The Right Stuff:
Dual Drive Ultra160 SCSI Array Hits 87MB/sec!
Posted 8/4/2000, Updated 8/18/2000 with the Adaptec 39160 controller results.
© 2000 Rob Art Morgan, publisher of BARE FEATS
I've been claiming that an Ultra ATA RAID can go just as fast as an Ultra160 RAID. I've just been proven wrong. With additional testing of various drive and controller combinations, I achieved amazing speeds with just two 7200 rpm SCSI drives. Check it out!


The SCSI controller you use makes all the difference. The Adaptec 39160 and the ATTO UL3D finished in a virtual dead heat. Either one will give you 80+MB/sec sustained READ and 57+MB/sec sustained WRITE... and with only a two drive striped array!

The SCSI drive you choose makes all the difference. The Seagate Barracuda 18XL seemed to hit the wall at around 50MB/sec. The Quantum Atlas IV was so fast, I thought I had used a 10,000rpm drive by mistake. Now I wonder what a 10K or 15K dual drive setup will do... stay tuned.

The Ultra ATA arrays are impressive but are outgunned by the right Ultra SCSI combination. In case you haven't heard, the Acard Ultra ATA Hardware RAID, or "A-hard" as I call it, is an Ultra ATA PCI card that enables you to create an Ultra ATA hardware array just by flipping a switch. "Look Ma, no software!" It can be used to create striped or mirrored arrays or as a normal HFS drive controller. You can boot a single drive using other Ultra ATA controllers but try booting a striped array. Won't work... except on this new model of Acard. (FLASH: Since posting this page, Sonnet Technologies has announced they will offer this product under a joint venture with Acard. They call it the Tempo RAID66 and offer in-depth documentation and installation guide. )

The SmartDisk's VST UltraTek/66 uses SoftRAID to create mirrored and striped arrays or both. It comes with a FREE copy of SoftRAID, a $150 value. Notice the 32MB/sec write speed. The G4 Yikes and G3 Yosemite produced 46MB/sec write speed. (Why the discrepancy? The G4/400 Sawtooth has a PCI controller chip that is missing a certain command needed by firmware programmers.)

If cost is the issue, Ultra ATA gives cheaper thrills. The ATTO UL3D and 2 Quantum Atlas V's (18GB) will run at least $1100. The UltraTek/66 and 2 IBM 75GXP (30GB) will run you less than $500.


My next round of testing will include dual Seagate Cheetah's running at 15,000 RPM on Adaptec's 39160, ATTO's UL3D, and ATTO's new UL3S controller.



Other World Computing has Quantum Atlas V drives ranging from 9GB to 36GB. So does Buy.Com (search on "Atlas").

OWC has the Adaptec 29160N and 39160N controller.

MacGurus sells the ATTO ExpressPCI Dual-Channel Ultra3 (UL3D) card for $550. Buy.Com has it for $415 (search on "atto").

MacGurus sells the whole line of Seagate drives. The Barracudas I tested were slower than the Quantum Atlas V, but for really fast drives, try the 10,000 or 15,000 rpm Cheetahs. Also try going to Buy.Com and do a search on "cheetah" or "barracuda."

The UltraTek/66 is available from SmartDisk's VST Technology direct for $199. It's listed at Buy.Com for $154.95! (Do a search on "ultratek.") It includes a FREE copy of SoftRAID (valued at $150), dual cables, and mounting brackets for extra drives.

Acard Hardware IDE RAID has a list Price of $199. Ask for AEC-6860M when ordering from Acard direct. It's not listed on their web site yet (brand new). Since Sonnet Technology and ProMAX use Acard as an OEM supplier, I fully expect this card to appear in their lineup. (FLASH: Since posting this page, Sonnet Technologies has announced they will offer this product under a joint venture with Acard. They call it the Tempo RAID66 and offer in-depth documentation and installation guide. )

The IBM 75GXP Ultra ATA/66+ drives used are available in sizes up to 75GB's from (search on "75gxp") and at reasonable prices. Check also with Other World Computing.



Test Software:

The sustained READ/WRITE speeds were obtained using Express-Pro Tools 2.3.2 benchmark test with 8MB maximum file size and system disk cache disabled. Sustained Rate is displayed in the charts. Peak rates can be impressive but do not reflect typical drive performance. I set MODE PAGES to PREPRESS on all drives.

TEST computers:

In all but one test, an Apple G4/400 Sawtooth with 256MB of RAM. Virtual Memory was OFF and disk cache set to 128K (i.e. minimum).

The Ultra3 (Ultra160) SCSI controllers:

Adaptec 29160 Power Domain (courtesy of Adaptec)

Adaptec 39160 Power Domain (courtesy of Adaptec)

ATTO ExpressPCI Dual-Channel Ultra3 (courtesy of ATTO Technology)

The Ultra ATA controllers:

UltraTek/66 Includes two cables and SoftRAID. (Courtesy of SmartDisk/VST)

AHARD Hardware IDE RAID (Courtesy of Acard ) which turns any pair of drives formatted by Apple's driver into a striped array with a flip of the switch and reboot. Switch settings can be used to do mirroring or standard HFS. (FLASH: As of Dec 2000, Sonnet Technology is selling the AHARD under their label. They call it the RAID66.)

The Ultra SCSI drives:

Two Quantum Atlas V 9GB drives (courtesy of Other World Computing)

Two Seagate Barracuda 18XL (9GB) ST39236LW (courtesy of Seagate Technology).

Ultra ATA drives:

Two IBM Deskstar 75GXP 30GB 7200 RPM Ultra ATA/66+ with 2MB cache (courtesy of Other World Computing)



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© 2000 Rob Art Morgan, publisher of BARE FEATS