 GB/s, there is also the 9211 HBA that peaks around this limitation as well.

MRFS
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MRFS

> in order for the device to take advantage of the jumbo frame the device itself would have to be pcie 3.0 compliant. Correct: such a new protocol would require compatibility with the PCIe 3.0 “jumbo frame” at both ends of the data cable. That’s one of the main reasons why I am suggesting that this feature should be standardized in a “SATA-IV” specification, for adoption industry-wide. At the moment, that “jumbo frame” appears to be a feature limited to the PCIe 3.0 chipsets i.e. fixed wire traces that are embedded in internal motherboard circuitry. BTW: I’ve noticed that, when… Read more »

MRFS
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MRFS

Case in point: http://hexus.net/tech/news/mainboard/32968-msi-outs-x79a-gd45-8d-x79-motherboard/ “the latest PCI Express Gen 3 to provide up to 32GB/s transfer bandwidth for the expansion cards” This necessarily implies BOTH an 8GHz clock rate AND the 128b/130b “jumbo frame” in order to deliver 16 GB/s in one direction across a standard x16 PCIe 3.0 edge connector. The Gen3 spec has simplified bandwidth planning: 8G/8b = 1.0 GB/s per x1 PCIe lane (i.e. 1 GB/s per lane). Thus, 16 such PCie lanes @ 1.0 GB/s = 16 GB/s in on direction, and double that in both directions: 16 x 2 = 32 GB/s. But, we must… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Paul,

Where did you read that the 2720SGL supports RAID 6?

According to the packaging this statement is not accurate ‘The HighPoint RocketRAID controller has a surprising amount of functionality for such a small controller, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50 and JBOD.” I cannot find any reference to supporting RAID 6 in any of the documentation or on the product packaging so I am extremely curious about the discreprency. Especially since you made an extra point of how unusual this option was on a RAID card in this price range.

Thanx,
Peter