When it comes to high performance RAID add-in cards, there are really only two big players in the market: Adaptec and LSI. These two have been duking it out for years, each one constantly trying to one up the other, with LSI often coming out on top. To give you a bit of history, lets take a look back at the past year.
At this point in 2012, LSI was on top of the world. The LSI MegaRAID SAS 9265/66 was the RAID card to beat and had been for almost a year. While LSI was leading the performance market, Adaptec was still getting its feet settled after the PMC-Sierra acquisition from 2010. In October of 2012, Adaptec released the Series 7 line of RAID adapters. For the first time in years, LSI was put on notice. As we reviewed earlier this year, the Series 7, specifically the ASR-72405, had a few tricks up its sleeve. Instead of relying on low native port counts and expanders, Adaptec released a RoC (RAID-on-Chip) that had 24 native ports. This allowed for a massive upgrade in bandwidth over an 8-port design.
As the summer of 2013 approached, LSI struck back with their SAS 9300 line of 12Gbps controllers. Even though port counts stayed at 8, the doubling of bandwidth made the SAS 9300 very competitive with the Series 7, even if their approaches were completely opposite.
At this point, we figured that the market would stabilize for a while, with high port count (Adaptec) battling it out with high port bandwidth (LSI). We were pleasantly surprised when Adaptec approaches us just a month later asking us to take an exclusive good look at their new Series 8 RAID Adapter.
The Series 8 gives us the best of both worlds; high port count (16) and high port bandwidth (12Gbps). There are actually 5 different adapters in the Series 8 family. The first is the ASR-81605ZQ which has 16 internal ports with integrated Zero Maintenance Cache Protection. Next we have the ASR-8885 and ASR-8885Q. Both have 8 internal and 8 external ports, with the 8885Q coming with the AFM-700 flash-based cache protection module. Adaptec also has the ASR-8805, which has only 8 internal ports. Finally, the ASR-8885E, which is identical to the ASR-8885, but only has 512MB of cache protection, versus 1024MB for all other flavors. It also only supports RAID levels 0, 1, 1E and 10, which might be a deal breaker for many. All other version support RAID levels 0, 1, 1E, 5, 6, 10, 50, 50 and 60. The ASR-8885 lists for $725, while the ASR-8805 is $640. The bargain of the group is the ASR-8885E, which lists for just $440.
All versions are MD2, low profile cards that should be at home in a server environment. They connect via a x8 PCIe GEN3 interface. All internal ports are connected via SFF-8643 connectors, while the external ports use SFF-8644. You may also see them referred to as min SAS HD, but they are the same connectors used on the Series 7 and LSI SAS 9300. Unlike LSI, which initially released a 12Gbps HBA with a RAID adapter to follow on, Adaptec is leading with the RAID adapter and leaving the HBA for later this year.
When it comes to performance, Adaptec is leading the way. The Series 8 has the same 6.6GB/s sequential read rate as the Series 7, but doubles the RAID 5 sequential write speed from 2.6 to 5.2GB/s. Maximum IOPS also jumps from 450K to 700k!
Since LSI only has an HBA available, we decided to pit the Adaptec ASR-8885 against its sibling, the ASR-72405. In our Adaptec 72405 review we were able to get impressive numbers when paired with 24 SMART Optimus SSDs. We got even crazier numbers when we doubled up the number of RAID adapters. While we didn’t have access to the SMART Optimus SSDs for this comparison, we got something just as impressive. HGST sent us over eight SSD800MM 12Gbps SAS enterprise SSDs! These are the same drives that stole the show in our LSI 12Gbps review earlier in the year.
The HGST SSD800MM is a monster of a device. We have never seen performance anywhere close in a 2.5″ SATA/SAS form factor. With sequential read/write speeds of 1150/700MB/s and random read/write speeds of 145K/70K IOPS, the SSD800MM is the perfect drive to stress the Series 8.
Before we do that, lets tear into the ASR-8885…