LSI 9211-8i SAS2008 6.0gbps SAS 2/ SATA III RAID 0/1/10 Controller
It is no secret that the LSI 1068e controller was one of, if not the most widely supported SAS controllers around but 3.0gbps serial interconnects have given way to 6.0gbps interconnects. Unlike the LSI 1068e based parts, support for things like 3TB drives is much better on 6.0gbps parts to the point where I have yet to encounter an issue. The LSI 9211-8i is a relatively inexpensive low-profile controller with no cache but that can do RAID levels 0, 1 and 10 on its eight 6.0gbps ports.
Based upon the LSI SAS2008 chipset the LSI 9211-8i can handle over 2.0GB/s of sequential I/O which I saw using 3.0gbps SandForce SSDs. The connectivity is provided by a pair of SFF-8087 ports that exit the rear of the card. This rear facing orientation lines up well with many chassis where the connectors point towards drive bay connections.
Two things should be highlighted with this card. First, the compatibility is generally very good. Many server vendors utilize onboard LSI SAS 2008 controllers including several reviewed by this site from Supermicro and Tyan. Going forward, it appears as though the SAS2008 is headed for similar excellent OS support as the 1068e enjoyed. Virtually every OS at this point supports the SAS2008 in current stable OS versions. It has also made its way into design wins from most top-tier server vendors so there is a large (and growing) installed base that will provide momentum for future support.
The second item is that along with good 3TB support, the newer generation of 6.0gbps parts tend to have better support for SAS expanders. I personally have been using SAS 2008 based controllers with the HP SAS Expanders for quite a long time with great success. Others have reported solid compatibility with newer Intel SAS expanders so for those looking for high-port counts at low costs for software RAID, the LSI 9211-8i makes a lot of sense. Further, one can flash the LSI 9211-8i with IT firmware which removes RAID support and instead makes the card act as a simple HBA. The significance here is that it removes one layer of “intelligence” that can cause issues in software RAID (see a simple explanation here.)