Adaptec (by PMC) ASR-8885 12Gb/s PCIe RAID Adapter Review – Raid Testing With 8 HGST 12Gbps SSDs

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…


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    Lisa Jackson = Rich Windsor


    I didn’t see the ASR-8885 as being listed, via the Amazon link provided. Is it available yet? If so, who besides Amazon would carry it? And likewise for the HGST SSD800MM?

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      We commonly review products before such availability and I might keep my eyes open on the Amazon links for the card. As for the HGST 12Gbps SAS SSDs, I somehow don’t think we are going to be seeing those available through retail means anytime soon, keeping in mind thjat they are still a new and very hard to come by item.

      Thanks ahead though for using our links!

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        Lisa Jackson = Rich Windsor

        The “wow” for the performance numbers. Again, wow 8) and thanks for the informative review. Would like to buy, but am going to have to save pennies for awhile.

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    You wrote:

    “… Finally, you can see the SFF-8643 internal connectors and SFF-8644
    external connectors. With both external and internal ports, the
    ASR-8885 has a lot of flexibility….”

    Ok, so for example, (8)Internal / (8)External , so does this “flexibility” mean, I can simply connect 16 Drives “Internally” to the Raid card, and for example utilize all 16 in a Raid-10 ???

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      If you want to connect only internal drives using the 8885 then you would want to use a backplane with expanders, as physically, only 8 directly cabled drives can be connected to the internal ports on this model. However if you had an externla drive enclosure attached to this model, then you could use the external porsts in combination with the internal.

      With the use of an expander based enclosure, you would be able to see all the drives in the enclosure through one connection (single point to point cable from controller to enclosure).

      You could also use a 16 port internal controller such as the 81605ZQ, which does offer 16 internal ports. With either controller you would be able to create arrays using all available drives, whether in a single array or divided among different arrays or using the same drives for multiple arrays (up to 4 arrays can be created with the same set of drives.

      Adaptec by PMC

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    Do you know if the new series 8 follows the same nature as previous one series 6 and 7, I mean, they seem to shine at high queue depths, but can you tell me if the made progress on random 4K QD1? Thank you

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      Hi Ricardo,

      Adaptec has been working on improving lower queue depth performance and the up-comming release of firmware expected at the end of 2013/beginning of 2014 should reflect these changes in series 7 and 8 performance numbers. However, even when these changes are implemented, queue depth 1 performance is
      expected to be low compared to more common IO depth performance applications.

      Especially since at IO depth 1, the full latency of every stage in the IO path is exposed – from application, driver, command thread, drive and all the way back. At all times, only one stage is active. All others have to wait, because there is only one IO.

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        Thank you for the answer Adaptec.
        I’ve been using Adaptec 6405 with ZMM module connecting a pair of samsung 830 ssd specifically on windows environment. I learned that Dynamic mode is the best suited for windows environment (every type of sequencial and random nature). Ok I know the benchmarks (wherever they are) don’t tell the true story and my “slow” 6405 is really fast scanning a single seagate barracuda 7200.10 at 920mb/s (all cache enabled when protected by zmm) and drives cache itself). I asked before about random 4k QD1 because each manufacturer do their controllers specifically for one environment,for example: Areca for random(read ahead and write back everything), LSI for random too, 3ware for sequencial, Atto and Adaptec for sequencial. Well booting windows from the controller,well is espected to see some nice random results and, in my opinion, would be great to see the Adaptec cache works effectively on random patterns.
        Another question: why the ZMM module has 4GB SLC since it is suppose to support only 512mb? Does the module other actions like helping actively on reads and writes? (Excluding the task writen by the cache and flushing to it) in case of power failure)

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        It does not help with read/writes. It is just a replacement for a BBU. BBU has problems with maintaining voltage, in some cases you will have to empty it to gauge how much power it has, or to increase how it’s life expectancy. That is the downside to this, it cannot keep power in check for a too long of period of time. And you will have to empty the BBU and recharge it again. That means in the mean time of a few hours it will use passthrough instead of backed. In most cases it is not tolerateble to have it like that. Since some server has high loads and things might become a bottleneck when it suddenly shut’s off.

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    Are throughput test done in RAID 5 mode?

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    Unfortunately all I gained from this article was that you are happy Adaptec has raid controllers. If those charts included a performance comparison to a 9271 or even a 9260 I’d have some idea how an LSI benchmarks are in relation to the new adaptec. Just because it is 12G or PCI 3.0 that doesn’t mean it is faster, just that it has access to more bandwidth however the processor may be so slow it gains nothing.

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    Fantastic article! I am running a small post production shop. Our network runs on 10Gbe and as I am adding editors our current RAID (a Promise R8 connected via thunderbolt to an iMac server) is starting to become a bottle neck.

    I’m currently considering building a Windows 2012 R2 server with one of these Adaptec cards to run either an 8 drive or 16 drive RAID-5. Obviously we can not afford the SSD drives tested here so I am wondering if it would be possible to run an SSD raid based on costumer SSD drives. The top of the line SSD’s from companies such as Sandisk currently achieve 400MB/s with 1TB capacity.

    So an 8 bay RAID 5 configuration would give us 7TB of space and run at 2.8GB/s. An 16 bay RAID 5 would give us 15 TB of space and throughput of 6.0GB/s. Are my assumptions here correct?

    Would it even be possible to use consumer grade SSDs in a server configuration or will they just die after 3 months use?

    Would love to get your thoughts!

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