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REVIEW: RocketRAID 2320 SATA II
PCI Express Host Adapter
For Dual-Core and Quad-Core G5s

Posted January 5th, 2006, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated January 6th, 2006, with info on RocketRAID 2322 with external ports

The HighPoint RocketRAID 2320 SATA II PCI Express 4X host adapter has been shipping to Quad-Core and Dual-Core Power Mac customers since November 11th, 2005. As of this posting, it is still the ONLY Mac compatible PCI Express SATA host adapter shipping.

Highpoint has distinguished themselves from the competition by being the only company to support RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, and 50 at the host adapter firmware level for both PCI Express and PCI-X Power Macs.

Though we've tested RocketRAID cards before, we think it's a good time to tell you a little more about the manufacturer. HighPoint Technologies, Inc., headquartered in the USA and based in Fremont, CA, has provided storage solutions to the industry for over 10 years. HighPoint employs over 250 people in the US and worldwide to deliver storage products that reach every customer type. Their milestones include delivering storage solutions for Fortune 500 companies, (HP, Apple, Sun Micro and Google) and pioneering embedded IDE RAID solutions to the major motherboard manufacturers.
 
Their current focus is on providing multi-channel hardware SATA RAID solutions for enterprise customers, SMB (Small to Medium Sized Businesses), and individual consumers needing storage expansion.

In the graphs below, we compare a Quad-Core G5/2.5GHz Power Mac with the RocketRAID 2320 SATA II PCIe card to the same setup running on a Single-Core Dual G5/2.5GHz Power Mac with a RocketRAID 2224 SATA II PCI-X card. Though there are slight differences in the transfer speeds, in RAID 0 mode, they both provide more than what's needed for the most demanding application, HD uncompressed video capture and playback.

CONCLUSION
HighPoint RocketRAID 2320 SATA II PCI Express 4X host adapter clearly fills the need of Dual-Core and Quad-Core G5 Power Mac owners for SATA drive support that goes beyond what's provided by the two factory drive slots.

You might have noticed that the PCI Express RocketRAID 2320 produced virtually the same speeds as the PCI-X RocketRAID 2224. That's partly due to the fact that the drives themselves have a finite limit to their collective speed. It's also because a 4 lane PCI Express slot has the same bandwidth as a PCI-X 133 slot (1GB/s).

STRENGTHS
1. The RocketRAID 2320 offers firmware level support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 50, and JBOD.
Though other companies are expected to announce PCI-Express host adapters soon, we expect the RocketRAID 2320 will continue to be the only one to support all those RAID modes.

2. Drivers for Mac included S.M.A.R.T. disk monitoring of single disk and RAID sets. There is an option for Email notification of activities on the RAID array. There is also a Task Manager that allows users to schedule periodic events on the RAID array. If users want to schedule a RAID 5 array verify every month at certain hour, they can do so in RAID Manager.

3. If you have a RAID set using eight 500GB drives, rest assured that you will see all 4 terabytes (3.6 formatted).

4. It has Spread Spectrum Clocking (SSC) enabled. That's good news for those of you having trouble "seeing" drives like the Seagate 7200.9 drive or Hitachi 7K400.

5. It has 8 ports, which is enough to support a RAID 0 set that can handle the most demanding applications.

It's shipping.

WEAKNESSES
1.
Though the RocketRAID 2320 has measures for protecting the RAID set from corruption, it does not support hot-swap in the traditional manner.
Swapping is allowed only with the intervention of their browser based RAID Manager. Users will need to login to the RAID Manager and click on the Maintenance button for the RAID Array. The second button (“Unplug”) allows users to unplug RAID arrays or single disk without having the controller report a broken RAID. This also helps when single disk has fallen offline due to power loss, loose cable, or disk failure.

When a new drive has been added, you must go into the RAID Manager and click on the Rescan Button to add a new disk(s). It initiates a rescan and finds any new disk(s) added to the controller.

You can't boot from the 2320. I know some of you wish it had this feature because you've told me you wanted to use it to boot a SATA II (300Gbit) drive or SATA II RAID set -- since the built-in SATA controller only supports SATA I (150Gbit/s). And don't hold your breath for this feature be added since their approach requires a driver to be loaded at boot time.

2. The 2320 won't let your Dual-Core or Quad-Core sleep.

3. RAID 5 doesn't hack it if you are doing High Definition Uncompressed 1920x1080 10bit RGB. Even when the volume is empty, the write speed is on the edge of acceptable with 8 drives (280MB/s). When the volume reaches 90% capacity, you'll be down to 180MB/s -- well below the targe speed for capture.

You could increase the capture speed of a RAID 5 set by increasing the number of drives to 9, 10, or 11. You can also isolate the slower portion of the RAID set by creating two partitions using Apple's Disk Utility.

4. All eight ports of the 2320 are internal. If you are trying to connect to an external SATA enclosure, you're going to have to make a 180 degree turn with the data cables and run them out an empty PCI slot hole. I expect HighPoint to offer a version similar to the RocketRAID 2224 with at least one Infiniband external port (which supports up to four external drives in their X4 four bay Infiniband enclosure). But if you already have enclosures (non-Infiniband), that doesn't help you.

If you want to stuff 8 additional drives INSIDE your Dual-Core or Quad-Core Power Mac, there are new kits available from four sources that mount drives in the CPU bay, PCI bay, and optical bay. (See "WHERE TO BUY" below.)

January 6th, 2006 -- Highpoint will soon release PCI Express SATA II RAID card with external ports. The RAID controller is the RocketRAID 2322 (RR2322) and will be compatible with Windows, Linux, FreeBSD and Mac OS X.
 
The two external ports are mini-SAS external ports and with different cable options users can attach external drive enclosures. One type of cabling allows the use of mini-SAS to Infiniband, so users can attach it to one or two of Highpoint's X4 drive enclosures or they can build their own storage boxes with their desired connection type. They will also release this year the HighPoint X8, an 8 bay external drive enclosure that has two mini-SAS connectors to connect to the RR2322.
 
(FYI: Mini-SAS cabling is a single cable that supports up to 4 devices. It is a similar concept as multi-lane cabling where 1 cable supports up to 4 devices. Mini-SAS is smaller type of cable and not as thick as the multi-lane cables but are highly rated for secure connections.)

TEST SOFTWARE
DiskTester
is unique drive testing utility that is run using Terminal. It gives you many options to chose. We ran the area test so we could sample various zones on the volume from "empty" to "full" (outer tracks to inner tracks). We specified a 1GB test file, 10% increments, 3 iterations, system cache disabled.

RELATED ARTICLES

BareFeats reviews the HighPoint RocketRAID 2314

BareFeats reviews the HighPoint RocketRAID 2322

BareFeats reviews the HighPoint RocketRAID 2224 and X4

BareFeats reviews the HighPoint RocketRAID 2220

BareFeats reviews the HighPoint RocketRAID 2314

BareFeats reviews the HighPoint RocketRAID 2322

BareFeats reviews the HighPoint RocketRAID 2224 and X4

BareFeats reviews the HighPoint RocketRAID 2220

WHERE TO BUY HIGHPOINT ROCKETRAID SATA HOST ADAPTERS

Other World Computing

Small Dog Electronics

MaxUpgrades

Granite Digital

WHERE TO BUY KITS FOR MOUNTING INTERNAL DRIVES IN QUAD-CORE and DUAL-CORE POWER MACS

MaxUpgrades (CPU bay, PCI bay, and optical bay kits)

TransIntl (CPU bay kit)

Wiebetech (G5 Jam Express)

DigitalVirgin (TerraScoop)

WHERE TO BUY OTHER SATA PRODUCTS

FirmTek (host adapters, enclosures, and cables)

Granite Digital (enclosures, host adapters, brackets, and cables)

Kano Technologies (enclosures and host adapters)
Use "BAREFEATS" coupon code to get 10% off the X-SPAND or 5% off everything else

MacGurus (host adapters, enclosures, bare drives, coolers, hot-swap trays, cables, converters)

Other World Computing (enclosures, bare drives, and host adapters)

Small Dog Electronics (enclosures and host adapters)

TransIntl.com (enclosures, bare drives, and host adapters)

Wiebetech.com (enclosures and host adapters)

LaCie (enclosures and host adapters)

FWDepot (enclosures, host adapters, cables)

Sonnet Technology (host adapters, enclosures, and cables)

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© 2006 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist